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Above the Clouds

The plane sped quickly down the runway, and we were flying. It was a full flight, and I wondered about what was happening with all the other individuals seated about me in the cabin. Were they coming, or going? Filled with hope about a new venture? Regretful about something that had already passed? We all sat strapped in, facing forward, regardless of our inner state.

Radical Hospitality in the Woods

Today’s post is by Crystal Corman

It is easiest for me to connect with God when surrounded by nature’s beauty. I try to take in God’s gifts through the sights, smells, and sounds of the mountains, trees, or river. But most days of the year, I live in the middle of a city, surrounded by concrete, traffic exhaust, and the noise of urban living. This summer, I was surprisingly blessed with the opportunity to escape the urban jungle for an adventure in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.

This was my first trip to the Wild Goose Festival and my first trip to North Carolina. With the theme of “Living Liberation,” I anticipated inspiring speakers and artists. While I did witness some amazing presenters, musicians, and performers, my most memorable experience was an atmosphere of hospitality that infused the air.

Hospitality is a beautiful spiritual gift that is too often condensed to “coffee hour” at churches. During my time as staff at a campus ministry in Lincoln, NE, we used a Benedictine book called Radical Hospitality to encourage us in our ministry (Paraclete Press, 2011). This small book spoke of simple acts of kindness that seem radical in a world where we are taught to be suspicious of others out of self-protection or privacy. As someone who did not grow up in a city (I’m a farm girl), I find that the longer I live in the city, the less I look people in the eyes when navigating around others in pursuit of my end destination.

The campgrounds at Wild Goose felt like another world as people greeted each other warmly, paused to listen to questions, and seemed open to an encounter with anyone and everyone at the festival. It was as if people’s hearts were open to the fact that they would meet Jesus in each person they passed or met. I slowly felt my defenses soften, opening myself to be truly present and seek to see the image of God in those around me.

What Does it Mean to Be Beloved of God?

It happened at the last day—the last hour really—of the 2013 Shalem YALLI kick-off retreat (Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative). As our ragtag group of contemplatives wrote down on paper the blockages we sensed to living lives connected to the Spirit, we placed them in a bowl. We were then asked to come up, take a few of the slips of paper, hold them up to God, then return them to the bowl with a prayer: “I am the Beloved of God.”

This snarky, snide former Pastors’ Kid (yes, that’s two pastors) rolled the eyes of her heart. What did that prayer even mean? But then that question tugged at me: what does it mean to be the Beloved of God? It seemed to be the question I had always been asking. Could that really be true of me?

I’ve always loved John’s gospel the most, primarily because of his audacity to define himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” What a claim, right? Yet it seemed the journey that the Spirit was inviting me to take as we left the retreat was to be able to claim for myself, for my core identity, “the Beloved of God.”

Flash forward 10 months. I am on a work retreat with the messaging team and Anne Grizzle, my mentor through Shalem’s YALLI program. I had suggested that one of my projects to incorporate contemplative practices in the workplace was to have this team take some time to learn how best to listen to the Spirit and each other. As we did some listening and discernment, I shared about my life and how I felt as though I have been on a pilgrimage in the darkness and not sure to what end.

To my surprise, two of my colleagues said that they believed I was “blessed” and that perhaps the season I was in was less about me and more for others. It was not what I’d hoped to hear. Still, it struck a chord in me—as in, it caused all the notes that had been playing in my head and my heart for months to harmonize.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, Life of the Beloved, writes that being the Beloved of God means that we are taken, blessed, broken, and then given to others. As Jesus was blessed, broken, and given to us, so are we to the world. It is at once a beautiful and terrible thing to claim about oneself.

As I contemplate certain areas of my life that feel broken, I recognize that perhaps I’m missing the “slow work of God” because change isn’t happening fast enough. Perhaps the challenge of being the Beloved is having the eyes to see that this life is about God and God’s work in this world.

Why Pilgrimage? Why This Pilgrimage?

Article by Carole Crumley (featured in September 2014 eNews) We live in what some have called “threshold times,” not just a time of change. We are in an era of profound re-ordering of the social, political, economic, religious and spiritual landscape. In this contemporary context, the ancient-yet-ever-new practice of pilgrimage is undergoing a remarkable resurgence. […]

Cultivating Discernment in Community: Another Chapter

Today’s post is by Lois A. Lindbloom

This is a season of grieving for me and throughout the college town in which I live. Jennifer, a beloved campus pastor, died at the age of 47. She was wife, mother of two young children, daughter, sister, friend to neighbors and colleagues, active supporter of children’s activities and concerns for the care of the world in addition to having a listening ear, prophetic voice, and liturgical grace on the campus. A year and a half ago she learned that an aggressive, cancerous tumor had established itself in her brain. That is what took her from us.

A few days before her death, I saw a health care provider in our community. Through her own tears of grief she asked, “Do you know Jennifer?” “Yes, she and I and two other women have been in a small group together for more than nine years, a spiritual direction group. We meet for three hours once a month.” Then the tears rolled for both of us.

Toward the end of her life Jennifer lost her ability to speak. In our last meeting less than three weeks before she passed, her remaining word was “ya.” She understood everything we were saying and offered her one word at appropriate times. Our moments of silence together that day were some of the most profound I have ever experienced. It seemed as though the rest of us were joining her in the silence that now was the only option available to her.

Becoming Love

Today’s post is written by Kate Coffey.

I’ve been told there are only two states of being: fear and love. All the other inner landscapes that seem so real are simply shadows of one or the other.

Just as we are rarely aware of the air we breathe, we often consider it normal to live fearfully, barely noticing the weight we carry. We use seemingly benign pet names for our fear: anxiety, stress, concern.

There is plenty of evidence of course to justify our fear. Pain, loneliness, and loss are part of the human experience and no one escapes this reality. All our efforts to survive and to protect those we love will in fact, one day, end in death. And the journey from here to there is fraught with difficulty.

Changes

By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing atblessedjourneyblog.com. Photo by Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. We’ve all heard the […]

Being a Companion

By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing at blessedjourneyblog.com. How does one support a dear one […]

The Blessing of a Friend

By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing at blessedjourneyblog.com. The Holy Spirit shows up in all […]

The Gift of Community

By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog. You can see more of her writing at blessedjourneyblog.com. Working on oneself takes courage and is […]