Before I enter my retreat, there is a ritual. No costumes are needed for this ritual, nor are any props required; simplicity is the very essence of my place. And it is mine. Nobody else ever goes there, nor would I give any other directions to it. No map shows its location, no postman ever walks its path for no letters are delivered here.
I close my eyes and breath, slowly, drawing air deep into the lungs.
'Be still! Be still! And know that I am God.'
The world of concrete, the world of petrol, the hectic world of grasping-greedy soulless metal melts in my ears. There is only silence and the sound of my breathing, and the soul-steady rhythm of my heart beating.
'Acquaint thyself with me and be at peace.'
There is the gate; today it is of old wood, heavily gnarled and dark like the under belly of the earth. The latch is wooden too. The last time I came here, the gate was a stone portal, and maybe the next time it will be different again, or the same as it is now. Ivy grows thickly along the stone wall, and the grass under the gate is looking pale, as grass sometimes does when it has been hidden from the sun for a while. I walk through the gate, and I can feel the hubbub in my heart settling already.
'And on the smoothed surface write anew, I am all wisdom, righteousness and rest.'
Today the lavender is thick and pungent; it grows in clusters around a simple bench that stands on emerald grass. The sweetest of birdsong hangs light in the air, and the sun is a star hung like a diamond that plays itself warmly and bright through my hair. I sit.
‘I am here Lord; dear Lord. Help me today Lord.
You know the worry that is hurting my heart
This duty you asked of me, where do I start?
I am here Lord; dear Lord. Help me today Lord’.
I look down on the grass and I see a clay pot. There is no decoration on it, no colour on it’s surface.
'Put your troubles in the pot my child.'
And I do so. I put all of my troubles and worries and doubts into that pot. And when I have put all of them into it, the pot wobbles slightly on the grass. Then a hundred butterflies, each the many facets of colour of the rainbow, fly out of the pot and my vision is made rich by their delicate wings, and their colours pour like healing waters over me, washing me clean and renewing my spirit. I feel His love ever growing within me.
And I know what to do. And I know how to do it.
‘Thank you Lord. For your love and guidance,
For the love in my heart, thank you’.
And I open my eyes. I take in the normality of the scene, the pictures that hang on the walls, the half-mug of coffee gone cold at my feet, the sound of the children sleeping peacefully.
The next time I return to my place, I may find myself sitting on cliffs overlooking the sea, or find myself deep in the heart of a wood surrounded by ancient trees. But it is always the same place; my retreat, my place given to me by Him, so that I can hear him and understand what He is telling me.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures
He leads me besides still waters
And restores my soul. Psalm 23 1-3.
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