Day 106- The Silent Retreat Mile

Photography courtesy of Kim Stalker ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” Acts 2:42

Our numbers differ. Our time differs in which we see the light. One of my brethren at onthepilgrimroad, Phillip, mentioned that our time is designed by God. Now he may have not said it exactly in that way, but he did tell me that day that one- hundred- and- six may not in fact be God’s day one -hundred -and- six for me, but that I should keep at it, keep going, and he was right.

Enter the silent retreat.

Kicking and screaming I went but gently into God’a arms. Where are you taking me? Where are we going? Is it enough that you have removed me from everywhere I have loved? And then I remembered, it was to bring me to the place He needed me; to the next place He had placed on the landscape of time.

Our time differs from God’s. A trek of three -hundred -and -sixty- five days may take us a thousand days. We go at His pace and in His timing, sometimes at lightning speed and other times at a snail’s pace. But we keep striving, keep reaching towards that light, that aching, that wanting in our souls. When we have no peace, it is a sign to dig deep, it is a message to seek God. God is only peace, not a false sense, but a constant. And if this peace is gone, than this is our awakening, our call that something is not right on the inside.

I heard this call to silence, and I began scrambling. I fell off a cliff in my initial descent, plunging, screaming, arms wide and chaotic, crying out to God, can’t you see I’m falling! This is the initial descent of the soul.

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God

When I was done plunging, I heard His voice echo in my soul. He was sitting right beside me. He asked me to give away everything I was scrambling about, all of it. The people and places. The worries and cares. All of it. And so I did. I gave my property and possessions away to Him and asked Him to divide them among all who were in need, all according to each one’s need. I asked Him to bless that.  Then I would be free. Then I could devote myself to Him, be fully embraced by Him, fall deeper into His arms. I could rejoice with Him and cry tears of joy for my freedom. Now that I gave everything away, I was truly free.

The way was clear. No cloudiness, but only openness of soul. My loud cries, my external prayer had turned itself on the inside, like a baby ready to find its way out into the world. All else faded away except the song in my soul, the freedom and the god man sitting next to me. I repented for holding on to all of these earthly things and asked His forgiveness. He touched my head, than my hands with a smile.

Now you understand my child…

He said He knew me before I was born. That He formed me in my mother’s womb. That He dedicated me as a prophet to the nations, appointed me. That this promise of His did not change. That He and the promise had stayed constant, that all of the other stars pointed me to this very moment. Oh, how my soul sang!

This is what you long for. You long for community. You long for me. You long for the center, which is the Eucharist and the people that surround it. You long for my plan and for my purpose for you. But in all these things my precious child, long for me first. Want me first. Seek me first, and all these things shall be added unto you. My will is not apart from me, it is a part of me. 

And so I sat there, as the minutes flew by my tears flew too. I was no longer defined by anything, but by Him, my great Master. I will only be what He wants me to be, what He designed me to be, and give that all away to the community to which he will bring me. And by the giving away of self in the silence came the sureness of self, the answer to prayer, the song in my soul.

He gave me everything

I am no longer afraid. I am ready for Day 2, which took me one hundred and six days to get there.

Thank you Phillip.

 

Day 104- The Mile I left the tomb

“And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.” Matthew 28:9

Two minutes before, the women were still at the tomb, afraid. The lover of their soul was not there, and they experienced a mix of fear and joy like never before. A healthy and reverent fear of God mixed with the joy of Easter, knowing that everything was about to change.

Easter was not spent at a temple or a church, it was spent at a tomb

Empty, cold and lifeless. And the first Easter included only two women, unknown to the world, and without titles or fame. Yet the Lord chose them as His resurrection disciples, why? To show the world that He chooses the weak things of this world to shame the wise. That forever and in eternity these women will  be known, loved, and adored by our resurrected King. In God’s economy, the weakest are the most powerful, for they hold the keys to the Kingdom.

Why did the angel first invite the women to see the inside of the tomb before he admonished them to go quickly into Galilee? Because one must spend some time inside of the tomb before experiencing the joy of Easter. And Jesus admonishes us to do the same.

This message can be lost if we do not fully transition ourselves from Lent to Easter. If we do not leave the emptiness of the tomb behind for something more. Jesus is telling us not to stay there. Not to stay in sadness and mourning, but to enter divine joy. 

This may be hard for us to do right now. Our Easters may have felt lonely and cold. We may have felt empty inside, missing friends and family, and our memories. Many people around the world were also ready to enter the church on Easter, and now find themselves still desperate and waiting for our Lord. This message is for them too.

