On The Road: Abilene & Beyond

  But in looking back at the
  places I've been
  The changes I've left
  behind
  I look at myself to find
  I've learned the hard way
  every time.
       ~Jim Croce~

Intro

Life naturally comes with some uneven terrain. Its landscape is seldom flat, easy, or without jagged outcroppings. There are always steep mountains to climb and low valleys to traverse.

The trick, if that’s an acceptable way of phrasing it, is to bank all the energy and wisdom gathered on sunny mountaintops so that it is available to be drawn on while wading through troubling canyons.

Long ago, by virtue of bumping over lots of nasty potholes, Anita and I determined that life is process and preparation for the next turn in the road. We also came to understand that there are neat moments along the way when the metaphor and reality come into perfect alignment--we're in the midst of experiencing that just now.

We are on a cross-country journey, which is enjoyable and full of sweet surprises. We've already reconnected with old friends, met new ones, and cut through territory we've never seen before--there are places ahead that we enthusiastically anticipate.

Currently we're in the heart of the Great Plains, spending a few days with fellow sojourners in and around Abilene, KS. Named from a reference in the third chapter of Luke's gospel, Abilene means city of the plains. It surely fits that description--a community surrounded by immense open spaces of gently rolling terrain.

Abilene is situated in the Flint Hills area on the north bank of the Smoky Hill River. It had its beginnings as a stagecoach stop in 1857. Ten years later Joseph G. McCoy established large stockyards, which were soon a flourishing business. The Chisholm Trail, on which cattle were driven overland from Texas, ended in Abilene--it is estimated that while it was in operation five million longhorns from Texas arrived in Kansas via the Chisholm Trail.

As the original end of the trail cow town, Abilene developed a reputation for being full of spit and vinegar. It put the wild into the west, becoming turf where the line between law and disorder was an ever shifting and oft-times erasable boundary. The infamous Wild Bill Hickok served a short stint as marshal in 1871.

The characters and events of that bygone era have been mythologized, but the legacy has not vanished. In twenty-first century Abilene, the independent cowboy mindset and culture is alive and kicking.

  Deep in your blood or a
  voice in your head
  On a dark lonesome highway
  It finds you instead
  So certain it knows you,
  you can't turn away
  Something or someone has
  found you today.
  Genius or Jesus, maybe he's
  seen us
  But who would believe us
  I can't really say
  Whatever the calling, the
  stumbling or falling
  You follow it knowing
  There's no other way, 
  there's no other way. . .
   ~Mary Chapin Carpenter~ 

There are zealots and preachers
And readers of dreams
The righteous yell loudest
And the saved rise to sing
The lonely and lost are just
waiting to hear
Any moment their purpose
Will be perfectly clear
And then life would mean more
Than their name on their door
And that far distant shore 
that's so near
They'd hear the calling
And stumbling and falling
They'd follow it knowing
There's nothing to fear 
Nothing to fear. . .
 ~Mary Chapin Carpenter~

The Calling

As the miles disappear behind us there's a spiritual aspect that keeps staking its claim on our attention. We read each other with a comfortable ease that comes from decades of sharing secrets and sorrows that no one else can ever truly know. When our life together is deeply considered, the highs overwhelm the lows--the joys certainly out-weigh the difficulties.

Most recently Anita and I have been in a crossroads season, which began as a sabbatical of sorts, but then morphed into a mondical and tuesdical. We've had a couple bouts of demanding answers from God, which were not forthcoming--overall it's been a peaceful and reflective time.

In this interval we've rediscovered that the sense of calling has no limits or self-imposed conditions--it never fades into the background. While we travel and savor the wonders of the countryside, what keeps capturing our musings is that we must appraise contemporaneous happenings in the context of God's Big Picture.

As always, the soundtrack of my life is an essential resource to tap into whilst engaged in wanderings. Mary Chapin Carpenter's The Calling is an exceptionally evocative song that gets inside my brain to scratch spots I didn't even realize were itchy. It's the first cut on the album by the same title, which was released in March 2007.

In the last few weeks I've frequently taken opportunities to give it another listen because it both soothes and challenges me. This may seem like an entirely silly idea, but it's as though Carpenter wrote it specifically for such a time as this in our lives.

As the words and images do their thing in my soul, I boldly toss it all up before the throne of grace, with full assurance that my grasp on what's up around the bend is severely restricted. I cannot say whether the next opportunity is an interlude to regroup and recharge, or some wondrous endeavor that goes far beyond my capacity to think or imagine. My responsibility is to keep the lines of communication open with the One who sees around every twisting turn.

