Thursday, June 23, 2011

Preparation for Pentecost: Contemplative Retreat

John Kiemele is the founder and leader of the Selah Center,, a wonderful place which helps busy Christians make space to meet God.  John is extremely gifted as a spiritual director, so we all came in eager anticipation of how John would help us make space for God in our minds, hearts and busy lives.

He started by reading Ezekiel 37 for Lectio Devina.  Lectio Devina is a reading of Scripture that involves three readings:  first, to hear the words read, second:  what stands out to me in this Scripture, third:  what is God saying through this passage?  Lectio helps us to move from an informational reading to an experience of God speaking.

He also read a poem by Judy Brown:

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing
too may logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely as a pail of water.

So building fires
require attention
to the spaces in between
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on legs,
then we come to see how
it is fuel, and the abscence of fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

John asked to reflect on this poem as we spent about a half an hour in solitude.  It was so interesting to hear the different ways that God spoke to each one of us.  My experience was a complete surprise.  I had meant to stay inside because I wanted to listen to the music as I reflected, but it was getting warm inside so I went to open the door and before I knew it, I was drawn to a beautiful dogwood bush in full bloom. It was glorious.

But, the Lord had me look down to the leaves on the ground.  A layer of leaves a few inches thick were present, they were dry, brittle and about to disintegrate.  I felt like the Lord said, "My people are like these dry, brittle leaves because they don't breathe with my Spirit and make space for me to bring life.  They are barely hanging on."

After that word, he tilted my face up and showed me the glorious dogwood blooms.  He said again, "This is what I want to give my people:  life, extraordinary life, that will bring joy and beauty into their lives.  When my people make space for me in their lives, they become more glorious than any dogwood bush could ever be.  After all, they are made in my image."

And, then he had me stand under the canopy of the blooms.  It felt like a sacred moment as I felt like I was the Bride and the Bridegroom was adoring his beautiful bride. 

When our contemplative retreat was over; we all walked out the door more relaxed, refreshed and open to God and his work in our lives.

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