Greetings from the land of spiritual retreat.
Today is our last day on the mountain in paradise – tomorrow morning early we are back to life and work. As many of you know, over the past decade, I’ve gone on spiritual retreat once a year with a dear soul friend – she invited me to it, I accepted, and now it has become part of my spiritual rhythm. For many reasons we “missed” a session in recent months, but this past weekend, we made space for it and as per His custom, God met each of us on the mountain. I’m going home tomorrow with a different perspective, I’ve listened and received counsel from Him, I’ve been disciplined in areas of disobedience. I’ve been reminded how critically important it is to pull back and retreat.
I’m currently rereading Eugene Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant, and he speaks to the spiritual disciplines in his chapter “In the Belly of the Fish”. He first sketches the basic structure of Kingdom life – Lord’s Day Worship with Your Community, Daily Praying the Psalms, and Recollected Prayer through the hours of the day – Peterson argues these are essential for all of us, and must be the basic framework of our days. If you want to better understand that framework, I would encourage you to read the book. He then goes on to speak of fourteen associated acts or disciplines – reminding us that we need to be familiar with all of them and knowledgeable in how they function.
And then, he advises us to own our dirt – and here I want you to pay special attention.
I use the image of soil to represent the place in which I cultivate the life of prayer which then develops into my vocational spirituality. When analyzed, this soil is seen to comprise many elements: actual congregation, family background, personal education, individual temperament, regional climate, local politics, mass culture. The soil conditions in Vermont are different from those in Texas. Any attempt to grow crops that is not mindful of soil will not be successful.
Any attempt to cultivate a spirituality copied from something grown on someone else’s soil is as misguided as planting orange groves in Minnesota. Careful and detailed attention must be given to the conditions, inner and outer, historical and current, in which I, not you, exist. Nothing comes to grief more swiftly than an imitative spirituality that disregards conditions. Spirituality cannot be imposed, it must be grown. Prayer is not a scarecrow put together from old scraps of lumber and cast-off clothing and then pushed into the soil; it is seed that germinates in the soil, sensitive to everything that is there – nitrogen and potash, earthworms and potato bugs, rain and sun…..Everything is connected, proportions are important, size is critical…..Knowledge of the tools ( disciplines ) is necessary, but the knowledge will surely be destructive, if not incorporated into a practiced familiarity with the actual soil conditions and a studied reverence in the ways in which vegetables, fruits, souls and bodies actually grow. Eugene Peterson
So here’s his list.
It’s an interesting list that he’s proposing. I’m thinking about it – seeing areas where I have a solid understanding of the tool, others I’ve never used, some I’m not sure that I ever will.
The thought I will leave you with is this – a soul grows if it is fed and cultivated, it requires discipline and care – it is always an organic process – close to the earth, coming forth from your particular terrain. Soul growth is always customized to the individual.
I learned that again this weekend. I hunkered down with my Father – watched His sunrises and sunsets over the mountains, took long naps under His watch, listened while He shaped and tended my heart. It is a private and personal process, completely available to you should you choose to climb the mountain.
Send your thoughts, and know that I am praying for you.