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Holy Invitations

by guest blogger John French |

Reflections from the Retreat

Although I’ve seen it many times, I continue to be amazed by the ways a retreat can become a divine appointment. A week ago some of our eNE membership gathered at Adelynrood Retreat Center for a spring retreat with Brian Barclay as our guide. The weather as I drove up on Friday was overcast and threatened rain, which was a bit disappointing. I was late getting away so I quickly stowed things in my room and went to greet guests. Adelynrood is a somewhat quirky but welcoming location, with many tucked away places to sit and reflect or connect with friends. As I joined with other retreatants gathering for dinner, we were treated to a “sung blessing” over the meal, led by the Anglican sisters who serve there. Our group enjoyed reconnecting over dinner and then were introduced to the weekend’s theme, “Fresh Creations.” We were given reflection questions and a few poems for meditation and then released to Compline or silence and early sleep. (I never made it to Compline). I did watch the sun go down as I walked the Labyrinth asking God what was going to happen on this 24-hour journey of retreat. I heard no clear answer. After a bit of reading I tried to sleep, but a new bed is always a challenge. Finally sleep came.

The morning wakened me with a warm glow of sunshine, birds singing and a full day of retreat awaiting me. We broke silence at breakfast, with Adelynrood’s sisters singing an old and unfamiliar grace over the meal. At 9:30 the rest of our retreatants arrived, and Brian led us into some exercises to get to know one another. We were asked to consider the brokenness in ourselves, others, and the world and to reflect on what needed to be made new. Our lectio encouraged us to consider the new creations God is calling us to be. What newness did God want for me? I was clueless. At lunch I had a chance meeting with a former neighbor of mine who had just taken a part time job here. What a coincidence, right?

The afternoon was an outdoor assignment, which I welcomed, as it was the brightest and warmest Saturday of this nasty spring. We were instructed to find something in our time outdoors that spoke to us of new creation. Does fresh creation resonate, lead to confession, thanksgiving, praise? I walked, enjoying the fresh warm breezes, and settled into a garden. All over the grounds were solitary benches to sit and contemplate. In this garden, four benches faced each other. Were these Father, Son, Holy Spirit and me? Was God perhaps whispering, “John, solitary spirituality is not enough.” You are not fully formed. You need community. All around me plants were forming. They were no longer hidden but just starting to mature. I picked a lavender herb as a reminder of this moment; something to bring back to the community.

As I walked back I remembered a recent chance encounter just the week prior. I was leading a church prayer walk with two other souls, and as the walk was ending, I unexpectedly met up with a former worship leader, her husband, and the Interim Pastor and his wife of the church I pastored for 36 years. What a coincidence, right? They were miles from home. I began to put together my two weeks of chance encounters. Was God inviting me to mature as I reach out for communal spirituality? The retreat closed with an exercise in hope for the brokenness all around us, with a time of listening to one another and prayer for each other. Somehow in 24 hours, new growth was emerging in me and in our group. Spring was happening to our little community!

What "coincidences" might God be speaking through in your own life? Are there ways you hope to be renewed or restored? How would you like to respond to his invitations? Will you offer these prayers up to God?

About John French:

John French is a retired pastor and one of the original participants of ESDN, now Epiphany NE. He is married to Janet, has three grown children and four -- soon to be five -- grandboys. John enjoys walking with Janet in the beauty of Rockport, biking, being Papa, working for Selah part time, offering direction, and helping out at First Baptist Church, Rockport, MA.

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