Making a Spiritual Retreat at home

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It never occurred to me that I could find Jesus at home. Not the flesh and blood but the spirit. My physical sense of longing has been active for years, searching in churches and temples, sacred spaces, parks, oceans and rivers for the God I loved and the God I let go of. There have been days I have found Him deeper in the waves of the ocean than on my knees in a church. In the rough terrain of spiritual travel, the inner divine sometimes gets caught up with the worldview of spirituality. With so many different ways to celebrate God, I have often become mired in the rules and opinions of others. The beauty of humans is their willingness to go to any length to find comfort in the seat of God’s lap, but the darkness creeps up in the judgment of where that lap is. God will always be God regardless of our thoughts or opinions. But the way we relate to God is similar to the way we relate to the world; a blade of grass that speaks to me may mean nothing to you while the sound of the highway may mean everything.

I have been bed bound for several days now and the kids and husband are away. Though the pain has been great, the clarity has been far-reaching. The depths of my heart have been crying out for a spiritual retreat, a time of silence, a time away. And although I have silently prayed for these things, almost an unconscious prayer if you will, I always thought it a bit selfish to ask God for a spiritual getaway. In any event, it would never happen. I have a job and three children, a husband and a full plate; that is until I was forced into bed by something I could not control. So when the family left for the weekend I was in pain and alone. It’s been ten years or so since the last time I ever remember being alone like this. Smack dab in the middle to end of Lent I found myself here, in a desert I prayed for but never saw coming. My first thought was to reluctantly give my pain up for someone who didn’t deserve it, my least favorite person, someone who had persecuted myself and many around me. I asked God to accept my pain as a sacrifice for this man’s salvation, his reconciliation with God and a second chance at mercy.

Heading into day two, the silence seemed uncomfortable. But I noticed the sunlight coming off the kitchen window, the beautiful color of the dark wood stairs and the sound of the highway that reminded me I was not far from the chaos of the world. I wanted to create a sacred space, get on my knees on a kneeler to Mary, look at an iconic picture and find myself surrounded by darkness and candlelight. But from a bed this was impossible, so I started to research retreats at home and found nothing. So I turned back to Jesus and his methodology and the idea of spiritual retreat.

Withdraw to deserted places to pray

I realized that it didn’t take a special set of prayers, or an icon or candles. I didn’t have to fall to my knees. The ocean didn’t have to be close and I didn’t have to sit amongst flowers in a perfectly manicured garden. The house was deserted, my heart was open and I simply had to be…

Many of us find ourselves in these situations. Hectic schedules, health problems, the inability to travel due to time or money constraints. We want bigger houses, bigger jobs and bigger lives.

But bathed in silence, the places that we are planted come to life. The light shines from the darkness

I am not saying that God may not move you, He may. But chances are the thing that you are searching for is right in front of you. We are missing the wood grain, the ray of sunlight, the sacred shrines in our hearts. What we are missing is silence…

I encourage you today to drop the thoughts in your head at the threshold, invite the Holy Spirit in, sit and do absolutely nothing. Like the magic of Beauty and the Beast, the things around you will suddenly start to come to life…

How will we be known?

The world is round. Around and around.
A ring is round. No beginning no end.
A circular reference.
The circle of life.
We are born we live we die.

And what of the living? What is that all about? How do we know it was all worth it? How will be remembered?

How will we be known … ?

Fellowship. Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus.

How often do we each plod through living – walking to the beat of our own drummer? On the inside: It’s okay really … all doom and gloom … fun and frolics! And on the outside? We have our “grown up face” showing. We hide behind our grown-up face as a matter of course: act your age not your shoe size … the default greeting: “How are you?” … the default answer: “I’m fine” … the verbal “air kiss” … allowing nothing real.

Fellowship. Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus.

I am not sure we practice fellowship enough. I think we confuse fellowship with relationship with socialising.

Socialising together. Eating together. Gossiping together. And amongst the church community there comes committee’ing together for a smaller number. Decisions and budgets and making Kingdom Things happen. It reminds me of social clubs, sports clubs, doing clubs. What do we have in common?

We have God in common. We have church in common.

Except doing church involves a lot of finances. A lot of different opinions about where things go, what things are repaired, what things should be bought, who should decide what things are bought. I have a session of just that this week. Good people with church in common. Good people with God in common.

Seems to me that unless we find God, talk God, a personal God, a loving God , a God who is real – to each of us. Unless we share that God, see that God, feel that God, touch that God, unite in the One we all “work so hard for” – we become more and more like the “stereotypical couple” whose lives slowly drift apart:

We don’t seem to have that much in common. Just the kids (God). And they are all grown up now. We just seem to argue about money (budgets) all the time. We seem to have different priorities (missions). I like doing my things (pastoral/theological./outreach/fundraising) and she/he likes his/hers (pastoral/theological./outreach/fundraising). I am fond of him/her but she/he is not the same person I married (was first saved). What’s the point of sticking together (going each Sunday) if it’s just out of habit – out of duty?

Every counsellor would ask how much that couple talked, how they talked, when they talked, and what they talked about. They would also ask how each listened, heard, allowed the other to be heard. And they would ask that couple to practice talking. Setting aside time to talk. Making it a practice to listen. To hear. To really hear.

Tonight I have fellowship with one other. Just one other. That is really exciting! Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus. With one other person and God. Over a table in a pub. Good food with good people. Tonight is exciting! The purpose? To get below the surface. And find God. And talk God. A personal God. A loving God. A God who is real.

Fellowship. Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus.

“For to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”

We have more than God in common, more than “the church” in common. We have Love in common. The Love of all Love. An eternal love. A ceaseless love. A love so unconditional we are all loved. And if that “outflows” (as we all say it does) – then we should be real “fellowshipping” all the time (shouldn’t we?).

Because why would we not want to talk about this Love and how we are changed? About how we live differently? About how you have been changed and live differently – about how I have been changed and live differently?

“For to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”

I desire fellowship. I seek fellowship. Relationship where I am known and I am loved. Where you are known and you are loved. Where that knowing and this Love changes all of us. Because without fellowship – without being known – without being loved … How are we to be changed?

And if this Love does not change us …

All we have in common is another social club. One that is not particularly appealing. One that is very “clubby”. One that is full of air-kisses and the bible. Oh – and God. That God we worship the same way at the same time in the same place because that is how we are so often taught.

“For to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”

Woman at the Well – John 4

I hope this short film moves you as well.