Reduce Speed. Speed Zone Ahead. Speed Limit 20 m.p.h. We’ve all seen these signs that warn us that our speed must change soon. You’re flying along, making great time, but suddenly the pace slows to what feels like a crawl. The signs seem to come at the most inopportune time, invariably showing up when you’re late or in a hurry. Here in Indiana, drive on a state highway or county road and eventually you are going to drive into a one stop light or no stop light town. You’ve been cruising along at 65 or 70 and suddenly you’re running 20. Often it feels pointless. Most of the small towns have little or no traffic, not much commerce, and rarely do you even see a person stirring. More than once I’ve seen Barney Fife, the one local police officer, setting with his radar gun pinging drivers or have an out of towner pulled over. I often tried to understand why the need for such a slow pace. Maybe it’s a way to bring some income to the town. Maybe town residents complained about the excessive speed, maybe a local business or restaurant hopes it gets notice by the slower speed, or maybe I am driving through their town in the slowest part of the day. We’ve all driven on an interstate and ran into the Construction Zone Ahead Signs warning of hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars in fines for speeding. How many of those areas have you driven through not to see a piece of equipment moving or any human movement? Still, you drive with the fear that you will be the one that gets the fine, and your next vacation or big screen tv is gone to pay for a ticket. There is a point for these signs though. They are there for someone’s safety. There may be elderly people who do business or small kids that play in the small towns, so to protect them, everyone slows down. Obviously, construction zones can be dangerous areas. Workers risk their lives to make ours more convenient, so by slowing down they are safer and eventually our lives are better. Winter is the slow down sign for those who live where the weather turns cold and snowy. It almost feels like it’s God’s sign for humanity to slow down. It gets dark early, the cold nearly eliminates outdoor activities, and if we get enough, snow can make life come to a halt. It seems it’s then and only then, that we throw on some flannels, put a fire in the fireplace, grab a blanket, and grab a good book or watch a movie. Our lives run too hot. Text messages are expected to be responded to within minutes, emails answered the same day, and there seems to always be a pressing meeting that can’t be missed. What is missed when we fail to slow down? A spouse that needs you to put down your phone and give them some attention like you gave them when you were dating. A child who wants you to hear about their struggle with someone in their class or for you to be totally engaged as they show you their school project. A person hurting or discouraged that just needs a listening ear, not for you to solve their issue your way and zoom out of their life. Should I go on? There are so many reasons to slow down, but we don’t, we run through the signs and on to the next “important” event. May I encourage you to look and listen for life signs that are saying, slow down. They may help someone else, but you might find that if you heed the warning sign that your life becomes more peaceful. Isaiah said in Isaiah 40:31, “those who wait (slow down) for the Lord Will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Embrace the strength in slowing down.
Parke County, It’s a fall tradition for Mary and me. We take a day, grab a cup of coffee at Urban Grounds in Rockville, hit a few shops in town, and then we’re off to the main attraction, to see the bridges. To be exact, thirty-one covered bridges. Some you have to walk; some you get to hear the clonking of wood planks as your car crosses the bridge. Nothing like taking a few hours to step into the past and enjoy a time that was much simpler and slower. There’s one requirement to experience the bridges of Parke County, you must leave the main roads, even the secondary roads, and drive on country, one lane, and gravel roads. The bridges of Parke County make you step away from the crowds, slow down, and enjoy nature and the beautiful colors of fall. I think that’s what Mary and I like best. Most of the bridges are on gravel roads, nestled in forest, farmland, and places that only those who are intentionally looking, will find them. The bridges of Parke County aren’t just about the bridges for us, it’s more about enjoying the atmosphere, nostalgia, and the dream of a simpler life. Driving on a gravel road slows your pace to about 10 mph, gives you time to reflect on the past, and have conversations you’ve need to have, but haven’t, because life just gets too busy. In my humble opinion a lot of us could use a drive to Parke County and the thirty-one covered bridges. You would enjoy the bridges, but the purpose of your trip wouldn’t be about them, but about getting off the interstate of life and letting your mind spend some time on a peaceful gravel road. It’s on the gravel road where you will get a sense of what’s important again, reconnect with your spouse, and see that there’s more significant issues than what’s happening on social media or getting to the next movie or game. The color of fall may be gone, and snow is on the way, but I still would invite you to put a trip down a gravel road on your calendar, or at least in the back of your mind.