Monday, August 17, 2009

The Magic Kingdom?

The Irvine Presbyterian Church Women's Retreat, Living in the Kingdom: Inviting the Power of Heaven Into the Reality of Our Lives was on Aug. 14-15, 2009. The speaker was Rev. Libby Vincent, Ph.D..

I was able to attend the Aug. 14, friday session of the retreat; sadly, I wasn't able to attend the Aug. 15, saturday session because of my final Ignatius Spiritual Exercises training workshop. Our women's retreat met in the IPC Sanctuary first and then in the Fellowship Hall. Penny and Jo Anne, together with their dedicated team of volunteers, had created a welcoming and warmly soothing setting with thoughtful touches such as the hospitality basket. Most impressively, Gail's garden style Indian table decorations had transformed the IPC Fellowship Hall into a rejuvenating and reassuring rustic retreat.

Thanks to the Women's Ministries team, a portion of the monies raised from the retreat will be going to Pravaham, A Community for Peace and Justice in India. There were almost 100 women present and after prayers and welcome, I shared about Lucy's work at Pravaham with the rural poor, and marginalized girls. Then, it was over to Libby who captured our hearts with her energetic humor. Libby also kept every one of us engaged and attentive to God's word for the next hour and a half.

Libby's friday session was titled as a question, The Magic Kingdom? Using Matthew 9: 35-36, The Harvest is Great, the Laborers are Few, Libby stressed funny similarities between our lives and Disney's Magic Kingdom down the freeway from us. None of us really lives in a magic kingdom where everything is always perfect; in fact, even in the Magic Kingdom, perfection isn't 24/7. Have you been there at 4 pm when everybody's tired? Yet, God's kingdom, in which we live, is grounded in our everyday concrete realities of imperfection. What does Matthew 9: 35-36 have to say to this? I summarize Libby's answer below as they are the basis of God's kingdom:

The primary way in which God interacts with us is relationally: God cares about his kingdom and He wants us to know his heart. Jesus does not look at us in control or right-to-reign or disgust. Instead, he looks at us with love and compassion. God also cares about people becoming whole; the jewish word shalom actually means wholeness, not just peace, as we often think. Jesus longs for people to be made whole.
To help her live in God's kingdom, keeping her eyes 24/7 on spiritual realities even while her real world is imperfect, Libby has adopted a couple of practices in recent years: 1) she has a Spiritual Director and 2) she practices Centering Prayer. I will talk more about these in my next post since they are key to my Ignatius training but know for now that the job of a Spiritual Director is to always point the directee to God, by coming alongside as a companion in Christ.

Some things Libby said and a final question she posed are unforgettable for me: "The longer I work towards wholeness the more comfortable I become in my brokenness.... God cannot make us whole if we won't embrace our brokenness... Use the moments of fear, change or when we push Jesus out for centering prayer... When do we let heaven kiss earth?

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