The Great Outdoors

I think my editor tried to get rid of me last weekend.

She was very clever: no weaponry was visible in her office, she didn’t tie me to the train tracks during rush hour, she didn’t offer me a glass of a suspiciously bubbling, pungent drink. This wise woman was much more subtle: last weekend, she asked me to drive to the Pine Barrens to cover a Catholic Scouting retreat.  

The Pine Barrens?! Not a church or parish center? Not a school, or food pantry, or banquet hall, but the Pine Barrens?! I’m not so naive; I used to watch “The Sopranos”, so I know the Pine Barrens was where Tony and the other mob bosses sent their workers to “disappear”. Though I had figure out her ulterior motive, I assented nonetheless and left the safety of suburbia and church spires for the great outdoors.

During my story preparation, I noticed that the camp’s web directions instructed visitors to “turn left at the dirt road and drive slowly”, but I pressed onwards. I drove south and left the civilization of the Garden State Parkway for rural county roads; the dense canopy of leafy trees caused the little man inside my GPS to throw up his electronic hands in frustration, but I still pressed onwards. As my car crept down the rutted unpaved road, I scanned the woods for a pudgy squirrel or woodchuck, planning to grill it on my car engine block to sustain myself until winter when the trees would shed their leaves and an aerial search plane might spot my vehicle. But no creature dinner entrée was in sight; still yet, I pressed onwards.

I left my car in the lot, and tentatively trod down a path to the lodge (planning to retreat if I heard banjo music). Stepping inside, I heard the reassuring sounds of youthful laughter as Father Mike led the scouts in service projects. The teens strung rosaries, wrote letters to the troops, and made sandwiches for the local soup kitchen. Later, they gathered in a grassy field under a brilliant blue sky to conduct a football-themed penance service; one by one, the God-centered group of young men and women retreated a few yards away for private confessions with the priest under a towering cedar/oak/holly/maple/something tree (what, am I supposed to be a botanist too??)

I learned as a child God is omnipotent and omniscient; the teen campers and their leaders welcomed Him into their midst miles from any church. I have discovered as an adult that God is omni-humorous as well (remember, you heard that word here first). No matter how far I drive or how isolated the road, His GPS is better than mine and I never fear he’ll lead me back if I stray. Lesson learned, editor mio; accept this as a belated thank you and an invitation to send me far afield in the future.

Still, I’m a little suspicious of her motives; when I peeked at next week’s assignment board, under my name was written:

“Slather Chris up with barbeque sauce and send her to cover a lions vs. Christians re-enactment at the safari park….”

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About Christina Leslie

My relationship with God has always been close, loving....and humorous. I hope a peek into my life as a Catholic cantor, journalist, and "Fool for Christ" in central New Jersey can help you recognize the love He showers upon you as well!
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