Retreat Day 4

Mar. 4: Here’s a way to describe God: the limitless wisdom within us.

And what is wisdom? I would include knowledge, truth, insight, experience, and grace. There must be more to it than that, because truth and experience vary widely among individuals, and they vary over time. Over centuries and generations, knowledge grows and develops. It is no longer possible, if it ever was, to learn all that is known. If God is the wisdom within us as a collective, then God must also change as in process theology.

For today, yes, I’ll “define” God as Infinite Wisdom. That would have to include the wisdom of all beings (not just human beings) and all of nature (including rocks, magma, electrons . . . ). And is there knowledge in this chair? Does it know something of the world? That cushion, that cup, that chalice, those prayer beads? We humans give them meaning related to their usefulness to us. Could they teach us something else if we paid close attention?

If any of that is so, and God has infinite capacity to grasp it all, then it is right and natural to praise God. Why ever not?

I took a long walk after writing that. Along the way my mind expanded God’s Infinite Wisdom to include the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of time and space, of wind and storm. These exist either in our minds as constructs or in effect, but they are simply what they are. Nature does what it does because of its nature, not for good or ill.

God is with us through and after storms of every kind because the God I imagine IS all-knowing and all-loving. God desires for us to move millimeters in the direction of knowledge, compassion, and love, but does not mind if we remain stuck. God is too busy loving us to be disappointed in us. We don’t know what we don’t know. Nor are we able to experience everything. Therefore we must rely on others to share through their words, touch, movement, and so forth. Whatever we imagine already exists at some level.

[to be continued, but feel free to comment from your own perspective!]

Retreat Day 3

Mar. 3: This was a transition day from my home-based retreat to UBarU, a camp and retreat center a little west of Kerrville, TX. It is an official International Dark Sky, where professional, amateur, and youth astronomers can learn about astronomy far from city lights.

I rented the Ranch House for a couple of nights, which turned out to be pretty darn cold, with temperatures below freezing (20F). When I made my plans it seemed likely that I would enjoy reading or writing on the porch–but it was too cold and windy to suit me. Thank goodness for heaters and hot chocolate I could make after my walks! Estelle Frankel (The Wisdom of Not Knowing) suggests that we ask a good question every day, such as, “Where is this experience taking me?” Be curious about the unknown.

Already this experience was teaching me how good it is to take a few days of silence and prayer every now and then. It took me into meditation more than once a day, for 25 minutes at a time. I turned the coffee table into an altar graced with a chalice, prayer beads, and a small stone inscribed with “A.S.A.P. / Always Say A Prayer.” The book is Danna Faulds’ Prayers to the Infinite: New Yoga Poems. The heart shape is inscribed with a butterfly. I placed my meditation cushions on the floor next to the altar.

Retreat Day 1

Mar. 1: Began with a pedicure. That eased my spirit, helped relieve my headache just because I quit getting ready and simply relaxed into retreat mode. Sky blue toenails.

Lunch, eaten mindfully and deliciously.

Did last minute emails that ought not to wait for my return. Set up an automatic notice that I’m on retreat until the 7th. Finally, I made an appointment for a massage on the 8th.

Now to the recliner with a book.

Wrote in my journal, took a short nap, then took a walk while eating an apple. It’s getting quieter in my head.

Started 2 books: The Wisdom of Not Knowing, by Estelle Frankel, and The Way of the Heart, by Henri Nouwen. Wrote a few sentences of reflection.

Frankel: Embracing the unknown/not knowing leads to curiosity and creativity.

Nouwen: Solitude, then silence, then prayer. Working on the silence part.

What is saving me now?

Have you ever left a faith community? A church, synagogue, mosque, or temple? Maybe you looked around for a while before you found another that was more to your liking or closer to where you lived. Maybe you gave it up for good. You’re certainly not alone. I was raised Episcopalian, became Unitarian Universalist, and studied Zen Buddhism for a time. In India I was immersed in Hinduism. This summer I visited a number of different services, just to see how other folks do religion.

At the end of Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor reflects on what she has lost by not serving a church as priest and what she has kept. In multiple ways she answers the question, “What is saving you now?”

What is saving me now is a sense of completion. Twenty five years of ordained ministry, duly noted and recognized. Three years of study for the specific ministry of Spiritual Direction, duly graduated and recognized in 2018. A chance to preach at Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church on the occasion of their 40th anniversary. I had been a member there for their first 15 years, and was ordained there in 1993.

In Kansas City, I joined other 25-year Unitarian Universalist ministers to be recognized by colleagues from across North America and a few distant countries. We enjoyed memories of how much has taken place under our watch. We have loved the people we served, the voices we raised, and the path we chose.

After that month of travel, I was ready to reclaim body, mind, and spirit. What is saving me now is rest, prayer, contemplation, and exploration. I took most of July as a mini-sabbatical from multiple responsibilities and commitments. Blocks of solitude, doing simple art, visiting museums and libraries, singing with Tapestry Singers, reading for pleasure, and writing, are some of the ways I have restored my spirit. Now in August I’m back into planning and preparation for new adventures. Come along with me!