Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Retreat towards home

I woke up Wednesday with windows open and watched the sunrise.  Then I remembered, oh my goodness!!!  I have to preach on Sunday.   I walked downstairs and sat on the porch and did Bible Study, beginning to prepare for Sunday's sermon.  

Next Sunday we will hear the gospel about Jesus sending the 70 or is it the 72 out--they could never get the count right.  Anyway. I was immediately struck by Jesus' instructions to leave behind purse, bag, and sandals. 

On Good Friday, 2015, my wallet had been stolen while I prayed the Good Froday service. 
Bags and other things I'd thought important and necessary were gone because of the flood waters. Still, according to our Gospel, I have everything I need to do whatever, wherever, Jesus sends me. I have Jesus behind me.  I have other people with me. I am not alone. 

When I think about mission, about being sent out be Jesus, one of the things that makes me sad is that right now I don't seem to be able to do the things I think I should  be doing. I think of all the things I'd like to accomplish that are being left undone. 
Then I read Suzanne Guthrie's commentary on the Gospel. She talks about all the ministry she would  loves to imagine doing but health issues have limited what she is able to do. Suzanne has become content with doing what she is being sent to do right now--to write, to teach, to pray. She knows that is enough. 

I went to the noon Healing Eucharist in the next town over. Except the priest didn't show up. Instead, a member of the parish, Bob, was present, and he said that we could do Noonday Prayer instead. Bob said that he was prepared to lead, but offered for me to officiate (my friend had introduced me to him as a priest). I told him that I was willing to serve, but that I was good deferring to him. The three of us formed a circle of chairs and read the Scripture for the Feast Day of St. Peter and St. Paul.   Bob offered a homily, and then we did prayers for healing. Afterwards, my friend and I went into the chapel and walked the labyrinth, and I prayed some more. 

When we had entered the church, Bob had said that the priest was not likely to show up because she was ill. As we had prayed before worship, I knew that I could offer to celebrate the Eucharist, but somehow it didn't feel like I was supposed to offer. I hope that I was listening to the Spirit, of Jesus walking behind me guiding me gently. Worship was fine without my priestly hands. At the healing portion of Nnonday prayers, Bob anointed and prayed for me, and I did the same for him. 

In the afternoon, my friend and I did the next lesson in my online retreat. It was a dance called Peregrine. The words of the song are:

Setting out
No rudder, sails nor oars
Trusting the current
Trusting the course
Our hearts are ready, fully ripe
Our hearts are ready for new life      (Richard Bruxvoort Colligan)

This morning before I left to fly back to Houston, my friend and I took a few moments to do Centering Prayer on a bench amidst her garden on the deck. Yet another prayer chair was provided for me. The phrase that bubbled up during the quiet was the path is home.  

I am still sorting things out. I am still grieving. But among the gifts of this retreat are places along the path, which is my home, to sit in whatever prayer chair provided and ponder and continue to heal. I don't like being broken. I don't like being vulnerable. But it is the path. It is home. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Retreat Tuesday: Finding Beauty

Beauty will save the world. (F. Dostoevsky)

A morning walk along the river. 

Beauty everywhere.

A noonday walk for Centering Prayer.
More beauty everywhere. 

My host improved the pathways in the woods that surround my friends' home while I was off for my afternoon of play yesterday. Such kindness in that act, and now more beauty everywhere.

In Genesis 1, that early, early liturgical hymn of creation, the refrain of God's response to what God created is often translated it was good. A closer understanding of the Hebrew is that it was beautiful.  It seems that finding beauty, and creating it where it is absent, is important to doing God's work.  

I've been deeply moved by the bicoastal tragedies--fires in California and floods in West Virginia. I've held those companions in prayer, and the Scripture that I offer as God's promise is from Isaiah:  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you

In the devastation after flame and water it is difficult to see beauty. However, in the work of the clearing out and cleaning up, the beauty becomes apparent in new ways. I know this to be true. 

After the downstairs of the Rectory was gutted, I took my nephew and brother to see what was left of my home. In the space that was once a living room, the walls and flooring and doors and cabinets had been removed. A cement floor and studs for walls remained.  The fading light of the day came through the tall windows. In the stillness and openness, my nephew remarked that the room felt holy. There was beauty in the work of the loving hands that had removed the flood's devastation.  

Beauty everywhere.  And because beauty comes from God, it can save the world. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Retreat Monday: Finding my prayer chair

Christine Valters Paintner has been a spiritual companion for a number of years, although I've never actually met her. She is an excellent author and has a wonderful website, Abbey of the Arts, which hosts a number of online retreats. I've done several of her retreats, and I love the daily emails they offer, full of inspiration and wisdom.  One of the best part of those online retreats was that I could have a retreat sitting in my prayer chair in my prayer room in the rectory or wherever my travels took me.

purchased an online retreat to use for the season of Easter, and had only done a few lessons when the flood changed my everyday life. I've decided to pick up where I left off during this retreat in the mountains. The Abbey of the Arts retreat is self-paced, so I could begin again and continue at my own rhythm.  

