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Friday July 6, 2007


Day 33 -
Fort Scott KS to Bolivar MO, 83.9 miles, 5:51

Travel just 8-to-10 miles east on Hwy 54 across the Kansas-Missouri state line into Nevada, MO, and you know you've left the plains behind. The first thing you notice are the rolling hills. Up and down, and then you look a little closer.

Sounds hokey, but this rural highway felt more like a winding neighborhood street; very different from anything we have experienced west of here.

Gone are the wide-open farms and ranch type properties. The vistas gave way to tree-lined streets where quaint homes sit atop perfectly manicured lawns with picket fences, yard art and American flags.

It's probably just a function of population. Nevada, MO, with 8,600 people and El Dorado Springs, MO, with 3,700 people, are bigger than any town we saw in Kansas, period.

We rolled through the architecturally amazing and nostalgic campus of Cottey College, which covers a couple of city blocks in Nevada, where the streets have curbs, and instead of just a Sonic, there's a Sonic, a McDonalds , a Wendys, Taco Bell, Burger King and the biggy, a Walmart.

It's entirely fascinating to soak up all the cultural differences that are the strength, and the history of our nation. Yet, some things never seem to change, like the pesky easterly wind, the road kill and the church steeples. Yea, steeples.

I've been taking pictures of them for almost five weeks. It doesn't matter where you are. Where there's a church building, there's almost always a steeple.

I am really glad that I'll be able to see another one this Sunday when we visit Heartland Baptist Fellowship in Marshfield, MO. The more I thought about it, I started to wonder. Where did the idea of the steeple originate anyway?

So I did what most would do and I did a Web search.

From Wikipedia:

Steeples generally cap bell or clock towers. Towers were not a part of Christian churches until about AD 600, when they were adapted from military watchtowers. At first they were fairly modest and entirely separate structures from churches. Over time, they were incorporated into the church building and capped with ever-more elaborate roofs until the steeple resulted.

Towers are a common element of religious architecture worldwide, and are generally viewed as attempts to reach skyward toward the gods.

I look at the steeples I am passing and I see them as beautiful beacons, not necessarily reaching toward God, but honoring Him as they seek to reach out to more of His people.

The steeple has reverence. It is bold. It gives the unchurched little excuse not to notice. It gives the churched a landmark. It, in many ways, gives the church and its community a sense of identity.

It all goes back to one central Truth. Just look on top of many of the steeples and you'll see it. It's the cross.

I finished Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ today, and the evidence, of course, is overwhelming in favor of the idea that what we read in our Bible is absolute. Every word.

Christ allowed himself to be brutalized, flogged and nailed to a cross as the sacrifice for our sins. Then he defeated the cross and death in the resurrection. He is alive. And we are alive in Him.

As believers, we seek to do everything we can to show thankfulness and humility and to share the Good News with others. Part of that calling in the early church manifested itself in glorious steeples and architecture.

Yet, it's the obedient heart of the architect that makes the true Architect most pleased.


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 J. Boe Ellis - 813.732.0619