Where is your geographic center? The geographical center of the United States is in Kansas. We fly-over people are the center of the nation AND we have Patrick “oh give me Mahomes where the buffalo roam”! I think maybe it doesn’t get any better than that, at least that’s how I’m feeling these days. I’ve made a quick trip out to the western part of the state to see my family this week, and there is something about realizing we’re the definition of the heart-land in so many ways.
I brought Max and when we stopped at a rest area, he was admired, petted, and even scored a treat from another guy who was walking his chihuahua. He might have given Max the treat so Max wouldn’t consider his little dog “Lumpy” a possible appetizer, but still it was really nice. The guy was driving a Semi and said a dog Lumpy’s size is really perfect for all the travel and gives him companionship and someone else to look out for. Maybe that’s part of his geographical center, part of the center of his heart in what may be a bit of a lonely vocation. Someone else to look out for, someone else to think about, someone else to soften the sometimes harshness of the world. Doubt I’ll ever see them again, but what a nice moment.
My folks don’t have a fenced yard, so I take Max out a lot while we’re hanging out and yesterday the neighbors were out. It was a regular north-western Kansas hot and windy day and she had her laundry basket. I didn’t look but maybe she had hung her wash out on the line. There was an orange cat on their porch having a midafternoon snack, and you know how I LOVE orange cats! She asked about my church in Kansas City, how challenging it must be to deal with the covid roller coaster, if I was making sure to take time for myself. I only know her through my parents, and yet there she was wanting to know about my life, my church, my cats, all the while petting Max who I was trying to keep from jumping on her. She told me how much they appreciate being neighbors with my parents and what great people they are. They are great people, and I kinda think she probably sees the good in everyone. Maybe that’s her geographical center, part of the center of her heart, somewhere deciding people are a great gift and intentionally living her spirit of hospitality. That might have been tested had Max gotten away from me as he strained at his leash to try and catch one of their chickens!
My dad’s a little under the weather these days and while I didn’t bring Max out with me for his healing powers, he does like to go and sit on my dad’s feet a little bit. It might partly be because he likes the reeeeeally soft blanket dad has that drapes on the floor, but . . . I also think our animals know when we need a little cheering up. We’ve covered the furniture with some blankets because Max, and of course what he then does is dig around until the blankets are around him but he gets to lay on the actual furniture. Mom kinda giggles. Somehow I don’t think that was always her reaction when I was young and broke a few little rules. Maybe our geographical center, part of the center of our hearts is our family. Parents and grandparents and great-grandparents; daughters, and sisters, and bro-in-laws; nephews and nieces-in-law and great-nephews – all so different and altogether it somehow fits.
What did Jesus say our geographical center, part of the center of our hearts are to be? To love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. These moments that have occurred in this quick and a bit spontaneous trip out to where some of my roots are planted are a reminder that the geographical center of the heart-land, part of the center of our hearts is the openness to focus on the present and value what may seem to be ordinary moments when taken together are part of God’s magnificent and extraordinary goodness of every day.
Max and I will jump back in my big ole truck and head back east in the coming days. I don’t know if we’ll meet anyone interesting along the way. It will probably depend on how focused I am on getting back down I-70 as quickly as possible without looking around much at the world. Or maybe even then because God is God, grace will put itself smack-dab in front of me so even I won’t be able to miss it. That’s how God is, insisting on good things and blessings for us even when our focus is on something completely different. Even as I pray I don’t miss those moments, I pray you don’t either. There are enough things to overwhelm our ability to be open, I’m grateful that God doesn’t cease to continuously provide presents/presence for us to experience – our geographical center, the center of our hearts, right here in the heart-land.