I went to a retreat this weekend. It was short – less than 24 hours; a small group – only 14 of us. There were no well-known, expensive speakers. We talked about God. The lodge was quite nice, weather lovely.
Sounds nice, you might say.
But it was oh so much more! It was deep and personal, full of love, joy and blessing. It required commitment and effort from each participant, and success depended on trust in God and the presence of the Spirit. It was time – time to stop, listen and seek God with trusted friends who like me want to be more aware of God’s presence in their lives, yearning for relationship.
I am thankful for these people that I trust, thankful beyond words for the leaders of our group who give so much of themselves to encourage faith formation in others, thankful for family to watch the kids while we escape!
(My sister stayed with the kids. She is perfectly capable of keeping my children safe and happy; and I’m certain they had far more fun with her than us! I’m still not exactly sure how they ended up in Halloween costumes on a bouncy slide at the Farmer’s Market. Sometimes it is better not to know…)
With my children in good hands, this time away was truly a blessing; an amazing opportunity to step back and dig deep in faith. There is so much I could share from our short time away – I imagine I will continue to ponder over the coming weeks and months!
Towards the end of our time together, we were able to have quiet time outside, in solitude. It is helpful after an event like this to sit in silence, let the words and experiences soak in. When presented with such an opportunity, I usually run away quickly – seeking my own private hide-out where I can escape the real world!
But this was a busy lodge on a beautiful fall day – people were roaming everywhere. I found a tree in the shade, away from others, and sat down. I was ready to see God around me – in the turning leaves, the whistling of the wind in the trees above, the quiet but steady movement of a small white caterpillar. Oh, I am so good at finding God when I’m alone in nature!!
However, perched only a few feet above me was a squirrel. It stared at me as I sat down. And then it proceeded to yell at me furiously. It was the strangest thing! What did I do to make this squirrel so angry?!? After a few minutes – literally – I’d had enough. This darn squirrel was too distracting; so discomforting that I had to get up and leave.
But now where will I go? As I said, I’m good at finding God in nature – I am NOT good at finding God in chaos, amidst busyness and distractions. But what else could I do? The squirrel kicked me out of my hide-out.
So I plopped myself down at a picnic table, looking directly at a playground with a busy road not far away. Now, this was not the chaos you might experience on a busy downtown street or at a crowded store or restaurant. But after such deeply intimate, faith-filled moments shared at this retreat, I needed to just be still with God. It seems I would not have that opportunity. There were people in all directions; dogs barking, children laughing, cars honking, angry squirrels.
To top it off, minutes after I sat down a family parked nearby and noisily clamored out of their van. The parents, arms full of snacks, eyed the picnic table near mine, located in the shade at the peak of a hill. The children ran towards the playground. I was momentarily annoyed by the intrusion. I was here first. Can’t you see I am finding God here?!?
As soon as I said those words in my head, my heart knew the lesson. I softened. I saw them as part of my God’s creation. Then I was genuinely pleased to hear their voices – the sound of a family together in love, enjoying the beauty of the day and time to be together. I smiled. I engaged in brief conversation. I saw God in the gentle touch of a father guiding his son on the playground. I looked at the cars passing by and wondered who was in that car; where are they going and what chaos are they facing in their life. The dogs barking in the background were not annoying, but evidence of the gift of our pets.
My writing each week is about finding God moments in my life and the life of my family. What became quite real for me from this story is that all moments are “God moments.” God is present all the time, all around us; in the quiet solitude of nature and in chaos – and even in angry squirrels.