Group of hikers on top of mountain during sunset.

This is Like, a Bob Ross Painting

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Written by: Josh Richard
MYC Back Home Leader

View from Lookout Mountain at sunrise.
Click for full size.

“This is like, a Bob Ross painting,” says SK through deep breaths. A group of us are on Lookout Rock in Montreat for sunrise, and it’s becoming more worth the 5:30 a.m. departure by the minute as oranges and blues mix with the clouds to cap the green, happy trees. It’s the first day of a week filled with laughter and vulnerability and ice cream and hammocks and deep questions about our faith. This is the magic of Montreat.

Environment has a lot to do with how we think and how we feel. Here, just a few hours from Charlotte, we’re surrounded by forests and streams and mountains and, more importantly, several hundred young people of faith from all over the country. The pastoral leadership this week encourages us to let love lead in all that we do and in all that we are, defining ourselves through the relational love embodied by Jesus.

The schedule says we worship each evening, but that’s not really true. We’re worshipping God all kinds of ways this week, from morning keynote sessions with Michelle Thomas-Bush and Nick Carson to small break-out groups that tackle scripture through games, drama, and a discussion practice known as “mutual invitation” where everyone is given space to speak from their heart and receive the gift of active listening from the rest of the group.

Our culture trains us to live life all the way to the margins, filling every moment with school, sports, SAT prep, resume builders, and professional development. Michelle and Nick, along with Jerry Cannon, our preacher for the week, have pushed us to challenge that idea and make space to notice God in the quiet, small moments of the present. To that end, we took a sabbath morning to re-orient ourselves, making more space to notice God’s presence, whether it be a morning hike, yoga, prayer, or an extra hour of sleep.

All this work and practice has been showing up in our group, too. Each night we gather as a youth group to decompress from the day, have some snacks, and talk about what we’ve experienced.

You couldn’t put a price on this. It’s a week so full of intangible glimpses of God that we’d like everyone to know. We’ve been equipped to go out from this place knowing that no matter where we are, we’re a part of each other’s stories. No matter where we are, we can open ourselves up to be moved to do great things. No matter where we are, we can partner with God in the unbinding of systems that have hurt us. No matter where we are, we can be people who lead with love.

About the Author:
Josh Richard was a Back Home Leader during Week 4 of the Montreat Youth Conference 2019. Josh is a nature lover, coffee needer, and Montreat enthusiast. He currently serves as the Communications Director at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC.