My wife, Beth, says that I need to continually work on my ability to "bask". Beth thinks that basking is a spiritual discipline and an art form (and admittedly, no one I know basks with as much grace and ease as my sweet love.)
I am not a basker. The motto on my running ID says "Pack a lot of life into living." But because of Beth I am learning to find times and place to slow down, to linger, to do nothing but take in the sunshine of God and warmth of the people of around me.
I just returned from one of my favorite basking spots, Laity Lodge. I have written about Laity Lodge before, but every time I visit I am reminded of why I love the place. There is no hype, just substance. It is a solid, peaceful, enduring place that exudes both welcome and possibility. When I go there I know that I am going to meet interesting people who are like-souled though vastly different than me on the surface. Mostly, they are Texans, but this Californian (whom I am told was the first person to ever speak at Laity Lodge in flip-flops) is always welcomed with a hug and a joke and usually a prayer of gratitude to God for my very presence (can you even imagine?)
I always meet people from around the country who live such different lives than I do, but are as committed to seeking the Kingdom in their little worlds as I am to mine. I met Evelyn from Compton, CA. (She was along with my family the only other Californian.) She rode the bus across the southwest to come to Laity Lodge the first time and has returned eight times. At communion, she reminded us all that the heavenly banquet would look more like a Laity Lodge communion service than most of our 11 AM Sunday Services.
I spent considerable amount of time with my co-speaker Lauren Winner, a southern-east-coaster whose intellect and cool quotient can only make me more popular with the emergent crowd just because I now know her.
I also met LL Barkat, a writer from New York who over a delightful lunch graciously gave me a copy of her new book (which Beth has taken from me to enjoy in her moments of basking) and recommended several others on Jewish theology of the wilderness (which I am taking to Alaska with me next week for some vacation and more hands-on musing on community, friendship and creation.)
And I spent a lot of time just hanging out and talking late into the night with friends old and new. Two afternoons, Mark Roberts and I hiked the hill country of Texas through the shade of the cedar trees, and two evenings Mark and Linda and Beth and I sat under starry skies catching up on our lives. I spent lunch with Howard and Barbara Dan Butt, and an evening with David and Deborah Rogers and a lot of time swimming in the Rio Frio (which wasn't, really, by the way.) My kids hung out with the Roberts and Rogers kids and explored the place like they were a gang of Tom Sawyers with nothing to do but let their imaginations lead them. And we ate a lot of homemade bread.
On my first visit to Laity Lodge a couple of years back, I took a morning run up to Circle Bluff to take in the view when I was joined by Grammy winner Ashley Cleveland on a morning walk. She said, "The veil is very thin here, isn't it?" I nodded in agreement, and we walked a bit together, a new friendship born.
Maybe the key to basking is finding a place where the presence of God shines through the beauty of nature and the warmth of people so clearly that you continually want to linger...and return.
(LL encouraged Jim Martin and Marcus Goodyear and I to write about Laity Lodge in each other's blogs so that others will discover what we have. A fitting, generous, suggestion, I'd say. After all that I have received there, sharing it seems most appropriate. And as I noted above, I am heading off to Alaska with my family and some friends for a couple of weeks of vacation. I am praying for one glimpse of Denali, a safe encounter with a grizzly bear and some big fish on the end of my fly line while I do some serious basking...)(Added: This is a nice photographic, basking-like introduction to Laity Lodge. Thanks Mark D. Roberts)