The Still PoolIt's been long journey, full of pain, shattered faith
and I've wondered how to go on, there's nothing left
but somehow I do, go on.
Pleading prayers go unanswered....
But now there is nothing, the well is bone dry
even the well of tears has ceased.
In the darkness lies a a still pool.
I lay in bed coughing and coughing and coughing,
pain, internal from the operation and pain of heart
goes on and on.
I stare out the window,
tree tops, house roofs
nothing but sky
and a whisper comes by.
'retreat, be silent'
'Not I', I say.
In the darkness, lies a still pool.
The whisper doesn't leave me,
I ask around
where and when?
A place is given, a date.
'Sorry' I say, 'not then'
I could go but really I'm scared.
What will God say?
In the darkness lies a still pool.
I went, on that date, still scared of the unknown,
strange people, strange place -
a quiet garden day they called it.
And I sat in that garden,
traffic went by, a plane overhead, a gardener busy in a far corner
all sounds fell away....
In the darkness lies a still pool.
I went into the walled garden,
a robin, two blackbirds kept me company,
the sun came out and warmed me.
In the darkness lies a still pool and a light shines from it.
I walked across the garden again,
a small fast-flowing stream flows through it, gurgling over it's stony bed.
Sitting in the summer house I watch....
and at last I come to the still pool.
There is no moon in the darkness to give the light,
for the light comes from the water itself.
I kneel - what do I do?
Dive in? drink it?
Slowly I reach out and touch the pool and bring a few drops to my lips and
suddenly the water is over and within me
and I laugh and dance with joy
for to the weary, thirsty traveller
the coolness of the water is...bliss.
Re: The Still PoolTruly moving, Jaqueline.
You have a rare gift for putting your thought into such words.
You've given me the itch to start writing poetry again; it's been over a decade since I last wrote anything meaningful.
Thanks for sharing.
As Jim said,
|Truly moving, Jaqueline.
You have a rare gift for putting your thought into such words.
It's lovely Jacqui
Thank you, I think it could do with a bit more of a tweek in one or two places but I have decided to leave it as it is.
The call to silent retreat came while recovering after my op, I could quite easily have a silent retreat at honme once Rob had left for work as I spend long hours on my own but I sensed that I had to go elsewhere for it, to make the effort and in doing so show my willingness to be silent.
Being deaf I do find being in a strange place with strange people hard work and in a retreat situation I can't be in a small group and join in in silent prayer with eyes shut as I need to have my eyes open to hear, so I can't relax, needing always to be alert.
I knew of a retreat house some miles away and that name came to mind but I put it down to being the only one I knew about however I did check out others and discovered one nearer but the sense that I had to go to the one I knew off was strong. I did find out about a quiet garden day and someone I asked at the local church told me of the next day it would be held and thought perhaps I should try it and yes, I did say I can't.
I don't know why I went that day except that I knew it was now or never and I did worry about what I would do all day in the garden, would time drag? and I had a slight fear of what God would say despite also knowing that I had nothing to fear. In the few days before I went, I kept thinking about a book by Selwyn Hughes 'The Divine Gardener' and as I was about to leave the house I felt strongly that I should take it.
The day started with a short time together (there was 6 of us) the leader explaining to me what happened on a quiet garden day - the others had been before - we had a Bible reading from Rev 22 about the garden with the tree of life in it and it's leaves bring healing and the leader spoke about what Jesus said about not to worry, God cares for the flowers of the filed and the birds, He cares about you and I felt as if the words were for me and I knew then why I was there for that day. We had a short time of silence and then we went our separate ways to find a spot in the garden to be quiet in. I'm glad it was overcast and cool after the scorching heat we have had recently, although there was plenty of shade.
We met again for a short period of quietness and another Bible reading this time from Lk 12 'consider the lilies of the field....' and again I sensed that word 'don't worry' After we had eaten, everyone left except myself and the leader, we spoke for awhile then I returned to the garden all alone. In the walled garden, time and noise all disappeared and that persistant image I had of a pool in the darkness came again, this time I could see a light from it but like I say in the OP it wasn't until I sat in the summer house (out the now chilly wind) that I finally went there.
