Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Guideless in Boston

Back in the day(as my kids would say), at the small Christian college where I studied, across the street from the large liberal arts university where I also raced to class, occasionally a class was moved from one room from another. When this happened, we'd grab our books, and tromp down (or up) the stairs in mass. Invariably, as our feet pounded the stairs together, one person, then another, would make a low sound and soon we were all mooing in unison--a herd of cattle. This weekend, when no less than 10, and up to 17, of my extended family marched around Plymouth and Boston together we were definitely a herd of cattle. Or maybe a flock of birds--Crains, to be precise.

Let me tell you what it's like to travel en mass with a flock of my family. Sure, you've all tried to sightsee with large tours, right? Generally speaking there is one thing in common in every tour--a tour guide. This is the one thing we didn't have. Not only didn't we have a tour guide, but generally speaking, we don't like them if we have them. No, we are smug enough to think we can do it better than guides. Now I've been on tours before. As I've blogged before, I was on a Finnish tour in the USSR, where everything was translated from Russian to Finnish and I was left in the dark for 4 solid days and nights. That just about put the nail in my coffin in terms of enjoying guided tours. And I had the privilege and headache of being the director of a choir tour of about 50 kids and adults in So CA in the mid 90s. We sang at Robert Schueller's Crystal Cathedral (and boy do I have opinions about that place, and remind me to tell you that story sometime!), were at Disneyland on the 4th of July (wow, I have a GREAT story about the Indiana Jones ride too!)...and I spent my entire time with a clipboard, counting kids. It wasn't a job for the faint of heart. Not for someone like me. But, as E would say, I'm not 'uncapable.'

However, on this trip, there wasn't a single tour guide in the bunch. Plus, there were only two children. But the very worst of it is that we we're all cut from the same tree--our family tree. That is to say, we all have above average IQs, strong opinions, know what we want, how we want it, and which way to do it. It took more time to decide on every single activity than to actually do said activity. You know the expression "Too many chiefs spoil the pot"? Try that with my dad's kids and grandkids. And I'm the worst. Really truly. See, I'm the oldest sister. I have an older brother, but I got used to my role from a very early age, which some less kind people would call bossy. I prefer to think of myself as helpful--taking care of younger siblings, just as my parents asked me. But apparently it doesn't always come across well. I don't know what their problem is--don't they all know I know what's best for everyone? That my way is always the best way? That my plan is good, acceptable, PERFECT?

The thing is, we all had agendas, I think. My daughters and their cousin wanted to go to the beach. My brother really wanted us to see his lake house. J wanted far more time walking around Boston. My youngest sister wanted to get the photos printed before she left so she could work on them on the plane. My middle sister wanted to walk to Boston Common. And the Beve? He was glad to be along for the ride. Gosh, I love the Beve.

In the end, we had a great time...tour or not. Maybe we didn't see enough. We walked through the city in a downpour, standing beneath the square glass arches of the Halocaust memorial for long silent moments as the thunder and lightning echoed around us and we read the inscriptions. We were warm and chilled at once. We ate at Fanueil Hall, then, breathing a sigh of relief, separated for a few hours. Then at sunset, we had a great Duck Tour, complete with tour guide. He was funny, irreverent, told us lots of history we wouldn't have gleaned on our own, all about the 'the Big Dig', drove the 'Duck' into the Charles River, even let a couple of us drive it, including SK. It was quite a great ending. Then nephew K and his wife C led us a long way around past the Old North Church to a wonderful restaurant in Little Italy. My middle sister, E and SK shared a 2 lb bowl of seafood pasta between them.

The thing is--all that herding like cattle? Like a flock of cranes? Crains? It actually works better with a guide. Without it, there's a whole lot of standing around and wasting time. Trying to decide on direction. Making up our minds. But the thing is, we do this ALL THE TIME. Don't we? Don't we? Isn't that what we do as believers? In the church? When we're trying to make a decision, instead of actually paying attention to the guide who is actually in place in our lives, we convene a committee and talk about it. We waste a whole lot of time talking about various options. We keep our heads up, looking around, trying to figure out the best possible course of action. Instead, we could do one of two things (which are actually the same thing): We could put our heads down, and wait until He speaks. Not walk until He speaks. Then we could look up at the Guide, see where He's pointing, and walk that way. One of my favorite chapters in Isaiah speaks of this:

"The Lord will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58: 11

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