Friday, April 22, 2011

retreat in the flint hills - April '11

I enjoyed a day retreat at the Tallgrass Spiritual Retreat Center Wednesday.  This time it was an individual retreat.  I made the appointment during a period of depression, and although I felt much better by Wed., I decided to go on retreat anyway and see what happened.

I had two one-hour sessions with Billie planned to bookend my retreat:  meet with Billie, spend several hours on my own, meet with Billie, spend more time if necessary, then go home.  Billie is a great listener, and as I told my stories to her and we talked, I processed recent events/issues and received new things to consider.  On the drive to the retreat, I remembered the many pictures Billie had cut from magazines to use in collages, and I wanted to look at more pictures.  Otherwise, I had absoutely no idea or plan for what to do, other than walk around and enjoy God and his creation.  It's taken me 40+ years to learn that often not having an agenda is the best way.

After settling in and a good talk with Billie, I walked down to the creek.  I hadn't taken that walk before, and I was delighted by the beauty surrounding me.

I didn't get any pictures of the creek.  I don't know why.

As I walked, I opened myself to God and listened for, waited to receive whatever he may have had for me at that time.  I was caught up in looking at everything except the ground, and I stepped on a tree limb and lost my balance.  No fall, no pain, just enough of a jolt to get my attention.  I stopped.  I listened.  "Pay attention," I sensed, "Pay attention to this step, this present moment, and enjoy it as it comes."  And so I did.  I didn't try to think deep thoughts or solve any problems.  I simply walked, looked, was open, and enjoyed.  I received the grace to love and give thanks for each moment.

There is a wonderful variety of stones in many shapes, sizes, and colors by the creek.  I picked one up.  As I turned it over in my hands, I sensed that it would be good to sit for a bit and look at more stones.  I did, then I walked along the creek, stopping a few times to close my eyes and just listen to the water and the birds, and found a few more stones.  I love them.

When I discovered that square stone, I laughed and laughed.  I had just been talking to Billie about my upbringing in the church and the rigidity of it, about the learning I have done and still need to do to be thankful for the good things I received from it.  When I saw that stone, I realized/received the understanding that there's plenty of room for squares in the kingdom of God, that there is a place for and the creation of things with straight sides and sharp corners, and sometimes I could be a blockhead myself.  Then I realized the stone was laughing along with me.

I returned to the bunkhouse and set about looking at the pictures Billie had left there for me.  I just wanted to look and look and look, keeping pictures that touched me in some way, but not thinking too much yet about why they did.  After about an hour, I think, I stopped and asked myself, "Is this it?  Is this how you want to spend this time you're paying for?"  I thought about it and decided/realized that yes, this was it.  For now.

I spent the rest of that time until my second session with Billie going through pictures.  It is a marvelous hospitality she provides just in that one act, collecting pictures for people to look at and use.  The number of and reasons for the images I chose are too many to share, but I invite you to find your own.

After my second meeting with Billie, I spent another hour or so walking around and looking.  There are a number of stones on the railing of the back deck of the bunkhouse; I assume they were left by past retreaters...retreatants?  Anyway, I added one of my own to the collection.

On the drive home I passed a ranged being burned  (see for more info. on range burning).  I realized that some folks probably don't have range burning in their part of the world, so I took a couple of pictures.  I wanted to take a picture of the sign that said pull over if the smoke from the burning was dense, but I passed it before I could get the camera ready - sorry!

I love the prairie.


  1. as i was ending my work day I decided to take my last fifteen minutes....when I did..I had a mini retreat myself....your writing took me to that place called bethany spring near Gesthemini in Ky where I go to hole up.......
    i felt a bit of the peace you seemed to recieved..I laughed about the rock..she smiling rock. Thanks for a moment in time to be in the present....nice post...wondeful retreat I assume

  2. I'm so glad you had a nice time of quiet, and I am thankful that you shared it! My brother and his family used to live in KY - it is beautiful!

  3. Thank you for sharing your journey and insight! It seems like the rocks around the retreat house speak to many, and the lessons you heard, resonated with me deeply. It is so important to be in each moment as best we can. Little by little we will come closer to God, and mindfulness. Such wise rocks!


  4. Wonderful photos and post! Thank you for sharing! I am usually very driven by my to-do list, so I appreciate your reminder to allow myself some "agenda-less" time. I can even do that a little bit each day without going away on a retreat.