Monday, July 01, 2019

DE Ponderings

by Kevin Kessler 

Destinations are great. But more inspirational than arriving at the place to which we are traveling is all we observe and absorb while on the journey. For example, Tammy and I recently traveled to Greensboro, NC, for Annual Conference. The miles on the road to and from conference were scenic as we traveled across flat prairieland and through mountainous areas, all of which provided unique vistas of grasses, trees, rivers, farmland, architecture, rock formations, etc. The eye was never without a view nor the mind without a thought about the encompassing majestic beauty.

Journeys, in addition to the physical aspects, also offer a spiritual component. Pilgrimage is a term often incorporated when thinking of a spiritual journey. Christians make pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Muslims to Mecca. These are significant sites and places with religious meaning, places where pilgrims on the way can reflect introspectively and upon their faith, becoming more self-aware and more intimately connected with the Divine as understood in their tradition. Annual Conference, as a destination this summer, evolved into a pilgrimage for me. I normally look forward to Annual Conference, but something was different this year. That the usual conference format was changed for compelling vision purposes was not a factor in my unusual sense of attending. Rather, I was more tired than usual. My expectations were low. I made the trek to the Big Meeting somewhat out of obligation.

I wonder if I’m alone in this kind of experience. Likely not and neither would I be alone in being surprised by a spiritual encounter in moments of low expectation. Several factors were at play in changing my perspective. I rarely attend an insight session every evening but this year I wanted to attend 2 or 3 some evenings. The subject matter was enticing. I was impressed by the questions the Compelling Process Team had developed for thought-provoking discussion. Those who shared sermons and messages during the week obviously engaged in thoughtful study to provide quality insights. I observed many persons from our district who were in places and positions of leadership during the conference. It warmed my heart. The music penetrated my soul at various times. From all that this pilgrim encountered during the few days of Annual Conference, I reflected deeply about my participation in kingdom work and encountered the Divine in ways that strengthened my faith. None of this did I expect before the pilgrimage of Annual Conference. But it was the pilgrimage through the days of the conference that refreshed, renewed, and reenergized my spirit and my being.

The value of pilgrimage became real for me. I also learned that I don’t have to travel to another land to experience this value. God is present in any and all places, able to excite and empower our senses and sensibilities to become more than we can expect to be. Even when we are not open to what God has in store, we can be enlivened.

I’ll be able to approach Annual Conference in another way from this point onward. I may not always have great expectations of conference, but I’ll value the opportunity to be a pilgrim, to be open to the unexpected God may have in store for me and for others. May this be a common experience for us all.