It shouldn't surprise me, but do you know ... it always does. I'm talking about the way God has a habit of bringing across our path exactly the people we need to meet, at exactly the right time! A recent conference impacted me more than I could ever have imagined it would, and those unexpected encounters were a large part of that.
The Continuing the Journey conference brought together a diverse group of Christians, all of whom were involved in some form of caring role - counsellors, psychotherapists, retreat leaders, pastors, spiritual directors, art therapists, etc ... and some folks with several of those hats on. It was an opportunity to share our stories and (as it said on the advert) to 'explore the tension between world and church, nature and grace, current psychology and Christian theology'. And it changed me.
One of the most beautiful gatherings I have ever been to, within the framework of first class speakers and varied and interesting workshops, the conference managed to also honour the value of shared silence and opportunities for deep reflection. It also honoured the importance of laughter! And a deeply thoughtful, reflective and contemporary rhythm of worship held the whole in a holistic embrace that carried us through the journey.
After an extremely stressful and demanding seven months, during which all my writing and ministry had been put on hold, I arrived at the conference jaded and exhausted. I felt as if I simply couldn't see a way forward. It was only on my return home that I realise how deeply affirming, and in many ways life-changing, the week had been. I am now in a peaceful place, once more deeply assured in my calling, and have re-established the contemplative rhythms that had been seriously eroded by circumstances. And, for me, when those rhythms are in place then I am more able to follow the Spirit's promptings and somehow life just 'flows'.
There's a lesson for all of us in that!
So ... give thanks for the God of unexpected encounters, for the Creator God who speaks through his creation, and for those who facilitated a brilliant conference. Please pray too that connections that were made there will bear fruit in God's good time.
On the personal front, the pressures are now easing as my father settles comfortably into the care of others. Thank you to those of you who have prayed us through this time. Finally, I can pick up the threads of the various projects that I laid down last October. Please pray for me as I do so.
May God surprise you in delightful ways as you continue your own journey!