This week I'm at a Benedictine retreat center in Schuyler, Nebraska, teaching at the Nebraska Five Day Academy for Spiritual Formation. Being here has been an extraordinary gift.
Getting to share facets of my beloved religious tradition with ardent spiritual seekers is a gift.
Getting to bear witness to their spiritual formation and their openness to growth and change is a gift.
Getting to learn from my fellow faculty (this time, Father John Mefrige, a Greek Orthodox priest of Syrian-Canadian descent) is a gift. Learning about Orthodox tradition, spirituality, and practice -- from icons, to chant, to prayer -- has been a gift.
Getting to pray three times a day in community is a gift. Getting to end and begin my days with prayer, getting to pause in the afternoon for prayer, is a gift.
Relaxing into the hands of skilled musical worship facilitators is a gift.
Getting to sit with my swirl of feelings about being a visitor in someone else's prayer space, prayer language, and modality of prayer is also a gift. Sometimes Christian prayer language is comfortable and familiar. Sometimes it's foreign. Sometimes it feels appropriative or pushes my buttons. Sometimes it lifts up my own prayer. Sometimes I struggle. All of those are a gift.
Getting to walk the labyrinth here, amidst greening spring grass and surrounded by the gently rolling terrain of eastern Nebraska, is a gift.
Teaching about service of the heart is a gift. Sharing prayer and poetry, psalms and music, grief and rejoicing, brokenness and wholeness is a gift.
Answering people's questions about Judaism and Jewish spiritual practice is a gift. The genuine appreciation for, and curiosity about, my tradition is a gift. Getting to share a prayer service in my language, my idiom, and my modalities is a gift.
Periods of silence and contemplation are a gift. Each hour of class is followed by an hour of silent time for contemplation, integration, and going deep, and that's a gift.
The participants' willingness to go deep is a gift.
Walking to the edge of the retreat center's landscaped grounds and standing at the edge of bare cornfields waiting to grow, under the vastness of the sky, feeling the powerful winds rolling down across the plains, is a gift.
Lifting my voice in harmony with others is a gift.
Getting to meet each night with the leadership team, and to partner with them in creating the container within which this retreat has unfolded, is a gift.
I'm so grateful to the leadership team at Great Plains Spiritual Formation, and to Upper Room Ministries, for giving me this opportunity to share and to teach -- and to drink from this well of togetherness, learning, silence, and song.