Never have I found a more appropriate prayer for my first day back to work after a long sabbatical than the Welcome Prayer by Father Thomas Keating. At the first reading, you might be tempted to say, "What a nice prayer." And then move on. But Gwen and I have sat with this prayer on an intentional basis for the past few months. We have attempted to excavate the meaning and suck the marrow out of each phrase and sentence.It is rich. It is deep and it is transformational.Here it is:The Welcoming Prayer (by Father Thomas Keating)Welcome, welcome, welcome.I welcome everything that comes to me todaybecause I know it's for my healing.I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,situations, and conditions.I let go of my desire for power and control.I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,approval and pleasure.I let go of my desire for survival and security.I let go of my desire to change any situation,condition, person or myself.I open to the love and presence of God andGod's action within. Amen.To Welcome this day, our first day back to work means to enter this with no regret, apprehension or fear. It, the first day, the first week and the first season is for me. It is for my good. It is not for my demise.For my healing... returning to my work is also a part of my healing and transformation as much as our season of rest has been. Now, I can live out of the fruit of what has been gathered. I can also begin to integrate these precious truths into my work--not just my time off.The Welcoming of all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations and conditions---means for me, that I believe in a God that is good and is not ought to bring me down or to step back and watch my life spin out of control. God is vested in the process of everyday encounters.I let go--much of my work over sabbatical has been right here. To learn how to let go and to release things, people, my past and my future into the hands of God. Knowing that I cannot control these things helps me to learn to loosen my grip. The three sentences in the prayer that speak of "letting go" really are the three temptations of Jesus: the temptation for power; the temptation for approval; the temptation for security. I, too, will work through these temptations as I work--and being tempted to lean into each of these areas to find love, approval and security. To let go--is my daily business.I open myself---believing in a God who is good and who loves me allows me to become open. I open myself to the love and goodness of God. It is my intention to live each day in this posture and I consent to my participation of the work of my transformation.I posted this book on Facebook recently and got many "likes." Now, I regret doing it. I don't think this prayer or perhaps any prayer can simply be liked. The Welcome Prayer undoes us. I truly believe that this prayer can't be just read and put down. It will mess with you. It has with me. And isn't this, perhaps, the greatest purpose of prayer?
“Only at the periphery of our lives, where we, and our understanding of God, are undone, can we understand bewilderment as an occasion for another way of knowing.” Belden Lane There is nothing like being the only one walking on a desolate beach in the cool dawn of morning and stumbling upon a beautiful, broken shell that speaks to you. Now of course you know that I don’t mean the shell said something, yet it was as if, it did. I couldn’t help but plunge into the wonder of its delicate markings that formed a spiraling circle, as if to be the very mapping of the journey my heart was on. I couldn’t help but go subterranean, that place deep inside where there is no vocabulary to articulate the feeling or what I knew to be true. I was in awe, speechless. So much was being said and I was listening intently. Pondering the beautiful and the brutal of what I was ushered into left me silent and still. I dared not move for fear of losing the very encounter that my heart always longs for.So how do I describe to you what it was like for me to encounter God through a shell? It was strangely sacred, like God and I have this private exchange about the realities that are too deep for human words, so paradoxical, the silent beautiful and brutal truths mingling together way down deep, with just God and me. At times like this a gnawing frustration burrows deep too. What do I do with these wordless ponderings? The painful emotions of grief and the soothing comfort of the salt air undo me. I’m left bewildered by my inexpressible soul.While being steeped in stillness for a while, God showed me something about myself and about himself. Frustration was coming from trying so hard not to be bewildered by the deep stirrings in my heart. I was actually trying to make common sense out of something holy. God assured me of the need for quite the opposite. My bewilderment is blessed and not to be boxed up and clearly identified. Bewilderment is, as Belden Lane expresses, “an occasion for another way of knowing God. “ To be undone by the ripping grief of death is an occasion for another way of knowing God. Consoled by the beauty of strolling on a lonely beach was an occasion for another way of knowing God. Listening to the loud silence of what a shell had to say was an occasion for another way of knowing God. I didn’t have to articulate and make it understandable. It was all it had to be.To articulate what is deeply spiritual isn’t always the right thing. I wonder if a lot of Christians talk incessantly, preach too long, and teach too much because to remain in mystery is too threatening to their stated faith. Perhaps, we thirst for more information about God than experiencing the mystery of God. To embrace the mystery of the unseen and indescribable is to experience a quiet peace that surpasses the need to explain or understand. And it is a sweet peace that is palpable.Sabbatical often ushered me into this bewildering place and I found myself glad and knowing that I can rest in bewilderment.
Friends, I"m excited to share that both Gwen and I will be blogging soon about our Sabbatical Journey. As many of you know, we've unplugged, gone under the radar and not worked at Potter's Inn for five months. Fifteen years of pioneering Potter's Inn; giving and giving; caring for the souls of so very many leaders across the world left us tired, worn out and weary. Let me just spill the beans... our sabbatical has exceeded our hopes and expectations in every way. Despite witnessing our grandson dying and consumed with grief in our sabbatical time; despite the marriage of our third son, Cameron--and the addition of Lindsey whom we love already; despite knowing the fragility of raising our support and the thinness of finances at Potter's Inn--we felt called and compelled to take the time we've written about; taught about; coached so many folks across the world to do what we had NEVER done for ourselves----we took a Sabbatical.Both Gwen and I will be sharing our insights, lessons, take-a-ways and on-going questions and nagging fears about re-entry. I'm excited because Gwen has finally said "Yes" to documenting her own journey and pulling back the curtain--so to speak so you can witness her own journey and in her own words. I'll be sharing my road back to health in losing 60 pounds and watching my blood pressure drop significantly. I'll be sharing what I did and how I did it. It's been the biggest paradigm shift I've ever made thus far in my life. With the help of my medical doctor, now turned coach, friend and colleague in our teaching at Potter's Inn, we will both be blogging about the maze of un-doing habits, thinking and addictions and having our minds transformed about how we are now looking at food. I'm afraid for decades, I lived to eat---and now I am eating to live!Living in a world where we live 24/7 being "on", wired to the max and always available, we will both share why we stopped doing "social media" and insights we gained from our technology fast. The blog will be rich with insights we WANT to share and it is our hope that our own journey might benefit you in some, life giving way.Spiritually, renewal has come. A stream has come to the desert and we are rejoicing. We'll be sharing the significant books we've read that have nursed us to life and sustained us with courage for the next leg of our journey.In late May, Gwen and I will be doing our own "Re-entry Retreat" with a wise sage who will guide us to re-enter our life and work with all we've learned in these good yet hard months.You'll need to subscribe to the blog as it will be a DAILY update from Monday-Friday and will be replacing the Food for the Soul Daily Devotion for the month of June and perhaps a bit beyond. We'll see how it goes; how you're enjoying it and what your feedback is for us. So please do leave us comments.If you are subscribed and are already receiving FOOD For The Soul--the daily devotional I send out of my writings, no need to worry. You'll receive a link each Monday-Friday which will direct you to the blog.Take a moment and ask some friends to join you on our Sabbatical Journey and consider our journey as a place to have your discussions about your longings, desires and yearnings in your heart for your own life.This new way of sharing through this blog will begin mid-May. Be on the look for it and share it on your own streams of Social Media! We'd be so grateful.Every blessing,Steve and Gwen