Episode 40: Respite

I spent this past weekend at La Foret, a church camp in the Black Forest of Colorado. It sits on a ridge that divides Eastern and Western Colorado and rests on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains. As the sun rises in the morning, you can see Pike’s Peak just to the west light up.

I was there to help the Rocky Mountain Conference celebrate the Installation of Sue Artt as their Conference Minister, as well as to spend some quality time with both Association leaders from around the Conference, and with the Conference Board of Directors. But I also made sure to build in some personal time.

When I arrived, I was given a tour of the property. One spot stood out, and it called me back numerous times over the weekend. It was an adobe style Chapel built about 80 years ago. It’s rustic, austere interior spoke to me. A narrow, winding staircase at the back corner of the sanctuary wound its way up to a choir loft, and from there I could sit quietly and take in the whole space. I found an old Hymnal up there, and into the empty space began belting out some of my favorite Hymns. I would have been a bit embarrassed had someone walked in – but no one did.

As I got up to leave, I turned and discovered a door at the back of the choir loft that led out to a balcony. It faced due west, and from that balcony you could look out onto the horizon where, between an opening perfectly framed by two large Ponderosa Pines, stood the majestic presence of Pike’s Peak. It took my breath away.

The next morning, I arose early and returned to that spot to watch the sun rise on the Peak. Until a low cloud swept over the horizon, I had an unimpeded view of the mountain as the morning sun lit it up. It was spectacular.

From there I followed a pathway that led to a trail which wound through the woods of the Black Forest. For the better part of the next two hours, I let that winding path take me over hill and dale, through overgrowth that suggested the trail had not been walked that much of late, over creeks, and across a ridge called Meditation Trail. With only a trace of reluctance, I left the trail and returned later that morning to attend one of the meetings I had planned.

I had to leave early Sunday morning to catch my plane back home; Despite that, I made sure I would rise early enough to walk down the path to the beautiful labyrinth constructed by the staff there at the camp. As I walked through the labyrinth, I found myself singing again. When I arrived at the center, my spirit awakened and I raised my hands to the heavens, lifted my eyes to the hills, and soaked in the glory of it all. It was splendid.

I am now back in my office. It is early, and I have a busy day ahead of me. As I do every day, I will leave the building at noon and go for a walk for an hour. I will stop at Jake’s pizza and grab a slice. I will go by the fountain at Public Square; turn north and walk across the lake front; then torn south and walk down 9th street and around the baseball stadium before returning to my desk. I will absorb the sights, sounds, and smells of this city I now call home. It’s a different kind of walkabout than the one I took this past weekend, but it nonetheless gives me a moment of respite in a busy, crowded day.

Our lives are often crowded, aren’t they? Busied by tasks both mundane and grandiose; challenged by deadline and responsibility; called to meetings and appointments; wearied by the pace and overwhelmed by the responsibility it can be easy to be consumed by it all.

And so, gentle listener, I speak of the need to pause. Whether through mountain pass or city alley; in a quiet chapel or the Public Square; over tree-lined labyrinth or around parked cars: find respite for your weary heart and soul. Speak to your sacred, and let her speak to you. You are precious. Be kind to yourself. And find your soft place, where you can be restored for this long and precious journey we all take Into the Mystic.