I arrived home last night in a torrential rainstorm after four days in Chesterfield, NH, just over the border from Vermont. Hallelujah Farm is one of those hidden jewels of retreat into nature that is the perfect setting for a “wisdom school” – our purpose for the visit. We were blessed with glorious days of sunny, breezy weather and a show of natural splendor on Friday night when the thunder rolled, lightning lit up the sky and rain cleansed the earth for the next day’s gardening. It all sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? And so it was for the 21 of us who had deep discussion, deeper silence and delicious food to sustain us. There was just one issue that jarred our habitual selves. The farm has two buildings, one up the hill from the other. At the lower farm, where we were gathering, there is virtually no phone service and absolutely no internet. A trip to the upper farm (available only in the afternoon “free time” from 1-3PM) was the only way to “get connected” – unless before 7:00am when our prayer began…The stewards of the farm, Sandy and Roger, were gracious in offering their Upper Farm phone for necessary calls home to check-in and to take messages for emergencies, but for the rest, we were incognito except to God and to one another.
I was thinking this morning about how accustomed we have become to the possibility of instant connection and how difficult it has become not to have that access. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, [N]ow is the acceptable time! (6:2) He’s talking about the necessity of paying attention to God no matter the trials or sufferings that endeavor entails. It seems to fit what we were trying to get to in our silence in prayer, at some meals, in our “conscious work” as well as in our times of conversation. To be totally present to the moment we are in allows us to become more conscious of God’s presence to us and the need for us to be present in return. Not distracted by our usual ability to connect with the world, we were more able to focus on what was happening where we were when we were there. We learned once again how difficult that is because we still had our thoughts to contend with in the silence. It was a wonderful exercise, however, of delving into what wisdom lies within ourselves both personally and corporately and an opportunity to grasp the beauty and importance of living in the present moment.