Beauty in the Night

Last night I had an unusual experience.  My husband and I participated in a night hike on Grandfather Mountain.  After watching the sun set whilenight sunset it was lightening 8 miles away  unfortunately it started raining so the experience had to be adapted. But towards the end we went on a sensory hike, aka walked a trail in the dark.  Very cool!

The guide who led this experience started out by quoting Vincent Van Gogh while holding a copy of his Starry Night painting.  He wanted us to spend the evening experiencing the beauty of the night even though it is completely different from the beauty of the day.  Often times you have to experience it with different or more heightened senses.

“At present I absolutely want to paint a starry sky. It often seems to me that night is still more richly coloured than the day; having hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens. If only you pay attention to it you will see that certain stars are lemon-yellow, others pink or a green, blue and forget-me-not brilliance. And without my expatiating on this theme it is obvious that putting little white dots on the blue-black is not enough to paint a starry sky.”
― Vincent van Gogh

While we waited for a rain cloud to pass us by we learned owl
about the Screech Owl.  The owl spent the whole presentation staring at my husband, Greg.  Fascinating to hear how well they are adapted to be nocturnal and just how cute he was.  As we were driving through the park we saw tons of deer nibbling on blueberries and other foliage as if they were just waiting for everyone to leave the park so they could come out for dinner.

My favorite part was the sensory hike.  The guide took us down a very easy trail in the dark.  There was no moon last night and it was cloudy so there was little natural light.  Water was dripping from the trees.  We huddled up with the other members of our excursion and began to feel with our feet what was before us on the trail, communicating well with those behind us when we came upon a rock or a stump.  Evenually your eyes began to acclimate a little but it was still dark.  Eyes were the least helpful of the senses!

night salomander

There’s a Slimy Salamander in the center

Then he stopped us and let us hunt for salamanders!  We pulled out our flashlights and started flipping rocks and logs looking for various kinds.  I flipped over a rock and found a baby “slimy salamander”.  We also heard deer making sounds off in the distance during our walk in the dark.  I’ve never heard deer make a sound before.

I guess what was so refreshing to me was to see things through a different lens.  I’ve been on that mountain so many times before but all during the day.  To see the shadows, to look up at the sky from under the tree canopy was mesmerizing to me.  How different the tree limbs looked in the dusk.

Luckily, just before our adventure ended, the clouds broke and we got to see stars, with very little light pollution.  There was a patch of Van Gogh’s starry night- so much more than some white dots painted on a canvas of black, for sure. What in your life have you looked at the same way a million times that maybe you just need to find a new perspective.  Get out of the light pollution surrounding you.  Look during a different time of day, use different senses to experience.  It’s amazing what you can “see” when you just close your eyes and listen.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth





Lamenting our Losses, Clinging to our Love

My heart is still full from one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had in a long time.  Last night our predominantly white Centenary United Methodist Church came to worship together with St. Paul United Methodist Church, who are predominantly African American.  We had folks from United Methodist Churches in the east Winston Salem area join us.  It wasn’t just a joint worship of strangers that share a denominational title.  In fact the Holy Spirit showed up in a powerful way and it felt like I was worshipping with family.

13776038_10210124457166980_384329985797420013_nIt was a beautiful thing to see black and white together, not exactly sure of ourselves but trusting enough to just be together.  To gaze on our joint choir and watch as each group learned and sang songs from the other’s traditions.  The joy on their face and the incredible sound they produced moved me to by core.

To hear words spoken from young and old voices, black and white voices, clergy and lay voices that named our pain, our broken heartedness, our fears, and our hope in God and in the Body of Christ was powerful.  There could have been no better balm for my weary and saddened soul then to sit in God’s presence and lament from the deepest part of my heart with brothers and sisters of like mind.

And we were of like mind.  All of us were saddened over the death of black men at the hands of police officers.  All of us were saddened over the death of officers in uniform at the hands of black snipers.  All of us long for safe spaces to share how we feel about what is going on around us.  All of us long for taking some next steps that matter.  We just aren’t sure what they are.  But we are sure that together, we can help this community of Winston Salem find a better way through this than what our nation has experienced.   I’m grateful to Rev. Donald Jenkins and his courage and boldness to partner with us and help us find a better way forward.

I have hope like I haven’t felt in a long time.  Politicians won’t solve this for us.  But God sure does have a message that we can share that can solve this.  And last night I saw a group of people who because of the love and hope that Jesus preached and modeled believe that we can do the same today.

Romans 8:22-28 (Common English Bible)

We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.

 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will.  We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Picking a Bishop

How do you discern that another person has been destined to serve as one of the leaders of the United Methodist Church?  How do you know who would make a good Bishop?  How do you hold the future of the church and its leaders in your hands and remotely feel prepared   to decide whose number you punch in to vote for?