Beginning on the third week of the eight week retreat,  I reread the first two day's reflections. Today is the day that the artistic responses for the week's theme begin--something I've done half-heartedly, at best, the other times I've participated in Christine's retreats.  This time I'm going to do it all. 

This day's lesson was an invitation to take a contemplative walk, and then to receive photographs that led into a deeper meaning of the week's theme of peregrinatio (a word for a practice of monks to embark on a journey with no plan or destination; it represents a spiritual practice of releasing all that is familiar and to make oneself reliant on the hospitality of strangers, and thus to experience a radical dependency on God). 

I walked to the bench in the woods that has become my prayer bench and did centering prayer. Then I began to walk. My host has created a series of paths through the woods, and I came to a place where three of the paths met. One path led back to the prayer bench, one led to the house, and the third led to the grandchildren's treehouse and on to places yet unexplored. 

As I pondered the choice of paths and what they represent, I was particularly drawn to the treehouse path. I was mindful of my Benedictine oblate vows of a balanced life which includes prayer, study, work, and recreation. I was aware, except for my time in Iceland, since the flood there had been little play in my life.  

So my friend and I took the play path. We drove to North Carolina (less than an hour's drive), had a picnic lunch, went to a movie, and then visited a museum. We closed our afternoon of play with a walk on the labyrinth of a nearby country church. It rained off and on all afternoon, and we had no umbrellas; what better way to play than walking through the rain?  The path of play was capped with s'mores after dinner.

Today is my twenty-fourth anniversary of my ordination to the transitional diaconate.  I had forgotten completely until my friend reminded me after dinner. 

One of the things lost in the flood was my prayer chair. The chair was given to me by friends when they downsized fifteen or so years ago. I had prayed and studied Scripture so often in that chair that I only needed to sit down on it's worn cushions, and I was close to God. It is where I would sit whenever I had to make difficult phone calls. It is where I wrote sermons. It is where I could simply be myself with God. 

During the clean out after the flood, the chair was tossed with all of the other destroyed items in a pile on my front lawn. It landed upside down. It was only then that I could see that the lining on the bottom of my prayer chair had ripped into the shape of a heart. 

The chair, the path, the twenty four years--I have so much still to discern and figure out, but I know that Love is there. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Retreat Sunday: Kindness

I was so weary yesterday after I arrived in the mountains that I took an hour nap before dinner. I was asleep by 9 and didn't get up until 7.30 this morning. My friend reminded me that sleep heals. 

I decided to stay on the mountain today, resting, after I found a healing Eucharist on Wednesday that I can attend with the bonus of a nearby labyrinth walk. That will be my worship in community. 

My morning was spent on the porch reading, knitting, writing, and listening to Heart and Voice. 

Then I took a walk in the woods for quiet and for centering prayer. 

All morning I was praying for our Dominican Republic Missioners; for Alan, our new Curate, as he and his family celebrate their first day as a clergy family; and for my St. Mary's family as they worship and make Bags of Grace. 

I was also pondering  kindness. I've received so much kindness these past two months, and I have yet to write one note of thanks. 

Last Sunday in my sermon, I had invited, no exhorted, the parish to be kind to those to whom it's difficult to be kind.  As for all of us who preach, I was reminding myself first of all.  

Today I read a wonderful essay on kindness. I was reminded that the root of kind is kin;  kind has the implication of treating others as kinfolk. 

Since the flood, I've been hyperaware of when kindness is present, and when it's absent. It's the gift of kindness that brings me to tears these retreat days. 

The kindness of friends opening their home and cooking me meals. The kindness of God's sunrises to awaken me and breezes to cool the day. The kindnesses of others who send good prayers. The kindness of strangers' smiles. 

I read today that research indicates that centering prayer results in increased compassion which also leads to kindness. As I rest in God these retreat days, centering myself in God's presence in prayer, may my own healing heart fill with compassion. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A week long retreat

As I sit at the airport, my flight to Punta Cana is on its way, taking 50 missioners from St. Mary's, St. Dunstan's, and Good Shepherd to do good work for God's kingdom, except I'm not with them. 

A year's worth of challenges in the parish were capped by the Tax Day Flood which resulted in the loss of my car and most of my downstair's belongings, and, with the counsel of people who know me best, I knew I wasn't in the emotional shape to go on mission to the Dominican Republic. It was a difficult and disappointing decision. 

Instead, I'm on retreat as I continue to heal. It's hard to admit that I need care, and yet I do. 

As I wait for the plane to take me to the mountains, I'm surrounded by groups in same colored tshirts with Jesus logos--code for we're on God's mission. 

My mission this week is to pray. Be still. Listen. Rest. Find joy.  As so much in the past two months, not the mission I want, but the path I'm on. 

Psalm 108:1-2 My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed......Wake up, my spirit; I myself will waken the dawn.