Folk School – Part One: Murphy

I’m just back from a week at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

LOVED it! But there’s way too much to tell to fit in one blog, so here’s part one:

I flew into Chattanooga, Tennessee, on a balmy Saturday afternoon. Half an hour later I was in my rental car, driving along the Ocoee Scenic Byway, struggling to keep my eyes on the road as flashes of waterfalls rushing down the steep green walls of the Ocoee River Gorge kept grabbing my attention. It was only mid-February, but here spring had definitely sprung. I was on my way to Murphy, North Carolina. I would move into my lodging at the Folk School in neighboring Brasstown on Sunday afternoon, but Saturday night I was in Murphy, where my mom and her husband, Dick, have a little place to get away from the worst of the Indiana winters. They met me at my hotel, and we headed to Parson’s Pub for an early dinner.

Well, we thought it would be early, but an hour after ordering we were still waiting for our food. The place was hopping and the kitchen couldn’t keep up. It didn’t matter to me. I was still on Colorado time. The bartender and his wife, our server, were apologetic, but we were fine. We had wine, live music and plenty to talk about until the food arrived.

Mom told me the church on the hill above my hotel had some tie to the pub, which piqued my curiosity. So the next morning, since Mom couldn’t meet me until about 12:30 and I had to be out of the hotel by 11:00, I thought maybe I’d check out the church. I don’t love new situations, especially walking into rooms full of people I don’t know, so I was still undecided as I drove slowly up the steep drive and parked on the far edge of the parking lot, facing away from the front doors, hoping the tinted windows rendered me at least sort of invisible. I turned off the engine, but then just sat there in the car. I almost bailed, but what else was I going to do? Finally, I had a little mini-conversation with God: Okay, fine, I’ll go in, but I’m only doing this for You. And immediately heard back: Actually, I’m doing this for you.

Okay, then. I may not always slow down enough to hear it, but when I do, I try not to argue with that still, small voice. I went in. And it was great. There were a few appraising looks, but a number of people introduced themselves and didn’t seem at all fazed that I was a one-time drop-in and would likely never be back. Before I had been there long, in walked the pub guy and his wife. He turned out to be the “Parson” himself and the former pastor of Shepherd Church. They immediately started telling everyone how patient we had been at the pub the night before. There went my hide-in-a-corner plan, but at least they were saying nice things. Never mind that I didn’t really deserve such lavish praise simply for not being rude. Anyway, they insisted they wanted to sit with me if I didn’t mind, even though I was lurking in the back row. So much for my quick getaway, but I didn’t really want to leave anymore.

Then the current pastor, Chris West, got up and said something I hope I never forget, “If all your prayers were answered tonight, would it change the world or just your world?”

Prayer wall at Shepherd’s Church, Murphy, NC

Excellent question. He went on to introduce a new outreach the church was going to be undertaking, fundraising and giving to Charity: Water, which funds wells to provide clean water in developing countries. The whole morning was thought-provoking and motivating.

I came out of there warmed by the human connection, cheered by this unexpected gift from God, and inspired by a possible avenue toward making a difference. I’ll be looking into Charity: Water. You may want to, too. Either way, I promise going in was way better than sitting alone in a rental car at the edge of a random parking lot.

So here’s wishing you boldness to go where the still small voice of God may be inviting you. May the experience warm you, cheer you, inspire you, and provide you with a way to make a difference.

3 thoughts on “Folk School – Part One: Murphy”

  1. Well you found 3 of my favorite places in Far Western North Carolina. Hope you enjoyed your class at the Folk School and come back to visit our special mountain hospitality, Sherry Bell Dukes, aka the Highlander

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