Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

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Habakkuk 2:1:
I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.

Thanks to the magic of being able to set posts in advance, this blog post is being posted at a time I am observing a weekend where much of it is in a personal "silent retreat."

I basically have three obligations to the world this weekend. I have to attend two birthday parties for the same friend's birthday, one on Saturday and one one Sunday (Hey, when a person turns 80, I think you might be allowed two parties!) and I plan to attend worship in another town Sunday with a friend as a "field trip" to see a more "millennial-oriented" way of doing the liturgy of the Episcopal Church. Our interim priest is always suggesting "field trips" for me, to bring back ideas to recharge both my spiritual self, and to continue to cultivate a fresh, active viewpoint within my own parish.

But other than that, I am feeling the need to be recharged by a Sabbath of my own making.

One of the things I have learned from embracing Benedictine spiritual practices is to never put the first line of the Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict too far from me...

"Listen carefully, my child, to your master's precepts, and incline the ear of your heart."

Emphasis on that first word. LISTEN.

One of the problems that goes with being a person with both an active mind and active hands is I start to measure my worth in terms of "doing." Benedictine spirituality is about balance. I think of myself as a person with two gas tanks, my "doing" tank and my "listening" tank. The last three weeks of my life have been very demanding in terms of "doing." My life is a constant attempt to please too many masters--the patients whose surgical pathology specimens and lab work I serve, the students I teach, some temporary obligations at Trinity-Kirksville, and the needs that four rural hospitals have of their medical director. It is the rare day I can please them all 100%.

My day involves exercising "my clinical mind" all day long. My clinical mind works more or less dispassionately, with facts, with only occasional input from my hunches. But it is not a life geared to have time for listening "with the ear of my heart."

As I grow in my own spirituality, I find myself getting hungry for time to use that ear.

So this weekend, I am making time. I have a few local "road trips" planned to simply sit outside and enjoy some of my favorite views alone--views I have not seen for a few months. I have built in silent time at both a period in the day, and the Great Silence at night. I plan to do all four offices in the Prayer Book both Saturday and Sunday--Morning Prayer, Noonday, Evening Prayer, and Compline, (with the exception of worship on Sunday to cover the "noon" one.) I have built in time to spend a couple of hours with two of my more trusted spiritual peer companions. The computer and the cell phone will be off. I will check my cell phone twice a day for emergencies, but since I am not on call this weekend, the "emergencies" would be like, "somebody died."

I'm also trying something new during my silent times. In the past, when I observe silence, I have never stopped myself from writing. I have come to realize that for me, "writing is talking." I could stop running my mouth easily enough in silent times, but I have never made my hands be quiet with words. I've decided to try to let my hands be as quiet as possible. I am not sure how that will feel. It will be interesting, to say the least!

If you have never tried a "self-driven retreat," I urge you to do so. Really, it's not that difficult. Use your spiritual imagination. Here's what little advice I have to offer...

1. Create a prayer space. This can be indoors or outdoors. Consider which of your senses connects you to God most closely and provide a means for those senses to have opportunities for contemplation. For instance, it's no secret both fire and water ease my soul. Candles, my chiminea, and light help me to be more prayerful. Likewise, sitting by a body of water "too big for me to control" has a centering effect on me. It's also important to let a few people know of your intentions, and ask them to hold you in prayer at this time. I have found it very calming to know others are praying for me during my time off.

2. Consider what forms of spiritual reading will catch your ear at this time in your journey. Read them "lectio Divina" style--a few lines at a time--sit back--see if a word or phrase pops out, and sit with it. Repeat the same passage as necessary before moving to the next one.

3. Build in times of silence. You may have to define, in the beginning, what forms of silence are not too overwhelming or "heavy." Cold turkey total silence can be very unnerving in our modern world. Not everyone has a good experience cold turkey, and sometimes it is better to gradually train oneself to silence. When things come to the forefront in the silence, simply sit with them and accept them.

4. If possible, arrange a way you can celebrate the Eucharist in this retreat. Sunday worship is very useful for that, and attending worship after a day of a quiet mind can be kind of exhilarating, and makes a nice "halftime break" for a weekend quiet/silent retreat.

5. At the end of your retreat, make time to gather. Gather what happened over the retreat time. Offer your findings in prayer. Sometimes sitting down and writing can be a great way to collect these gatherings.

6. Finally, it's important to find a way to put your findings from the retreat into practice. A retreat is not worth much if it doesn't help you re-engage the world in a more holy way. A retreat without an outcome is simply a self-indulgent exercise. It's important to see this time as a way to give more freely, to love more deeply, to be more engaged in God's work in the world. That can become very exciting!

I dearly love retreats. Even little ones like this one. Give it a try!


As I type this you are in the midst of your weekend - hope it is grand.

I thought (humorously) if a tree falls in the forest with no one to hear it does it make a sound?

If a blog post pops up in the midst of an otherwise silent weekend and a commenter responds is the silence broken? ::chuckles::

Of course, the silence is about you not the rest of us - this isn't maintaining "radio silence" and so here I chat.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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