I’ve spent the last week at what we in the United Methodist world call Jurisdictional Conference for the Southeast area of our country.  Our primary purpose for this week has been to elect 5 new Episcopal bishops that will serve across the southeast.  It is a fascinating process.  And thankfully, one in which I felt God’s presence in the midst of.

What I observed was a collective body making decisions using discernment, conversation with colleagues living in other parts of the Southeast, prayer, observation, and at least for our delegation, clarity around what skills and gifts we need in a bishop.  There were a few people from within the Jurisdiction who tried to play political games and take straw votes and persuade people how to vote but it appears to me it back fired mightily.  For that I am glad.

The results I observed were the election of 5 diverse Bishops that bring their own unique skills to the job.  We chose candidates that ranged from left of center to centrist to right of center.  We chose 2 women and 3 men.  We chose 2 people of color and 3 anglo.  We celebrated that for the first time the Southeast elected an African American woman to serve as bishop.

It gave me great hope for the future of our church as none of these candidates want to see our denomination split.  And those persons who had one agenda to discern viability of candidates are probably very disappointed right now because those persons who only wanted conservatives regarding human sexuality did to prevail.  We elected multiple perspectives including those who want us to think in terms of all people having a place at the Gospel Feast.

What we did not do, though, was to elect our own candidate for the Episcopacy, Rev. Dr. James Howell.  It was with a heavy heart that we accep28008653860_00741d21c5_zted the fact that he was not going to receive enough votes.  I am proud he represented our Conference and I am hopeful he will continue to lead our denomination to have the tough conversations and push our church to stretch towards a healthy, inclusive, socially just future.

We will find out in a few hours who our new bishop will be in Western North Carolina.  I am eager to hear.  But whether we get a new bishop or the Episcopacy Committee moves one of the existing bishops, I am hopeful that we will have a bright future for the United Methodist Church.

I’m thankful to have been part of this process.  I’m thankful to have connected with colleagues from across the Jurisdiction.  I am thankful for the collective will of the body to do new things this year.  I pray that these new leaders will boldly lead our church towards a future of great impact and transformation.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth



Getting Unplugged- Good for the Soul

It’s been a glorious week of vacation.  Any vacation for me is typically glorious because I love to travel just about anywhere.  But the past couple of days Greg and I traveled to a place cell signals couldn’t find us.  No emails.  No text messages.  No phone calls.  No internet.  No television.  There was a daily newspaper so we had a simple connection to the outside world.  And our families had the phone number where we staying just in case.  They actually had a phone room with pay phones – not something you see much anymore.

We were at Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State.  What the park ranger said would happen, happened to us.  He said he loves to watch people arrive to Paradise Lodge and they are all antsy and jittery as they try and figure out what to do with themselves (since they can’t keep looking at their cell phones because no new information has arrived on it since the last time they looked).  As the days go by, they plop down on the sofas in the lobby and by the third day they are taking naps and just being as if they are more comfortable in their skin.

zz lb on rockThat’s the beauty of “unplugging” from technology.  You don’t really have another choice but to be present to your current setting.  You only have your imagination and your day dreams to distract you. Otherwise you can completely connect to your surroundings.  I had forgotten how restful to my soul that was.  Especially for someone like me that loves connecting to people and who loves staying busy.  At one point Greg and I hiked up about 45 minutes into snow and found a big rock we hiked to and just sat.  For hours.  Seriously.  When is the last time you just sat for a couple of hours and really looked around?  Noticing every detail.  We watched clouds blow over us.  We looked for mountain goats and marmots.  Just scanning the scenery over and over in 360 degrees never got old.  It was so beautiful.  And we just talked.  And sometimes we sat in silence.

And at some point I realized, I was completely relaxed and very comfortable in my skin.  Well, other than the sunburn I suffered on the first day- that wasn’t so comfortable.  but spiritually speaking, all was well.  And it truly took about 2 1/2 days before I got there.

I think that is one of the reasons we hear the phrase “people are spiritual but not religious these days.”  What does that really mean? They may have given up on church but their I think it means that all people are longing for something deep within themselves.  That is our soul.  It’s part of our inner selves.  No matter how busy we keep ourselves occupied our soul cries out for care.  Those of us that try to be religious, specifically Christian, work on taking care of our souls on a regular basis.  I do this daily and weekly as a disciple of Jesus.  But man was I reminded of how hard it is to tend the deepest parts of our soul.  It takes time and it takes isolation.  Both of those are difficult to corral in our Western culture.

I’m thankful for the reminder.  I’m thankful for the time with my husband.  I’m thankful for the time with the deepest part of my soul.  And I will not wait so long to return.  Maybe not to Mt. Rainier, but there are other rocks I can sit on probably a lot closer to home.  I have every intention of finding one.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth