and just before my heart burst with an endless ache for adventures and natural wonders, the need was met. oh bless you, turkey run state park indiana, for holding on to your ancient climate zone so foreign to these parts. for being so different from what everyone envisions the boring midwest to be. thanks for rivers carving sandstone cliffs and canyons, and for the abundant growth of a lovely forest.

just over an hour drive and the four of us salt and light men were surrounded by swarming trees, driving twisted roads along and over river beds pulsing with a strange green water, experiencing hills. we canoed and kayaked down sugar creek, which cuts the park in half, paddling under a number of bridges, cliffs and bluffs of sculpted rock on either side. i have not seen such things in some time. it felt so much like washington i almost couldn’t believe it. even the sandstone formations were similar, but with enough of their own indiana feel that i knew i wasn’t quite home. but oh the heavy smell of damp forest and sandy cliffs! we hiked for a couple hours through a number of canyons small and large, criss-crossing under the blanket canopies of intertwining trees, up wooden steps and pathways hewn into the stone. we followed creeks and got joyfully wet in the cool streams, a respite from the sneaking humidity. and the humidity is subtle and insidious. the heat feels incredibly bearable for a summer day, but before you even realize you’re sweating your shirt is soaked.  we all smelled really nice afterwards. but who cares? i was honestly impressed by the park, taken by it’s sweeping natural beauty. and the fact that it looked like my forests in washington. what a blessing. i have decided i need to take trips out there as often as possible in every and all seasons. if i am going to be here for another year, i am going to need my moments in the woods to catch my breath.

speaking of which, i signed a lease for an apartment recently; will move in on the 10th of august. and then i will be by myself for a while in a little one bedroom apartment with no furniture. should be a good adventure in its own way.

on the days when the heat keeps me disgruntled and indoors, and when i get far too antsy for my own good, i have begun riding my bike at night, 11 or 12, when it lowers to a slightly more bearable temperature. on my way back home on one ride a car drove past and out of an open window was thrown a big gulp full of some sort of liquid. i am pretty sure it wasn’t urine. before i knew what was happening i beheld a glittering archway before me, swimming in reflected light. and then somehow it was gone, finding the street and the gutter with the happy help of gravity. somehow i only got a few drops of whatever on one foot as the cup hit the curb. the throw was a complete miss. glad of their offering to a poor thirsty traveller, i calmly held up a hand and called out a thanks. they might have flipped me off after that. then they drove away. then a cop car flew past me, lights buzzing, but siren quiet, and sped down a side street. so i followed. the cop was lost somewhere in the neighborhood so i made a turn near an apartment building to head back towards home when i hear a pop-pop-pop! to my left high above, and then a gish-gish-gish! in the low tree branches directly to my right. a paintball gun! i was already cruising at a pretty good clip, so i kept on, kept up the speed. half a block away another three shots sped themselves into the sidewalk trees just behind me. 0 for 2, guys. better luck next time. i thought it was pretty funny. josh and katie lamented the jerks of urbana.

this weekend josh and i went back out to the bar streets, to a considerably busier night out than in previous weeks. several of the bars were packed and/or had lines growing outside. we have not seen that for much of the summer. i imagine as we get closer and closer to school starting up again, the ridiculousness of a friday night at midnight will grow to match what we hold in our memories of the spring. still a couple bars were just about as empty as they could be. we pray for them to stay that way. the bar that closed down months ago is still closed. we ask for more of that.

exiting to the street from the upstairs bar, brother’s, on girl missed the last step to sidewalk level and dropped. she was fine, stood right back up, and the first words out of her mouth, to anyone around wondering, were ‘i’m not drunk!’ just making sure we knew. another intoxicated guy and his similarly affected friend were having a hard time finding something to eat and fouly cursed to ashes and hell qdoba mexican grill for not being open. at one point the more verbal and annoying of the two threw his cigarette on the ground and then, at a word from his smiling friend, picked it back up and continued to smoke. a couple paused their walk for the girl to double over and hold her stomach, settling down enough to stave off the apparently inevitable vomit. outside of the seedy, dirty, filthy kam’s, somehow being the favorite bar for most, a tall guy compliments me on my shirt and holds his arms wide saying, ‘bring it in for the real thing, bring it in for the real thing.’ and then he hugged me. the shirt belonged to my grandpa. it says, in poorly translated english, ‘freedom is not come easy. it have to fight for.’

another dude stumbling out of murphy’s pub and his crew try and instigate two homeless men into fighting each other. the guy actually puts a substantial bill on the sewer drain for them to come get if they want, then changes his mind and just drops it down through the grating.  i don’t understand people. you ever notice how almost all of our media is fueled by violence and sex? we see this played out every night down there. girls wearing scarves and belts that somehow pass for clothes and men treating them like trash. drunken fools who want to see a good fight between people who have nothing. why? people suck. without God people do that kind of stuff.

and so we start to compile a vision for this next semester with the prayer group. i have three thoughts in my mind. one: the prayer room up and running 24/7, a second home for many. two: teams of students out on the party nights with josh and i talking to their peers and gathering prayer requests, writing them down, praying with people, having conversations, building relationships, getting the Word out, bringing those prayer requests back to the prayer room and covering the walls with lost petitions to our loving God. three: i see groups of fifty or more students outside the red lion, kam’s, murphy’s, firehaus, others, praying over the spaces and people. i want this thing to be undeniable. but we shall see where we are all led.

i am getting excited about the opportunities here. this prayer stuff, after all, was one of the big reasons why i came back to illinois.

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