Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I learned at Retreat

       The annual Circle of Grace Retreat closed Sunday with our worship back at home.  Twenty-seven people (including eleven kids ages 6-15) gathered in the mountains to think, learn, pray, sing and 'do art'.  As background for those who don't know me: this was not my first rodeo.  Circle of Grace has gathered for a retreat nearly every year.  Each time there has been a different combination of people, different themes, different spiritual practices, even different times of the year.
     Every time we go away and spend days and nights together we learn more about one another, laugh more, eat more, sing more and pray more.  I am always in 'running' mode: keeping an eye on the details and the schedule, but sometimes I am also able to be, to sit, to listen, to share.  And it is in those times that I learn a lot.
    Here are some things I learned (or relearned) at this (and other) retreat(s):

  1.  I don't get as uptight when I remember that people are funny and let myself be amused.
  2. It is good for me to remember that I, too, am quirky and funny and it is okay when others are amused at my expense.
  3. It is still true, as Art Linkletter told us: kid's say the darndest things.  To my point, the highlight of the retreat for me was when the children led worship and one our kids wrote a prayer that included the line, "We hope you had a good weekend, Godde, because we sure did."  
  4. We all have something to teach each other, we all have things we can learn from each other.
  5. Being in community is a challenge.
     Here is some important stuff I re- remembered about being in spiritual community:
  1. I re-remembered that the bottom line of what we are asked to do in spiritual community is this:  we are asked to show up, to be present and bring all of who we are.  That means to bring our broken bodies, broken hearts,  our mental health challenges, our questions, our anger, our distrust as well as all of our good stuff: our sense of humor, our artistic inclinations, our voices (no matter how off-key or hoarse), our hopes and dreams, our love, and the dailiness of life.  Our art project was to make collages using images and words that reflect who we each are as individuals.  Mine included images of family, shared meals, emotionally traumatized grandchildren, being on a difficult journey with the scriptural reminder to 'be not afraid' in the background, and images of spiritual ecstasy.  I try to show up with all of who every time we gather and invite each member of the community to do the same.
  2. No one is perfect.
  3. I am not perfect. (shit)
    Last, though certainly not least, is the challenge of being christian, feminist spiritual community requires so little and so much.  After we show up, then what?  How do we navigate through the waters of our differences?  How do we deal with conflict?  How do we be who we are called to be?   I was reminded or I relearned this weekend that in addition to showing up there are only two (okay, three) other things we have to do.  
  1. We need to claim each one as a child of Godde.
  2. We need to be willing to share the 'Table' with one another and
  3. We have to let go of trying to control the outcome of any situation, believing that if we have shown up, seen each other as children of Godde, broken bread, drunk the wine and shared the stories, then it is time to turn all outcomes over to Godde.  That does not mean we don't continue to work on relationships or issues that arise in community, but that our tasks are grounded in viewing one another as Sacred beings and making room for one another's differences and flaws.  Our commitment to working it out is embodied by our sharing holy meals.  
     Turning things over to Godde, relinquishing control, those are hardest for me to keep in my brain.  I find it difficult to believe there is not some way I can manage a situation.   I have to keep learning this over and over.  I am not in control. I am not in control.  I am not in control.  So I work on the other stuff: showing up, breaking bread, and seeing children of Godde everywhere.  And I am grateful I have plenty of loving people in my community who remind me when I forget:  I am not in control.

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