The best times are hardest to squeeze into words. Yet these heaven-scented experiences are also hardest to avoid writing down. Four times a year at Dayspring Silent Retreat Center, Ember Days welcome anyone for six peaceful, renewing hours.
Wednesday Patience Robbins led us. Who knew there are still people with names like that?! The Spirit-fruit I always neglect always pops back up. Patience is a spiritual director who also works with Shalem Institute. Her smile and gentle voice escorted us into whole body song and prayer toward renewed gratitude and compassion. We heard how God’s love came alive to her once at age 19. She read us a prayer priming us for surprise, for newness, for “what has never happened before.”
Acorns dropped on the roof above us: their first deafening hit shocked me every time compared to succeeding bounces and rolls.
On my usual ramble skirting the ponds and lake, butterflies danced–yellow & black on purple thistles or brown, orange & white in meadow grasses. Every step I took on the mowed paths set off hundreds of grasshopper arcs. Out of dense, tall grass ten feet away deer antlers rose; in a flash hoofs and tail bounded away.
Before and after eating my lunch on the lodge porch, I poured out journal gratitude to Creator Spirit. It was a breath-taking day, a catch-your-breath day and a deep-breathing day.
For the ten of us who gathered to tend our spirit fires it was a love-stoking day. We prayed for each other, present to one another while preserving the silence in which each of us was present first of all to God. In the closing time we listened to each other’s attempts to begin putting words on the newness.
Gratitude was passionate and woven into compassion. Savoring Patience’s counsel I could view myself compassionately as God does, rather than with shame, regret or worry. With Patience’s reminder that we are extremely privileged to enjoy these days away as she prayed for friends in the Congo, my compassion grew for people who lack even basic necessities.