Retreat 5

 

 

Our daily​ bread

Take a few moments to transition into retreat. Perhaps return to some of the practices introduced in previous retreats.

Descend into your inner room.

Allow the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

to welcome you warmly

as you are

in silence.

 

Linger in their love.

 

Lean against the Father’s breast.

Begin to breathe in rhythm with Him and pray:

Abba, I belong to You.

 

 

When you have settled a bit, read the two contrasting passages below reflectively. In fact, ask the Spirit to read them for you and to you. Notice what stirs within you​ and linger with that stirring for a few moments.

In the voice of Pharaoh:

 

“That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people. ‘You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota.’”

— Exodus 5:7-8

 

In the voice of Jesus:

 

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? ... And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all of his splendor was dressed like one of these … do not worry about tomorrow. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

— Matthew 6:26, 28, 29, 34

 

 

What did you notice as you listened to these words?

What did you notice about the tone?

The content?

What did you notice within yourself?

 

 

Linger here before moving on. When you are ready, read the reflection below.

In the voice of Pharaoh:

 

“That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people. ‘You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota.’”

— Exodus 5:7-8

 

In the voice of Jesus:

 

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? ... And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all of his splendor was dressed like one of these … do not worry about tomorrow. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

— Matthew 6:26, 28, 29, 34

 

 

What did you notice as you listened to these words?

What did you notice about the tone?

The content?

What did you notice within yourself?

 

 

Linger here before moving on. When you are ready, read the reflection below.

There is Only Today

Actor Tom Hanks hosted Saturday Night Live on April 11, 2020. It was the first episode in the show’s history not recorded before a live studio audience. The cast was sheltering at home, so Hanks stood in his kitchen before a lone camera and said something both funny and sadly true. “There’s no such thing as Saturday anymore,” he said. “There is only today.”

 

When the familiar constructs of our schedules are washed away — whether by walls of water in the Red Sea or a tsunami of sickness during a pandemic — it’s difficult to distinguish one day from the next. There is only today. In this sense, recovering addicts may have been the most prepared for the disorientation inherent in the pandemic.

 

People who are actively engaged in breaking the chains of addiction will tell you that there are two days each week that do not matter: yesterday and tomorrow.

 

In the journey towards freedom, there is only today.

In fact, there is a 12-Step acronym that we could add to our long list of acronyms in Young Life: ODAAT. One Day at a Time.

 

Reflect for a moment.

What has it been like for you to have your calendar washed away by the pandemic?

What has been life-giving about it?

What has been difficult?

There is Only Today

Actor Tom Hanks hosted Saturday Night Live on April 11, 2020. It was the first episode in the show’s history not recorded before a live studio audience. The cast was sheltering at home, so Hanks stood in his kitchen before a lone camera and said something both funny and sadly true. “There’s no such thing as Saturday anymore,” he said. “There is only today.”

 

When the familiar constructs of our schedules are washed away —whether by walls of water in the Red Sea or a tsunami of sickness during a pandemic — it’s difficult to distinguish one day from the next. There is only today. In this sense, recovering addicts may have been the most prepared for the disorientation inherent in the pandemic.

 

People who are actively engaged in breaking the chains of addiction will tell you that there are two days each week that do not matter: yesterday and tomorrow.

 

In the journey towards freedom, there is only today.

In fact, there is a 12-Step acronym that we could add to our long list of acronyms in Young Life: ODAAT. One Day at a Time.

 

Reflect for a moment.

What has it been like for you to have your calendar washed away by the pandemic?

What has been life-giving about it?

What has been difficult?

Our Drug of Choice

Whether or not we struggle with substance abuse, many of us in ministry do have a “drug” of choice: adrenaline. It’s a powerful drug that, at the right moment in the right amount, can enable an ordinary person to lift an automobile off of another human being. Likewise, at the wrong moment, a sudden rush of adrenaline can empower us to act aggressively towards others, out of proportion to the threat at hand. We are watching this wrong-moment-rush play out repeatedly today in the streets and on the news.

 

Adrenaline is a gift from God, intended in ordinary moments and healthy amounts to give us the energy we need to feel good and get things done. In extraordinary moments, when we perceive a real threat to ourselves or others, adrenaline gives us an extraordinary ability to meet the moment and survive.

 

When a flood of adrenaline is released into our system, our heart-rate increases; our digestive system shuts down; and suddenly our lungs are able to retain more air. We have only seconds before we are no longer able to engage in rational thought. We are in full fight-or-flight mode.

