by Pastor Karen Brau
The last blog I wrote was in the summer when I was packing up to leave for a 3 month Sabbatical from September 1 – December 1. My packing included the blue ceramic handmade tile with the word LISTEN, on it. This tile was a gift from my long time prayer partner Sr. Maureen, who is a member of Our Lady of Grace Monastery, a Benedictine Community in Beechwood Grove, Indiana. I was paired up with Sister Maureen through my participation in the “Women Touched by Grace,” program I joined in 2008. I am exceedingly grateful for Sister Maureen’s prayers and for the precious tile.
The word LISTEN starts the Rule of St Benedict, a rule for living one’s life in a faith-filled community. “Listen carefully and incline the ear of your heart.”
The word LISTEN faithfully guided me through my Sabbatical.
Most days I gazed at the word LISTEN and gave thanks, anticipating that I would hear from God that day. Over the months I practiced listening to my whole life and with my full body and I heard God’s presence in creatures (Spiders, cardinals, herons, bees, dogs and hummingbirds), in Nature (on a special trip to the Canadien Rockies with my mother), in scripture and poetry and in friends, family and strangers.
I arrived at the Sabbatical time feeling weary and fairly numb. The world around me in DC had depleted the reserves I usually held in my being — that faith-filled place where I knew that I was beloved no matter what, seemed buried beneath the rubble of multiple challenges, some that were long-term and some new.
I knew I needed spiritual renewal.
Renewal to me is about reconnecting with God, self and the world in a way that allows the Spirit of God to flow through ordinary life. Renewal allows us to hear the still small voice of God and to re-connect with our own voice. And as God has done across the ages, this reconnection within calls for a renewed sense of connection with ministry and purpose in the world.
I began the Sabbatical with an almost weekly discipline of Monday retreats with Sister Rosemary, my long time Franciscan Spiritual Director who lives at St Stephens Convent in Jarrettsville, MD. Each time we engaged prayer, singing, reflection, faithful conversation, silence and food. My place for quiet and seclusion was two rooms — they became my “Hermitage,” in the convent.
Slowly over time, contemplation and reflection were part of the way God reworked the space in me to hear again the various modes and methods of God’s grace. It was like the slow drip of water that over time wears away at hard surfaces.
In my last retreat with Sister Rosemary she offered me extravagant grace — including revealing that she wasn’t convinced 3 months prior, that I would experience renewal. “I wasn’t convinced either,” I responded. We both smiled, and in our smiling we listened again to the way our loving God does more in us and among us than we can imagine.
LISTEN to this sabbath truth — our belovedness does not go away no matter what, and for that, I give deep thanks. And I am exceedingly grateful for the Luther Place Congregation and Staff that gave me the time and the resources to make renewal real.
In Christ, Pastor Karen Brau