Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Long Journeys and Thin Places

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Job 38:16-21) transports me to Salem College, around 20 years ago, when Kim and I and some friends went to see our favorite musician, Doc Watson, in concert. The concert was sponsored by the Piedmont Guitar Society, and when we got there, all primed and ready to hear Doc pick and sing and tell stories, we found that the first half of the concert was various local performers and students of the guitar society. One after another came up, mostly classical players, and I got more and more impatient. The impatience was well on its way to grumpiness and then fury as we sat there for a full hour and a half, listening to something of a recital, when we had bought our tickets to hear Doc. Finally, they ended their set, and called for an intermission, after which we would get what we came for. I wandered around the halls of Salem College looking for a bathroom, and then got a bit turned around as I wandered back trying to find the auditorium. I opened the wrong door, and lo and behold, there sat Doc. It was his dressing room, and he was sitting there, by himself, tuning his guitar. I quietly closed the door. My friend Brad walked by, on his way back from the restroom, and I told him who was behind that door. We screwed up our courage, knocked on the door, and asked Doc if we could come in and visit for a minute. He was so gracious, so down to earth, no different than on stage. He found out I was a preacher, and immediately launched into his favorite preacher jokes. He found out we were musicians as well, and asked if we remembered how Chet played Wildwood Flower, and when we said no, he proceeded to demonstrate. I’ll never forget what a journey my spirit made in those few minutes, as I traveled from a state of impatient frustration and grumpiness and anger, and walked through a door to a state of pure joy and delight. The Celts talk about the “thin places” that exist between this world and the eternal world, and how we can cross over into that world. I confirmed the existence of thin places that night, and found that it truly is possible to cross over, to make the journey.

When the Lord spoke to Job out of the whirlwind, he spoke to a man who had every reason to be more than grumpy; we would think Job had every right to be righteously angry and even bitter. But when Job cried out in his frustration, he heard the Lord’s voice in reply, questioning him – Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness? Have you comprehended the vast expanse of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this. What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived for so many years! I have always read God’s speech to Job here as filled with rhetorical questions and a bite of sarcasm, implying that of course Job doesn’t know any of this. Now, though, I read it and wonder if God was being straightforward with Job. Of course you know all this, Job. You’ve traveled often between those thin places, between the eternal and temporal worlds. You have journeyed to the gates of death and walked in the recesses of the deep. Job was indeed familiar with the thin places, after all, there he was in a one-on-one conversation with God!

Doc Watson took a journey yesterday, an ultimate journey across that thin place into the land of eternal life. I think about a song his wife Rosalee wrote many years ago, Your Long Journey. It’s about what it might feel like to lose your most precious loved one: Oh my darling, my darling, my heart breaks as you take your long journey. I wonder if that song is going through Rosalee’s mind now as the pangs of grief tug at her heart. The thing is, I don’t think it was such a long journey for Doc. He lived so much in the land of grace and love when he was here, so fully in the land of joy and delight, that I think it truly was a thin place he walked through last night as the angels came and beckoned him home. Remembering him, I have hope that I can make more journeys through those thin places, especially when grumpiness and frustration creeps in and I need a good dose of joy and delight.

How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.



  • May 30, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    As I read this reflection my mind couldn’t help but go to the last days with my Pa. As he daily climbed that mountain and came back and told me about it and then finally decided to stay. I am then reminded of my short time at Hospice and all the thin places I was allowed to enter into with people. Being with persons in that moment as they take their final journey changed my faith forever. I truely believe that in those moments I stood on Holy Ground.

    Comment by Kelly Dotson

  • May 30, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I’m so glad you got to meet your hero, in his dressing room no less. I am so illiterate when it comes to all these great musicians of whom you write, Stan. Thank you for introducing me to them. It’s a whole new refreshing world for me.

    Doc is now within the cloud of witnesses watching over us. I wonder what he is strumming up in heaven.

    Comment by Janet Davies

  • May 31, 2012 at 8:40 am


    Thanks for putting your Doc story out there. I love it. I’ve noticed a sentiment running across various comments pages and message boards that Doc and Merle are pickin’ some sweet tunes today. I sure hope so.

    Check out this sweet piece of raw video of Doc, Chet and Leo Kottke. Pure honey…

    Comment by Tim

  • May 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Kelly, I appreciate you sharing this memory. We sure have had some opportunities in our lives to walk on that kind of holy ground.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 31, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Janet, I’m glad to be a “minister of introduction” when it comes to music for you! I hope you find some things you enjoy listening to. Doc sure put out a lot of great music in his life.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • May 31, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Tim, good to hear from you, and it is good to imagine the sweet sounds coming from the string section in that good land. Thanks for sharing the Youtube link, it’s always fun to see those impromptu jams. Tupelo honey, for sure.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

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