The brand new adventure coming up on a near horizon has us antsy with excitement. We are heading to the Navajo Mission in New Mexico for a six-month term of voluntary service. There's been much encouragement, but also, we've been given several sideway looks that made me want to go check the mirror to see if a third eye had grown in my forehead.

Some have wondered if we're merely bugging out. And by the way, have we really given all the factors serious deliberation? With every financial asset in the pot, what will we do when our savings are gone?

Call me crazy, but there's a radically honest response to money matters: In contrast to the seductive American dream of affluence, there was a onetime carpenter named Jesus who stated that riches are not about accumulating stockpiles of material wealth--life is much more than the sum total of retirement plans and pension funds. The only relevance that remains is this: Do we really seek to allow the words of Jesus to shape our lives?

There is no easy way of explaining what God does in an individual's heart and perspective. A former comrade in arms once explained it to me with a flare of astute clarity: When things change, things change.

It really comes down to a sense of call. As we wrestled with this decision we prayed a handful of questions that emerged at previous intersections and quite likely will be revisited at some future juncture: What if this IS the open door God is providing and we do not walk through it? If not us, who? If not now, when?

It's strangely exhilarating to live for a spell at a crossroads.

  I don't remember a voice
  On a dark, lonesome road
  When I started this journey
  so long ago
  I was only just trying to
  outrun the noise
  There was never a question 
  of having a choice
  Jesus or genie, maybe
  they've seen me
  But who would believe me
  I can't really say
  Whatever the calling, 
  the stumbling and falling
  I followed it knowing
  there's no other way
  there's no other way. . .
   ~Mary Chapin Carpenter~

Closing

The calling. It is intensely personal, and nearly impossible to define for others. Sometimes it can feel like one's antennae is picking up stations that no one else can tune in. Once it becomes settled, only those who have had similar episodes can relate.

A case study of the dynamics would reveal that the specifics are different for each one and often uniquely designed for the personality involved, but there is a common denominator. The calling always comes down to the fine-point of blank-check obedience, which sounds simplistic, but in all actuality, it's tightly wrapped complexity, which requires a lifetime to peel away all the layers.

With God's grace-saturated help, we'll faithfully persevere forward with no regrets. It can be problematic to move on, but in our life, it seems that it's always good-bye time somewhere, though instead of a lonesome farewell, we prefer, God be with you until we meet again.

Our short-term destination is set, but where the beyond is we have no clear direction. We are, however, in agreement with Mary Chapin Carpenter: Whatever the calling, the stumbling or falling, you follow it knowing there's no other way, there's no other way. . .

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Comments 14 comments

Sunnie Day 5 years ago

"I boldly toss it all up before the throne of grace, with full assurance that my grasp on what's up around the bend is severely restricted. I cannot say whether the next opportunity is an interlude to regroup and recharge, or some wondrous endeavor that goes far beyond my capacity to think or imagine. My responsibility is to keep the lines of communication open with the One who sees around every twisting turn."

Dear Ken, Your whole hub touched my heart this morning. I am lifting you and your precious wife up as you go on this new journey. God will take care of your every need I have no doubt. I look forward to reading all your adventures in the Lord. Today is my last day as a school nurse as I retire..I also am trusting God for a new path, a calling..Take care my friend. Sending many prayers and good thoughts your way.

God Bless,

Sunnie Up and Awesome


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Sunnie - Thank you for your prayers & kind words. Blessings & much encouragement to you as make transitions in your life.


janice 5 years ago

WONDERFUL STORY KEN.........AND YES I READ THEM ALL


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Janice.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Nice to be following you on your Journey. Take care.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Susan - Nice to be followed. Thank you. Blessings.


Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

Wow, Ken. I read about your relationship with Anita and pray that God blesses my marriage the same way. My husband and I have already been through a lifetime in our three years together, and I pray that God continues to strengthen us to move on with him. But, even more...lately I've been restless in terms of God's call for me(us). Praying that this time of service is an amazing blessing for you and Anita and the ones you serve. Great hub - up, awesome, and beautiful!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Motown2Chitown - Thank you for sharing comments from your heart. And for the up, awesome, & beautiful. Much appreciated. Be blessed & encouraged.


Jane Ann 5 years ago

I was moved to tears as I read this....for whatever reason, it touched me....and yes, I read every story you

write. I'm glad to call you my brother Ken....be safe

on your journey.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Jane Ann. I hope they were happy tears.


Oldyeller3 5 years ago

Prayer's are with you and Anita. Blessings always!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Daniele. Blessings & much encouragement to you.


Fire In The Eyes 5 years ago

What are you - Crazy???


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Fire In The Eyes - As you well know, D. W. Corn has been known to have crazy moments, but hopefully this ain't one of them.

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