Friday, February 26, 2016

Spiritual Vitality Project Retreat - Comfort, Texas

Back in 2015, I applied to be part of something called 
The Spiritual Vitality Project.  
A group of 16 Pastors/Commissioned Pastors was selected after filling out reasons why we wanted to join.  
Surprising to me, I was accepted and back in October of 2015, we began a 2 year process together. 

It has/will involve doing three personality surveys, reading various books, meeting together for two retreats, meeting with a cohort of 3 others to share our experiences, and meeting four times with a Spiritual Director, among other things. 
This post reveals a bit about who I am and how I'm wired. 
Maybe it will help you understand why I do, or don't do, some of the things you would hope I would do, or wouldn't do in ministry.  : )  
We in public life live in a glass house, as it were, and we can't be all things to all people, as much as we might like to be.  So, hopefully this gives you some insight into me. 
I'd love to chat more individually about the things I'm about to share, one on one, and I am being vulnerable here, so keep that in mind if you do want to chat more.  : )

On January 12 - 14, 2016 I traveled to Comfort, Texas to finally meet with the other 15 people.   

I flew early in the morning.  

A beautiful sunrise.  

I love the clouds.  

Looking down at snow.  Finally, snow.  : ) 

We arrived 30 minutes early at Chicago, O'Hare.  
I thought that was great, as I had to transfer to another terminal and only had one hour between connections. 
Well, things don't always turn out as we hope : ) 
We stayed on the tarmac for 40 minutes due to a plane needing to de-ice at the gate.  Eventually we were issued a new gate.  I ended up having to run to the other terminal, rather than take the shuttle.  Made it with 5 minutes to spare.  Whew!  : ) 

I arrived in San Antonio, Texas Airport on time.  Nice and warm.  A smaller airport than Ottawa's actually.  

Plans changed upon arrival too. 
Apparently others in charge of the this retreat were delayed, and they were our ride to Comfort, so myself and two others who were at the airport had to rent a car and drive to Comfort, about 1 hour away.  

Here's the car we rented.  

We had some time to spare, so the three of us decided to tour San Antonio.  

A nice city.  
Complete with horse drawn carriages.  

Apparently the place where The Alamo took place.  
Can't say I knew much about The Alamo. 
I know a bit more now.  : ) 

The entrance to The Alamo Museum.  

We walked the streets.....

...until we came to a place called The River Walk
A bunch of man made canals with lots of restaurants.  

A cool glass blown thingy.  : ) 

Now this t-shirt on this worker was worth the picture.  

Nice lush trees

A map of the canals. 

Interesting architecture.  

And lots of places to eat. 
And we were hungry.  

Many walking archways to connect the two sides.  

Event patrols on the water to make sure things are safe. 

There were lots of Mexican restaurants.  
And the food was great.  

Brian and Don and I enjoying lunch.  

Even serenaded by two Mexican singers.  You could have them sing for you too, if you were willing to pay.  : )  

After lunch we walked some more along the canals.  

Took in some history.  

Nice court building.  

And a beautiful church too. 

I loved these 3D wall depictions.  


The Alamo, again.  : )  

We eventually made our way to Comfort, Texas. 

Thank goodness for Air Conditioning.  

We arrived at our accommodations for the next several days.  The Haven River Inn.  Very old - very nice.  

There was a bit of miscommunication and several of us stayed in rooms all on our own.  SWEET!  Nice rooms too.  

View from my window

The other end of the room.  

After taking some time to nap, and waiting for the others to arrive, several of us gathered in the main living room area and started to get acquainted.  

Andrew (standing with the wine glass), a former youth from my Sarnia days, and now an Ordained Pastor, was part of this group.  Ken (standing beside Andrew) was also there.  I met him at a youth convention.  We were roomies.  

Eventually it was dinner time. 
And the food here was AMAZING......
but you'll soon see that.  : ) 

We spent some time getting to know each other on the Tuesday evening, and then it was off to rest and wake up nice and early for breakfast.  

