Monday, April 19, 2010

Retreat Processing

I spent an amazing weekend at Pine Cove with lots of women from my church. The theme for this weekend's retreat was Transformation. It was a follow-up (of sorts) for a recent sermon series of the same title which discussed several of the spiritual disciplines. This was my 3rd retreat and each has been wonderful but, of course, a little different from each other. Someone asked me at lunch on Sunday what my favorite part had been, and I really didn't have an answer. It made me start thinking and I realized that I really needed to process this retreat some more. So, I decided to process while writing (this blog post).

The first thing of notice about this retreat, is that God seemed to be placing some constraints on me in some very visible ways. I had ordered a new camera (because I broke my good one at Easter) and was planning on learning on how to use it at the retreat. I was also looking forward to taking lots of nature photographs in the beautiful setting (which includes a lake, lots of trees, and a few fun creatures). The camera arrived in time, but I couldn't get it operational before I left. The end result was no pictures from this retreat by me.

I also lost my voice at the retreat. I started getting sick the Wednesday before I left. I tried drinking apple cider vinegar to ward off the bronchitis that I felt was coming. On the drive up on Friday I started losing my voice. It got weaker each day and by Sunday it was gone. I did talk at the retreat, but not as much as I would have normally. It seemed that God was wanting me to be still and silent. I did spend time listening to Him there, but I also spent time resting and sleeping. It seems that I needed both of those, as well.

Each year that I have been to this retreat we have had a prayer mosaic on one of the days. I had never participated in a prayer mosaic before, and it really touched me the first year. Just to briefly describe, it is a time of quietness where each participant travels at her own pace through several prayer stations. One station involved casting your burdens on the Lord, one was asking for forgiveness, one was having another lady pray aloud for/with you, and there were many more. The second year several new stations were added, which added a lot to the experience for me. This year my attitude was along the lines of "been there, done that" before the mosaic. I wanted to do it, but I wasn't expecting to be touched by it as strongly as I had in the past. This year, a station was added that was about service and it involved foot-washing. We were asked to wash someone's feet and have ours washed as well. I almost skipped this station, but decided to do it when I someone I knew walked into the area. I had my feet washed first and I was not prepared for my emotional response to this experience. It was so humbling! I didn't feel worthy of having her do this for me. I was touched by her tenderness and gentleness in washing my feet. I was also moved that she seemed to be praying for me as she was washing my feet. In some ways I was glad she washed my feet first, because I wasn't sure what was "expected" of the washer. I found it much easier to be the washer by following her example. I really enjoyed that part of the station more. I enjoyed showing that compassion to another and having the focused time to pray for another. I often feel like I have ADD when I am trying to pray. I will intend to pray for a person, but forget. Or I will start a prayer, and then get distracted by too many things to count. Having my hands on the person's feet made the prayer so much easier and more meaningful for me. I enjoyed it so much that I found another friend and "made" her let me wash her feet, too. I learned something about myself through this experience - first, about my willingness to be humbled and receive help or service and secondly, about my prayer life. Thank you, God, for speaking to me through this activity.

We didn't have one keynote speaker at this retreat, but we had several women from the church speak to us about the different disciplines and about the transformation process in their own lives. One of the speakers discussed some things she had learned recently about butterflies and about their transformation process. I really related to that talk and enjoyed the things she brought out. I had been thinking about butterflies before the retreat myself. I had thought one day that I wish my transformation would happen as "quickly" as a butterfly's seemed to happen. A few days later I stopped to evaluate that idea again. Is a butterfly's transformation really as quick as I initially thought? I remembered that some butterflies live only a few days after they emerge from their cocoon. The majority of their life is spent growing, developing, and transforming; only a small proportion is spent as a mature adult. Thank you, God, for revealing this truth to me. Please help me to appreciate the process and the change that You are making in me.

We did have a special guest speaker who was not on the program, but was so inspiring to me (and a lot of others, I believe). She and her husband were the (human) founders of our church 34 years ago. They now train others in using Christmas partners to evangelize to their neighbors. I had heard parts of their story before, but it was so beautiful to hear her telling the story and to have her point out people in the room who came to Christ over 30 years ago because she and her husband were willing to be obedient and open their homes, hearts, and mouths to share the love of Christ with people in their neighborhoods. She and her husband will be sharing more about what they are doing now and what they see God doing in the world next Sunday at our church. I am so excited and looking forward to that time! Thank you, God, for reminding me that You have given me a place to be to share Your love with those around me. Please keep reminding me and help me to be obedient to You.

I also enjoyed getting to know some "old" friends better and getting to meet new women! This is always a fun part of any gatherings for me. This retreat did not fail me, even if my voice did. In fact, I was probably forced to listen more and talk less. (Some of you who were there may be surprised by that last sentence. I did still talk a lot - the first 2 days - but it was probably less than would be normal for me.) Thank you, God, for the beauty of community with other believers!

Those are a few of the highlights of my retreat weekend. I am glad to be back home with my family, but I am also thankful for this special time that I got to spend with God and several of my sisters.


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