Sunday, December 13, 2015

Stubborn Hope and Unaccountable Faith

It is Sunday afternoon and I am still reflecting on the Advent retreat yesterday at Camp Christian.

This is the 12th Advent retreat I have led and the first one since I have been retired. With Marsha Mueller as the  craft queen, I planned a day of reflection on "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."
It is based on a poem by Longfellow written after the death of his wife and the wounding of his son during the Civil War.  It dips down into despair and doubt and the last verse is a word of hope and faith despite the events in the present.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep  The Wrong shall fail,  The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

And so, we pondered the darkness in which we all live - dark places of the world, of our own lives and within ourselves.  And then spent time "Listening"to God's word of hope.  In the afternoon I shared this reading by Jan Richardson:

Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light
Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.
Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes—
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith
in stubborn hope
in love that illumines
every broken thing
it finds.

I loved that we are people who - when we listen for God's word in some form or fashion or look for "God sightings" in our lives, we do experience God's hope in the midst of the hardest times. And we become "Bearers of the Light."  

For me the whole day was a blessing because of the women who were present.  There is no question that in this strange advent season, I am missing a faith community.  And for that day - when I gathered with 16 women who chose to spend time retreating from their "normal" life  - I was in the presence of "Light Bearers."  One of the most powerful parts of the day was when I gathered with three other women to share prayer needs and to lay hands on each other and pray.  I have missed this as well.  

At our retreats we always have a craft project and this time we made "Mandalas" with bells in them.  One of my favorite parts of the retreat is when we share what has "come up" in us from the day together.  It is always as varied as we are and reflects our different journeys.  This is mine - not artistic - but meaningful to me with pictures that resonate and words that speak to me during this time of my life.  What I now realize is that the bell fell off the middle - so that what remains is a cross. Anyway this is it:

Everyone also received a little bell and before we left,  I invited everyone to ring the  bell each day during the rest of Advent so that we might remember that God is here - as the light in the darkness and bringing pure love into this world. 

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