VIEW VIDEO  I have a cousin who ended up in the hospital a few months ago thinking he was going to die. Fortunately, he turned the corner, but there for a little while his mind was turned to his own mortality, so had a will drawn up, and phoned to ask if I would be the executor of his estate, which I declined to do, because I’d done that before and know how it ends. It never ends sitting in a comfortable law office signing a few papers. It ends up wearing latex gloves, throwing out underwear, and hauling everything else to Goodwill. I speak for all executors everywhere when I tell you that if you think you’re near death, please dispose of your underwear.

Have you ever begun a task, and ended up much more involved than you had anticipated? That has been true of this sermon series, which didn’t begIn as a series, but as a single musing about maps, be they people or paper, which inform and guide our lives. But because I’ve always been interested in maps, I thought a little bit more about them, and spoke about them again last week, specifically about what we do when our earliest maps or guides were flawed. How do we deal with the negative or destructive influences in our early lives? This is a profound issue, because so many of us still carry the scars of hurtful parenting, which won’t be resolved by one sermon. That’s why God made therapists, to help us heal our inner lives, the process of which requires profound courage.

But now I find myself knee deep in maps, having begun something far more involved than I first imagined. It turns out that maps are metaphors for our lives. Over the next several weeks, I will be describing how and why that is. My aim, as always, is to further our understanding and evolution as human beings. I have said it before and will say it again: We are not born lost and full of sin, estranged from God, in need of salvation. We are born incomplete, in need of growth. Our need is to understand ourselves, develop ourselves, and ultimately love and accept ourselves and others. The maps and guides in our lives, whether people or paper, show us the way.

Every year or so, I buy a new paper atlas, which I carry in my car in case I’m somewhere without a cell phone signal. My biggest fear in life is to be lost on a remote country road as darkness is falling and banjos are playing, only to click on my phone and see the words, “No service.” After meeting last Sunday, Don Adams told me how much he enjoyed driving somewhere and getting lost, that he’s discovered the most wonderful things while lost. The whole time he was saying this, his wife Lynn was standing behind him rolling her eyes.

I try never to take sides in marital disagreements, but philosophically I agree with Don, there is something to be said in the beauty we discover on life’s less-traveled roads. As Robert Frost so eloquently wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” It’s the small roads that often matter the most.

But because our eyes are drawn to the larger features on a map, we have been conditioned to think the most significant events of our lives are found in its larger features—births, graduations, marriages (both their beginnings and their ends), promotions, retirements, and deaths. Those are the things that loom largest in our lives, which occupy the most space on our maps. But if we focus only on those large and looming times, we lose sight of the magic of smaller moments, which happens to be where most of life unfolds.

These days the high point of our lives happens every night at 9:30 when we FaceTime with our grandson Miles. If you had told me fourteen years ago that the best part of my day would be spent engaging a child not yet born with technology not yet invented, I would have dismissed the possibility. What other delights await just over the horizon, joys we can’t yet imagine?

Our yearly meeting superintendent sent me a form to fill out this past week, asking me to describe the most significant moments during my time as your pastor, those moments written in bold print, in big letters. We’ve had quite a few noteworthy events in the past 23 years, but all I could think about was how meaningful it is, in this hectic, pounding, boisterous world, to gather in silence each Sunday with people you love, who love you back. Where else in our lives does that happen? And if it stopped happening, wouldn’t our lives be the poorer for it? But how do you write about the magic of smaller moments on a form?

Joan and I were talking about summer this past week. I asked her what the best part of her summer had been. You would think she would say spending time with me, but you would be mistaken. She said, “I like it when I first get up and I’m sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, when the house is still quiet.” I tell you, friends, there is magic in these small moments.

I’m intrigued by the story of Jesus meeting up with two of his disciples following his crucifixion and resurrection. Those were certainly large events; we’ve based an entire religion on them. But that isn’t when Jesus was revealed to them. It was only afterwards, when he joined them as they were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus and stopped to eat, that they recognized him. Luke wrote, “When Jesus was at the table with them, he took the bread blessed it, and broke it and gave it to them, and then their eyes were opened.”  There are all kinds of ironies here, chief among them their journey from Israel’s largest, most impressive city to one of its smallest corners, from bold print to small print. Pay attention to what happens in the small moments, in the small places of life. God might be revealed there. I have a friend named Riley, a fellow member of the Quaker Oatlaws Motorcycle Club, and therefore an eminent theologian. I was talking about this issue with Riley just this week and he said, “I call this tendency to look for meaning in ever larger events the inflation of expectations. As we age, we too often need more and more to excite us. Everything must be bigger and better, when just the opposite should be true. We should learn to revel in the smaller moments.”

What does it take to open your eyes? What does it take to move you, to stir you, to amaze you?

Do we need something ever larger, ever more magnificent, to capture our attention, or can we appreciate the magic of smaller moments revealed on roads less traveled?