Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Monk for a Day

I woke up earlier than usual. I was excited because I had scheduled a day room - St. Michael's - at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey near Lafayette, about a 45 minute drive from Canby. The Abbey is one of my favorite places. For a couple of weeks my soul had been telling me I needed rest, some monastic solitude and silence. I pulled into the Dutch Brother's in Newberg before 6am and ordered a latte. I switched on the light in my day room twenty minutes later and turned up the heat. I laid out my Bible, journal, pens, and books on the desk.

I headed for the microwave in the Guest House kitchen to warm up my coffee. Brother Martin was busy making morning coffee for the overnight guests. "Good morning, brother. Are you still over in, what is that, Canby?" "Yes" I told him. "I haven't seen you for a while" he uttered. I replied, "Yea, it's been a long time since I've been here. You've got a good memory." Brother Martin smiled at me and pointed at his head, "Sometimes it works." He went about his business and I went about mine.

I walked outside to look up at the night sky. The morning sun was rising sooner than I expected. The sky was no longer black but a dark blue. A few stars were still shining, twinkling in the cool morning air. I stood still, closed my eyes, and tried to take in the silence. Renewal was already starting.

I opened my journal and started writing. My mind felt like it was in slow gear. Next I began my Bible reading out of Eugene Peterson's The Message Psalm 90-94 and then Luke 19-24. Next I grabbed my ESV Study Bible that I lugged along (it must weigh 25 lbs!) and turned to my sermon passage for Sunday - John 2:1-11, Jesus turning the water into wine. I carefully read the introduction to John's gospel and then the study notes for the passage. One thing led to another. Before long I was jumping all over the Old Testament and the New Testament tracing what the Bible said about the use of wine. Drunkenness is out but "joy" is in - joy is sometimes linked to wine in the Scriptures. I took some careful notes about the 7 signs in John's gospel of which Jesus turning the water into wine is the first.

Next I opened my journal and wrote out my prayers for the day. First, family concerns and then CAC people matters I feel called to pray for. Lately about the only way I can privately pray is by writing out my prayers, a number of journals of them since early this year. I seldom pace up and down in a room and pray out loud like I did for years. It doesn't work anymore so I only occasionally try it.

Next I went outside and walked down the Abbey road to the main highway. I wanted to feel the warm sunshine against my face. I wanted to hear singing birds. As I walked I looked down and saw a black, rust colored furry caterpillar walking across the road in front of me. I put my Nike running shoe in its path to see what it would do. The caterpillar crawled over the toe of my shoe and kept going.

Next I came back to the room and laid down and took a twenty minute nap that felt more like a couple of hours. It was just what I needed.

Next I made a quick diversionary trip to the Abbey bookstore, looked over both old and new titles, and got away without buying anything, somewhat of a miracle.!

Next I grabbed my copy of Godric by Frederick Buechner and my journal and found a quiet corner of the Abbey church to read and pray. I silently prayed through the prayer I wrote earlier that morning. I paused over names and situations that weighed upon my heart. I sought to give those prayers an extra push into heaven. Then I read a couple of chapters in my favorite Buechner novel. This is my third or fourth time to read Godric and each time seems more amazing than the time before.

Next I set off on my favorite hike on the Abbey grounds. By now it was noon. The warm sun was high over head and would push the mercury to 80 degrees. I looked up at a cloudless blue sky. I slowly made my way to the monk's picnic area located in the woods behind the monastery. I walked through the baseball field up into the tall, swaying fir trees that guarded the monk's volleyball and basketball courts, fire pit, and covered eating shelter. Think really simple and really primitive. Grass, dirt, ground cover for the courts. The eating shelter looks like its been there for fifty years, simply made out of leftover wood and materials. I have offered up many prayers here over the years as I've paced back and forth under the majestic fir trees that rise up into the sky to form an outdoor sanctuary for meeting God. I found a sunny spot, looked up into the sun, and closed my eyes - flies buzzing, birds singing, the faint sound of a distant combine.

I took a different trail back to the monastery, one that led me down a windy path next to a dried up creek bed. I heard branches snapping. I stopped and looked around. There across the path from me and standing about twenty feet up the hill was a deer, a doe, eating leaves off a bush of some kind. I expected her to bolt but she didn't. I talked to her. She looked straight at me. We stared each other down. And then she put her head down and continued to eat. She must have surmised that I wasn't a threat to her safety or lunch.

Next I went back to my room and grabbed my journal, Godric, and a new book, Regi Campbell's Mentor Like Jesus. I found a shady spot next to the big pond behind the Guest House. I opened
up Campbell and began to read. Every so often I heard water splashing so I looked down at the water's edge and spotted a large bullfrog. He was sitting in the water with the top of his head above the surface next to a tree stump. Dragon flies were flying around the stump. Occasionally one would light upon the stump or swoop down and touch the water. The bullfrog crouched still and when the time was right he lunged at the dragon fly and snapped it up. Once I happened to glance down at the right time and saw the bullfrog leap out of the water, catch a dragon fly in its mouth, and land at least twelve inches from where he started. Another time the bullfrog leaped completely over one branch of the tree stump. This was the first time I had ever been entertained by a bullfrog and dragon flies. The show was fascinating to watch and got in the way of my reading.

Next I went back up to my room, packed up, and headed out the door for home. The day was just what I needed. The weather could not have been nicer. The entertainment (caterpillar, deer, bullfrog, and dragon files) was awesome. And I caught up with my soul in a much-needed manner over the course of the 7 1/2 hours I spent at the Abbey. Thanks be to God!

1 comment:

  1. I touched me to read about your day as a monk. All your discoveries, both from nature and God's word.
    May God continue to pour Himself into your very core. And rest well.