Thomas McKenzie
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Monastery Retreat, Post Four: Reading

I brought one backpack on this retreat. Every physical thing I will need for these days is in that backpack. This is not a requirement of the monastery, the rental car, or the airline. This is my way to keep myself in the place of greatest simplicity.

I brought two books in that backpack: a Bible and Brennan Manning's "The Signature of Jesus." This is a book I have never read, but I will work through it while I am here.

I prefer to read outside, in the guesthouse courtyard. They used to have rustic leather and wooden chairs by each door. These have been replaced by big plastic adirondack style chairs. They are not nearly as attractive, in fact they are quite out of place. But they are much easier to sit in.

As I read, I underline things. I write in the margins. I also write in the small notebook that sits beside me.

Here are some of the things I have written down as I read Manning's book this morning. Some are quotes, some are thoughts.

  • I am a word from God. God utters no false word.
  • What Jesus longs to see in radical disciples is what he saw in little children: a spirit of sheer receptivity, utter dependence, and radical reliance on the power and mercy and grace of God mediated through Jesus Christ.
  • "Father, do with me whatever you want." --Charles de Foucauld
  • The essence of faith may be to be convinced of the reliability of God.
  • The question is not "is Jesus like God?", but "is God like Jesus?"
  • God gave you as a gift to himself.

After I read for a while, I went inside and engaged in Lectio Divina. My Lectio came from 2nd Samuel chapter 22, a chapter I was led to by the Spirit. I wrote down the phrases that most jumped out at me, and meditated upon them. Here is what I wrote:

The Lord is my rock
and my fortress and my deliverer
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge . . .
For who is God
but YHWH?
And who is a rock
except our God? . . .
The Lord lives.
Blessed by my rock.
Exalted be my God,
the rock of my salvation.

When one is so surrounded by rocks of all sizes and colors, these words come into sharp focus. When I can look up and see rocks that could crush a man, and rocks that could crush a house, and even small rocks that could kill Goliath, these words have deep meaning.