The retreat day I had been planning to attend for weeks now has just been postponed. The next date given will not work for me. I had looked forward to being with everyone. I have decided that as the day is already set aside I will make my own retreat day.
This morning I was reading in “An Altar in the World” by Barbara Brown Taylor about making a choice for making space to be alone with God and “to decide to live on the fire God has made inside you.” I learned how to plan my own day like this and in fact to plan a retreat day for others in a course I took last year at The Carey Centre at UBC. As my thought is to attempt to ‘practice what I preach’ I will do this rain or shine. The day on the waterfront will roughly follow this outline: read, draw, walk, praise, write, walk. This day will do me good I am sure and refresh me for workshop facilitation.
Again, Taylor writes that if I do not try to avoid the areas of pain in my life I could experience “great sighs too deep for words to pour from my body” and if I try to be open to my own life experiences I may find they “lay flowers on [my] bed. She goes on to say “when you let God hold you because you do not have the slightest idea how to hold yourself…” you end in praise as you”lose yourself long enough for God to find you…” I do have a situation in my life where I feel at a loss where I would like to feel “this life-giving breeze” like Taylor. I just hope it does not rain all day. It could create a lot of smoke.
Indecision, numbers, meaning – many feelings and thoughts rush in when several people cancel from attending a workshop this evening. How many people are enough to go forward with? Should I contact the others to make sure someone will show up and I will not have wasted a long drive there and back? Will I change the program for fewer participants? Who will eat all of the cupcakes I bought for this evening?
I have had a meditative day (praying, crocheting, reading, making meals, listening to a lecture on an mp3) so it is easy for me to slow down. I ask myself one question: Would I drive that far to have coffee with a friend? Only two people will come. If one is a no show (which happens infrequently) I still have one person to share contemplation and collage with. If I phone to see if she is coming, she will likely cancel so I will not have to show up just for her.
I will go and I will trust God to make it worthwhile in God’s own way.
Last evening at the Contemplation and Collage Workshops, I struggled to listen to the stories of suffering by those in the group. However, it was my role to listen. We all like to be heard. I do not like suffering or hearing about it but I choose to walk this path to share my sisters’ burdens and to help them break their silence visually with the spiritual practice of collage.
It is a fearsome thing to be asked “Why does a good God allow suffering?” I have found clues in the writings of others. I offer these words of Henri Nouwen from his book “Reaching Out”:
Often it is the dark forest that makes us speak of the open field…
prison makes us think about freedom…
war gives us words for peace…
our visions of the future [are] born out of the sufferings of the present…
our hope for others out of our own despair…
Someone’s careful and honest articulation of the ambiguities, uncertainties and painful conditions of life gives us hope.
The paradox is indeed that new life is born out of the pains of the old.
I begin not the spiritual journey but the record of my shellseeking workshops.
Who knew I would find shells like this in Hawaii?