I wish that you could all smell what I smell, and see what I see up here at Zephyr Point – it’s really quite remarkable! I brought a group of kids from Asbury UMC here for a winter retreat one year, and it was certainly beautiful then – but it’s a different place in the summer, and just so dang gorgeous!
We started off the morning with a silent breakfast (though there is some debate about just how silent a silent breakfast should be) – and then we met for a brief time of singing and then our morning time with Luther Smith. I’m going to try to get some audio to share with you – because the music and singing, while very simple, is incredibly moving, and the staff does a really wonderful job of creating a space for sacred music to be shared.
Luther is an incredibly engaging and thoughtful speaker; one of those persons who says more deep and provocative statements than one is able to write down. So, this won’t do his talk justice, by any means, but I hope it’s helpful. He began by talking about the despairing times that we live in. And that can mean personal despair, communal despair, global despair and beyond. It’s a difficult time to have a lot of hope about the world or even about God’s creation of humanity when you watch your Facebook News Feed and see the stuff that I see.
And amidst this despair – hope is what we need. Yet, hope is not just about smiling or having an “attitude adjustment.” Luther talks about hope as a force, not a feeling or a wished for reality. But similarly to gravity, hope is a force of God that enlivens us to life. Luther says that “Hope empowers us to be wholly alive to the fullness of life.”
He then went on to speak about hope’s companions being FAITH and LOVE, and how you can’t separate the three of them. So if one talks about LOVE, but that love is clearly lacking in faith or hope…then it can’t really be love. And in opposition to hope’s companions, there are imposter companions as well. Order masquerades as faith, and hate masquerades as love, and when hate and order come together, you have cynicism…which is the opposite of the force of hope in the world. I’d never heard hope talked about as a force before, so that was something new.
One of the things that we do each day after Luther speaks, is we have a time of integration and reflection on what we just heard. This usually involves our bodies, getting up and moving around as a prayer practice, or practicing putting our bodies into postures or positions that help bring about a space for reflection and contemplation. We practiced some mudras (hand positions that evoke certain feelings or spiritual practices) and did some walking prayer.
We were also encouraged to try out writing some acrostic poetry. This is something we’re apparently doing each day, and I will be the first to admit that although I call myself an artist, I wouldn’t have used the word “poet” before. However, as we were encouraged to write out words or phrases for this poetry exercise, I found that it came pretty naturally to me. In the spirit of sharing, here is one of the poems I wrote. The poem had HOPE AND ITS COMPANIONS written down the side.
How long can one go without hope?
Or a sense of God’s profound presence?
People need that force in their lives.
Everything needs momentum.
Anyone can tell you about their despair.
Never is evidence of that lacking.
Desperation is too easily accessible today.
Infinite hope seems like a far-off dream or reality.
That you have promised it is
Come, hope. Come, faith. Come, love.
Overwhelm us with your force for good in the world.
Multiply our efforts in co-creating with you.
Persuade others to join us.
And keep us from giving in to the despair.
Never let us let go of the force of hope.
Instead, we grab hold tighter.
Only with you will this world change.
Not ONLY you – but with our co-creating help,
shall we break open this world to your hope.
Following our morning time together was lunch, rest/Sabbath time, worship, dinner and then our first time meeting with our lectio groups.
For those who aren’t familiar with lectio divina, it is a spiritual practice that can be done individually or within a group setting, and it’s a way of reading scripture (or other texts) that is a divine reading. We focused on a few verses from 1 Corinthians 13. We read the passage a few times, had some prolonged moments of silence where we reflected on the various words or phrases that stood out to us, and then did some sharing within the group. We ended with a 30 minute time of reflection where we could go outside, walk the labyrinth, sit by the water, and journal (or do whatever we felt called to). I spent some time doing some sketching and doing watercolors, and was very moved by the time and the ways in which I felt God speaking to me.
All in all, it was a very full day, and I look forward to what the rest of the week holds. I still find that silence is not something I’m super comfortable with, especially anything over a couple minutes. Give me a few minutes of silence, and I love it. 5 minutes? That’s pushing it. 10 or 15 or more? It gets uncomfortable. My legs start getting antsy. My mind starts wondering when it’s going to be over…I’m guessing that’s something I could work on this week.
As I mentioned before, I plan to share some of the sketchnotes and doodles that I do during this event, so below you’ll find a few of them from the first day. My favorite is the one that says “Return again to the land of your soul” which was one of the chants we did at our gathering on the first evening.
More to come tomorrow.