It has been a most interesting day. I received an invitation today to continue to be part of Advance Conference in a secondary position. After prayer and discussion with some trusted spiritual advisors, I knew it was time to say no - to close the door to a ministry that I have been involved in for almost twenty years. And I told my friends, that letting go - dropping my nets - felt like I was moving forward into emptiness.
We always like the idea of a relay race - the baton goes from one runner to another. And when I was working, I might drop a responsibility knowing that there was more coming ahead. Now, I let go and wonder how blank my calendar will be and whether or not there is something more on the horizon.
However, it did not take long for something new to emerge. After our meeting this afternoon, my friend Cathy invited me to join a group that was just forming at her church and their first meeting was tonight. And I said YES. The truth is that I have been waiting for some time for something more and longing for a spiritual group to join. The one thing I really miss from full time ministry is Bible studies and I have been wondering for months how to fill that missing piece for me. What I really wanted was - not to lead - but to participate in a community of seekers. And today - the invitation came - and I said YES.
There were 8 of us that met in a circle tonight and began the first night of a ten week pilgrimage. We are all reading the book The Soul of a Pilgrim by Christine Valters Painter. It contains eight practices for the journey within and we will meet a total of ten Thursday nights. Tonight was a wonderful beginning for me. We spent some time with two paragraphs from the book:
"A pilgrimage is an intentional journey into this experience of unknowing and discomfort for the sake of stripping away preconceived expectations. We grow closer to God beyond our own imagination and ideas."
"Pilgrimage calls us to be attentive to the divine at work in our lives through deep listening, patience, opening ourselves to the gifts that arise in the midst of discomfort, and going out to our own inner wild edges to explore new frontiers."
There were several words that spoke to me:
- an INTENTIONAL journey.
- Experience of UNKNOWING and DISCOMFORT
- ATTENTIVE to the divine at work
- INNER WILD EDGES
There is something that is heartwarming for me to be in the presence of a group of women who are taking this spiritual journey seriously enough that they are willing to intentionally block out time and space daily for God and to be open and vulnerable with each other weekly. I really have been longing for this kind of community. Last year I did the 30 week "Retreat in Daily Life" and while there were others on that journey - we only met twice - at the beginning and the end. This time we will truly companion each other. What a gift for me.
After sitting with these paragraphs Cathy led us in a meditation in which we pictured ourselves opening a door into a house. I pictures a large warm home with a sweeping staircase and the promise of many rooms to explore. And the invitation - come and see!
In the book, the author suggests that as we begin we receive a Seven-Word prayer.: "As a way of naming the grace you seek for this time, I invite you to open yourself to receive a seven-word prayer to carry with you. Just notice what the prayer of your heart is for this time and what words or images seem to draw you forward..."
And my prayer came : come close and let me show you......
We were anointed and then went home. I read the introduction and have now written this so I might remember how it was for me today. I will end with a quote by John O'Donohus from Eternal Echoes
"Ideally, a human life should be a constant pilgrimage of discover.
The most exciting discoveries happen at the frontiers.
When you come to know something new, you come closer to yourself and to the world.
Discovery enlarges and refines your sensibility.
When you discover something, you transfigure some of the forsakenness of the world."
Dear God, I ask your blessing upon me and all the women who are participating in this Pilgrimage. May we discover something new as we take the risk moving forward a step at a time to explore new frontiers. Amen