Monday, April 28, 2008

the retreat :: an overview of the weekend...

Why we were here

My good friends Jon and Lorna organised this weekend for a group of people... some friends... some people who had never met. The object was to get away... take time out to think and, for some, listen to what God wants to speak to us about.


View Larger Map

We were based in a small village between Moffat and Peebles called Tweedsmuir. A truly beautiful dot on the map... as I hope some of the pictures I took during the weekend will show. We were right on the river Tweed, which was used as a backdrop and as a focal point by Jon on Sunday (more about that later).

We arrived between 7ish and 8ish on Saturday night... and were welcomed by Jon, Lorna and a fab baked potato... with Jon's legendary Scotch Bonnet chili as one of the fillings.

Later on we participated in evening prayers... where Jon introduced the weekend and got us thinking on the topic of "there must be more to life than this" using the MGMT track "fated to pretend" as a thought aide... he then sought to encourage us to take time this weekend to be quiet and still (the opposite of the lifestyle described in the song) ::
A Prayer...

God of stillness and creative action, help us find space for quietness today that we may live creatively, discover the inner meaning of silence, and learn the wisdom that heals the world.

Send peace and joy to each quiet place, to all who are waiting and listening.

May your still small voice be heard through Christ, in the love of the Spirit.

Amen.
During the evening prayers we completed a "life wheel" where we rated the following:
  • My Space
  • My Faith
  • My Relationships
  • My Community
  • My Life/Work Balance
  • My Well Being
  • My Leisure, and
  • My Life Journey
I found this to be a useful tool for identifying areas of my life that need work... with each topic being covered through Saturday and Sunday's discussions.

Sleeping arrangements

Sleeping was, to be honest, kind of awkward... apparently I snore (I say apparently when I should say... my name is Thomas and I snore!) - in my defense, I was feeling badly congested and this didn't help. Didn't get much sleep... especially with Olly nudging me to tell me I was snoring. Thanks honey!

Saturday was overcast, wet and miserable. In the morning we discussed the first three topics:
  1. My Life Journey
  2. My Space
  3. My Well Being
Although we covered the topics together with Jon... when we went into our groups... we didn't get deep enough... only covering My Life Journey.

This was disappointing for me. I have goals... I have an idea of what I am called to do... and this session did reinforce this, which I was glad for, but we just didn't spend enough time reviewing the excellent material that Jon had prepared or discussing the content.

I put this down to the fact that the group were varied in experience and the weekend was designed to appeal to everyone... at all levels and degrees of experience. Timing of sessions was 45 mins or so... which left me wanting more. I just felt we were scratching at the surface.

Peebles

After lunch... we had some free time... which Olly and I used to get away on our own (which is such a rare blessing) > we headed to the lovely town of Peebles for a wander in the sunshine and sometime drizzle and, hopefully, some charityshopping. We had a great time... and found some fab stuff including another old teaset for £2.50...

Olly's find

some fab scones (£6 all in)...

Me and my scone

and the soundtrack to the film Juno (£2) which is, btw, brilliant.

After dinner (which was cooked by Lorna's parents - Billy and Margaret - and my thanks go to them) we settled down for the second study session on...
  1. My Life / Work Blend
  2. My Community
  3. My Leisure
This was a session of particular interest to me... coming off the back of reading "Everything Must Change" and my passion/gift for bringing people together / connecting people.

Group discussion centred around whether or not we "worked to live... or lived to work" and the implications for both... concepts of community and the third place... and being a neighbour. Valuable discussions were held... although, for me, it was too short.

Walking on our own

Afterwards, Olly and I went for an unplanned walk... Olly needed time to clear her head and I wanted to be with her. We just went for a wandered and talked openly about the issues we currently face.

As I mentioned above... we were/are at a different life stage from some of the other participants and we saw this weekend as an opportunity to discuss our issues/baggage
with people with similar experiences. This never really happened... basically because of the level of generality needed when such a variety of people come together.

This was why we needed time out... and the time we had together was extremely valuable... especially when I saw this open metaphor for our situation:

A metaphor

In the middle of nowhere... on a road between healthy forests... we found a potted tree. This is so representative of where we are just now... we are trees whose hope/dream/intention is to grow big and tall... in a forest surrounded by likeminded trees... albeit at various stages of growth. Thing is... our growth is stunted by the pot we have grown up in and are currently situated within. What we need to do is understand what is stunting our growth... and deal with it. We also need to find the forest.

Later on... we joined in for evening prayers and meditated on some choice verses from the Psalms and the Gospels (such as the following) ::
  • Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my saviour, and my hope is in you all day long. [Psalm 25: 4-6]
  • Into your hands I commit my spirit: redeem me, O Lord, the God of Truth. [Psalm 31: 4-6]
  • Truth springs up from the earth and righteousness smiles down from heaven [Psalm 85: 10-12]
  • I tell you the truth, everyone who doesn't receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. [Luke 18: 16-18]
  • I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to the Father. [John 14: 11-13]
  • And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. [John 8: 31-33]
Afterwards... we had some supper and watched The Goonies - good fun.

Sunday was different... the sun came out and it got nice and warm out.

We had our final study session... focusing on ::
  1. My Relationships
  2. My Faith Journey
We talked about relationships and defined those that are most valuable. For me it was ::
  • Olwyn
  • Dayna & Miriam
  • My parents
  • Janey and Roscoe / David & Yvonne / Kenny & Sarah
  • Jon / Paul / Innes / Stewart
  • JD / Johnny / Chris & Dawn / Dan & Carol Anne
  • The Nanolog Community (esp. Laura, Roy, Adele, Matt and Paula) / My Twitter friends (esp. Darrin, John, Matt & Kerry) / My Facebook peeps
  • My colleagues
  • Summer School friends
I've probably missed someone out... but these are the relationships that define me... energise me... inspire me... feed me.

We then considered how balanced these relationships were? Positive, in the main... although they can be challenging at times. I think I give as much as I take. I think I have learned an important lesson in the last year... and things tend to be more equally balanced.

We then moved to My Spiritual Journey... and had a discussion about a revised set of Commandments. Our group kind of got hung up on violence (don't kill... never be violent). I spoke of trying to seek the third way... and about rejecting the myth of redemptive violence. Don't know if I made much sense.

Afterwards we had a period of worship in the outdoors... about which I will post later. It was a beautiful period of time and one that deserves its own post.

My thanks to Jon, Lorna, Rita, Billy and Margaret for their efforts in making the weekend what it was. All in... it was a good weekend. Challenging for us/me in ways I doubt were intended. I intend to feedback my thoughts to Jon... and hope to be involved in the next one.
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