By Rev. Becky Brown
Andy and I took a few days of vacation together, without the kids, for the first time in 3 years. We decided to go to Boone, NC, the home place of our alma mater, Appalachian State. Driving the familiar drive through Marion, Linville, and Banner Elk, we were flooded with memories. Boone is where we learned, established life long friendships, where we met and began to fall in love, and where I first began to understand what it means to be in vocational ministry. We journeyed down the mountain to Wilkesboro for 2 days of Merlefest, the music festival. We used to go to Merlefest every year, and there we were free. Free to hop between 7 stages of Americana music all day, and into the night. Sharing in the music together, enjoying being outside (even though it was windy, dumped rain off and on, and then sprinkled rain for several hours), and spending time together was great for our souls.
The last day and a half was spent hiking trails on the parkway. One of the great perks of going to a school minutes away from the parkway, was the availability of an outdoor adventure. When we were bored in school, we went to explore new trails. When we wanted to escape the pressures of undergrad life, we found a field off the parkway, laid down a blanket, and stared at the clouds. When we wanted to find God, or feel closer to God, we sought out a fantastic mountain view to sit, ponder, pray, and read our Bible. It was good for Andy and I to be outside together again on a trail in the woods. We found ourselves again, were rejuvenated, and our souls were centered.
I often return to the notion of Thin Places that is integral to Celtic Spirituality. This term and practice comes from Ireland and Scotland, and can be dated back to 5 AD. A “thin place” is explained as being a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more accessibly. Plainly speaking, a place were we experience God’s presence more readily - where we recognize we are on holy ground. Celtic Spirituality is powerful, and many seek pilgrimages to Iona, Scotland to spend time with the Christian Community there. Ned and Jennifer Martin are leading a pilgrimage there in a few weeks, so if this intrigues you, speak to them!
I think we all, all of humanity, have a desire to find God. Even though we may struggle with faith, reject faith altogether, find ourselves minimally connected to our faith - I believe our souls are always searching for God. Maybe our minds are unaware of this searching at times. Yet, what I have found is, when I seek God, God finds me. When I search for thin places, God finds me. I am overwhelmed and overcome each time.
Receive this blessing from the Iona Community:
Bring us bright God
Into today and tomorrow.
Cheer us with courage.
Disturb us with justice.
Safeguard us with wisdom.
Bless us with wonder.
Cherish us with love.
- Ruth Burgess