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Touching the Other Side

January 29, 2007
Experiencing Thin Places

When people talk of encountering the Otherworld they often reference some “miracle” or cosmic event such as seeing an apparition, hearing voices, or suddenly smelling the fragrance of roses. Their testimonies of touching the other side rests on an unexplainable event.

But what if the better proof of real encounter with the Other side was in something totally ordinary, more often missed than noticed? What if a series of seemingly natural occurrences rivaled the most vivid apparitions, smells and sounds ?

I believe the extraordinary is embedded in the ordinary. Miracles surface in the synchronistic events that occur naturally, and will stun us if we but keep our sense tuned in to them.

These are unremarkable life events that occurred in April several years ago:

  1. A drive through the mountains during a light rain.
  2. Conversations with friends about thin places.
  3. A quiet prayer asking for God's affirmation
  4. Photographing a picturesque landscape.
  5. A rainbow.

However, these common events when arranged in the order of occurrence within the context of human experience become remarkable -almost eerie - and transcend the limits of the ordinary. Here’s my account of these events as they occurred in my life on a trip to Ireland several years ago.

April 22, 1998

Larry, Sheila and I spent the morning in the Clew Bay region in the West of Ireland. After visiting Croagh Patrick we took the N59 south from Westport to Leenane through the mountains. I noticed to the south... just a few hundred yards from us, it was raining. However, it wasn’t raining in the north or west. The afternoon sun was vigorously shining from the west onto those southern mountains, reflecting off the sheets of rain creating what looked like a shimmering sheet of lace. We continued to move closer to the illusion of a thin veil separating us from the mountains.

This mirage made me consider the term “thin places” and the co-mingling of this world and the next in certain locations. For a moment I wondered which world I was in.

Thin Places was the title of a book I was working on. It was a huge project and I lost confidence in my ability to produce the book on a daily basis. In what seemed like a "thin moment" I said a silent prayer asking God to affirm the project or guide me away from it. I asked for a sign of affirmation. Should I continue with the project or scrap it?

Up ahead was a lake at the foot of the mountains which was most picturesque. We approached a stone cross along the sunny side of the road. I asked Larry (who was driving) to stop so I could take a picture of the cross with the mountains and lake in the background. Maneuvering myself and the camera into position for this shot was difficult as I stepped around several sheep and through muck and mud to get an angle that would have the cross, landscape and environmental elements.

I was pretty far into the muddy roadside field when a blustering wind came from nowhere through the mountain pass and with it torrential rain. I covered my camera lens and tried to make it quickly back to the car to avoid getting soaked. As I looked for the car I could hear screaming not only from my friends but also from others that were stopped along the road. They were gesturing frantically for me to look behind where I was standing. I turned around and saw a rainbow descending from the clouds through the mountain pass, dropping into the lake.  I was so vivid, and so close - almost surreal. It seemed to be throbbing, moving closer.  It was no wonder my friends were screaming. Despite sheets of rain pounding against me and my camera, I shots and shot and shot - photo after photo.

It only lasted a few a seconds.

I returned to the car, drenched. The three of us sat in silence and amazement wondering if we had just seen what we thought we’d seen. Before we could speak the rainbow faded back into view... in the same place... not as bright this time..... but with a subtle twin rainbow just to right which is barely visible in the photo I snapped from the car.

Then it was gone as quickly as it came. So was the rain.

Today, nearly nine years later, I'm still working on Thin Places. Reflecting on this experience gives me courage to believe it might be born someday soon.


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