I wasn't sure where I left off. My husband and I both are reading it and there are several markers. The first set of markers led me to a page where I saw the phrase "backpack of your soul" underlined (45), so I had been there before. Yet, the title of the section, "Drawn Like a Magnet to the Divine" got my curiosity for a moment. I explored. On page 43 I found "O Tree of God--Tree of Life" and where I had written underneath how that reminded me of Eddie Murphy's movie "Thousand Words" and dying well that I had seen on the plane that summer going to Costa Rica (2012). Then on page 49 in the poetic summary of Chapter One I read my underlined notes: "Each time you open the Word of God you are invited to die a little. It is a dying that is full of living, a death that is life-giving." There are more notes... but that is the gist. Wow. How powerfully true. Our life journey is a process of dying. And death can be life-giving. Living well leads to dying well. This is a journey that I have been learning about and attempting to live into for several years myself now.... having needed to live into my own physical limitations and recognizing that the aging process is a gift. Yet much more recently, with the home-going of my grandmother this past week, I have lived it up-close and personal. And, I will get to that topic at some point, but I'm not fully ready yet. I have posted small updates on Facebook and I wrote my paper for bioethics on aging well and chose my grandmother as the person who in my opinion aged well. But, I'm not ready to fully explore things just yet. Plus, today is supposed to be homework day and this writing moment is just a spiritual boost for the day. ☺
Refuge. That's the title. Where is the post about it you ask? After realizing I had already read the above section (and written about it), I found where I had left off in Macrina's book. In the section "The Beautiful Struggle of Daily Life", Chapter 4-- Everyone Needs a Refuge.
Psalm 16 was the Scripture to read, so I read it slowly and thoughtfully.
Verse 1 is the focus verse in the book: "Keep me safe, O God; in you I take refuge."
Refuge. Safe place. I even thought of the term safety bubble. From the American Heritage Dictionary, "Refuge" is defined as
1. Protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship.
2. A place providing protection or shelter.
3. A source of help, relief, or comfort in times of trouble. See Synonyms at shelter.
v. ref·uged, ref·ug·ing, ref·ug·es Archaic
To give refuge to.
To take refuge.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin refugium, from refugere, to run away : re-, re- + fugere, to flee.]
"In this place of refuge we pause to breathe in the midst of the storms. We practice remembering who we are. We remember our spiritual selves and the God to whom we turn in times of trouble." (104)
Reading this chapter took me back to my Dad's campground and our family farm. Macrina wrote about places she would go-- forest, meadows, cornfield-- for her places of refuge. She referred to them as "stations of solitude" and "places of healing" and that "nature worked her medicinal miracles" in her. (104) That resonates with me. The streams with the moss covered banks in the hills up behind my Dad's campground, the surrounding woods there.... the woods at the family farm, the fields, the ponds, the acres I would walk and walk. Yep. There were times I needed the space of the open areas and times I needed the closeness of the trees. Macrina beautifully explains how she had come to understand the "healing properties of nature" (104): "The intimacy of the trees and cornstalks were like a little embrace. The meadow, on the other hand, gave me space and freedom." (104)
Macrina goes from nature to people, recognizing that people can also be a refuge for us. Yes! Amen! She gives an example. I have those people in my life too. Those people I can call, visit, or just let them know I'm struggling with life and need support. I don't need to necessarily be with them. Just knowing that they've "got my back" so to speak allows me to keep on dealing with the situations. And, if things get really bad, then I know I can pull my cards and throw my chips down and cash in (so to speak) and I can have the support in person. What a tremendous blessing to have friends, to be in community with others. It is super humbling to recognize that these friends are near and far, some blood related and others not, some going back to childhood, others from some point along the journey. And, likely, there are some that I've never met in person. Wow. I am grateful and blessed to realize that I have a refuge space in people.
Macrina goes on to let us know that the ultimate refuge is God.
Some of my thoughts: Nature and people both reflect and connect to God. Yet, they cannot connect us to God if we don't allow them to. Sometimes that connection is understood later in life through reflection though, as I have experienced over the past several years remembering my walks at the campground and realizing that God was with me then and as Macrina testifies to the healing powers of nature here in this chapter. As Creator, God is the connection between the creation and us.
Well, that's my quiet time reflection for today. My coffee is almost gone. I guess it's time to switch gears and get my papers written today.... one on missions and another on physician assisted suicide (two different courses).
May you find your refuge space in God, others, nature. May you take time to rest there. Be assured that I am heeding my own words! I very much need it and am living into it.
Blessings on your journey! For me, it's a journey of living well.... so that one day I'll be prepared to die well.
PS... Here is the post I wrote a while back on The Tree of Life (8/14/12). I've written others about dying and living well. Here is one: In Between The Lines (5/16/11)