In the immediacy of our present world where everything has to be done NOW, if possible even sooner, we find ourselves rushing from here to there at breakneck speed; one task overlaps another as we try and fit an impossible workload into the available hours of the day. Hours we cannot increase. Hours we cannot get back when they have passed.
There is little room for relaxation when we do finally stop because once at home it all starts again. We prepare family meals while responding to emails and messages on one device or another; usually perched on the kitchen worktop in my case. Then there are kids to drop-off and collect from one after school activity or another, text messages, phone calls – often simultaneously… getting the kids off to bed then starting on the household chores, if you have any energy left that is. The list is endless.
Doing some more until finally we call it a night. And collapse. Five minutes later, or so it seems, it is morning and the whole cycle starts again.
However, today (Sat 8th Oct) was blissfully different, at least for a few hours. Today was the long-planned for day my dear friend Joan and I led a Quiet Day for members of Coventry Cursillo, (click for more info). A number of these members will be leading Cursillo Weekend #47 in our diocese of Coventry later this month and it was felt that a Quiet Day for them to rest and receive before giving out would be good for them. Although staffing on a Cursillo weekend blesses you beyond words, it is also incredibly exhausting.
The idea of any Quiet Day is for people to have some space and time to just BE with God; in silence, in prayer, in solitude if necessary as they stop to ‘be still, and know…’. We had chosen ‘The Shadow of the Cross’ as the theme for the day, which stemmed from a reflection by Eddie Askew from his book Facing the Storm: (Meditations and Prayers), which talks about the shadows that have been left on our lives and, perhaps more importantly, asks the question about what shadows we leave on others, the hope being of course, that it is a Shadow of the Cross.
During the refreshments and welcome, we offered the participants an opportunity to think about what they felt, what they hoped for, where they were at this moment by putting a word or short phrase on cut out leaves and sticking them on the tree. My youngest daughter drew a bare tree for me (image on the left) which we had blown up to poster size and laminated (image on the right) so that it can be used again in the future. At the end of the day they were again invited to say how they felt now and put another leaf on the tree.
It was a real joy to see that for those who chose to share their experience, there had been a shift in them. One started the day with a leaf saying ‘exhausted’ and ended with ‘refreshed and renewed’. Another began ‘nervous, expectant, hopeful’ and ended ‘peaceful, trusting’; another began the day ‘anticipation’ and ended with ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’. Praise God!
We adapted the tree idea from a wonderful site called The Pumpkin Room where there are some fantastic ideas to use with small or large groups, Naomi also provides instructions on how to make and run them – do head over to her ‘room’ and take a look for yourself using the link above. Thanks Naomi.
I digress slightly, back to our quiet day. Once we had decided on the tree and the stations we thought about how they connected to the ‘shadows’ that people might be in, under or going through. We were very aware that being in the shadows did not necessarily mean doom, gloom or a bad place to be. For example, at times we look for shadows to shield us from the sun, using them for protection at times. Anyway we came up with the following.
Embracing the Shadow: This area might be used for a mixture of reasons. Verses that came to mind when we were putting it together were ‘Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings’, (Psalm 17:8). We had a story here too, this time based on 1 Kings 19:1-18 where Elijah is in the cave. The adapted story talks about the ‘cave of our heart’, a place we sometimes need to go; for comfort or to find answers.
Let Go! Let God: This was a place for people to sit with the Lord and hand over their burdens to Him, be forgiven, be released, be comforted. Whatever it was they needed to ‘let go’ of this was where they could do it. We set up a symbolic activity which invited them to hold a generous pinch of salt in their palms (their burdens) and offer them to God in prayer, then place them in warm water and, continuing to pray and give thanks to God while watching the salt (their burdens) dissolve and disappear, just as they do when we give them to God, He ‘remembers our sins no more’. They are gone. They disappear.
Be Still and know…: Space to sit and receive with beautiful soft background music. Space to ‘wait for the Lord‘ and listen for His quiet voice that often comes to us as a whisper.
Space to praise the Lord and give thanks, after all, ‘It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High,’ (Psalm 92:1)
An idea of the type of music we used is here:
Into the Light: This space was for those who simply wanted to give thanks for their blessings, for being ‘in the light‘ already, or feeling that a shadow had been lifted and they could now bask in the light. One of the verses we felt relevant to this space was:
You, the Lord God, keep my lamp burning and trun darkness to light. (Psalm 18:28)
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)
We rounded it all off with a beautiful Eucharist service in the Iona tradition followed by a shared lunch during which the feedback was encouraging. People were grateful to have had space to just BE and have time, uninterrupted, to spend prayerfully and meditatively in God’s presence. One of those times when, after the all the hard work, I got to the end of it and was able to savour the simple joy of seeing others blessed and say, “Today was a good day.”
May the Lord bless your coming week x 🙂