Being a Christian isn’t simply following a list of to-dos (or don’ts), but a living, breathing, relationship. First of all a relationship with our triune God, then with all those that are in His fold. The world gives us hook ups and quickies and says that relationships are passé. God says that we are better than that, and that we will never be truly satisfied until we partake of His Divine will!
Monthly Archives: September 2014
Another repeated message from the retreat was “a call to love is a call to serve.”
We all know that love can bring such wonderful warm, fuzzy feelings…but that’s just the packaging…not the content of the gift. It’s often easy to forget that, once the wrapping is out of the way. 😉 We are not called to love for the the feelings it produces in us…but for the sake of the other.
God often whispered little tid bits into my heart throughout the day. One morning while in the chapel as I was observing the monks I had the thought… “They are doing battle in the front lines, will you join them?’
I got the sense that this call to action wasn’t merely about joining them in prayer that morning, but as a call on my life. That yes, they are on the front lines of the spiritual battle while in the cloister (I used to often think they they were behind the scenes) but it’s not the only way. That our own lives out in the world, lived out in His presence would serve the same purposes.
Each day that we were there, we were scheduled to have a conference on a specific topic. We only ended up having two conferences because Fr. Peter, our retreat director became ill. The topic he chose for us was forgiveness. I’m going to jot down here, some of the notes I took.
*We all have some sort of ‘unfinished business’, loose ends that need to be tied.
*When we say “I don’t want to deal anymore” that is a sort of revenge and a sign that you haven’t reached forgiveness.
*Forgive but don’t ‘enable’…you need to either speak up…or ‘separate’ if necessary.
*Forgiving is NOT forgetting.
*Don’t just say ‘I forgive you’…don’t say it too easily…honesty is more important.
*When you can’t seem to forgive, then pray for the other person.
*Forgiveness from the heart stems from prayer…it is a grace.
*Choose to focus on the good instead of the bad of the other person.
*Sometimes the person that you need to forgive is yourself.
*If you don’t find love ‘here’, you won’t find it ‘there’. It starts within yourself. Fr. mentioned how in the Benedictine Rule, only if you live well in community are you then allowed to become a hermit.
1 Cor 12:12-14
“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.”
Prior to going in to the retreat one of my greatest struggles was measuring myself up against some great people…whether the saints already in heaven or my saintly friends here on earth.
One of the big lessons was that yes I AM very different from those around me and that can be extremely lonely at times…but my life was different from the beginning and that wasn’t an accident. I can’t measure myself against what everyone else seems to be able to accomplish…but only against what God is putting in my own heart. Step into it! It may look weird to everyone else…maybe not even all that ‘Christian’…but He has set me up. I have all that I need to do His will!
We are ALL needed and important!
“If your concerns seem too big, then you have made God too small…and in turn you have become too small.”
At each meal during the retreat they put a CD on for us, on a given topic. The message above was part of one of the talks. I bawled like a baby when I heard this. It really hit home. YES…I so often fail to see the grandeur of God, to KNOW without a doubt that He is HERE…in this moment, wherever that may be and whatever that entails. That HE is CAPABLE to handle any of my issues. All of them! I then shrink down to what I see as my limitations and failings, they envelope me and I allow them to set my course of action.
The best part of the week was being in constant connection with Him, through the good and the not so good. In the good I found reason to rejoice, in the other stuff I ran to Him and trusted Him to make good of it. Hmmm…I don’t think I need to be living in a monastery for THAT! 😉
I experienced without a doubt His love for me. My concerns never seemed too big, I eagerly gave them to Him in joyful anticipation of what He might do with them. He never failed. He doesn’t fail…ever!
Reverence: Honor or respect felt or shown.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and was heard because of his reverent submission.”
This passage sort of ruled my week. I wanted to be obedient and eagerly submitted to whatever I felt His will for me was for the moment. With His grace, I was able to follow through even in the smallest of things…like food choices (I had been on a fairly strict gluten free diet plan prior to this, but chose to not make an issue of it and just eat whatever I was served), the clothes I wore (I went with skirts most of the time), and running to the Adoration chapel whenever I needed His direction. The daily schedule that they provided for us was the back bone of my day. I tried to keep as many of the prayer times as I could. I think I may have missed one vigil and a couple of the none hours. But whenever I did, the Lord would use someone to remind me to stay on track.
The most important lesson that I bring back from this is that if anything good happened, it was NOT by my own strength. My body suffered! It got very cold up there at night and the heat was not yet working. One of the women on retreat with us ended up leaving. The bed was hard and my body ached terribly after a while. Getting up for vigils at 3 AM, kind of throws you into a perpetual state of exhaustion for the rest of the day. Eating gluten and whatever else was served, gave me terrible tummy aches. The first day I was there, I even started spotting…after having been in menopause for over a year. I nearly freaked. Nearly. Instead of rushing to call my doctor as they suggest…I texted my friends instead and had them covering me in prayer then I headed to the Adoration Chapel which was two doors down from my room and offered it to HIM! (spotting stopped the next day).
I don’t mention these things to make me look saintly (or crazy depending on your life view)…far from it. It was just what God used to show me that these things don’t matter AT ALL! My spirit was connected with Him! I felt alive and refreshed.
I think that’s the point…that no matter what your state in life, or what the exterior conditions might be…we CAN stay connected. It may take more of an effort out here because there are more distractions vying for our attention…but I’m determined!
I had the pleasure of being on retreat last week. I went in on Monday afternoon and left Friday morning after breakfast. I’m still trying to process all that I experienced and learned there. These blog posts are about that…my own processing…I hope that they make some sense to you who may be reading and possibly even afford some inspiration…but I’ll leave that to the Holy Spirit.
Let me start at the beginning. I was supposed to be going on a long weekend get away trip with some girl friends the second weekend of September. My husband scheduled a few days off from work, to watch the kids. I was looking forward to some time to myself to recharge my batteries and spend some time with some awesome people. It didn’t work out. One thing after another happened, and the weekend plans were eventually cancelled. To say I was disappointed was putting it mildly. But I had to trust in God’s plan.
However, part of the reason that I had so wanted to get away was my current struggles with severe depression. The week before my retreat, it had hit me again. For any of you who may struggle with this, you know that it comes in waves…you never really know when or how intensely it will hit you. So when it does, I retreat to my chair (or sometimes to my bed) and just let it pass. Shortly after crying to the Lord demanding to know why I had even been born, I got ‘the call’. A dear friend had been at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer that morning and the Holy Spirit had put me in their heart…the feeling was strong that I had to be there. I was left with no doubt that I had to obey. So I placed a call to the Abbey right away. In their website they say that retreats need to be booked six months ahead of time. Ok…it’s in God’s hands…whatever He wants…shall be. I left a message and hoped for the best.
A bit later someone from the Abbey called me back. The following week would be the women’s retreat (it’s the third week of each month) and they still had rooms available…would that be ok with me? Ha! Yes…that sounds just about perfect…especially considering that the week in question began on the 15th with the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows (right after the Exaltation of the Cross on Sunday which was my 29th wedding anniversary) and ended on the 19th…the day before my birthday. 😀
I think God had a plan, don’t you? Please stay tuned…