I arrived home last night from a week in Phoenix and feel refreshed and ready to do more than “slog through” the winter here in central Ohio. As I flew there – ostensibly to visit my friend Susan – I had this thought that I was really going to be on a retreat – because I really needed it.
For me the definition of a retreat is time away from the ordinary and familiar and routine practices to rest, breathe, reflect and reset. The image that comes to me is that I become like a ship with barnacles that are the thoughts and behaviors that creep in and start to weigh me down.
So I sit at my computer today back in snowy Columbus supremely grateful for the opportunity to get away. There were several parts to this trip that were helpful.
- It is always good to be with Susan and Ken and in their beautiful home and enjoying their hospitality. Susan is one who loves cooking and I get to sit in the kitchen and talk and drink coffee or wine as she prepares or cleans up a meal. It is good and comfortable and feels warm and wonderful.
- I started every day early and made coffee and sat with my now – 2 journals! I am starting a new practice. The first journal is for daily reflection as I look back and literally recount the events of the past day. What is helpful about this is that it affords me time to linger over feelings and recognize moments of awe and wonder. Throughout my day. I knew when I was pastoring that I moved so fast – just because of circumstances – from activity to activity to activity. In retreat (and retirement!) I have an opportunity to really ponder the ordinary moments which are extraordinary.
- My second journal is the one in which I read and reflect on the readings of the day from the daily lectionary. My old mentor Vonie did this – she would read the scriptures and write in her journal maybe a verse or a word from each one and then sit with them. I am finding this to be a real gift as I seek a deeper relationship with God. (This is instead of starting my day with "Morning Joe" and CBS News and Donald Trump)
- Today’s readings, for example, contained these verses: Psalm 86 was about being surrounded by bullies and our God who “gently and powerfully” puts us back on our feet.
- Genesis 14: Was about Sarai and Hagar who hurt each other and Hagar’s statement: You’re the God who sees me.
- Luke 18: Jesus speaks to his disciples who want to exclude the children: “Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”
- There is so much here about vulnerability and trust that I need to chew on. It really gives me a thought that will resonate all day long.
- Our daily activities together were also part of my retreat as we ran errands, visited grandchildren, tutored on Wednesday afternoon, attended her book club, went out to eat, played games, watched movies and TV and had many, many many important conversations about life and love and family and spirit. It felt like we were in the flow and giving and receiving the blessings of life. It was the stuff of ordinary life and I savored it there and hopefully I will savor it here as I return.
- Finally, there are the plane rides that are part of the whole experience and provide a time for preparation for coming and going. There were some glitches with delays each way - but even still - it is a wondrous experience to get in a plane and go up in the air thousands of feet and travel halfway across the country. I love the solitude in the midst of the crowds of people and each way I read an entire book. But more than that, I love looking out the window at the city, the neighborhoods, the mountains and deserts, the clouds and just marveling at it all. It reminds me of Psalm 8 and "what are human beings that you are mindful of them?" After a retreat like this the “reset” is that I want to stay and re connect with the source of all life and at the same time, I know that I am just one of millions of creatures and creations loved by God.
I am ending this blog with Psalm 8 from the Message:
God, brilliant Lord,