Friday, January 28, 2011


I don't...but I heard at least 3 people proclaim that sentiment last week.  It used to be that only older folks felt that way, but now I hear it from twenty- and thirty-somethings. While winter does have its intrinsic negatives, it also has much to offer us in the way of beauty, rest and appreciation for the resiliency of life.

But for those of you who have trouble seeing past the cold, the hassle, the gloom and the claustrophobia....I send you Electronic Warmth, Light and Color..most from Prairie Pond Woods.  Enjoy!  It's not that far away...





Thursday, January 20, 2011


Here is a very inexpensive way to feed the birds (or raccoons or possum), and one that fits right in with the landscape, which I find desirable.  I don't mind pottery or wooden bird feeders but the plastic ones just don't quite do it for me (although I do own a mission-style one that I painted black). So if you are looking for an easy-on-the-wallet inside project for the goes:

Take a walk in the woods to find a fallen branch or small tree trunk...10-18 inch long and around 4-6 inches in diameter.
Cut the ends off and screw in a hook at one end.

Drill evenly spaced holes all around the wood.

Rummage through your freezer to find old Bread, Buns or Bagels. Sometimes you can get old bread from stores.  

Heat up the cooking grease you save...rather than throwing it down your drain...and place the three B's in it to soak.  You can cut them up into smaller pieces either before or after the soaking.

When it is below freezing, stuff the bread pieces in the holes with a spoon, let harden and watch for titmices, woodpeckers, Carolina wrens, flickers, chickadees and even a few cardinals at times. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Sometimes what goes around, comes around.  

Years ago I was in a pretty conservative church that would take a yearly retreat to Tar Hollow State Park.  We would rent out the group campground and pavilion, do the usual church retreat stuff and have a lot of fun.  The only thing that wasn't usual was that we didn't call it a "Retreat," we called it an "Advance."  The thinking by the leadership was that the Church should never retreat from its obligations...but should always advance the cause of Christ.

At the time, I thought the whole name change was a pretty lame idea  The church was always trying to separate itself out from the mainstream, and I thought this was a silly and impotent stance to take.  But twenty-five years later, and now leading my own retreat ministry, I'm wondering if they weren't on to something.

Since the beginning of Heart By Nature Retreats at Prairie Pond Woods, I've had occasion to hear many reasons why people can't get away for a day or a weekend.  The list ranges from, "I'd love to, but I'm too busy" to "I'm just not interested in retreats."  But I also wonder if folks have a misunderstanding of retreats and might be missing some potentially wonderful experiences.

Maybe we have come to understand retreats as only "getaways," where we just leave whatever state our lives are in, committing what someone once called "domestic suicide" in the process, and return to pick it all back up. If that is so, then I wouldn't want to hassle with it either. If we just go for distraction, diversions or temporary stops to the craziness and discontent, only to come back to a life that defaults to staying the same...we might as well call it a true stay-cation.  It takes a lot of energy to rearrange family schedules, make sure everything is covered and potentially deal with bad attitudes about your leaving, so it should count for something in the end. I always give kudos to the women who show up on Friday evening or Saturday morning, because I know what it took to get there.

But let me give you another way to look at retreats, if this is your conscious or unconscious view of them.  Retreats really are (or should be) a way to advance your life. When you attend a retreat, especially ones that give you time for solitude as we do at Heart By Nature, you have the opportunity to:

  • Advance your relationship with God by learning NEW ways to pray and to listen and to just be.
  • Advance an understanding of your own passion, gifting and calling.
  • Advance the healing necessary in your life before you can be wholly God's.
  • Advance your active and important role of sharing God's love to a broken world.  
  • Advance your understanding of ecology and appreciation for God's creation.
  • Advance YOUR process of moving towards a conscious and intentional life.
These "advances" are really moments of enlightenment by the Holy Spirit, or new ways of looking at things brought on by others who don't think like us, or healings that come through finally accepting ourselves or discovering how deeply God loves us.  These may come in large or small doses, depending on our receptivity and God's will.  But they will come, if that is what we seek. 

John Trent wrote a book about the importance of making just 2-degree changes here and there.  Just a 2-degree course change on a boat, plane or path, will land you at a different place altogether at the end of the journey.  And in the end, isn't a well-lived gift of life what makes us fruitful, content, a light and a delight to our Creator?  That is the goal of an Advance or Retreat or Whatever you call be inspired to make your life different by going deeper, wider, wilder!  Not just for you, but to your family and those around you who long to see hope through authentic transformation.  

The quote below by Thomas Merton, inspired me to write this.  It came to me, as I'm sure it was written, in a moment of quiet contemplation. 

"We live in the time of no room, which is the time of the end. The time when everyone is obsessed with lack of time, lack of space, with saving time, conquering space, projecting into time and space the anguish produced within them by the technological furies of size, volume, quantity, speed, number, price, power and acceleration."

"The primordial blessing, "increase and multiply," has suddenly become a hemorrhage of terror. We are numbered in billions, and massed together, marshaled, numbered, marched here and there, taxed, drilled, armed, worked to the point of insensibility, dazed by information, drugged by entertainment, surfeited with everything, nauseated with the human race and with ourselves, nauseated with life." 

"As the end approaches, there is no room for nature. The cities crowd it off the face of the earth. As the end approaches, there is no room for quiet. There is no room for solitude. There is no room for thought. There is no room for attention, for the awareness of our state."

"In the time of the ultimate end, there is no room for us." 

Be still, bear fruit



Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is up,
that the way to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Arthur Bennett
Valley of Vision