I almost forgot to take my food photo.  
How un-thoughtful of me.  
Amazing food.  

As you have probably noticed by now, the group of 16 Pastors/Commissioned Pastor (me) was comprised of males only.  I asked why that was, and the answer was that no female Pastors applied.  Interesting, and unfortunate.  
We did have two female facilitators, however, who were really good.  
We spent our morning talking a bit about the project, goals, etc, and then we were set free to reflect on different things. 
That was supposed to happen in the afternoon, but two of our group (from my cohort actually) were still travelling and we didn't want them to miss anything, so we rearranged things a bit.

Before I went for a walk, I took time to work through a spiritual disciplines work sheet designed to identify spiritual disciplines that are part of my life that either invite the H.S. to continue his transforming work in my life, or quench his work.  Good stuff to work through. 

I also did a brief quiet prayer retreat and took a self care inventory.  

Then I went for a walk and discovered many things.  
Here are some of the other places where we slept.  

A great wrap around porch to sit out and reflect by.  

An unheated outdoor pool. 
It was winter in Texas, so the nights were around 5 celcius. 
Needless to say, no one went swimming that I was aware of. :)  

A nicely done gazebo.  
It was made of concrete, however, not wood.  

There was a nice fountain on the grounds. 

As you walk down to the river you find all sorts of slabs like this one.  

Bamboo growing beside the path.  

The river. 

A small falls.  
The sound of the water was soothing.  

Looking from the river back up. 
All that green is bamboo.  

Lots of land to walk on.  

A great wrap around porch.  

Some of us spent the last part of our time just sitting on the porch, drinking in the warm sun, and chatting together.  

Before we knew it, it was time for lunch.  

Another great meal, and they had the same plates we have at home.  Go figure.  : ) 

We gathered again after lunch to share together.  We introduced ourselves and it was a great experience getting to know people better.  

We spent some time in small groups talking about a book we had read called "Invitation to a Journey".  It was a bit chilly out as you can see.  

And then supper....seems like it was just lunch! 

Amazing food again.  The croissants melted in your mouth and that piece of chicken should have been for two.  

A beautiful Texas Sunset.  

We gathered again in the evening for more sharing time.  

We spent time socializing into the night, and then off for more rest.  And then morning.  

Bacon was on the menu this morning. 
Andrew couldn't wait...  : ) 

Another GREAT meal.  

And great fellowship.

We read a book about the three little pigs and the big bad wolf, from the wolf's perspective.  He was framed, apprently.  The take away for me was that what we see isn't always reality and we need others to ground us once in a while.  I know I certainly do and I'm thankful for those in my life that do that for me in ministry.  

Apparently there is a rack of hats in the lobby, and some of our group found them.  

And tried them on....

...and made us take a group shot with them....  : ) 

A more serious shot.  

And then it was time for lunch....whoot!!  
Each plate's the same, so I'm not sure what Scott was looking at.  : )  

We gathered again after lunch for a brief time, and then we were set free for the afternoon to reflect on our personality surveys and other things.  

I eventually found myself on the porch and began going over the results of the three personality tests (and reviewing my notes from the 1 hour coaching session that went with each one).  Without going into all sorts of detail, I will share with you the basic results. 

Myer's Briggs
 I'm an  ISFJ

That means I'm an 
Introvert (I focus on the inner world and get my energy through reflections on information, ideas, and /or concepts)  versus Extrovert (focus on the outside world and get energy through interacting with people and/or doing things)
This one was pretty balanced though, and I see that because I do like meeting and being with people, just not as much as a true extrovert does.  " ) 

Sensing (I notice and trust facts, details, and present realities) versus Intuition (one attends to and trusts interrelationships, theories, and future possibilities).

Feeling (I make decisions using person-centred values to achieve harmony) versus Thinking (one makes decisions using logical analysis to achieve objectivity). 

and Judging (I tend to be organized and orderly and to make decisions quickly)  versus Perceiving (one tends to be flexible and adaptable and to keep ones options open as long as possible). 

