On Saturday, our decompression and reflection day, Courtney, our receiving missionary, arranged for us to travel down south to Glendalough, Ireland. Glendalough, as he described it, is a "thin place," a place where spiritual and physical worlds live in very close communion, where the connections are quite easy to make.
While we were there, we walked to the Upper Lake as a group, picnicked, and then took some time to wander individually and reflect on all aspects of the trip in order to be able to answer the question, "How was the trip?" when we arrived back in the States.
On Saturday evening, Joe and Sharon invited us to their house, where we munched on pizza (they have Dominoes!) and were free to ask questions, once again inviting Joe to share his heart and pieces of his testimony with the group - and on more individual levels. Some of us heard some fun stories from Sharon on when she and Joe first got married (e.g. the time as a newly-wed that Joe got on the bus after work and wound up at his mother's house instead of their house, because he had "forgotten he was married"!). Here, we also talked and planned what decisions faced LFC with the project of One More Neighborhood in Huntington Green, asking his experience to share wisdom with us.
While we sat around his living area in the Donnelly house, Joe shared that nowhere in the Bible do the writers describe someone as having great faith. Faith is faith. What matters, however, is the object of the faith. Having faith in a great God will allow for unimaginable feats. "We are all clay vessels," Joe reminded us. "The clay is gonna show on occasion, but the idea of a life of faith is to become as transparent as possible in our clay by pouring our faith into the big-ness of God." He encouraged us not to draw the conclusion of the experience of the trip as meeting someone or a mission that 'has great faith,' but to see the work that he and Sharon participate in to be an as-transparent-as-possible vessel to show off our great, great God.
So, how was the trip? In order to answer this, I will become no longer the spokesperson for the group, since everyone, though sharing experiences in the same realm, can have different perspectives on them. While at Glendalough- on a Saturday during the busy, holiday time in Europe- there were people everywhere. Initially, I was disappointed by this, longing for solitude and quiet meditation in the wildest, beautiful place we had been (at least in the past day).
And yet, as I sat on the shore of the lake, with the waves lapping into the cove and a French family of 3 eating lunch on a log about 5 meters from me, the Lord reminded me that His creation includes the sixth day - the day where He created man in His own image, where He designed that humankind be His clay vessels aiming for transparency.
Day 1, Sunday, 8/7, as Joe shares with us the mission we will be working with and towards for the week.
In Glendalough, in the mission center, in Joe's house, in Ireland (and now that I'm home, here), the Lord reminded me of the thin places- the connection of spirit and physique - within the human creation, particularly in the blessing of relationships.
The Lord not only shows His beauty in the amazing wonders of His creation, but in the simple ability of humans to connect: to smile at each other and say a word of greeting in the grocery store, to share our burdens and joys with closer friends, or to serve a mission on the other side of the world through some cleaning up and loving on some beautifully-made children.
People mingling in Temple Bar area, Dublin.
The beauty of the flowers, and those who attack the weeds - Tracy and Elaine.
Earl's namesake, a very wonderful place to eat, which we found out on Saturday morning.
Our photographer in the wind. I hear Hollywood calling...
The beauty of our Savior is that this is life, that He created us in His image, that He hand-paints the sky for us each morning and decorates our world with beauty in natural form. It's messy sometimes, dirty most of the time, but He knows and invites us not just to relationship with others and with the world around us, but with Him, the artist and author of all of it. We are not alone, and this is this is (one of) the message(s) of Ireland for Lake Forest Church.