Holiness in our Midst: Session 119

Holiness in our Midst


Story Circle Prompt: Remember a time when you ventured off the beaten path. What did you learn by altering your routine?

It was the summer of 2004, right after the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Charleston, WV. I had several days to meander through the country roads of West Virginia, the first time I ventured on my own without minute-by-minute plans. I knew only that I needed to travel from the southwest corner to the northeast corner of the state by the following Sunday morning. (A church was eager to learn more about denominational missions, and I was coordinator for mission connections at the time.) I had booked cheap motels near national parks, that much I had done, but the daytime hours were left to chance. 

I do not remember the name of the town or the local woman who decided to take me on her self-described “West Virginia Adventure of a Lifetime.” I do recall that it was a Friday, and I had stopped at an all-inclusive general store in the mountains. In addition to the standard groceries, there was also a hardware aisle, and even a soda fountain/grill tucked in one corner. The proprietor befriended me as she made me a sandwich and gave me a free coke. She began telling me the history of the area and her personal history, which were one and the same. 

“Oh heck, why don’t I just show you my life,” she said. “Are you game?” she asked. I nodded, not sure if my life was a risk, but it sounded fun at the time. All that afternoon she immersed me in the culture of north central West Virginia. First, she gave me a private showing of her late husband’s museum-quality model railroad, set up in a large shed across the road from the store. The trains chugged through mountains, past authentic-looking local people and landmarks, and featured bells, whistles, and railroad crossings. The whole scene was a thing of wonder!

Then she drove me to the gravesites of her relatives, detailing their eccentricities, and showed me the cemetery, with a breathtaking mountain view, where she would be laid to rest. She took me by her family acreage turned B & B, where Charles Kuralt, the news commentator who loved Appalachia, had once vacationed. The place featured a large oak tree with a lovely swing. I wanted to stay there forever and do nothing but sing the John Denver song about the state’s country roads.

“And you need to see the caves,” she said after the family immersion. She drove me to some famous caves and guided me through underground caverns of unearthly beauty before whisking me over more mountain passes and past scenic farmlands on the way back to the store. We sat for a while, savoring the day before she packed my “food for the road.” She sent me on my way with a big West Virginia wave. I left determined to go off the beaten path more often. What had I missed? Who had I missed knowing more deeply?

Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the following: What adventure would you like to go on that would take you out of your routine? What is holding you back?
       1.   Read aloud Session CXV.
       2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt

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Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

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