The jeep snaked up a lonely road into the hills until finally we stopped at the top of a mini-mountain. It was a gorgeous blue day, and we had a view of the Army base where we lived spread out to one side below us. I think it was the only hill in Kansas. My father had us unload and sit on the jeep's bumper as he stepped in front of us to pace back and forth like General Patton. White socks pulled high on his calves, his silence commanded our attention. The air was cold, but the sun felt good as it soaked into my cheeks.
"Look that way, kids," Dad finally said, pointing with his cigar towards an endless sky feathered with wispy clouds. A living sea of green trees stretched towards the horizon. "That's what God makes." We gazed for a silent moment at all the glory of nature.
"Now look there." He directed our eyes back behind the jeep to an abandoned Army bunker, a skeleton of a building. VAN HALEN RULES was scrawled across the broken door in faded blue paint. Empty beer bottles littered the ground around it. Twisted cigarette butts yellowed in decay where they'd been discarded. "That's what man makes."
He raised his eyebrows as he casually lit his cigar. "Which do you think is more impressive?" He looked sternly at the two of us as a puff of smoke escaped his full lips, then he smiled broadly, hazel eyes twinkling. "Mass is done. Say 'amen.' Let's go hiking."
I still think about that morning's sermon.
Whatever one thinks about religion, my father-preacher's message was simply inspiring.