I don't know what it has done to me but in church yesterday, while in our prayers, I realised that somewhere deep within there has been a change. Time alone will tell what it is.
I know exactly what you mean about being lonely in a crowd - though from a different angle; since I can't see to make eye contact, I often find myself alone in a sea of voices.
I think your retreat is a great idea; I've taken part in similar things both on Iona and through the Iona community - and they really give space to recharge your batteries.
Sometimes you don't even realise those batteries need recharging until you enter the release a retreat can bring.
There;s some song lyrics which come to mind - some of the really early Graham Kendrick material; this one might just fit.
"You light the light in my dark places,
You are the brightest smile in a sea of faces
You reached me, just when I thought I'd drown;
You are the sound in my long silence,
You moved my feet when I could not dance
You reached me, you calmed me down
You stilled my hell of storms.
You coloured all my greys, I don't know how,
They cannot turn the Light out on me now!
Burn on, O lovely light
Burn on, all through the night,
Burn on, Till all the Universe is shining with Your light
Thanks Jim for the words
A quiet garden day is a very different kind of retreat because - you do nothing. There is no pressure to be in a group, to have to join in anything like in so many church retreats, other than the quiet preparation of quietening down with a small prayer and reflection of about 30mins before you go off into the garden, that's it. The group comes together for lunch but with a 30min quiet prayer and Bible reading to sort of round it off and ease you back into the mainstream again although for me as I was still staying the little chat the leader and I had after everyone had left was the right thing for me to do.
For many this doing nothing could be very hard work and the time drag especially if you did the full day from arriving at 9.30 to 4pm so preparation before the day is important. In the morning I read The Divine Gardener with pauses for reflection and in the afternoon I spent a bit of time reading some modern psalms but mostly I sat and emptied my mind of all my worries, just gazing at the garden or watched the birds and later the stream.
I don't know what I expected from the day, probably nothing so what I did receive was a wonderful gift. One other thing I did receive was 'use your gifts' which would be ok if I know what they are, perhaps I need another quiet garden day to find out?
The more time you can spend in reflection, contemplation - whatever people want to call it, the better. It's in those times that we find strength and abilities we simply never knew were there.
It's in those times, too, when we come so much closer to God's presence.
And, of course, it's Biblical.
How many times in the Gospels do we see Jesus going off somewhere quiet to pray? If he needed to take time out from the world, then who are we to say we don't?
As for 'organised church retreats'.....the concept sets my teeth on edge! I don't think you can organise a period of reflection.
When I was with the Iona Community, there was a framework of times when, if you felt like it, you could spend together in quiet worship, listening to a reading, reading a common text, etc - but these times were never imposed, or even recommended. The space was made available if one wanted to fill it. Of course, we had workshops, seminars and stuff - but those terms conjure up a bunch of bored spectators listening to an even more bored lecturer; nothing could be further from the truth. Each session had a title - that was it. What happened there was entirely up to those who went to the session. It was refreshing, invigorating and informal. Nio Rank; no heirachy, no dog collar, nothing. You could be standing, washing the dishes with a person, talking openly about faith, life - whatever, and find out later that he was a bishop in Africa!
The Iona Community, though based on the is
land, is active all oveer the plAace. It isn't monastic, but technically under the wing of the Church of Scotland, but entirely ecumenical.
It offers a place, whether in a Glasgow housing scheme, or Columba's island, where we can be church together, forgetting labels, differences and division, and just enjoying being part of the family!
Sounds lovely Jim
I have been on combined church training/retreat weekends and come home worn out because of the relentless round of services and training that goes on. Image (if you can) arriving by 6pm on the Friday, a short meeting before tea at 6.30pm then as soon as that fiinishes you are in the first lecture/training session that will go on until a short break before you get evening prayer about 9pm.
