Tag Archives: retreat

Rivendell Cross

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“Window at Rivendell” iPhone photo DS

On retreat at Rivendell this morning, I particularly noted the 18” wooden cross on the centre table. It was smooth and brown. I felt like holding it but I sat on my gold and pink textile bench and looked out over the fuchsia foxglove and tall trees to the white clouded sky. It was 8:00am and the spiritual day was well on its way.

I thought that in my burned out state I would be recovering passively but already a choice was upon me. The words: take up your cross and follow me, arose unbidden from my heart. I thought: this table cross would not be hard to carry. I remembered the movies I had seen with Jesus carrying his cross along the Via Dolorosa and this one in front of me seemed so easy.

The things that were my cross to bear came to mind. They were heavy – too heavy for me. I was on the verge of panic.

I began some meditative breathing, eyes closed, repeating the Jesus prayer. My thoughts went to a situation that had gone badly before I left home. It was not solvable as there was no cooperation. I sensed the words, let it go, and felt an opening of possibility. It came to me that in this area I was trying too hard. I was trying to control the outcome. What I needed to do was to support the process.

A bicycle entered my reverie. There were training wheels on it. You are the training wheels, I thought. The training wheels do not decide where the bicycle is going. They merely provide subtle yet strong support for the rider.

It became clear now, that I had gone too far. The situation that had brought me to the edge was actually not mine although I was required to play a part. I had fallen into the leading part, perhaps like the handlebars on the bike. I need to change my position, my viewpoint and get back to being the training wheels. The outcome was not mine.

Others at the retreat entered the round holy space sitting around the perimeter one by one. A candle was lit, a bell rung. I resolved to pick up that small hefty cross but it would have been disruptive. I would lift it; perhaps cradle it, another day this week. This is my cross, lighter than the one Jesus carried.

Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. 

Book of Luke

 

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Book of Matthew

 

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The Spirituality of Waiting

Waiting II

“Waiting II” DS Mixed Media on Paper

White gallon pails of plaster paint lined the walls and filled spaces under rough wooden tables in the sturdy outbuilding near the un-ploughed fields of green acreage. The fresco paint had been waiting almost a decade then for someone with strength who knew how to mix paint in the ancient way. Father Dunstan showed our visiting art class the extensive Cubist drawings he had created over a lifetime. I could not grasp their full extent even from the white vellum drawings scrolled out on the old table.

In many ways it was an idyllic day:

– White clouds in a blue sky

– A walk along a narrow path ending on a precipice overlooking a vast flat valley

– Lavish stained glass cut outs in a grey concrete building

– A tower building where Jesuit priests pulled bells ringing the hours of the day

– Simple delicious meals presided over by a conversational priest

Father Dunstan Massey waited years for others to make the decision to hire a craftsman, and for the person with the skills to help, to be identified, and to be available.

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Monk+devotes+life+adorning+Mission+Westminster+Abbey/8303040/story.html

At Regent College Bookstore one day I saw his book now written, the project now completed. I took in the photos of Father Dunstan on scaffolding as a really old man supervising the fulfillment of his dream. Later I returned to Westminster Abbey, Mission, B.C. for a retreat weekend. I saw the completed work in person– a privilege unusual and unforeseen. Time for God is so unlike our idea of timing. So many things are brought together that we are unaware of.

I wait today for others to decide for my work after graduation. I do interviews, present materials and ideas for projects and time periods that fit for me. I make tentative study and materials preparations. I rearrange storage space. Two venues have decided ‘not yet.’ Two more have passed the time when their decision would be made. Three alternatives have been approached and are now silent. Waiting is hard – especially in planning our schedules and keeping a good attitude.

There are so many ways of waiting – a birth, a death, a wedding, for something to be over, for something to start, even to endure something. We wait for winter to pass. The seeds now planted, I watch every leaf form wishing for flowers to appear right away. I want my garden to flourish. But I know, I must water, weed and feed. It is God who makes things grow when it is time.

