“I signed up for this retreat with skepticism,” said Amy Carpenter. “I didn’t believe I could let go of my incessant planning, worrying and analyzing. I knew there would be no way I could turn my mind off and listen to God.”
Amy has been struggling with how to listen for God in her personal faith life. “I read my Bible and pray for others, but I just don’t feel like I can listen for God and hear him. I have been wrestling with how to do that for a long time.”
So, with little hope, she took a chance. She registered for the Labyrinth Creation and Mediation Retreat at Lutheranch in January. She didn’t know anyone except Christina Yarnold the Executive Site Director.
“We spent the first half of the retreat in solitude and meditation. No one spoke from Friday until 11:00 am on Saturday.” This was a first for Amy. She wasn’t sure how she would handle it. “I could have gone on,” she felt.
On Saturday, each person gathered rocks and intentionally placed them along the path of the new Labyrinth that together they created at Lutheranch for future use. “There was no prescribed structure to the process, but a flow and balance was found. We each found the perfect place for each stone.”
After completing the Labyrinth, they began their walk.
“We began walking the 1000 feet of the path. Within a few seconds, time stood still or rather there was no time. Phrases of Psalms and hymns flickered in my thoughts and then left. When I reached the center, I found I was disappointed to turn and leave. We had built a bonfire there the night before and I found listening for God became real. I reluctantly continued out and felt the wind touching my skin. I heard the wind in the trees and the birds. I was, for the first time, hyper aware of God’s wonderful creation. God was right there all along the way saying, ‘this is how you find me’.”
Pastor Craig Storlie, the retreat leader, referred to what Amy was experiencing as “God time.” When everything else, worry, analyzing, doubt and time disappear and you are fully in the presence of God, able to listen. It was a first for Amy and she didn’t want to leave the retreat.
“The challenge for me now is to continue this practice at home,” reflected Amy. Each participant received a handout with ideas for how to continue their new spiritual disciplines when they return home. “I am finding I am leaving my cell phone at home more,” said Amy. “I thought anxiety would come from leaving it, but rather it comes from carrying it. Being unplugged is better. I am looking for a Labyrinth I can trace with my finger. I know now it is possible to listen for and hear God and I have more tools to help me.”
We asked Amy for a picture from the retreat and she laughed. “I left my phone on my charger in my room the entire weekend, so I don’t have any pictures.”
Amy Carpenter is an active member at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, GA.
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