Update: A Retreat Near Huddersfield

“Brothers and sisters, God is calling you to leave behind everything that stops you setting sail in the ocean of God’s love. You have heard the call of the Wild Goose, the untamable Spirit of God: be ready for him to lead you into wild, windy or well-worn places in the knowledge that he will make them places of wonder and welcome.

He is giving you the vision of a spoiled creation being restored to harmony with its Creator, of a fragmented world becoming whole, of a weakened church being restored to its mission, of healed lands being lit up by the radiance of the glorious Trinity.

In stillness or storm, be always vigilant, waiting, sharing, praising, blessing, telling. Sail forth across the ocean of God’s world knowing both the frailty of your craft and the infinite riches of your God.”

From The First Voyage Of The Coracle
The Community Of Aidan and Hilda

We’re in the midst of a time right now in Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, at a retreat center called The Westwood Christian Centre. The building itself is an old Anglican parish church, redesigned into an absolutely breathtaking retreat center. Arched windows give way to bright spaces, and stained glass both aged and modern adorn entire walls and small doorways. I think I’ve found a haven of rest here inthe UK, and a place for some creative space if I can ever get back here.

FIRST MORNING (Tuesday):

Our meetings this week are with Vineyard Records UK, a Christian worship music group based in Hull, UK. We began our gathering (a staff of 7 plus Matt Frise and I) with a time of acoustic guitar/violin-led worship, using songs such as “All The Angels,” “Who Is Like Our God” and a medley of violin-based melodies. I shared a bit on the Ignatian concepts of consolation (with solace: moving in communication) and desolation (without solace: moving in isolation), and the power of a life lived out of a center that has found peace in God.

Using the passage from Phillipians where Paul speaks of his life in “forward motion,” pressing on toward the knowledge of God irrepressibly, against unbeatable odds, we reflected on a life lived from a satisfied center. A life lived in consolation finds a substantial center from which to live, offer consolation in the world all around as it slowly swirls outward. In contrast, a life lived in desolation finds a vacuum of peace at its center, from which it lives, offering only desolation and further isolation as it quickly swirls inward.

In other words, living in a continual state of desolation in our walk with God, ourselves and others is like a vacuum; we continually cave in on ourselves. A life lived in a continual state of consolation moves outward, is happily generous and warms other hearts to faith (Petersen).

With three candles lit, representing God’s devotion to us, and ours to Him in response, we reflected on these arenas of peace, and evaluated where we are on the consolation/desolation spectrum in relation to God, ourselves and each other. We then moved into a time of prayer ministry, while Matt prayed with his violin around us, using melodies Celtic, Scottish, Irish, Welsch and English.

It’s been a beautiful time, and Matt and I had a chance to take a long walk across vibrant green fields (while the others discussed budgets!), in an area that just may have one of the top 5 views I’ve ever seen in a landscape. I do wish my beautiful wife and children were here to enjoy this with me, but I take it as a gift nonetheless. After a quick rest, we head out to a local pub for dinner and a night of connection.

SECOND MORNING (Wednesday):

We spent the morning devotional time reflecting on the passage in Acts. 3 where a man is continually seated at “A Gate Called Beautiful,” awaiting alms and living in desperation. We reflected on the call to create beautiful spaces, be they by the media of music (in this case) and the songs of worship, or via other means. Everytime we gather at A Gate Called Beautiful, we have an opportunity to step through a portal to encounter God in His fullness; believer and unbeliever alike.

It was a powerful time. We spoke of a life lived with “flywheel momentum,” born out of a soul living in a growing state of consolation (see above) and the spiritual rigor it requires to continue to follow Jesus over the long haul. Eugene Peterson called this “a long obedience in the same direction.” We’ve now returned to Hull, and are preparing to head to Yorkshire tomorrow, then to Bristol for a What Is Worship? event at the Vineyard there. Matt is out tonight cleaning unwanted graffiti (as opposed to “wanted” graffiti) off of Hull street walls and doors.

It’s been a rich mid-week time. Thanks for your continued prayers, and for my wife and kids making it all work at home.