The Treat of Retreat

I had a real treat today.  I was able to go to my favorite retreat center, Green Bough House of Prayer for a Sabbath day.  I’ve been going to Green Bough once a year or so for over a decade now.  It’s the kind of place where I let out a big sigh of relief once I step out of the car.  Some might call it a “thin place”, a Celtic phrase referring to a spot where the veil between heaven and earth gets a little thinner.   Mostly I know its a place where good people welcome you, tell you to rest for a while, care for you, and then pray with you until you feel like you’ve arrived at a home you didn’t know you were missing.

As I mentioned in my first post, I consider Green Bough my best “centering down” place and love it dearly.  It is a mystery to me then why I forget that I need to go there.  I forget sometimes how good it is for my body and soul to just break away, rest, and listen to God for while.   I get all busy in my day to day life and forget to pick up the phone and make the simple step of calling to schedule a visit (FYI, they have no e-mail or website.  It’s a counter cultural move which I kind of love).  Fortunately for me, I not only have a retreat center I cherish, but retreat center friends that know we need to get away even when I forget.  So, I was the recipient today of someone else’s great gift of creating an opportunity for me to get away and then encouraging me to take it.  I didn’t even have to pick up the phone and call, just say yes and show up at the appointed time.  Which, thank God, I did.

Sun shining through the trees

It is the greatest of ironies that when preparing for retreat days (it really is better if you have more than one day) I tend to get a little wound up.  I start filling up my bags with everything I could possible need for time apart.  A Bible and journal get packed of course, but then in goes the Kindle and laptop and a hand full of other items to keep me busy.  I forget until I arrive and have my big sigh of relief that what I really want to do is just sit on the porch of this farmhouse in deep rural Georgia and watch the wind blow in the poplars or listen to the birds sing their songs.  After that maybe a cup of tea gets added to the mix, but not much else is needed to actually listen to God speaking around and in me for a change.

And then there is the sharing.  Even though its technically a silent retreat, the nice thing about having buddies along is you do get to share a little about what is going on with you, even if its just in the car.  This kind of thing always gives one a better perspective on life.  But a special gift about Green Bough is getting to share with my spiritual director who brings a unique kind of clarity to what is stirring inside.  If you’ve never had spiritual direction before, its often the kind of exchange where a Jesus friend listens to you and then gives you words and Scriptures that simultaneously feel like a kick in the pants and a warm hug.

So today I am grateful for this holy farmhouse where I ate lunch in silence with dear friends and watched the rain come up from the open window even before we heard it hit the tin roof.  I am grateful for people and places that hold me in quiet and rest when I need it and that nudge and challenge me when I need it as well.

I hope you have a “thin place” that you get to visit from time to time.  Even if its a spot in your yard where you sip coffee for an hour or a nook in your church.  And may God bless with you with friends who bring both rest and challenge into your life when you need it.  And if you’ve never experienced it, I highly recommend watching trees blow while listening to rain fall on a tin roof.

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2 thoughts on “The Treat of Retreat

  1. Dena – This is a place I have often thought of visiting but never seem to find the time. As I read this I am preparing to start a second year at Candler and am kicking myself for not taking time this summer. However, I am going to find room in my schedule to go and listen. Thanks so much for sharing and reminding me that sometimes we have to step away in order for God to fill us. Perhaps I will go and get some much needed nourishment for my soul.

    • Melissa, definitely pick up the phone and schedule a visit. It would be a great experience and a nice habit to start at the front end of your ministry. If you don’t have their contact info, let me know and I’ll get it to you. I’ve been following your adventures at Candler and ministry on FB and am so excited for you in this new chapter.

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