Last week, I attended a workshop on "Writing and the Pastoral Life" at the Collegeville Institute in Minnesota. It was an experience that I'll never forget, and there are images that stick in my mind from that week. One is the above photo: sunset on a lake that my apartment overlooked. Another was of the monks at the nearby St. John's Abbey during prayer. But I did not take a photograph of one image that captured the week for me.
That image was of trail mix that never ran out.
In the kitchen of the Collegeville Institute, there was a dispenser of "gourmet" trail mix. By "gourmet," I mean that included with the nuts and raisins were M&Ms--a guilty pleasure of mine. The twelve pastors who attended, along with our facilitators, were constantly in & out of the kitchen with little cups brimming with the snack. During our morning and afternoon sessions, we kept the dispenser going. One day, as I declared for the billionth time how good the trail mix was, someone said, "Have you noticed that the dispenser is never less than full?"
I asked myself how that could be at the rate of pastoral trail mix consumption. So I started paying attention. She was right: No matter how much trail mix we ate, the bin was always full. The well of M&Ms never ran dry.
There are many lessons that I draw from the simplicity of trail mix: hospitality, abundance, generosity. But what that image captures for me more than anything was that I was "running on empty" creatively when I arrived at the Institute. For that week, I was filled and filled over and over--not just physically but also creatively & spiritually. The conversations were life-giving. The sessions were dynamic. And the free time that I had allowed me to get back to my passion of writing --and talking about writing with other pastors-writers.
We all grow weary, and how good of God to bring people into our lives who "nourish" us. I am extremely grateful to the staff of the Collegeville Institute for the abundance of this workshop and hope that everyone has an opportunity to experience such fulfillment. More than anything, I hope that I can in return pay attention to the "trail mix dispensers" around me. I hope that in the same way I received abundantly, that I will give abundantly.
So will there be unlimited trail mix in my office in the near future? I sure hope so. When there is, come and join me. Let us be filled -- over and over--by God's abundant grace.
grace, peace, love, and all good stuff,