After asking God to guide and open doors, I now want the guidance to be on my schedule and the doors I knock on to be the ones that open. Yet, our mysterious God works wonders that make no sense to us. Why old age for Father Dunstan? Indeed why me? We wait together with God. As the plan grows to fruition, we mature. We develop true intimacy with our Maker.

Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying.  

Book of Romans

 

 

 

 

 

New Year Blooming Amaryllis

 

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“New Year Blooming Amaryllis” 2014, photocollage, DS

This amaryllis is a symbol of all that is good about a fresh year starting.  However, I was having guests and was disappointed the plant did not bloom by Christmas.  Instead it broke forth today.

I was reminded of our own growth in Christ.  As I put the Christmas decorations away this week, Jesus, Emmanuel, is still with us.  He is resurrected.

A woman in one of my workshops before Christmas said with passion that Easter should be celebrated by everyone as more important than that of Christmas. The comment took me by surprise.  I gave her a hurried reply but pondered her words later.  I rushed to give her an answer where there was no need.  Her struggle with theological questions is a sign of her being in an environment conducive to wholeness.  She has made a choice that will give her life.  In her way, she sits at the feet of Jesus.  I had not recognized this before.

Gary Thomas in his book “Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God” writes refreshingly about the journey of the soul being the cultivation of our unique relationship with God.  We need to learn how to renew our spirituality when it has grown lukewarm or dormant.

 Rather than another discipline to add to our new year it might be fun to explore the “Nine Sacred Pathways” explained by Thomas: “[God] created you with a certain personality and a certain temperament.”  Just as the biblical Martha and Mary expressed their devotion to Jesus in different ways, we each have unique ways to contribute to the Body of Christ.

The flower bulb looked mundane yet it had its own way and it’s own timing to bloom.  It was not going to look like a gorgeous poinsettia with red leaf-like flowers, or a Christmas cactus decked out in hot pink.  It would be a spectacular salmon pink and white amaryllis showing as a surprise gift on this first day of a new year in our journey with God.

Whether we are extroverts or introverts, orderly or spontaneous, intellectuals or worship best with our 5 senses or imagination, we can find exciting ways to relate to God.  Here are some ideas from Thomas:

–       Pray to God beside a river

–       Worship with the senses: incense, intricate architecture, classical music

–       Study historical writings of Christians in earlier centuries

–       Spend time at a silent retreat center with pastors and artists

–       Work for societal change

–       Love your neighbor in some practical way

–       Show enthusiasm for your journey with God

–       In stillness, listen to God’s voice

–       Engage in theological discussions

“Snow Day” 2013 DS

Today I went back to bed. I made the necessary calls to cancel my appointments. It is a snow day. In fact at noon the snow is still falling.

There have been a lot of workshops this month and I am exhausted. However, I could not sleep. What happened was that, as I lay there, heaped with covers, trying to get warm, my basic coldness kept me kind of awake. My mind conceived or rather received, several new ideas for workshops in the New Year.

Often my best work is done when I do not plan it. This is what keeps me to a contemplative path. A snow day becomes an unexpected retreat day – what Richard Rohr in his book “Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer” calls a sacred space, a liminal space, where we are led to let go and to somehow be transformed. It becomes a period of time away from our normal everyday life. We are able to see things in a new way.

Today I am kidnapped by the Spirit for a beauty day – a white day, a quiet day where my schedule is interrupted. This moment I am in awe of the largest of flakes, of the crackling sound on the screen window; of the swirling of the flakes in various directions simultaneously.

Surely this scene is the Self-expression of God:

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

I notice that my breathing pattern changes. This over-abundance of snow that is more than the branches can hold seems like this prophetic word:

I will [ ] open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 10:6b

Yes, even in my fatigue I have received the “spiritual creativity” Rohr writes about that God gives when we relinquish control for a while and trust in God’s work “in the darkness.” Not only am I rested; I am revived to return to my goal-oriented lifestyle.

Retreat Day

Retreat Day

Retreat Day


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.