Monday, December 8, 2008

Three Rooms and a Path

Off the main highway and in the green, fertile woods of Arkansas beneath the shadow of Petit Jean Mountain, sits a little wooden country church, immaculately white without, pulpit and pews of varnished and knotted pine within, three rooms and a path. For those unfamiliar with the common rustic phrase, "three rooms and a path," it refers not only to a small house or, in this case, a small church, but also to the absence of modern plumbing and thus "a path" to the outdoor facilities; in this case, those too were immaculately white.

Every Sunday morning Judy and I would drive the seventy miles from Little Rock, take the exit to Blackwell (for some reason the railroad post called it "Blackville"), then turn again down a gravel road to the Rockwellesque church building. We were usually first to arrive. In fall and spring, the mountain's shade insured an almost perfect temperature inside; in summer I would turn on the noisy window-unit air conditioner; in winter I would light the single gas stove (I liked winter best; there's just something wonderful about chilly pine warming to an open flame). Judy would go immediately to the piano and begin to play and sing, and I would retreat to a back room to finalize my sermon; my common habit then was always to kneel and pray in preparation for worship. The wooden floor hurt my knees; the humble prayer helped my soul.

Within a short time, a small congregation of about twenty, composed almost entirely of retired farmers and their wives, would assemble to worship within the hallowed walls of that three-room house of God. In those three humble rooms dwelt Love, Joy, and Peace, and no matter what path we took, even the path out back, those graces traveled with us.

Dear Friend, what of the Architecture of your Soul? Is it off the busy highway and down the gravel road of grace, nestled within the fertile green, under the mountain's pleasant shadow, immaculately white, unpretentiously humble, and has it three rooms of Love, Joy, and Peace? And, no matter what path you take, do those graces travel with you?

If not, just light the fire, and kneel; you will surely find "three rooms and a path."

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