Thistles & Survival

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Well, we survived Mt. Mitchell and the fellowship was great. I went up a few days early which was wonderful. I got to read some novels and theology and warmed by the campfire. The rest of the group came in this past Monday morning. We set up camp, ate a glorious chicken bog that warmed up our bodies, and had time for a hike and great discussion about church, life, and a little bit of everything else. Then… the bottom fell out of the skies. At 11:30 p.m. Monday night the deluge began. All but two got thoroughly soaked in their tents or hammock. The one in the hammock had a snug tarp but the rain was blowing in horizontally so the tarp had very little effect. We tried to hang in there until daylight but then things got worse. It POURED! We packed up in the downpour as fast as we could, but it was awful. If you have ever had to pack up wet tents and soaked sleeping bags, you know what I mean. We trekked down the mountain and drove to Marion, North Carolina. There we found a restaurant for breakfast. We dried out as best we could and ate a hearty meal. I must admit that it helped to turn on my electric seat warmer to aid the drying process. According to the Mt. Mitchell Weather Station, Tropical Storm/Depression “Fay” dropped 10 inches of rain on Mt. Mitchell. Whew!
 
Well, being back in Columbia has been eventful and the usual – not quite a 10 inch downpour, but close. I’ve been catching up on the unending and regular duties of a District Superintendent which is why I put up the shot of a thistle I took on Monday from the edge of the Old Mitchell trail. Often this call and that of any pastor is like running through thistles – prickly stuff happens on a regular unpredictable basis. I can’t even tell you some of the stuff I have to deal with because of its confidential nature. Suffice it to say, it ain’t pretty sometimes. Very often it’s sad and painful. But, thanks be to God, sometimes being in this office is absolutely wonderful – seeing churches dream new dreams, pastors and other clergy flourish in their ministries, and the Kingdom growing before your very eyes as you hear success stories and dream about new ways of doing ministry across the district.
 
However, it’s my “thistle-times” that put both good and bad in perspective. Thistles remind me that though life can be painful and prickly, even the thistles can be used for good. As a matter of fact, the reason that thistles are the national symbol of Scotland is because thistles were an early warning system for the Scots as their enemies the English stepped on them and yelped in pain. Thistles like “Fay” and all the other things that grab me because of the tyranny of the urgent, can actually throw my yelping soul further into the hands of God. For that I’m grateful as I remember that beautiful thistle before the flood came down. Thistles help us survive!
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