Tomorrow I’ll head out for the hills of western North Carolina and the Wild Goose Festival (named for the Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit).

Five years ago, when I went to the Goose for the first time, I had no real idea what I was getting into. I realized pretty quickly that I was one of the most conservative people there.

That’s not true this year — hasn’t been true for the past few years.

Wild Goose did not begin the journey for me — that happened something like 15 years ago in North Carolina when I picked up a new non-fiction at the library called A New Kind of Christian.

Or 20 years ago when I first became friends with some Presbyterians and learned that there’s not just one “right” way to read Scripture.

Or nearly 30 years ago when fundamentalist missionaries I was visiting in France explained how culture contextualized their understanding of the morality of wine.

Or 35 years ago when I stumbled onto Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet and first encountered a woman who loved Jesus and looked nothing like Christians I knew.

Or when I first learned to read and enter others’ stories and lives and see a world of endless perspectives.

I’m not sure our journeys ever “begin,” but there are moments that shift something, that change something. That take all the things that came before and reorder them into new realizations and new ways of seeing.

Wild Goose gave me a space, for four days each summer, to dive into that. To live beside and walk with and listen to and share beauty and grief and pain and joy with people who lived very different lives and fought very different battles than I had.

And, it turned out, some from remarkably similar places.

Wild Goose is a spiritual refugee camp for a motley collection of people who, for a host of reasons, find themselves outside the lines traditional Christianity has drawn.

Having that space each summer opened me up. It gave me the space to ask questions, of myself as much as others. And it prepared me to dive into a different kind of community at home and be changed by it.

Wild Goose showed me Jesus obliterating the lines, loving and walking with people in all sorts of journeys, just wading in.

And I waded in after him. I’m looking forward to wading in deeper this year!

(That’s the back of my head in the picture!)

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