I’m a day late with this entry. We just got back yesterday from our vacation/pilgrimage to Deer Island. 13 of us made the trip this year with soaring expectations! For 6 months all these folks talk about (it seems) is their time on Deer Island and then they spend the next 6 months talking about when they will go again. You might think this would put a lot of pressure on me to organize an ever greater experience but I have little to do with it, which is probably the key to its success.
With new surroundings comes a new openness to God and what he may want in our lives. People come with high expectations and our God does not disappoint! The first night people often do not sleep well because of the dark (no street lights) and the silence (no sirens or shouting) but gradually we decompress. We are now ready to encounter God in his amazing creation. After the first day people begin to remark that they we have been eating so well that they haven’t felt hungry since our first meal. This too is a novelty and takes getting used to! Soon we hear folks comment that they have never laughed so hard in their lives. It is not that we are suddenly wittier but in this safe place we let down our guards and risk laughing at ourselves and good naturedly poking fun at others.
Celtic spirituality posits the existence of “thin places” where the space between Heaven and earth is narrow indeed and the Divine can be readily sensed. Deer Island is such a place for us! This has been a great source of blessing for us over the years. It also presents a challenge to us. We must not lead a dualistic life: one of abundance and holy joy on Deer Island and one of paucity and cheerlessness back home.
This year I wanted to challenge us all to take with us the lessons of Deer Island and to evidence them in our daily lives. I chose the theme “Moving from Surviving to Thriving”. We had the song “Thrive” by Casting Crowns as our theme song. We learned that no matter our circumstances (mental health, addictions, health, poverty etc.) God wanted us to more than just survive he wants us to thrive. Over our time we looked at some practical ways to position ourselves to thrive.
- Crawl up in our father’s lap and let him love us. Approaching him not with our shopping list of requests with instructions on how he should deliver, but simply being with him, knowing him, loving him and being loved.
- Sink our roots deeper into the Word of God. Psalm 1 paints a picture of a tree planted by the water. As we make the effort of reading and meditating on the Word growth will happen all by itself. We do not need to produce the fruit. It will come! When things are not going well in our lives we ought not to become focussed on the ‘bad fruit’ but instead seek out the root problem. The health (thriving) of the tree is directly proportional to the health of the root system
- A thriving tree needs more than a root system it also needs to stretch out into the world. We too need to be reaching out in order to thrive. Self-centredness is antithetical to thriving. It is as we stretch out in service and in witness to the world that we truly thrive. It is now that our established root system holds us and nourishes us. Deer Island is a place where our roots are nourished but our lives do not thrive if we do not stretch out in reaching a hurting world after we return.
- Growing by definition is a process. We may not be what we ought to be but we can thank God that we are not what we were! This is why we talked about sinking roots deeper rather than sinking our roots deep. We reminded ourselves that God promises to continue this process until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6)
At the end I reminded folks of the childhood game and said “Tag you’re it!” Now knowing how to thrive it becomes the responsibility of each to position themselves to do just that. “To the one who knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin.
Tag you’re it!