 

Have you ever experienced a super-human response empowered by adrenaline?

How did it feel in the moment?

How did you feel afterwards?

Lately, how often have you felt you were in fight-or-flight mode?

A Disordered Attachment

This remarkable response is a gift meant to meet extraordinary moments, but our bodies were created to live in ordinary moments, most of the time. In fact, too much adrenaline for too long or too often does damage to our bodies. According to God’s original design (Genesis 1-3), our bodies were created to work peacefully, six days a week, as stewards of His creation, stopping in the cool of the day to meander through a garden with our Creator and those we love. That doesn’t sound like the lives most of us are leading today.

 

Even Jesus lived 90% of His life in ordinary and obscure moments, doing solitary and quiet work behind the scenes. He learned a pace and rhythm in those first 30 years that helped define His final three. Jesus was not an adrenaline junky. He did not live in a perpetual fight-or-flight mode.

 

Like any gift from God, we can form a disordered attachment to adrenaline. We can begin relying upon the gift instead of the Giver for strength, comfort and life. We can become addicted.

 

Those of us in Young Life usually slip into adrenaline addiction unaware. We immerse ourselves in the lives of kids which, on a good day, are filled with a dozen different threats and dangers. Without our notice, we become accustomed to the increased flow of adrenaline, keeping us at high alert, and when it recedes to normal levels, we think something has gone wrong. We don’t like the feeling.

 

Without realizing it, we may find ways to re-stimulate the release of adrenaline into our system. We may engage in risky behavior; we may create drama or a false sense of urgency where there is none; or we may watch an intense Netflix movie that actually simulates danger and keeps our adrenaline on tap. (Isn’t it interesting that watching intense videos or engaging in competitive online games is often part of our definition of “unwinding”?)

 

What is your practice?

What routines do you return to in order to relax and unwind?

A Disordered Attachment

This remarkable response is a gift meant to meet extraordinary moments, but our bodies were created to live in ordinary moments, most of the time. In fact, too much adrenaline for too long or too often does damage to our bodies. According to God’s original design (Genesis 1-3), our bodies were created to work peacefully, six days a week, as stewards of His creation, stopping in the cool of the day to meander through a garden with our Creator and those we love. That doesn’t sound like the lives most of us are leading today.

 

Even Jesus lived 90 percent of His life in ordinary and obscure moments, doing solitary and quiet work behind the scenes. He learned a pace and rhythm in those first 30 years that helped define His final three. Jesus was not an adrenaline junky. He did not live in a perpetual fight-or-flight mode.

 

Like any gift from God, we can form a disordered attachment to adrenaline. We can begin relying upon the gift instead of the Giver for strength, comfort and life. We can become addicted.

 

Those of us in Young Life usually slip into adrenaline addiction unaware. We immerse ourselves in the lives of kids which, on a good day, are filled with a dozen different threats and dangers. Without our notice, we become accustomed to the increased flow of adrenaline, keeping us at high alert, and when it recedes to normal levels, we think something has gone wrong. We don’t like the feeling.

 

Without realizing it, we may find ways to re-stimulate the release of adrenaline into our system. We may engage in risky behavior; we may create drama or a false sense of urgency where there is none; or we may watch an intense Netflix movie that actually simulates danger and keeps our adrenaline on tap. (Isn’t it interesting that watching intense videos or engaging in competitive online games is often part of our definition of “unwinding”?)

 

What is your practice?

What routines do you return to in order to relax and unwind?

14,600 Days of Rehab

During a normal season of ministry, it is easy to become addicted to adrenaline without realizing it. During this season of turmoil and upheaval, all of us are in danger of becoming dependent upon this substance.

 

It was likely the same for God’s people in the desert. The Israelites had become accustomed to living in a world of danger and real threat. Pharaoh had worked them ruthlessly; he had thrown their baby boys into a river; and even after God sent Moses to intercede with Pharaoh, things got worse instead of better. Case in point: They were forced to gather their own straw to make bricks, while filling the same quota. They needed to up their daily dose of adrenaline if they were to keep up the pace, or they would be beaten or starved. It’s possible that the Israelites slipped into an addiction to this drug and were in need of rescue and recovery.

 

We experience adrenaline addiction in our physical bodies. It should come as no surprise, then, that God’s counter to this addiction in the Israelites also involved an embodied experience, delivered one day at a time.