I'm varied in the scale of being an ISFJ, but it made sense to me, knowing this is only an instrument, not a diagnosis.  : )  But it did remind me once again how I'm wired and in doing some deeper research allowed me to once again see the benefits and drawbacks of being stronger in one category vs another. 

Strengthfinders 2.0
Another test we took was Strengthfinders. 

Upon completion of the questions the results are posted on a grid of 4 across and about 8 down.  
The across titles are 
Executing     Influencing        Relationship      Strategic 
                                              Building            Thinking

They give you your top five out of 32 ish.  

Mine were:  
Three in the Executing column and the top three = Achiever, Arranger, Belief.  

Then one in the Influencing column = Communication  

the final one in the Relationship Building Column = Relator

I will one day get the full 32 to see where the others fall, but this exercise was quite revealing.  

In a nutshell I'm driven person who can multi task and plan events and have a strong belief system who is verbally expressive and loves to write and am genuine and authentic with those I get to know.  

Now some of you maybe nodding your head in agreement and may want to add even more. : )  I found these strengths reassuring, and my coach actually encouraged me to speak into them more (I don't always), which I will ponder and try. I also know that strengths have opposite weaknesses, and those I am keenly aware of now.  : ) 

One that surprised me was my relator strength.  The strength is that I get to know people really well when I build a relationship with them, but the weakness is that I may look like I have favourites or ignore people.  I realized that I may do that in our fellowship hall after church, as I meet people.  I will say hello to those I know well, and chat up a storm, but only say "hello" to the new person.  That's simply because I don't know them yet, nor have a relationship with them yet.  It's not because I don't like them, but it can come across as being snobish, and I need to work on that.  

3- Colors or Leadership
The final personality instrument we needed to take was asking 8 people to fill in questions about my leadership style, more or less.  

The results fall on a continuum of 
Empowerment                 to                      Leadership  

and you end up somewhere on that continuum.  The idea is to be more balanced in the middle, which is where I ended up, more or less.  Again, it's an instrument not a diagnosis, but it showed me areas where I lead well, and empower well, and areas where I could use improvement.  Very insightful. 

A view from the porch. 

And then dinner....
I really have to work out some more after I get home.  

Food in abundance. 
A ministry unto itself.  

The fellowship continues. 

In the evening we took time in our cohort to talk about plans for our next meetings by SKYPE.  We are to meet every 6 weeks and talk about our progress with our spiritual formation.  On the left is Dave, then Bob and then Hector. Wonderful men in the ministry.  
We decided to read and talk about another book we were given during the retreat: God in my everything: How an ancient rhythm helps busy people enjoy God.  

Now I just have to find time to read it.  : ) 

We then did an exercise that, for some, and probably for me too, could be a bit intimidating.  
We did some group Spiritual Direction by gathering in our cohorts and lighting candles and taking seven minutes to share about our lives in more detail. No one was allowed to ask questions, or talk, we just listened.  
 In-between we took some time to be silent.  It was challenging, but good to hear and get to know these men better.  

We ended our evening with communion by candle light.  

And then it was social time and rest time and then waking up at 6:30 a.m. to get off to the airport (aaarrrgggghhh).  Sorry to leave the room a mess, but hey, it was early.  : ) 

A final great breakfast.  

With tired but satisfied people.  

And then off to the airport as the sun rises. 
I haven't seen too many of those over the years.  : )

I was three hours early for my flight, so I passed the time getting some work done and watching the planes take off and land.  

Good bye San Antonio. 
See you next January.  

Washington Dulles Airport in the distance.  
We had to circle around to get to the runway.  

A safe landing.  

And time to wait for my plane to Ottawa.  

Good bye Dulles.  
So, it was a good couple of days and our Spiritual Vitality Project continues.  
I was privileged to get to know new Pastors in the CRC and learn some things about myself once again in my relationship to God and to myself.  
The journey continues.