Thursday, April 28, 2016

Insights from a Retreat

A week ago, I'd have been starting another retreat journey, the third in a month (the earlier two happened on the same week, but they were very different, so I'm counting them as two:  Mepkin Abbey and Create in Me).  Before we get too much further away from that time, let me capture some insights:

--As we discussed the parables Saturday morning, one of the pastors said that God needs us as much as we need God.  That idea seemed revelatory to me, and I came back to it on Sunday morning when we studied ten maidens and their lamps (Matthew 25: 1-13).  We talked about the idea of judgment, but I tried to turn the conversation to God needing us to be ready, with our metaphorical sandals laced.

--From there, we went back to the barren fig tree  (Luke 13: 6-9) that hasn't been bearing fruit and the conversation about whether or not to rip it out.  The gardener fights for the tree, asking for one more chance to save it by giving it more manure.  A standard interpretation:  God is either the gardener or the landowner who wants to rip out the tree.  But what if God is the withered tree and humans are the manure?

--It seems an essential question:  how are we manure, for God, ourselves, and the world?  And what manure do we need to nourish ourselves?

--As I led the Bible study, I reflected on how much it was like teaching for me--the best part of teaching:  leading a conversation, being delighted in real time as we made new connections, guiding us as we discussed the implications.  No papers to grade!  If God needs people who are doing what makes them feel alive, then this activity is one of those things for me.

--I had this sharp memory of going to Jubilee Partners during my first year of college, and I particularly remembered that piercing yearning to go be part of that community.  I talked to a woman who is co-spiritual director of the Richmond Hill community, and I want to remember that being a part of an intentional community doesn't have to be a lifelong vow.

--During the Spiritual Journaling workshop, we talked about whether or not our Facebook practices could be considered journaling, and if so, how could we make it a more spiritual practice?  I'd like to explore this idea in more detail in a later post.

--Making cards is a great group activity, and we did it at the end of the retreat.  It worked, because it didn't rely on a critical number of people, and so, if people had to leave early, we could still do the project.  In fact, it might have been less easy to do with all of the people who were first there--not much room to move around the tables.  It also works because people of varying artistic talents can participate.  And it was a great way to prepare ourselves to go back to our "regular" lives.

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