The retreat was billed as “Renewing your Spirituality through the Arts” So we did all kinds of art. We did art from the moment we woke up to the last thing we did at night. If you look at it the right way, everything in life is art. And all art is spiritual. Some folks took a class in painting and were guaranteed that everyone would end up with a painting. Which they did.
You had a wide array of classes available: woodworking, wood lathe, nature photography, pottery, whittling and stained glass art. Everybody went home with something they made. It was a little like VBS, only ramped up yet somehow calmer at the same time. One woman called it Art Camp for Old Farts.
The photography class almost immediately morphed into a power point class that led us all to request a class in things we can do with a computer and all agreed that the sooner they have that class the better. The beauty of a retreat for retirees is that it’s a breeze to get space in the camp during the weekdays. All we have to do is set up a day and bring our laptops.
A few people fell in love with my wood lathe. The camp manager made a beautiful candlestick and was on his way to a chalice until he realized he had about 20 things he was supposed to be doing instead of turning wood. Wood turning is like that--it takes you to an ethereal place where time does not exist.
We had a couple of nature hikes. Some tried fishing. We had communion at sunset by the lake.
We sang outside on the porch, around the campfire, by the lake, in the new meeting hall, in the dining hall. We were a smallish group of around 30. In the midst of one session one woman asked if we could try an experiment. She asked us to divide our chairs and turn them facing each other—kind of like dueling choirs. The difference in the sound was amazing—it probably amplified it four-fold.
I met some really fascinating people with young ideas. Like all good retreats it got me to thinking about where I fit in now at my age, where God is calling me and what God is calling me to do.
It reminded me a time years ago when we took Emily off to the University of the Ozarks to start college. They opened the semester with a grand worship as only a private Presbyterian university could do. They pulled out all the stops: fantastic organ, procession of robes and stoles that included, I kid you not, the university mace. This school clearly meant business.
The sermon for this worship was the story of God calling Samuel. Samuel was only a boy yet God called him. I knew God was calling my child, indeed, had been calling her her whole life-- if only she could attune herself to the way God was communicating to her. Most mothers feel this same way. I was in tears by the end. Emily was embarrassed when she saw I had tears in my eyes. “Mom, are you crying?” she whispered. I told her to turn around and look at the congregation and I would bet money every mother in the sanctuary was in tears. She very slowly, very discretely, turned and looked for a while. “Oh My God,” was all she could say.
I was feeling what every mother feels leaving their kid at college, leaving them to become the people they will become, becoming someone without my input, without my guidance—hopefully, becoming who God was calling them to become.
One of our church’s college freshmen posted to facebook the other day, “I feel like God is calling me somewhere, but I'm not sure where. Ever have that feeling?”
And I answered her,
“Maybe God is calling you to be exactly who you are right now, where you are right now, doing what you're doing right now."
And yesterday I had to admit that sometimes that’s what God is calling me to be: exactly who I am, where I am, doing whatever I am doing. You never get too old for God to call you.
The last hymn of the retreat was 525, one of my favorites: “Here I am Lord.” The same hymn Samuel sang in the middle of the night.
Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go, Lord, If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.
I met a new friend this weekend who has found her passion working with the homeless. I have seen the challenges of this kind of ministry but Barb seems to know how to negotiate the twists and turns of relating to the homeless. She has a lot of success stories in her ministry. Another new friend counsels women with breast cancer who are afraid. These women know how to hold God's people in their hearts.
Some things you never get too old to do. Especially when God is leading us.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.