 

God invited His newly-freed people to wake up, wander out of their tents each morning and gather manna off the ground. It wasn’t a frantic gathering, like the gathering of scarce straw under the glare of a cruel task master. It was a relaxed gathering under the gaze of a kind and loving God. There was always enough manna for everyone, and it was new every morning!​ With this simple, daily practice,

 

God was reprogramming their muscle memory, re-setting their adrenal glands and re-wiring their very brains!

He was carefully integrating a new message throughout their entire systems: You are deeply-loved children​ with a very good Father who gives you everything you need.

Have you sensed God reprogramming your muscle memory and rewiring your brain through this season?

What has that looked and felt like?

Learning to Live Freely

The Israelites repeated this practice for some 14,600 days, so you think this message would have been permanently imprinted upon their hearts, souls, minds and bodies, but by the time the large crowd of Jews sat down on a hillside with Jesus in Matthew, chapter six, it seemed they needed a reminder.

 

“Look at the birds in the air,” Jesus gently invited. “Look at the flowers in the field!” It is easy to imagine that God may have spoken these same words with the first man and woman as they walked together in the garden. See that beautiful hummingbird? Look at that extravagant rose! ​ Notice how well I take care of creation. Notice how well I take care of you!

 

The Father was repeating Himself through Jesus, and that first sermon on the hillside in Matthew sounded a lot like the daily devotion God delivered in the wilderness for 40 years.

 

Perhaps the Father is repeating Himself again today through this pandemic. We were created to live ODAAT. There is only today, and if we will slow down, turn off our screens, take a walk and look at the birds and the flowers, we might feel our adrenaline beginning to recede.

 

The physical act of meandering through creation might remind us that we have a very good Father who loves us. If we practice that exercise often enough, then maybe we’ll learn to like the feeling of having an ordinary amount of adrenaline flowing through our veins. Maybe we’ll learn to like the feeling of living like meandering sons and daughters instead of harshly-driven slaves.

 

Take a few moments to engage with following video. In it we will introduce an embodied practice that might help reprogram our muscle memory and remind us whose we are.

For Reflection and/or Journaling

Reflect over the past few months. What have been your embodied practices surrounding food? The gathering of it; the storing of it; the preparation of it; the eating of it?

What other embodied practices became part of your routine?

Where, in these practices, have you experienced a sense of freedom or joy?

 

Where have you experienced a lack of freedom or joy?

What is the Lord revealing to you in this reflection?

 

Remember, His voice is kind, compassionate and inviting. It is not the voice of a cruel master.

An Invitation

For the next few days, practice meandering for 10 or 15 minutes each day. Take a walk that is not intended to up your step-count or get you anywhere in particular. Walk out your front door and wander unproductively in God’s presence. Consider stopping at some point to practice the body prayer from the First Reflection video.

 

You might be interested in reading Backyard Pilgrim, Forty Days at Godspeed, by Matt Canlis. It can only be ordered at livegodspeed.org.

Questions for Reflection and/or Journaling ​

Before you begin engaging with words, take time to continue resting in the warm welcome of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Be reminded that God sees you as you are and welcomes you as His deeply-loved child. Words are not needed, but if it is helpful, you might simply say, “Lord, here I am.” ​

 

The questions below are offered to help facilitate our inner conversation with the Father. In that matter, however, we always defer to the Spirit’s leading. Notice which questions you are drawn to, and move towards them. As best you can, engage with the questions without judging yourself or raking yourself over any coals. Simply notice and name what stirs within you. Be mindful that you are sitting beneath the kind and compassionate gaze of our loving God.

 

Return to the words of Jesus from Matthew 6:5-8. He is offering us a soft cloth to polish the mirror of our prayer experience so that it might more accurately reflect the reality of who God is. What does your current experience of prayer reveal about your most deeply-held beliefs about God? Take some time to linger with this question. ​

 

Bring those beliefs to the Father. Hold them up in the light of His love. Ask Him for the grace to let go of whatever does not accurately reflect His image. Ask Him to begin to reveal to you the deeper reality of who He is. Have confidence that this is a prayer our Father is glad to respond to, although His response may be gentle and gradual, unfolding over time.

 

 

An Invitation

We invite you to take a few moments each day to enter into your inner room with God, take a few deep breaths and sit with Him in silence. If you need words, you might simply say, “Lord, Here I am.” Be assured: “He will rise up to show you compassion,” (Isaiah 30:18).

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