A Space for Silence & Prayer

Article by Judy Walsh-Mellett – September 2019 eNews As a child walking in the woods, I was not compelled to ponderous thinking or righting the world’s wrongs. I simply walked and paused breathless if a deer or a rabbit passed by. Or gazed in awe if I chanced to see a Lady Slipper’s rare glory, […]

Praying across the Globe

Last month, nine members of Shalem Korea gathered at the guest house of a Presbyterian church in Seoul for a retreat. Their time was guided by Shalem’s Contemplative Earth Awareness online retreat day, led by Ann Dean. Hyeran Yang shares, “the weather had been very windy and rainy until Thursday night. But the morning of […]

June 06, 2018 by shalem online
Categories: Nature and spirituality, Pilgrimage, and spirituality in community. Tags: earth, korea, retreat, and seoul. Formats: Article and Friday Blog. Interest Areas: Friday Blog.

Sisters on Retreat

Today’s post is by Francie Thayer My two (biological) sisters and I don’t get to be together all that often. We live in different time zones and have lives that make it tricky. But once a year we do get together—just us—for a “Sisters’ Convention.” For two or three days in various locations, we gather […]

October 10, 2017 by Frances Thayer
Categories: Community, Contemplative Spirituality, Love, and Prayer. Tags: retreat and sisters. Formats: Article and Friday Blog. Interest Areas: Friday Blog.

Gravy, Not Soup

Today’s post is by Kimberly Borin

Recently, I had the good fortune of being on retreat with the Shalem Institute at the Bon Secours Retreat Center. During our retreat we were blessed with beautiful, delicious meals, which often included soup! One day, in the midst of our silent retreat all I could think about was soup. As I got closer to the soup pot, I could see that there was very little soup. In addition, there were no more soup bowls or soup spoons.

I felt defeated but I was determined to have soup! I found one of the caterers and asked for a bowl, and pointed to the soup. She looked at me in an odd way but gladly handed me a bowl. I went back to the line and started ladling bit by bit whatever soup was left in the pot. The ladle made quite a bit of noise scraping the bottom and sides of the pot as I determinedly filled my bowl. I was desperate to get whatever was left.

The person, behind me was quite patient, despite my constant dips of the ladle into the fairly empty pot. She remained serene even with all of the clanking of my soup seeking gestures. After I was done I noticed that she put some of this soup all over her turkey. “Hmmmm, That’s a nice idea,” I thought to myself.

Just a Minute

During a turbulent period, my regular practice of spending time in silence fell apart. I turned to a local meditation teacher, seeking guidance to re-establish my practice. His advice blew me away.

Draining the Pond

I was delighted to see I had a view of the pond. Through brightly colored leaves, I caught a glimpse of water shimmering below. Ah, the pond! Still water, reflecting clouds and sun, holding leaves aloft – oranges and yellows, sky blue, greyish white and dark green.

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.

Waiting for It to Clear

Today’s post is by Kathleen Moloney-Tarr

A couple of weeks ago I spent a week alone writing in the North Carolina mountains high on a ridge overlooking a wide valley and long mountain range beyond. The first day I settled in with my journal of the last few months and the intent to gather pieces of poems to my computer screen where I could work them over, print them, and revise until they became whole. I was looking forward to being in a creative flow and accomplishing a lot happily in one of my favorite places.

The first evening a thick fog settled in. Tuesday morning I was sorry to see it remained and thought, “It’ll burn off by lunchtime.” At noon, I hoped the view would clear by late afternoon. When I went to bed, the lights in the valley were obscured by a dense white cloud. Wednesday morning I was disappointed to miss a second sunrise behind the fog. Even though all the doors and windows were closed, the tiny squares of every screen filled with water drops. I could not see the mountain range or the valley or even a poplar tree. Surrounded by a blanket of white moisture, I felt a little uneasy and claustrophobic. I don’t like being closed in. I sleep with my bedroom door open and choose not to have curtains or blinds in my kitchen, living room and dining room. I like light, and I like to be able to see what is outside.

When I write I love looking up from the page to see what Nature is up to—the dogwood changing through the seasons, a hawk soaring, the blond squirrel scurrying up the lavender oak trunk or the native grasses swaying in the breeze. The very presence of the natural world keeps me company and settles me into writing. Often I rely on the external world to jumpstart me on to the page.

But in the fog, the only external presence was the cloud wall pressing against the screen and glass. For more than four days in this white world, I tried to keep myself moving to the computer or my journal. A dozen poems and a couple of essays slowly made their way onto the page. I was forced to stay internal, to notice what was happening to me as I experienced living in a cocoon. I was uncomfortable. I wanted out. I walked from room to room, made tea and took time-outs to read a novel.

By Friday I woke up and took charge.