Tag: Religion and Spirituality

Ladies Retreat

Seven Women in Seaside
Seven Women in Seaside

Last August, I asked the question “what is a retreat?” in hopes of generating a glut of comments on my blog.

I hoped for five. I netted one (which was actually a pingback to my own blog). What did I do wrong?

I think I asked the wrong question. In any case, I decided to share my retreat experiences in this forum one more time (yeah, if you believe this will be the last time, I have some swampland in Columbia County).

It began in May when our small group of women at church decided we didn’t have the manpower woman-power necessary to host the annual state-wide ladies’ retreat at Crystal Springs campground.

It would be nice for our core group of women to spend some quality time together. We talked and shared. One woman notified the campground that we wouldn’t be able to host. Bummer.

Enter my mother. She asked if we thought a Monday through Wednesday early in October would work in our schedules. Sure. Why not?

She called her timeshare reservations department and booked two three-bedroom condos. The next week, she announced to all of us that a place had been secured, these are the dates and we better start planning it.

Sometimes, we need just that sort of foot in our hinder parts to get us started in the right direction.

Image from puzzlepuzzles.com

Bad news for me: Everyone looked at me and asked, “Can you prepare a program?” You see, the whole idea to host the retreat in the first place had been mine.

“Uh, sure,” I respond. Internal conversation: “Please, God, you’ve got to help me with this. I have no clue what we should do.”

God is good. By August, I knew the lessons would be about encouragement and I knew our activity would involve writing cards to each other.

The week before I headed off to Hawaii, I sat down with my Bible, concordance and a spiral notebook and begin outlining the lessons.  I wrote out a proposed schedule for the three days.

You know what happens when you make a plan, right? It’s like a double-dare to the Devil. He jumps in and tries to make a mess of the whole thing.

We got rooms on different floors. The resort is worse than a rat maze without cheese. People over a certain age either don’t carry cell phones or don’t answer the phones they carry (I was going to say perhaps they can’t hear them ring, but I’m probably in enough trouble already).

None of it mattered in the end. The lessons seemed to encourage everyone. (Awesome! Since it was an Encouraging Escapade, anything less would be a bummer.)

Schedules work more as a guideline. All four lessons were shared and the prayer partner rotation eventually made its rounds.

Shopping and beach combing found its way into the mix. Some of us even got to put mud on our faces followed by anti-aging products galore. Ah, youth reclaimed!

In the end, we all decided we wanted a repeat. Well, we wanted all the ladies from our church to join us, so it wouldn’t be an exact duplicate. We felt refreshed (even though we were yawning), relaxed and closer together than ever.

Do you think you can experience the same rejuvenating and uniting effects without leaving home? How can we find a “retreat” amidst the demands of daily life?

Manmade or Natural?

Trinity Church in Boston, MA

Brick and mortar stands alongside glass and iron in downtown Boston, MA. Bridges and tunnels connect the God-made land to the manmade portion upon which 70 percent of Boston proper sits.
Even among all this manmade fanfare, however, the brilliant portions that stand out are those made by the Creator.
Boston Commons, the oldest national park in America, stretches for acres, green and growing, amidst the assortment of streets and buildings.
Trinity Church reflects in the glass sides of a more modern building, towering above all but the Prudential Tower a few blocks away. Even this old beauty is dwarfed by the marshland, Fens Park, sprawling acres that abut the home of the Boston Red Sox.
The green grass and fluttering leaves surround pools of sparkling water. A natural haven offers relief from the heat reflecting off the iron, glass and cement surrounding it like a conquering army.
More greenbelts sift their fingers through the architectural feats of mankind. As we traveled north from the city toward our hotel, strips of trees stood sentinel over the cement and asphalt thoroughfare.
I wondered at these makeshift forests, small compared to forests near my home in Oregon. Why were they left here? Why had the engineers forfeited that coveted ground to a more natural habitat?
To me, the answer is less important than the ideology these waving trees represent: Man needs the natural resources God gave in the form of trees, plants and waterways.
Sure, trees take the carbon we spew into the air and regurgitate life-giving oxygen. I’m talking about something deeper than that.
Studies show that people who spend time among the trees are healthier and happier. Is it the fresh air? Is it the natural Vitamin D acquired through ingesting sunlight?
I believe a simpler answer exists. God created us to commune with him. Nature declares the glory of God. Thus, when we spend time in a natural environment, serenaded by wind whispering through the leaves and birds chirping from the branches, our soul is nourished.
I’m not trying to be heretical and claim that communing with nature is the same as communing with God. I don’t believe God is in nature. However, we need a place of peace to experience true communion with God. That place – which exists within us – can be more easily accessed when we’re surrounded by the sounds of the Creator instead of the noisy fumes man spits out.
What is your favorite manmade structure? Has it ever helped you find a way to deeper spiritual communion with God?