Monday, September 17, 2012

Channeling Our Spiritual Mentors

A week ago, we'd have had a full day of retreat planning at Lutheridge.  We met from September 9-11 to plan the Create in Me retreat.  I'm always amazed at the process.  There's a point at which I despair and think, we'll never get it done!  Then it comes together.

We started every day with Bible study, and for me, it was revelatory.  In the past, we've had pastors lead the Bible study.  This year, we approached it differently.  This year, I was in charge, but I didn't know that I was in charge until I arrived.  There was no time to prepare a traditional Bible study, the way I might have if I had more time.

In so many ways, my lack of preparation turned out to be a good thing.  It opened the door to something new.  Today and tomorrow, I'll talk about what we did and what I learned.

When we met on Sunday, we spent time brainstorming about the theme of the retreat:  Spirit Blazing.  Each year, we focus on a different aspect of God:  Creator, Christ, Holy Spirit.  We talked about all the places we see fire in the Bible, both as aspect of God and in other ways.  We talked about Bible passages.

For Bible study on Monday, I decided to focus on 2 Timothy 1:  3-7:  "3 I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline."

I gave the group paper to write on and read the passage.  I had them write about what needed to be rekindled in each of them individually and/or in the groups and communities of which they are part.

Then came the interesting part.  I talked about the presence of spiritual mentors in the passage.  There's Paul, writing to the younger Timothy who he has known for many years.  There's Timothy's grandmother and mother.  I asked the group to think about our own mentors.  Then we moved into a free writing exercise.

The ground rules are simple:  keep writing.  Don't stop, don't go back, don't think--just write until told to stop.

My students usually last 45 seconds until they start whimpering and wanting to stop.  Not this group.  I think they could have written all morning.

I gave them the prompt:  if your mentors were here, what advice and insight would they give you about rekindling?

I wasn't sure what would happen.  In college classrooms, I have a good sense, but I've rarely tried this experiment outside of a college classroom or my own writing desk.

Our group was mildly to wildly enthusiastic.  I did the exercise too, and I came away with important insights, which I wrote about here.

I find this process interesting, and it's a different approach to Bible study than what we usually experience.  In my experience, Bible study usually consists of an expert who has studied the text and can give background and insight.  Or it consists of the participants saying what they think--but they often haven't given the passage much thought.  That surface level, first-exposure approach can be interesting, but what we did leads to depth.

We had talked about the 2 Timothy passage on Sunday, and I'd spent the whole night thinking about it.  Then we arrived on Monday to write.  We dove deep.

Writing intensely can serve as a kind of meditation.  Many people aren't good at sitting and quieting their minds.  Free writing gives the brain the focus it needs and gives the body something to do.

I'm amazed at what bubbles to the surface in free writing.  I should do it more often. 

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