Las Vegas : It is so Extra

There is something about this city. It draws millions every year. There is more to it than neon, gambling and (legal) prostitution. Those are usually the first things people think about when you mention you are planning a trip here.

For the introvert looking for a quiet relaxing vacation Las Vegas is prob’ly not going to be a first choice. There aren’t many places to “get away from it all” if you stay on The Strip. And yet I love coming here. Granted, it is always only a long weekend, and also every few years. The last time I was in Vegas was just over 2.5 years ago.

I was thinking about this current visit today while walking, well, everywhere. This contemplation began during a walk to a drug store this yesterday morning before breakfast. It included climbing and descending no fewer than 120 stair steps, one elevated pedestrian bridge, dodging hundreds of people walking, stopping, standing, panhandling or busking, taking pictures, taking selfies. There was a line of 30+ waiting to get a table at Denny’s, a dozen or so bodegas hawking everything: discount show tickets, alcohol, tobacco, cheap souvenirs, electronics accessories, hats, shoes, clothes. There were people trying to make their wages by handing out coupons for Uber or Lyft first ride bonuses, and several dressed in knock-off character costumes who will pose with you for pictures for a few bucks; Hari Krishna, or some other Eastern religious order wearing amber colored robes, passing out cards to help find your inner peace. The “Slappers” pushing cards for hookers and brothels don’t start coming out until late afternoon. There was one street evangelist encouraging us all to repent. I saw 3 ambulances, one fire rescue truck, 4 motorcycle cops, 2 patrol cars/SUVs. There were showgirls wearing next to nothing, and the destitute with next to nothing.

How far did I walk? About 0.8 mi (1.3km), making it 1.6 mi (2.6km) round trip. This city is stimulation overload. It gets busier, and worse, on the weekends.

I tried listening to my favorite Third Day worship album. I made it as far as the mezzanine above the casino floor before having to turn up the volume to the point my phone practically shouted DANGER! at me. I should clarify, that was out the room, down the elevator and a span of a few hundred yards through hotel ‘filler space’ (past open lobby areas to ball rooms, restrooms, coffee and souvenir kiosks, some public seating and two restaurants I can’t afford). My Vivofit tracker counted almost 1,600 steps from the room to the front doors. Huge is an understatement. And yet, this particular hotel is one of the smaller ones on The Strip.

This makes me sound like such a rube. I’ve been to Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco. I would go back to any of those, but I jump at the chance to come back here. The kicker is I don’t come to gamble. I mean, I’ll lose a few dollars on the slots. I could gamble at the tribal-run casino that’s about 40 miles from my house if I wanted. I’ve never been. And I won’t go. Addictive personalities and casinos don’t generally mix well, ya know?

But this city! The little bit of extrovert in me adores talking to all the people, engaging in conversation with absolute random strangers at the most random of places and times. Sweat Pea is here with me and more than once she’s said, “Calm down. You don’t have to talk everyone.” I wouldn’t say she’s mortified; it’s a side of me she rarely, if ever, has seen. After all, I did warn her she would see a side of me that doesn’t come out to play very often. Hmm, maybe that’s why I like coming back.

The day before yesterday I realized how empty and disconnected the atmosphere is here, and how much I’ve allowed to get pulled, sucked really, from me. With 100,000 people wandering, shopping, commuting up, down and across Las Vegas Blvd I felt a pervasive spiritual emptiness. There are churches growing and thriving here, I’m sure. I doubt any of them are planning to build the next Crystal Cathedral or Willow Creek on the vacant 22 acre parcel at the south end of The Strip though. This emptiness is what had me walking to the drug store with Third Day cranked up. I needed my heart fed; it got a little nibble. I needed a moment to recharge.

The drug store jaunt wasn’t enough to refill my introvert self, and that was the reason for the middle of the night soak. Headphones were at the ready. They became dampers to the white noise of a hotel: hvac fan, three others sleeping twenty feet away, the bathroom vent rattling the steam away, room doors closing loudly as all hotel room doors do. I got very little sleep, and don’t entirely care.

The sun is up and a new day of crowds and sounds has begun. In 37+/- hours I’ll be home again. My usual introverted self will relish a good long sleep. Until then I have one last day to let the Extra that is Las Vegas take me in.


At the Foot of the Cross

Verse 1:
At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received
And You’ve won my heart
And You’ve won my heart
Now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

Verse 2:
At the foot of the cross
Where I am made complete
You have given me life
Through the death you bore for me
And You’ve won my heart
And You’ve won my heart
Now I can

Artist – Don Moen

Album – Thank You Lord

Those are lyrics to a song we’ve been singing in church over the last few weeks as we’ve been taking a closer look at the Twenty-third Psalm.  I have to confess that until we started this sermon series I hadn’t really been moved by the worship time in our church– as a congregation, a member, a believer, a sinner in need of redemption; sad to say, especially as a “church”– in a long time.  How long? close to two years, I think.

I never fully left this home, though for a time I could barely walk through the front doors, and rarely did actually.   I think for me, the feeling of “family” had gone away, and now the Spirit has brought it back and is ready to raise the roof again.

Actually, I think He’s brought me back.