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  • Writer's pictureDr. Allan Purtill

Midweek Moment, July 15, 2020

Here I sit on vacation. What is vacation like in our family? It usually includes the outdoors, water sports, card games, delicious meals, laughter, and time for and rest. This year we planned a beach trip and the four of us headed to the coast.

We are tanning and playing at Sunset Beach, NC and thankfully there is plenty of room for everyone to spread out. The waves have provided ample body surfing and the sand, well you know, sand is the gift that keeps on giving.

Sunset Beach is located just to the north and east of Bird Island, the only remaining undeveloped barrier island in Brunswick County. It’s salvation came, some say, in the mail.

For decades the 1000 plus acres of marsh and white sandy dunes have held a secluded, but sought after, retreat known as the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. The box beckons to all who walk the 1.5 miles from the nearest road. Any pilgrim who comes along is drawn up from the beach to one of the welcoming benches high on the dune.

Upon opening the mailbox you find several well loved journals and a couple of old pens. You can sit and read other's thoughts and prayers, or write your own as you watch the waves roll in. Thousands have made their pilgrimage to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Bird Island. The island has a lot of friends, friends who rallied against its development to preserve this sacred space.

While planning our trip, Jenny mentioned renting bikes to make the 2.5 mile trek from our house, but the rental place was all sold out. So, we decided to hoof it. The walk was longer than expected and the kids eventually caught up to us on the two bikes we brought from home.

We each shared a small ration of water from the one bottle we happened to bring, and then we hiked up the dune to find the flag up at the mailbox. A world of other people’s wishes, petitions, and laments was revealed to us. We sat, we listened, we wrote in the sacred journals and then we made our way back up the hot and sunny beach.

Upon arriving back at our rented cottage we were thirsty and “wore out” as some might say. Our vacations always involve some kind of endurance course. The trip to Bird Island was a welcome and needed time of reflection.

This summer, as a church, we’ve been journeying through the Psalms of Ascent, pilgrim songs. Psalm 124 reads,

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side

—let Israel now say—

if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us,

then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;

then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;

then over us would have gone the raging waters.

Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us

as prey to their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

It’s good to have time to play, rest and most importantly reflect. Personally, there are many moments in my life when I can look back and say, “Wow, if the Lord hadn’t been on my side I don’t know what I would have done.” Amidst the challenges and strains of these days we, the church, share a kindred spirit. The Lord is indeed with us.

I couldn’t help but notice the way people poured out their souls in those journals on Bird Island. We all need someone with whom we can relate. We share a God who desires to relate to us, but sometimes we have trouble connecting on our end. It’s in those times that we’re blessed with friends in whom we can confide. The listeners, secret keepers, prayer partners and kindred spirits with whom we sojourn are gifts from God

It’s a blessing to know that God never leaves us, and it is good to know that God is always listening. God is a patient God and hears, or reads, all our prayers. We may have to wait to hear back, but God keeps our wishes and longings and God handles our anger with grace when our hopes aren’t realized the way we planned.

It wasn’t the mailbox that saved Bird Island, it was the human need to connect with someone beyond ourselves. God gives us a spiritual connection to one another and to God through Christ. The Spirit that is indeed upon you.

I’m thankful for the kindred spirits we share at Tryon Presbyterian Church and beyond. God be with you ‘till we meet again,


Dr. Allan Purtill

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