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Celebrating Life

It is Tuesday April 30, 2024, I am at St. Augustine’s House in Oxford MI. taking a short retreat. This retreat is not silent, however there is ample time for contemplation. I had no expectations going into this visit and what I have found is that it is good sometimes to have no expectations, rather just be who you are where you are.

I have taken some short walks along a road that goes through a row of very large pines on one side, on the other several oak trees scattered about as well as some other variety placed happenstance on the other side of the path. The sun seems to move through the oak trees and hit the pines with an explosion of light.  Just ahead to the end of this road I can see a mini forest of sorts. I move slowly and marvel at the ballet that has taken place before me.

Along the way my head would necessarily bob a bit making nature seem to sway and invite me into this dance. This was refreshing to be sure. I stayed in it amazed at the beauty of nature that was around me and then returned to the monastery.

Waiting for me (well, not just me) were residents.  They wanted to talk and so I asked them about their lives and how they ended up at St. Augustine’s.  It is a pretty quiet place most of the time and visitors who are willing to chat seemed welcome. There have been times when I thought I would like to live in a monastery. The quiet, prayer, meditation and the like seemingly growing closer to God. Speaking with them helped me better understand monastic life.

Beyond these visits I have gone to chapel several times where we chant various psalms. What I like best about the experience is the smell of incense that seems to welcome you into a spiritual awareness.

On the last evening of the retreat my director asked me “what has been the undercurrent of the last few days?”  After thinking about it for a few minutes I said “sufficiency.” Through the quiet I realized I have everything I want or need. It is an interesting feeling and it has allowed me to stay in the present moment.

As a Pastor I know that you expect me to take time to reflect and recharge.  Without it the weight of ministry can become one’s undoing. The retreat is a great blessing of my vocation, allowing me to geek out with other spiritual geeks. In the end I have concluded that the monastic life is not for me.

I am excited to go back home to Beth but before doing so, to stop by and say hello to the grandkids. What a blessing that is, to say hello and a few hours later, to say goodbye knowing that we will see each other again very soon.

So, as I think about sufficiency I think about you. Each of our members brings a gift to our community at St. John. Those gifts feed me along the way recognizing that with them God is with me.

Thank you for the privilege to be your pastor as we walk along the path of life trying to follow the footsteps of Jesus.


Pastor Mark

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