Friday, January 21, 2011

Spiritual Retreat

I'm a bit late posting to the blog. Holidays, bad winter weather - at least by Tennessee standards - and finally, my twice-a-year week-long study/sabbatical assignment in Colorado for my doctoral program. The class this week was "Developing Leadership Teams through Spiritual Retreats" and was convened at St. Malo retreat center near Estes Park, and Long's Peak in the mountains N.W. of Boulder, CO. It was an awesome experience, even though I arrived sick and left sick. Much of the class was focused around exploring methods/means by which believers can experience the potentially very rewarding experience of a spiritual retreat. Interestingly, one assignment in the class was to study the examples of Christ in his own spiritual retreats. Of course, he didn't call them that; Scripture simply records that Jesus would "go away" for a period of time, and this could be as short as a period of hours, or as long as "all night" and in the case of the Wilderness Temptation, 40days/nights.

These occasions were settings for deep reflective contemplation and conversation with his Father. The enjoyable experience of this class was to re-create the setting of a retreat, while teaching methods and offering tools to conduct spiritual retreats. One day during the week, the class was asked to not speak, at all, for a 24-hour period. So, we ate together in silence, passed each other in the hallways in silence, and sat in the classroom in silence, while the professor read Scripture, shared lessons from Church history on retreats, and actually conducted worship as we listened, prayed, all in the setting of the wind-whipped, snow-covered Rocky Mountains.

One evening, as the teacher was reading the story of Elijah and God's visitation and presence through "a still, small voice" at the cave when the prophet is despondent, the specific passage read was as God sends "a Great wind that breaks the rocks" .. .
and at that moment, the howling wind, with gusts of 35 mph, blasted the building and windows with driving snow, so hard that the window panes trembled . .. in the quiet, candle lit classroom, it was a powerful moment, whether orchestrated by God, or the unpredictable currents of wind at high altitude in the mountain, I know not; but the affect was quite moving.

I concluded the class this week with understanding this reality: if God's Son found it necessary, in order to succeed in his mission/ministry, to isolate himself for extended time of prayer and reflection . . . to retreat for physical, emotional, and spiritual rejuvenation, why would any of us "sinners" believe we can get by just fine without doing the same? Something to think about . . .

I've posted a few pictures of St. Malo where the class was held. The pic's are courtesy of my friend Pastor Craig Carr, who is Sr. Pastor at the Boulder SDA Church, and a fellow student with me at Denver Seminary. I took a few pics myself, but they're not as good as his!

Sabbath blessings,