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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Spirit surprises and inspires

On a recent Sunday afternoon I got in my car and prepared for a two-hour road trip. After a morning of church activity, I was ready for a small nap. Instead I headed off to a required pastor's retreat.

I'm glad I did. Yes, Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., was beautiful, and the unlimited access to mashed potatoes was a dream come true. But it was the reminder of a special lesson that made me most grateful for my time there.

For the first three years of ministry, ELCA pastors are required to participate in a program called "first call theological education." We have trainings, small group events and retreats. The goal is to equip new pastors so they can be healthy leaders far into the future.

More than anything else, the retreat reminded me that I am blessed with amazing fellow pastors. Being with them showed me that I'll never be alone in ministry or in life — we're all in this together. Each hour of the retreat led me closer to one of life's truths: it's important to learn to lean on one another.

One evening we told stories and ate delicious homemade rhubarb dessert. I giggled with a genuinely joyful heart. As I sat back and smiled, I was suddenly reminded of a book that has been sitting on my shelf for years: No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton.

I believe God is at work in all the events of our daily lives, including required retreats, work meetings, carpools, coffee breaks and fishing trips. At this particular event, perhaps God wanted me to recognize that I'm not on an island all alone — and never need to feel that way. There is a world full of encouraging, inspiring people. I'm realizing that it isn't a sign of weakness to invite other people onto the island of my life — it's a sign of strength.

We all need a network of supportive people in our lives. Who are the people in your network? Have you been living alone on an island? Or have you allowed visitors? As much as many of us wish we could be totally independent, that isn't the way it works. We need one another and our Creator. If we keep all our uncertainties and fears trapped inside, we become anxiety bubbles just waiting to burst.

Leaving the retreat, I rolled down the car windows and found a radio station to sing along with on the way home. My eyes flooded with thankful tears. I drove to the retreat totally unaware of how much the Spirit would teach me. I returned home filled with hope. It was another sacred reminder that in all times and places, God is most certainly at work. 


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