Sunday, February 24, 2013

Walking in Grace

I recently enjoyed our church's annual retreat to Sumatanga. It's holy ground in North Alabama, one of those places Celtic Christians might call "thin places." Sometimes it's a spiritual experience just to walk on the ground.

I wrote this devotion for the community to share one morning. I share it with you with permission from my friend Robert Morris.

The words of my friend Robert Corin Morris come to mind as I think about what retreats at Sumatanga have always meant to me. He writes:

May I walk this day
in the realms of grace,
walking with You
my feet firmly on your earth-path,
my heart loving all as kindred,
my words and deeds alive with justice.

May I walk as blessing,
meeting blessing at every turn
in every challenge, blessing,
in all opposition, blessing,
in harm’s way, blessing.

May I walk each step
in this moment of grace,
alert to hear You
and awake enough to say
a simple Yes.

A few years ago, I was on a church retreat at Sumatanga and had some free time. While I have hiked the mountain a number of times over the years, this time I did it alone. I don’t really know why. But I can remember vividly the path seeming to become alive. It’s almost as if I felt the footprints of all the people that had walked the path before, including my mother who attended summer youth camp the year it opened in 1951. I was walking on God’s earth-path

“Sumatanga” is a Himalayan word meaning “place of vision and rest.” It’s a place on the side of a mountain range where you can pause, look down at where you have been, and look up to where you are going. Whenever I come back to this place, it connects me to who I am and to all that have gone before me in this journey. It energizes my steps so I can try to walk as a blessing when I return to normal life. For my deepest desire is to meet blessing at every turn, in every challenge, in all opposition, even in harm’s way. Something about walking these steps helps me slowly learn to walk in grace.

Sumatanga is not the only place like that for people. Maybe you have a different experience of what feels like holy ground. But in God’s time, all of us get to a place when we begin to feel there is something deeper about the dirt right in front of our shoes.

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls’.” - Jeremiah 6:16a

The joy of a church retreat is two-fold. First, it connects us as a church family. Getting to know each other, getting away together, and relaxing and having fun together are ways to build memories and connections with each other and with God.

But retreating is also a way of deepening our vision about where we’ve been and where we’re going. We focus on learning together, but we also experience the act of retreating itself as a spiritual practice that gives us vision and rest.

There are a few questions to ponder during the silence:
• Where have you been and where are you going?
• How does this time away plant your feet on the earth-path you are called to?
• What are the turns, challenges, oppositions, and harm’s ways you encounter?
• How can your life become blessing, all blessing?
• What is the next step God is calling you to take?

Blessings for the journey,

Pastor Steve