March 28, 2023

From the Rector…

I am writing to you from St. Mary’s Retreat and Conference Center at Swanee. I am here for a three day pre-Holy Week retreat. A time to refocus and re-center as part of my preparation for the next few weeks.

My last retreat was before the pandemic. I’ve been long overdue. Retreats are important in that they offer a time, no matter how brief, to step away from the daily distractions and responsibilities of life in order to examine life, beliefs, roles, even responsibilities, and gain fresh perspective. A good retreat helps you discover where you are before helping you to move in any direction. It is as if you need to figure out which way your compass is pointing before you can begin your journey. This retreat began that way with the question, “Where are your feet now?”

Some of us answered that question as metaphor and some answered it literally. But as I sat and thought about the question I realized a great truth I too often forget or ignore about the stance I take in the world.

One of my favorite things to do is to paddle board at the beach. The Frazer’s have a house on the first bay inlet from the gulf in Orange Beach. Early in the morning when the sun is coming up and the sea is as smooth as glass, the sun’s rays will glitter across the waters cutting through the darkness as they begin to enlighten the world. The wind is calm or offers a gentle breeze. Occasionally you will hear the ripple of the water as a fish breaks the surface. The birds circle over head, calling out to one another as they search for their breakfast. Stingrays and porpoise and even a manatee at times will cross my path. It is the perfection of God’s creation and when I am on my board out on the water, I feel far from the things of man.

Often, I take my golden retriever, Cuthbert, with me on a paddle. He sits on the front of the board as still as possible. Only his head moves as he watches the birds or checks the water. His nose twitches the entire time—delighting in all the smells of the water. It is hard for a dog to sit still, but Cutty works to keep himself and the board balanced, even as I pull through the waters and navigate the waves.

As the sun rises higher and the day begins to age, the winds pick up and an occasional fisherman goes by. The water becomes a little choppier as it’s glass surface begins to shatter in response to the waking world and the sun’s rays sparkle like diamonds across the waters. My stance on the board becomes more intentional as I ground my feet in—keeping them parallel and making sure my weight is evenly distributed through the ball and heel of each foot. It’s important not to lean to far forward or back or put more weight on one foot than the other. My abs tighten and loose as I adjust to the movement of the water. I struggle with maintaining balance even as I find joy in the world around me. It is in this moment, as I intently search for and hold my balance—working hard to stay aloft and afloat in the fluidity of life—that I realize all the world beneath me is supporting me.

No matter where I am, the earth is holding me up. It does that for all of us. As much as I struggle to find balance or hang on in the struggles of life, the truth is found in the beauty of the world…of creation. My struggle is important but it is not at the cost of all that is around me. My struggle is a place of delight when I focus on the beauty the world has to offer through that which is around and above me and that which is below that supports me.

That is where my feet are—on the paddle board of life holding on for balance but focusing on all that is good and true and beautiful. 

I don’t know where your feet are, or even if they can be trusted to support you, but I know that the earth can always be trusted to hold us up.

Light and Life,