Hi fellow pilgrims,
In the next five posts, I will share with you some of what I experienced on my eight-day retreat. I will be posting them on Mondays and Fridays from now until August 17.
As you begin, I invite you to notice where you are standing. Are you standing outside my experience or entering in?
Standing outside, you might be analyzing, quantifying or evaluating what happened in my prayers. I can tell you right now, there is nothing I learned in my eight days that I didn’t know already.
Entering in, we take off our shoes as Moses did when he realized he was standing on holy ground. The reader receives these encounters with God as gifts to treasure and to deepen their love for God. Although the encounters didn’t happen to them, these stories still have the power to transform as do the encounters recorded in scripture: Moses and the burning bush, Elijah when he hears the still small voice of God, the Samaritan woman when she meets Jesus at the well.
So, please, take off your shoes, enter into my story, and meet for yourself the God who loves you more than you can ever hope for or imagine.
My Eight-Day Retreat: Part 1
I was touched again when I read that God is “ever with me.” God was with me, not just in my life, but now as I began another eight-day silent retreat. God would be with me in green pastures and the dark valleys I would be experiencing as I spent these days alone with my Saviour and Friend.
“Rest,” my shepherd said. I imagined myself as a dog and lay my head on Jesus’ lap and he stroked my head and played with my ears. I felt content and carefree. Whenever thoughts lured me away, my shepherd reached out his crook and gently brought my mind back to his presence. “Don’t do a thing,” he said. “Just rest and receive my love.”
In the next two hour-long prayer periods on that first day of my retreat, I meditated on Psalm 139 and Isaiah 43:1-3. In both passages, I heard again that God is with me. In the heights and depths, in life and in death, before I had substance and after I have none, through deep waters and in darkness, God encompasses me with love wherever I go. Once again tears came.
I was reading a paraphrase of Psalm 139 by Nan Merrill and joined in the prayer near the end of it.
O that you would vanquish my fears, Beloved,
and all that separates me from true abandonment
and surrendering myself into your Hands.
My shepherd heard my prayer, and as I will share with you in the next posts, did exactly that.
Here is Nan Merrill’s Psalm 139 rewritten as though God is speaking these words to us personally.
Oh My Beloved, I have searched you and known you!
I know when you sit down and when you rise up;
I discern your innermost thoughts.
I find you on the journey and guide your steps:
I know your strengths and your weaknesses.
Even before words rise up in prayer,
Lo, I have already heard your heart call.
I encompass you with love where’er you go,
and My strength is your shield.
Such sensitivity is too wonderful for you;
it is high; boundless gratitude is your soul’s response.
Where could you go from My Spirit?
Or how can you flee from My presence?
If you ascend into heaven, I am there!
If you make your bed in darkness, I am there!
If you soar on the wings of the morning
or dwell in the deepest parts of the sea,
Even there My hand will lead you,
and My Love will embrace you.
If you say, “Let only darkness cover me,
and the light about me is night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to Me,
the night dazzles as with the sun; the darkness is light to Me.
For I formed your inward being,
I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
You praise Me, for I am to be reverenced and adored.
My mysteries fill you with wonder!
More than you know yourself do I know you;
your essence was not hidden from Me,
When you were being formed in secret,
intricately fashioned from the elements of the earth,
My eyes beheld your unformed substance,
in My records were written every one of them,
The days that were numbered for you,
when as yet there were none of them.
How precious to you are My creations, O Blessed One!
How vast is the sum of them!
Who could count My innumerable gifts and blessings?
At all times, I am with you.
O that I could vanquish your fears, Beloved;
O that ignorance and suffering would depart from you –
All that separates you from true abandonment,
is surrendering yourself into my hands!
Yet are these not the very thorns that focus your thoughts upon Me?
You wonder if you will always need reminders to turn your face to Me,
but I hear only your yearning to come to Me in love,
to learn of My mercy and wisdom!
I have searched you, O My Beloved, and know your heart!
I will help you to face the darkness within you;
I will enlighten you, that you might radiate My love and My light!
∗ ∗ ∗
Love Mischief for the World
Every day for my eight-day retreat, I biked to the UBC endowment lands to meet Father Roshan Kiro, SJ. for spiritual direction. I had never met this young priest before and little did I know when I began what love mischief he and God were up to. When we met, Father Roshan listened to what happened in my prayers for the point at which I experienced God’s love most intimately. Then he invited me to meet God there in the next day’s prayers. He trusted that all God wanted to do was love me and instil in the core of my being the significance of that love. He knew that God joined me in my deepest desire: to be free from all that keeps me from loving and being loved.