Monday, October 24, 2011

Adventure in Alaska

I have just returned from an adventure in Alaska. It is a fascinating country. Nicknamed America's Last Frontier, Alaska sprawls across four time zones and stretches almost the entire length of the contiguous 48 states. It is over twice the size of Texas, even larger than the three largest states combined. Home to the highest mountain and largest park system in North America by far, it has more than 10,00o glaciers. So much space and beauty. Although every day I saw at least one moose close up, I did not see the northern lights nor had opportunity to explore much landscape.

The adventure I experienced was not in the outer world of nature. It was in the inner terrain of the human heart. It was not the wide expanse of the Alaskan wilderness, but was in the depth of the human soul.

I had the opportunity to accompany five women on a Silent Ignatian Retreat. These women belong to a CLC, an Ignatian faith sharing group. Most have been to silent retreats numerous times, every year even. The majority entered the retreat with attitudes ranging from moderately open to lackluster interest. One has doubts whether the retreat would be a waste of her time and money. Yet, they gradually became quite open to the action of God. And one by one, each left the retreat with significant graces. Graces which I sensed, were more than seeds. Graces that struck them at a depth that can transform their lives and those around them in lasting ways. Their hunger for genuine encounters with God and for genuine community of faith magnified and deepened. The next six months will confirm or disprove these observations. This past weekend, God surpasses all of our wildest imaginations. I am amazed at what wonder God can do with open hearts.

St. Ignatius of Loyola encourages people to enter retreats with a magnanimous and generous spirit, for God cannot be outdone in generosity. From my experience these past twenty five years helping with retreats, I can echo that what God blesses us on retreats is only limited by our willingness to receive. God is willing to give us everything! In Jesus, God already has. God humbly waits for our reception.

I am deeply grateful for this adventure in Alaska. I hope to return and take in more of the state's breathtaking beauty. For this trip, witnessing how the Spirit works in hearts wide open to God simply takes my breath away.

Although you and I may not get a chance to go on retreat this week, we still have the opportunity to open wide our hearts to God, through whatever situation we find ourselves in. Who knows, an unforgettable adventure might begin!

 “Few persons understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to God and if they were to allow God’s grace to mold them accordingly.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola

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