Radical Hospitality in the Woods

Today’s post is by Crystal Corman

It is easiest for me to connect with God when surrounded by nature’s beauty. I try to take in God’s gifts through the sights, smells, and sounds of the mountains, trees, or river. But most days of the year, I live in the middle of a city, surrounded by concrete, traffic exhaust, and the noise of urban living. This summer, I was surprisingly blessed with the opportunity to escape the urban jungle for an adventure in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.

This was my first trip to the Wild Goose Festival and my first trip to North Carolina. With the theme of “Living Liberation,” I anticipated inspiring speakers and artists. While I did witness some amazing presenters, musicians, and performers, my most memorable experience was an atmosphere of hospitality that infused the air.

Hospitality is a beautiful spiritual gift that is too often condensed to “coffee hour” at churches. During my time as staff at a campus ministry in Lincoln, NE, we used a Benedictine book called Radical Hospitality to encourage us in our ministry (Paraclete Press, 2011). This small book spoke of simple acts of kindness that seem radical in a world where we are taught to be suspicious of others out of self-protection or privacy. As someone who did not grow up in a city (I’m a farm girl), I find that the longer I live in the city, the less I look people in the eyes when navigating around others in pursuit of my end destination.

The campgrounds at Wild Goose felt like another world as people greeted each other warmly, paused to listen to questions, and seemed open to an encounter with anyone and everyone at the festival. It was as if people’s hearts were open to the fact that they would meet Jesus in each person they passed or met. I slowly felt my defenses soften, opening myself to be truly present and seek to see the image of God in those around me.

Becoming Love

Today’s post is written by Kate Coffey.

I’ve been told there are only two states of being: fear and love. All the other inner landscapes that seem so real are simply shadows of one or the other.

Just as we are rarely aware of the air we breathe, we often consider it normal to live fearfully, barely noticing the weight we carry. We use seemingly benign pet names for our fear: anxiety, stress, concern.

There is plenty of evidence of course to justify our fear. Pain, loneliness, and loss are part of the human experience and no one escapes this reality. All our efforts to survive and to protect those we love will in fact, one day, end in death. And the journey from here to there is fraught with difficulty.

Waiting for It to Clear

Today’s post is by Kathleen Moloney-Tarr

A couple of weeks ago I spent a week alone writing in the North Carolina mountains high on a ridge overlooking a wide valley and long mountain range beyond. The first day I settled in with my journal of the last few months and the intent to gather pieces of poems to my computer screen where I could work them over, print them, and revise until they became whole. I was looking forward to being in a creative flow and accomplishing a lot happily in one of my favorite places.

The first evening a thick fog settled in. Tuesday morning I was sorry to see it remained and thought, “It’ll burn off by lunchtime.” At noon, I hoped the view would clear by late afternoon. When I went to bed, the lights in the valley were obscured by a dense white cloud. Wednesday morning I was disappointed to miss a second sunrise behind the fog. Even though all the doors and windows were closed, the tiny squares of every screen filled with water drops. I could not see the mountain range or the valley or even a poplar tree. Surrounded by a blanket of white moisture, I felt a little uneasy and claustrophobic. I don’t like being closed in. I sleep with my bedroom door open and choose not to have curtains or blinds in my kitchen, living room and dining room. I like light, and I like to be able to see what is outside.

When I write I love looking up from the page to see what Nature is up to—the dogwood changing through the seasons, a hawk soaring, the blond squirrel scurrying up the lavender oak trunk or the native grasses swaying in the breeze. The very presence of the natural world keeps me company and settles me into writing. Often I rely on the external world to jumpstart me on to the page.

But in the fog, the only external presence was the cloud wall pressing against the screen and glass. For more than four days in this white world, I tried to keep myself moving to the computer or my journal. A dozen poems and a couple of essays slowly made their way onto the page. I was forced to stay internal, to notice what was happening to me as I experienced living in a cocoon. I was uncomfortable. I wanted out. I walked from room to room, made tea and took time-outs to read a novel.

By Friday I woke up and took charge.