Episode 34: Retreat

I spent last week in Hawaii. It was a working retreat of sorts – an opportunity to gather with some close friends and allies and, much as I did last year two weeks before I was elected as GMP of the UCC, remove myself from the business of ministry and try to put things in perspective.

This is a way for me to see things more clearly. I love what I do – but I move so fast from one important event to another; all the while attending to a myriad of moving parts that have to work together neatly and well in order to realize our full potential. From the midst of that, it is hard to see clearly the bigger picture and know whether or not what we set out to achieve is actually happening.

And so I stopped for a week and met with a group of consultants who keep me focused, who keep me honest, and who remind me what it is that brought me to this calling in the first place. While together, we rehearsed what we committed to from the beginning, what we made happen in this first year, and what we now needed to focus on in the second year.

Throughout the week, there were intense sessions wherein honest and transparent and very real conversation took place about what went well and what did not. There were more sessions, just as intense, about what we anticipated was coming next and where my energy, my passion, and my voice needed to be directed. Commitments were made; future hopes expressed; and promises shared.

There were times for open space – wide open space during which I could sleep, or pray, or wander, or walk, or contemplate. I gazed at stars. I sat with my wife of 32 years at the shoreline watching wave after wave crash upon the shore. I witnessed 5 sunsets and 5 sunrises. I breathed – deep and slow. I waited upon the Sacred, and witnessed her presence and her movement and her delight in so many ways.

I celebrated two important anniversaries while there: my 55th trip around the sun was completed on the 28th of June; and my first trip around the sun since my election just a day later on the 29th. It seemed like a good time to step back for a brief moment in time and take stock of what was happening to me and through me.

Today I am back in the office. The toil of this enormous and this honorable calling begins anew. I look at my calendar and realize that my time is precious – and I will begin moving again through countless hours and days in the labor of ministry. I will do my best along the way to ensure that the time is well spent; and that the commitments I have made to open up a new future are not lost in the details. Hawaii, the retreat, the time in reflective contemplation seem already to be a bit of a distant, but precious memory.

I seek the wisdom in this calling to trust that the same Sacred I met on the shores and saw in the stars and felt in the sunsets and heard in the still small voices of the restless winds abides with me in the deadlines and the meetings and the phone calls and the webinars and the keynote addresses and the financial reports and the status updates. I seek the patience to pause even in the long, hard days to breathe deep and slow, to take notice of how the Mystical emerges in the mundane, and to bear witness to how it all fits together beautifully in the tapestry of God’s unfolding tomorrow.

We all need times to step away and contemplate the richness of God’s refreshing, delightful, and deliberative hovering. We need time to discern the way in which our string of committed and calculated movements respond to the call to serve, and in the service open up space for justice and generosity to flourish.

God is working out her purpose through and with us. May you feel her gentle, persuasive touch in your own commitments to love, to laugh, and to bring joy to another. And may you discover time to refresh your own spirit on this long and arduous journey we share on our pathways Into the Mystic.