The retreat is always held at Conception Abbey - a Benedictine monastery in Conception, Missouri. It's a beautiful place - in the middle of nowhere, or so it seems. It sits on a hill and is surrounded by fields full of cattle and wind turbines - certainly an incongruent addition to the fields. It's amazing how their slow circular movement induces a sense of calm and mystery to the place. When we arrived, the sky was a beautiful and clear blue, the temperature almost balmy - above 30 degrees - whoo hoo!
And then, like every year, the snow began to fall. It started Thursday evening and didn't end until Saturday morning and 6"- 8" later. It was absolutely beautiful and I was thankful I had nowhere to be except where I was.
The theme of the retreat was "Speak Lord for your servant is listening" - When I first read this on the board, I thought it said "Speak LOUD for your servant is listening" - It seemed more appropriate for our current circumstances. We studied 1 Samuel 3:1-10 - the story about Eli and Samuel and God's calling in the middle of the night...and Samuel's response. We talked about discernment - how do we recognize God's voice? We talked about fear and reluctance - the anxiety that comes from stepping outside our familiar and responding to God's call. We talked about the joy that comes from answering the call...And, most of all, we talked about how we have to be willing to place ourselves before God without expectation - about how God will do the work of reconciling our own wants and needs to help us and to equip us to discern what He wants for us and from us.
Somewhere along the way of the weekend, I recognized that God's calling is for each of us - every moment of every day. I know this is true and it was good to be reminded. We are called to be an instrument of His love and grace in each encounter we experience and wherever we are. There is joy to be found in that opportunity and I pray that I have the courage to pursue the task and to take the risk.
God knows each of us and calls us by name - sometimes with a quiet whisper, sometimes with a loud voice, sometimes through the voice of another person, sometimes in the middle of the night - And, always... always with love.