Thursday, September 29, 2016

feeding along the way

In my last post I wrote about my love/hate relationship with professional travel. This time it was all love, and I’m so grateful. This particular conference felt like it was a stepping stone along the path of some of the new things that are happening during this season (that transition/transformation I wrote about a little while back). These kinds of experiences are true grace, a breeze at your back, a gentle nudge to continue in the same direction.

So, a list of highlights, if you’re interested…

City of Bridges // Running in new cities is always a highlight, especially when that city has some water running through it. Pittsburgh has lots of it – three rivers, with more than 400 bridges crossing them at various points. (Did you know it’s the American city with the most bridges? I didn’t.) The first morning I left my hotel just as the sky was beginning to brighten and followed a haphazard loop over all three rivers, stopping for lots of photos. The second morning, I crossed the Rachel Carson Bridge (so cool there's a bridge named after this author) and ran along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, a concrete path bordered by green overgrowth and yellow wild flowers, with a river just beyond. It was pure Pennsylvania and made my heart so happy. (I didn’t realize how much Pittsburgh would feel like home…)

Medicine, mission, mercy // Remember those uninspiring keynotes I referenced? Not at this conference. The second morning was my favorite. Dr. Jim Withers shared his story of providing medical care to Pittsburgh’s homeless folks for decades and helping to create Street Medicine programs at medical schools around the world. The concept of mobile medical care that creates access and cultivates justice has become my heart, especially since traveling to Kenya. It was such an honor to hear him share his stories, and with such humility and passion.

The life of an artist // I made a few friends, one of whom works at the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh. Over dinner, I mentioned that I might visit the Andy Warhol Museum after the conference. The next morning, she found me to tell me she’d arranged for my free entry. Later that day (which was also after I’d given my presentation), I wandered the city, found some coffee, and made my way over. Warhol’s art is funky and fun, and observing the trajectory of an artist’s life is incredibly inspiring. My favorite part was the display of contents from his time capsule from the year 1984. His collection of all kinds of random paraphernalia reminded me that inspiration can come from anywhere, and being an avid collector of it can keep creativity fresh.

Something you said…” // After I presented on the last morning of the conference, several people came up to talk to me afterwards. One woman introduced herself, then started her comments on my presentation with this phrase. It stuck with me because this year has in some ways been one of strengthening my voice. My dream is to hear this over and over – that the things I say have impact, stir something in people, inspire change and vision. Years ago I often found myself afraid to speak, and when I first started this job I wasn’t thinking I’d one day be one who teaches and encourages others, especially by the room-full. It’s one of those dreams I never thought to dream, but the One who knows our truest, deepest desires knows how to bring those about, and how to keep directing our hearts beyond those things to eternity.

I could write more – of really good coffee and chatting with the same barista each day, of great food, of an inspiring session on diversity that was a helpful way to process some of the violence erupting on the streets of cities across our country, of a man who passed me on the street and told me I looked like Taylor Swift (ok, his sanity was questionable but I’m thinking this was one of his lucid moments?). There was just so much. 

There’s a verse in Isaiah that speaks of the people of God feeding along the way and finding provision in places they thought barren -- reminders of God’s goodness and restoration as they make their way to their true home, the City of God. And it’s these seemingly little or mundane things that I think Isaiah might be referring to. They aren’t the thing to shoot for, but they signal to us that God knows our truest desires and has put eternity in our hearts. They bring joy, but what’s better is that they keep us along the path to the One who holds our hearts and is the ultimate thing (relationship/beauty/wonder) we yearn for.

(photo: fort duquesne bridge at the beginning of morning run)

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