Then on Saturday, starting at 8.30am with a short service then straight into breakfast and then by 9.30am you are in the first of many lectures/training/teaching. The a short break for coffee about 10.30 then straight back into whatever is next until you break for lunch at 12.30 after lunch you get 2 free hours by 4.30pm you are back in the lecture hall until you stop for tea at 6.30pm. By 8pm you are putting on a sort of show of what the various groups have done in the afternoon, then around 9.30 or sometimes later you get a short evening service to round the day off. Those who have the energy then retire to the bar for a couple of hours get together. I have known people to still be up at 1am chatting.
Sunday starts with the short service at 8.30am, then breakfast follwed by packing up as you need to be out of your room, then it is straight into a lecture and then after a short break by 11 am you are in the church for communion. After lunch you leave to get home.
On the one hand it is lovely to meet up with old friends and learn together but on the other hand it can get too much but to me that is not a retreat.
I do have one question to ask of you...how do I know what my gifts are?
I'm with you on the church retreat/conference thingy. I don't think we're supposed to organise God into giving us his peace, somehow!
When we do, we're the ones who end up with a headache - and deservedly so, IMO.
Have you ever been to Spring Harvest?
At least their activities, though structured, offer a choice of events, worship styles, silent spaces, etc. It might be worth taking a look.
As far as identifying your gifts?
Well, I don't confine them to what's in 1 Corinthians.
If you think you're good at something, give it to God.
Jaqueline; you have already shown that you are gifted in expressing your feelings in poetry.
Have you ever thought of circulating those poems?
I've read your blog on this site.
It seems to me that you are also gifted in prose.
Why not write your autobiography?
I know, by what you've written here, others would read it and be encouraged.
And, as far as I'm concerned, encouragement is a massive gift to give people.
I used to write years ago and was told by the then Vocational Director that I should send my poems /stories to church magazines or something as they deserve to be published but I never have. I did once show some to a vicar and I am still waiting for the vicar to get back to me about them, so I have never bothered apart from writing here.
A couple of people have said on the now defunct CTB that I should get what I write published but I just think what's the point? who will read them?
As for encouragement I have often thought of myself as a Barnabas - the Encourager - although I have no idea where that thought comes from but then I came up against a vicar who was very jealous of whatever gifts I had or have and I ended up walking away from the church and I stopped writing until I ended up on the CTB and from there I slowly got my confidence back again to begin to write but I write only what comes from deep within which is why there are long gaps.
I spend a lot of time alone so have the time to think or perhaps stop thinking and let what's there surface but it takes more time to get to understand it before I write it.
Last year I was speaking to a former chaplain who asked me about my past life and I said that I have always known that God has called me to be His priest but that the church would never recognise me as a priest for how God sees me as His priest is not the same way as the church sees it. I was asked what I thought that meant and I replied I didn't know but perhaps it would be through writing and I went home wondering why I had said that. So who knows?
Don't stop trying to get your work published, Jaqueline. It really deserves a wider audience than this board.
As for the church and its servants.... I really despair when folk promise to get back tio you and then never do, despite reminders. The church is bigger than one vicar, or beurocrat-filled department, for that matter.
Have you tried any online publishing sites?
As I said, you have a gift - and a rare gift at that - for expressing your thoughts in poetry and prose in profound, yet clear language.
Don't ignore that gift.
You asked who would read it?
I would, for one.
Your posts have encouraged me in many ways. I sometimes come over as flippant and shallow in my posts: perhaps that's my rebellion against the theology speak virtually welded into me after my early studies and now umpteen years serving as an elder in a CofS Presbytery, virtually soaking up the eighteenth century theiological legalese through my pores. Flippancy seems to be my style nowadays, so perhaps I've swung to far the other way. You, on the other hand, can touch the emotions with your words, and, as far as I'm concerned, that talent needs to be both nurtured and spread.