Everybody has a story. I love to hear and be surprised by those stories.
I spent 3 days last week with 6 other people at an annual spiritual retreat on the NC coast. We spent some of the retreat time in silence. (Yes, we like that.) We gathered several times for group contemplative prayer (website). We also ate Girl Scout cookies and talked and laughed a lot when we weren’t in silence.
I might not have picked these people off SpiritualFriend.com (an actual website!), but God brought us together through the programs of Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation (website). I think God chuckles about that.
We all share an awareness of God’s presence. We recognize our need to be still enough and quiet enough to be led and guided by God. We pray for each other. And we enjoy our time together.
We learned more about each other as we shared our stories. I get to hang out with some interesting people.
One woman was once a weather girl for 3 months in DC until, in her own words, “I was fired for being awful and wearing no make-up.” She also worked for quite a while in the trust department of a major bank until she got MS. Now she has her own business selling handmade cards and posters. (Cheap Therapy, handcrafted paper art that celebrates life)
Another woman has her Ph.D in American Studies. She taught classes like Women in the Arts and Literature and Ecology at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. Now, in retirement, she is a published poet and passionate about our Earth and its health.
One of the men is a Southern Baptist minister who serves as an interim pastor for churches who are searching for a new minister. That means he learns about and helps to mediate all the opinions and factions that exist in any church and leads them (hopefully) to consensus about who they are and what they need in a pastor. Can you imagine? He also is a photographer. He shared a magnificent sunrise photograph for us to sit with and ponder during our silent time.
One woman worked for a number of years in a Catholic parish, leading groups and formation classes. She recently retired. She has 9 grown children so she has always been a busy person. She is still figuring out just what to do with her free time. She started with de-cluttering in her house. I need to follow her example.
The other man, African American, told us he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Nashville, Tennessee, when he was 13. He was once a long-distance truck driver and a Marine. When he left the Marines he went to seminary and is now an Episcopal priest. He led us in Holy Eucharist sitting on a hearth and wearing well-worn jeans and biker boots. I think God liked that.
In her younger days, another woman was a street performer in California. She is a Unitarian Universalist minister. She is comfortable doing liturgical dance (a definition), which uptight me can’t imagine. She and her husband started and run Plenty Fresh Food Bank (website), Neighbors Growing and Sharing Food, which is on Elephant Curve Rd. (best street name ever!) in southwest Virginia..
So, what stories do your friends have?
Ask them. You might be surprised.