Tuesday, July 17, 2012

five images and a few thoughts (photography, faith and travel)

 esterday’s promise to write on a deeper level about why his past weekend in West Virginia was so important will have to wait. There’s too much to think through and catch up on in just a few hours this morning. So I’ll revert to a “fan favorite” and post a few of my favorite images from the 10-day speaking trip and add a few words for decoration.

FIRST: My last morning at Lake Junaluska I woke up to a gentle rain and cooler temps. What a relief! I may have published a cell-phone image the other day, but this full-sized photograph from my Nikon D3100 captures more of the depth and the subtle colors. The cool and refreshing rain was a great metaphor for five days in a retreat setting, allowing myself to be absorbed into the contemplative frame of reference. God was there, at the lake, in subtle tones of grace and deep-seated assurance.

The Chapel at Lake Junaluska
INTENTIONALITY: The word for SOULFEAST in North Carolina was “intentionality.” This kind of retreat is a self-paced course. There’s a lot to do, any number of offerings built around the keynote talks about the “I Am” statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel. Simply put, it’s possible to check in, walk the lake every day, and (either) participate in nothing, or drive yourself bananas trying to do everything.

I did my best to find the right balance. And God met me exactly where I was. “Your move first, Derek,” I could hear God saying; “then I’ll take it from there.”

And, as always, God is faithful to God’s word.

Ralph, Greg, Roger and Ray at Bethany, WVA
THE GUYS: A super-dedicated team of around 10 men put on the Disciples of Christ Men’s Conference in Bethany, West Virginia. These four (photo, right) were… are… especially meaningful to me.

“Rebekah,” I said when we debriefed over dinner Monday evening, “I’m still overwhelmed at how much these guys love me.”

And it’s true. I first met Ray and Greg (and Ralph, briefly) at a retreat I resourced in Virginia two years ago. God was up to something (isn’t God always?) and our spirits just clicked… meshed in a way. We’ve chatted on the phone since then, and exchanged a bunch of emails. Then, when we got together Thursday evening, I realized Ray and Greg are two of my best friends.

Those two men, along with Ralph “The Voice” and Roger (event co-chair), were the heart and soul of the weekend.

One of the early “open” congregations established by Campbell
HISTORY: Bethany, if you don’t know, is the historic home of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where Alexander Campbell built a new vision of Christian Community around the simple idea of open communion (all are welcome at the table).

Campbell broke with the Presbyterian Church who – at the time – enforced draconian rules regarding who was “worthy” of sharing Christ’s body and blood at the table.

Really? One believer is going to tell another believer if he or she is worthy, or qualified to approach the table of grace? (In some respects, I can’t help but wonder, a lot of people still stumble over the same issue…).

“Almost Heaven, West Virginia…”
BEAUTY: Saturday afternoon I walked to the old Campbell homestead, and I was impressed by the quiet, pastoral beauty of this part of the country. Bethany is not that far to Pittsburg, heading east, and Ohio, going west and north. It’s a region I have never explored before.

So I have been renewed in my spirit, nurtured in my faith, loved in friendship, and challenged to both explore more of these magnificent United States and to simultaneously invite God into every moment and every possibility.

In love, and because of love – DEREK

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