Saturday, June 19, 2004

OK, I know I said that I would say more about our retreat last weekend. This is the first chance I've had to really sit down at the computer and think (as opposed to all the other times I've sat at the computer this week just to read other blogs or play games).

I will say that our retreat was everything I had expected it to be, and so much more. To be honest, I really didn't expect much personally, just maybe a few days of rest and relaxation. I knew that there would be someone who worked at the retreat place there cooking for us, but I didn't realize that they would be eating with us. I don't think any of us did. What a blessing that turned out to be! We had great times of conversations at meals (really good food, too!), and talked about interesting subjects that might never have been brought up had it been only us at meals. It was a chance of a break from the "navel-gazing", not that we did a whole lot of that. I mean that we got a chance to talk about things other than the retreat stuff.

Anyway, we got to The Ark on Friday evening, just in time for supper. I got the first blessing of the retreat during that meal. We were talking to our "hostesses", Nancy and Teresa, and Nancy somehow mentioned that she's a former Southern Baptist who now belongs to an Antiochan Orthodox Church. I don't know that I had ever really heard much about that particular sect of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and I'm positive that it's the first time I'd ever met a member, especially one who come out of the Southern Baptists. Then, she tells us that she paints icons! Immediately, I started bombarding her with questions--can I see her work, does she take students, can she recommend any good books on the subject, etc. You see, painting icons is one of those things on my "life list" of things to do. It's actually pretty high up on the list. I would love to be able to do that. So, anyway, I told her about my ambition to go back to school for a graphic design degree, about being (sort of) an artist, and about being a calligrapher. She told me that her teacher once told her that calligraphers make good icon painters, because of the precise, less "free-flowing" style required. (She has offered me the run of her library of books on the subject, and I intend to take her up on it sometime soon.) If the retreat had ended there, I would have been a happy camper and would have gotten more out of it than I had expected. It felt like God was confirming to me that the path I am choosing is a good one and meets with His blessing. That's an excellent feeling, I can tell you.

On Saturday, we gathered after breakfast and read the morning office, then all dispersed over the grounds of the retreat center (about 10 acres, I think), for about an hour of solitary contemplation. Afterward, we re-gathered and discussed what we felt God had said to us. I actually felt that I had gotten two messages, one that was to be shared with the community and one that was only meant to speak to me and some things going on in my head. I shared that one with Liz, as a sort of "spiritual mentorship" thing, and probably won't share it here. What I received that I shared with the whole group was an incident that occurred while I was sitting on a dead tree trunk, just trying to be quiet and listen for God's voice. (You can see photos of that tree on my fotopage.) Here's an excerpt of what I wrote in my journal as I was sitting there:

All trace of life is stripped from the tree--no leaves, no bark, limbs still attached but broken. I think about how much I am like this tree--stripped, bare, broken from the source of the life it once had. I weep a little for the loss of the life, but after a few minutes God comforts me. "The 'life' of this tree is not necessarily over," He says. "Even though there are holes and scars and broken branches, a master craftsman could come and shape this tree, sawing and shaving and turning it with his tools, and turn this tree into something lovely. And look, even in the state it's in now, the tree has a stark beauty to it, because of the life that was once in it."

As I look back on this passage, I know that the life that the tree was "broken" from represents my life before Jesus, and that He is taking my brokenness, my "deadness", and transforming it into a work of art, a masterpiece prepared for His purposes. Not bad for a "no expectation" retreat, huh? I would say more about our time last weekend, but those really were the highlights for me, and this post is getting interminably long. Alan has already shared some things about our time in his blog, and I'm sure the others will share things as well.

posted by #Debi at 7:57 AM | permalink | 0 comments


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Hi, I'm Debi. Once in a while I have a thought and I like to write it down before it goes away. This is where I write it.

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