A letter to my congregation.
I want to tell you what happened to me last week.
On a Sunday morning, after a whirlwind 48 hours that included two funerals and a Saturday Evening Prayer service, I headed for the airport. I was going to meet three other spiritual directors for a three day retreat at a monestary in Kentucky, before heading to the National Youth Worker’s Convention in Cincinnatti where we would do spiritual direction with youth workers, and I would lead a workshop on Sabbath.
I felt like canceling.
I had so much to do, I thought, I would certainly be behind if I left then. Lots of people needed me, and I felt desperate about not being connected to social media for three days, as the country was spinning post-election and so many big and tense things were unfolding. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t stop going - moving, thinking, talking, acting, and the thought of setting everything down was very unsettling.
This something I have learned about Sabbath: When I think I am least able to take a break, that is the time I most need to stop.
I landed in Kentucky and drove to the middle nowhere (ie, Trappist, KY). When I entered the monastery, my cell phone coverage cut out, and the calls I had to return, the emails I meant to send, the conversations and tasks I’d left hanging, were cut off. It was then I learned the next three days would be spent in silence.
Sabbath day begins at sundown in the Jewish tradition. As soon as the sun hits the horizon, what is done is done, what is undone stays undone. There is no “finishing up” first; you simply start. That’s a lovely sentiment, and now it was forced upon me by the lack of internet, phone, and SPEAKING.
I went to bed and awoke to the "silent" day ahead of me. The whole day my mind was a noisy cacophony. My gut was in knots, my soul felt clenched. As I walked and slept and read and bumped about, I wondered how I would ever feel quiet. The day ended in a candlelit Compline service, listening to the Trappist monks chant the Psalms.
I slept like a baby.
The second day was glorious.
I walked 5 miles, sharing the woods with wild turkeys and deer, squirrels and birds, the loud sound of my own feet tromping through the leaves and across fields of harvested corn and hay, and the wind singing in my ears. I read and prayed, colored and wrote, and gulped in great breaths of air and silence till I began to sense I could feel full and satisfied.
The third day was a gift – I visited Thomas Merton’s hermitage and grave, and felt settled into the silence as a friend. I felt myself breathing deeply and trusting. I felt my heart open and my stomach calm.
We say when we stop God will meet us.
That keeps on proving true.
The rest of my week was spent at a convention center in the city, meeting one on one with people and listening deeply to their lives and living, noticing together what God was up to, celebrating and grieving together. In other words, the next three days were spent practicing and remembering that we belong to God, and we belong to each other, all of us.
The week was capped off gathered in a room with youth workers and pastors, sharing stories and learnings of Sabbath that our community has experienced, and watching people’s imaginations open up to what might be in their own lives and congregations. When we stop, I said, God will meet us.
I returned Sunday night feeling grounded, awake, and open to God. And I returned really deeply trusting that God’s love is the biggest and truest thing, and so grateful and thrilled that we get to be part of it.
Advent begins this week.
It's your turn to be reminded: When we stop, God will meet us.
Advent is season of waiting in darkness for the coming of God, it is a choice to keep stopping, in the midst of the holiday noise and chaos, and finding the stillness that connects us to our longing for God.
Our theme this year is STILL…
Still…there is hope. Still…there is peace. Still…there is joy.
Still…there is love. Be Still and know that I am God.
I encourage you to come to worship all four weeks of Advent.
If you are a Sunday only person, come Saturdays too.
If you are a Saturday only person, come Sundays too.
Holiday chaos is crazy. End of year busyness is pressing. We are in a bumpy time in our country, and the noise around us feels loud and incessant. The world is filled with pain.
But still… God’s love is the biggest and truest thing.
And still…when we stop, God will meet us.
Come into the stillness where we are rooted and grounded in the love of God who came to share all of life with us.
Come into the waiting where we get to be honest about our anxiety and hear again how there is no fear in love.
Come and rest.
Come, let us stop together.
This Advent, we will be with Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth and Joseph, watching what God was doing in their lives. We will be singing our Advent songs, and holding space for prayer and silence, and we will be collecting symbols to hold throughout the week, inviting our souls into stillness.
For God alone my soul waits in silence. From him comes my salvation. (Ps. 62:1)
And when Christmas comes, we will lift our heads and open our eyes, grounded, awake, breathing deeply, and trusting, and we will celebrate that at every moment and in all things, God-with-us is with us.
I will meet you there,