Mike's Sunday Letter

Yesterday with Sean 
--with personal notes
  • We went to Chicago yesterday and got to see our grandson for the first time in several weeks.  Picture (of course) accompanies.
  • During spring break this year we will take a trip with the international scholars to Nashville, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia.  The break is during Holy Week, March 21-25.
  • Reading Michael D. Watkins, The First 90 Days:  Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, hoping it will make me a bit wiser as I prepare for my move to Mattoon.  Also reading Richard Rumelt's excellent book, Good Strategy Bad Strategy:  The Difference and Why it Matters.

March 6, 2016
When the Road Puts You to Sleep
The bishop is moving me to a new church this July:  in Mattoon, an hour down the road.  

Well...some of my kids don't like it one bit.  I argued with them:  told them that the people there seem nice, the work appears interesting, and the town looks fine.  But they still objected.  So I told them that the parsonage is great.  The pay is generous.  And the opportunities for ministry are exciting.  But they still weren't happy. 
Me:  "If I'm happy with Mattoon, what's your problem?  I don't object to your living in Chicago!"  

Them: "It's Interstate 57, the 'dullest highway in America.'  We have to suffer an additional hour each way in order to visit you." You would have thought we had all been sentenced to two years in prison.
A few words about I-57.  It barely qualifies to be an "interstate," as it stretches into only two states (357 miles through Illinois and a mere 29 miles into Missouri.)  It's a piddling interstate compared to such robust routes as Interstate 90 (Boston to Seattle,) Interstate 10 (California to Florida,) and Interstate 70 (New York City to San Francisco.)  Interstate 57 connects Sikeston (Missouri) with Chicago State University (which is going to close because the state government is a piddle.)  (Ah...two vocabulary words in one paragraph:  piddling and piddle.  Do you know the difference?)
Anyway, the first section of I-57 opened in 1965 (near Mattoon) and was finally finished in 1971 (around Paxton.)  The whole idea of I-57 seems to be a way of avoiding St. Louis if you want to travel from Chicago to Memphis.  That comes in handy if you root for the Cubs and the Cardinal fans have been getting on your nerves lately.  But handy as I-57 may be, it can be tedious.
I-57 was originally going to be longer, but politicians in Missouri and Arkansas got into a little spat.  So the road oddly meets it's demise in Sikeston.  If you make it that far south, a restaurant there will throw dinner rolls at you, so you at least won't go hungry while trying to figure out where on earth to go next.
This leads me to my first remedy for boredom:  stop frequently and get something to eat along the way.  If you are travelling from Chicago to Mattoon to visit me, and you end up in Sikeston, you have gone a tad too far.  But you can stop at Lambert's (Home of the Throwed Rolls,) eat some dinner, and backtrack 220 miles to visit me.  If you want a good breakfast along I-57, try "The Loft" at exit 290 in Ashkum.  If you want some homemade pie, stop at Neimerg's in Effingham at exit 159.  There are two White Castles along that pilgrimage, several Cracker Barrels, three Panera restaurants, and a Fuddruckers. 
Then there is this about I-57:  as you are traveling south, near Kankakee, you will see a sign indicating that you are traversing the "French-Canadian Corridor."  This will puzzle you at first, but do not be distracted by other things nearby, such as the gigantic storage rental facility next to the sign.  There is no explanation for this sign, so you must use your imagination.  Here are my latest thoughts:  Back before the American Revolution, we had a war to help the Brits get rid of the French in this area.  Then in the War of 1812, we fought off the Canadians.  But we forgot to build a 50-foot wall to keep the Canadians and French out for good.  If they attack again, they'll probably come right down I-57.  So keep your eyes open.
Okay, if thinking of restaurants and illegal Canadians doesn't keep you awake on I-57, look for hawks, red-winged blackbirds, sunrises and sunsets, moving clouds, farmers on tractors, passing trains, elevators on distant horizons, farm ponds, aging barns, waterways meandering through fields, unique water towers, overloaded pickup trucks, license plates from around America, lighted towns at night, stray dogs, wildflowers along the ditches, unique garbage, and horizons a vast distance away.
If all that fails, ponder what my wife said when I told her that the topic of this letter was how to avoid boredom while riding up and down I-57:  "Just ride up and down the road with someone sexy."  (I guess that might be one reason you'd miss the turn at Mattoon and end up in Sikeston!)  

So...if you can't talk someone sexy into going with you, maybe pray:  O Lord, I lift mine eyes unto Interstate 57, from whence cometh my help?  Let not the boredom smite me by day, nor sleep by night.  Lord have mercy!     --Mike  

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS




J. Michael Smith | 2508 S. Cottage Grove | Urbana | IL | 61801