Letting Go (of the naked people…)

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I knew that title would intrigue you. Let me explain…

So, every year I go to this thing called a Rainbow Gathering. I have gone for 13 summers. I have only missed four in those years.

Rainbow is a gathering of 10,000-20,000 people in a different national forest every year. There are hare krishnas, gutter punks, vietnam vets, hippies, and everything in-between. There is a lot of drugs and a few naked people. They gather together for about 2 weeks to create their own utopian society. No money is exchanged at all…everyone either trades or gives.

If you could imagine a bomb going off somewhere and all the people gathering in the woods to live for a few weeks, that is what it looks like. The forest  becomes a small city made completely of tents and structures made from logs and tarps.

There are different “kitchens” that feed people. I worked with a kitchen called Bread Of Life. We were a Christian kitchen that fed thousands of meals each year. We also had a tent called the “Divine Guidance” tent where we would pray for people.

Four couples that all became Christians during the Jesus movement started this kitchen. They’ve been feeding people for twenty years. Over my years at the Gathering, these couples became like parents to me. My brother, who was a shaman at the time, got radically saved at the gathering nine years ago. He started talking to my dear friend Marie at the Gathering eight years ago. He married her at the Gathering seven years ago. Half of the younger people in our kitchen met their spouses at the gathering, as well.

I have been at this crazy hippie gathering the equivalent of six months. I can’t even begin to tell you all of my memories at the Rainbow Gathering. Here is a smattering…

1) The time I was leading worship in the main meadow and a naked man came and spat on the makeshift cross we had made. Everyone said “bless you brother” and started telling testimonies about years that they hated religion too. Within a few songs, the naked guy was standing with everyone else, singing.

2) The time that I had to walk my shy, conservative dad past Naked Mud Wrestling in the Woods in order to get to my brothers wedding.

3) The dozens of times that we would pray for people in the Divine Guidance tent and they would weep and weep.

4) The time I was leading worship again in main meadow and in the middle of the service a woman wearing long furs with a staff stood right in front of me said over and over again “Praise mother earth!”

5) The time that we decided to have Christmas at our kitchen, even though it was June. My spiritual dad Jody dressed up in a Santa Clause outfit. We wrapped presents, had a beautiful sermon that people could relate to, and sang Christmas carols to candlelight. We heard two people say that this was better than their “real” Christmas, because they were alone then.

6) One more time leading worship in the meadow. There is a man named Grandpa Woodstock who is a fixture at Rainbow. He is ancient. He has obviously had a lot of bad trips in his life. He wears  a scanty red robe when he wears clothes at all. (Thankfully, this particular time he was wearing the robe.)

During worship, he came and stood on a crate in the middle of the circle holding the peace sign. I wasn’t sure what to do because I didn’t want to ask him to come down. I was singing a song that said “Pour out your love oh Lord- on your people.”  So I asked everyone to sing “Pour out your love oh Lord, on Grandpa Woodstock.” There were probably 100 of us singing this to him at the top of our lungs. He stood there with a look of bliss on his face.  He told me later it was the most loved he had felt in a long time.

I can’t tell you how precious these memories are for me. Being with people who are so much like family to me. Being around the Rainbow People that I love so much that even if they are not believers I feel like I am part of their tribe. And oh how I love to sing to them. I sing in front of churches all the time, and that is okay. But singing these songs that talk about the love of Jesus to people who desperately need hope, that is my lifeblood. Praying for them and asking God for encouraging words for them, that is in my bones. It has made up so much of who I am.

This year, most of our kitchen didn’t go. For some reason, I didn’t think I would get back in time for a wedding that I was doing and didn’t communicate well with people going. I decided to do a concert in California instead of the Gathering.

Right before they left, one of my spiritual papas called and told me they had room for me and that they could get back in time for me to get to my wedding. My trip to California was already planned. I couldn’t back off.

All week, I was devastated. I was regretting this spur of the moment decision to miss this year, and mourned over not being there. I started grieving the fact that I’m not as close to everyone as I used to be especially the parents of the kitchen, which in turn made me start grieving the loss of my dad. I started mulling in my head over so many memories I had, not wanting to let them go.

That makes sense, because one of my starkest personality traits is that I am a fiercely loyal person. The last two churches I have attended I was a member for eight years each. I have worked for or spoken at the same camp for the last twenty one summers. If I love something, I hate to let it go.

And I don’t want to let this go. I want to stay fiercely loyal to it for the rest of my life. I don’t want to move on. I don’t want these memories to be further and further away from me the older I get. I don’t want to get older at all. I just want to live those moments over again.

Oh God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I cannot change that I didn’t go this year.

I cannot change that the years keep passing by, the memories keep getting more and more faded.

I cannot make time stand still.

Thhis lack of control goes beyond Rainbow Gatherings and into the rest of my life.

I cannot make a man love me.

I cannot make myself have children.

I cannot choose a family.

What can I do? What is within my control?

I can remember this fierce love that I have for the hopeless in this season of career change. I can volunteer to work with the poor even before a job change comes.

I can choose to love whoever is standing in front of me right now, the best that I possibly can.

I can choose to have my hands open, holding these memories carefully like a butterfly, but setting them free when they need to be set free. For if I hold them too tight, just like that butterfly, I could suffocate them.

What is that you have a hard time letting go of? What can you control in the situation, and what is completely out of your control? Maybe we can learn to let go together.

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15 thoughts on “Letting Go (of the naked people…)

  1. Beautiful tribute to the Gathering. I wish there were easy answers. Grief over limited time and distance that I don’t believe we’re meant to experience. We were created for paradise, after all! In all our international moves, I’ve learned to long for heaven. One day, every day, we will be together again, singing songs in the woods, basking in the love of the Father and feasting!

  2. It never feels right to not be in the woods this time of year! I missed it the last two years. cant wait to get back to it. We have some of the same rainbow memories, thats fun. Loving you! 🙂

    • Are you going to go another year do you think? I think if there are any Christians around I am going to try to make them now. I just missed it too much to do that again unless I have to.

  3. I’ve always wanted to go to one of those. I have a friend that has been going to minister there for the last few years.

  4. I’ve told the story about singing over Grandpa Woodstock so many times. It’s one of my favorite Gathering memories. I always say how incredibly led by the Spirit you were. It was a beautiful moment.

    • Oh gosh how I miss it! That was such a special moment. It did feel like a God idea because I had no idea what to do to help things and then I all of the sudden thought of it.

  5. Do not grieve it sister. Jesus loves you. There is a purpose and a time and season for everything under the sun and this was not your year to go..I missed this year and I realize now that it was for a purpose for it. I grew a lot in Christ this summer and was not ready for rainbow this year. I miss bread of life so much though! May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

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