Today, we are not at the tomb. Our emptiness must subside. Today, the Lord will meet us wherever we are, unable to move, moving or walking backwards. In that, get down on your knees and pay Him homage. If you are able to do that you are not inside the tomb, you are in the sunlight of Easter.

 

 

Day 102- The Mile I thirst

I thirst…

I miss everything about the Eucharist.

Its free grace. The ease on my tongue. Your love wrapped in it.

The way You hold me when I do not deserve it. 

The entryway to heaven. The gift of peace. The song of redemption.

In all this, I long for you O Lord.

On my knees, I am empty. You are not there.

When I cry out to you, you are not there.

Your body is a song, and I cannot hear the lyrics.

My love seems empty and cold.

I long for you to hold me in your embrace.

My Father, where are you?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

Born of a Spiritual exercise taken from Father Dan’s 3 p.m Good Friday homily. Watch it here.

 

 

 

Day 101- The Mile I found Jesus

“But Peter stood at the gate outside.” John 18:16

Omission is just as bad as commission. Looking on or acting on. Looking away or looking towards. Our gaze determines our infidelity- where are we looking now?

One of my most beautiful and precious friends asked me this profound question yesterday, “why did He have to come?”

Of course she knew the answer to that question, but asked me from a Judaic perspective. I had to sit with that question for awhile as I made a pathetic attempt at an answer. But all I could muster up was my story.

I told her that in my own journey, my initial seeking after God became more religious in nature- wanting to keep kosher, keep the shabbos and invest myself in all of the Jewish regulations. The more I tried, the more I failed.  And in any event, as a woman, I would never be able to celebrate God in the way I knew Him, in the way I was trying to find Him. And these rules which I held so dear in my heart became chains, became snares. And I broke these chains in a sign of rebellion against those rules to find freedom. But freedom brought me great misery, brought me to loss, brought me to my knees.

And on my knees lost is where Christ found me 

I didn’t understand at the time how my answer had anything to do with the question she posed. Like Mary, I took it with me in the silence of my heart and let it sit, so as to be enlightened by God’s wisdom through the womb of His Blessed Mother. It was old to new. Death to life. Flesh to Spirit. But what was the answer to her question?

Why did God make me a Christian?

Peter was Jewish. All of the first disciples and communities were Jewish. Mary and Joseph were Jewish. And so was Jesus. 

Jesus grew up in an observant Jewish household. Went to temple. Worked. Studied. Was bar mitzvahed. Celebrated all of the Jewish holidays. Was part of the Jewish community. Until He taught them something new. Until He stood up for what was right. Until He taught them to observe the law in a way that they had never considered before. And for that they wanted to kill Him.

And so they handed him over, away from the only love and community that He had ever known. He was betrayed, beaten and ultimately crucified. And while the rest wrote him off as a blasphemer and traitor, his mother and dearest friend stood by him, so he was not alone.

And where were the rest of his disciples? They went into hiding. One unto another in their own separate hiding places, leaving their friend and Master to die. No matter that they had left Him, they were safe now. And the ties of friendship and community that had been built over a period of years was washed away. 

Our greatest tests come in times of great tragedy. Will we too abandon God?

I considered the story again from a Jewish perspective. I had been one of those in community. I had studied the Torah as much as I was permitted to and understood its precepts. I had gone as far as I was permitted. When I tried to follow farther, I was unable to- not because I didn’t want to, but because it wasn’t allowed. And in order to find God, I had to leave Him behind. But I didn’t. I carried Him with me unknowingly.

My whole search was filled with God. My travels, the people I met and the losses I suffered. Before I became a Christian, God had me walk through some high peaks and dark valleys.  I got married. The closest person in my life died, my beloved grandmother. I suffered through infertility and miscarriage. Then the birth of twins. Then another baby. A new job. My best friend left me. New friends came into my life. Then darkness and chaos. Then Christ.

Why did Christ have to come? He had to come so I could live. I can not answer this question for anyone else. The answer is personal and intimate and makes up the DNA of who we are in Him.

When we reduce that question down to a certain sect, religion, history or time it doesn’t work- it becomes cold and endless. Theologians debate it. Old and new covenants. Prophecies and fulfillment. They are all wonderful and intellectually stimulating. But they do not answer the question. They do not fill the soul.

On this Good Friday, the third night of Passover, ask yourself the same question.

Why did He have to come?

Your answer may surprise you…