Today is the first day in our retreat setting. It feels like maybe this is something I am more ready for than others in our group this year. We are staying in modest surroundings with amenities at our finger tips. Even still, the amenities are not up to the standards of some in our group. I am noticing also that in our days of instant technology that stepping away from the rest of the world is proving to be somewhat of an unrealistic expectation on my part. I will admit, too, that compared to our surroundings of other journeys this setting is not the same. However, it does provide for everything we need to get by for the three days.
I am writing this after the three days has ended. So, I have benefit of knowing what I have observed these last three days in my reflections. One other note before moving on. I picked up something that has created a significant sinus infection and deep chest congestion. I have been taking medication to reduce the symptoms, but still, my current physical condition is also playing a part in my perceptions and interaction. My energy level is really low. My ability to overlook and shrug off things is really limited. I am aware of this and need to keep it in mind.
Never the less, a low key, down to earth setting is what I was looking for and have found here. The day schedule is full and will present some great time to reflect and take in God’s vast creation. The evenings will allow time to pause and listen for God has in store for me. I cherish the opportunity and hope the others will find what they need in this time, as well.
We travel north to the borders of Lebanon and Syria today. We are going to see two of the three sources that feed the Jordan River. Not only are they the primary feeders to the Jordan River, they are indeed two of the most serene places on this earth.
Our first stop is Dan. It is a well-groomed path in the midst of lush greenery. You can hear the sounds of nature and feel a gentle breeze. Just off the forefront there is a calling of the water. You can hear it, but not yet see it. It draws you in as you walk beside is flowing streams and over its rush cascades. It is bright, vibrant and clear. It truly looks as if it were alive. It is captivating and energizing. We continue on down the path drawn to the flowers and creatures and smells of nature all around us. The water sometimes quiet, and sometimes full of life, keeps crossing our path.
There in the heart of this scene is a quiet pool of water that rests among the trees. The site has shaped itself all around it, while trying not to disturb the pool itself. I set beside the pool for a while, pushing all the other sounds and movements out of my head. It is just me and God for a short respite before moving on away from the river.
Tel Dan is a place of historic value. It sits alongside of the river and has been a stronghold throughout history. He who controls the water, controls the land and those who live on it. A fortified city shows its remains with layers and layers of history built one on the other. Moving on around the site we find “Abraham’s Gate” dating all the way back to time of Abraham. This place has carried it weight in life, growth, battles and control. Even today, the borders of Israel and Lebanon are strategic in allowing Israel to control a primary source of water for the entire country.
Leaving Dan, I am a bit nervous as to what I am going to see next. When I last was at our next location it was under construction. Major work was being done which usually mean they have figures out a way of taking something perfect in itself and creating a commercial site out of it.
We make the last turn coming into Banias. The construction equipment and barriers appear to be gone. They have cleaned up the entrance without too much artificial placement of stone and remnants. The path of the river source coming down the mountain has been widened. We now water over streams of water as well as see a strong river bed just in front of us. A new place allowing for visitors to sit back and take in the waterfall and its cascading river has been created; while at the same time a wider path for others to walk behind the observers has shaped its way over the extend waters and up to the Temple of Pan and the Gates of Hell. There still remain enclaves of stone benches tucked into the natural surrounding where groups can gather for some sharing and meditation. On down the lower path, following the river, there is a large picnic area filled with tables among still several trees. I am pleasantly surprised at how well they have done to clean up the site while not destroying its own sense of natural beauty.
I venture for a short time to the top and listen to what Najeeb has to say about the historical value and scriptural references to where are in this place. I enjoy a short stop at the modest gift shop, primarily, to get a beverage. I find a bench for reflection and spend my remaining time gazing at the wide stream that lies before me. Occasionally, I look to the mountain’s edge and focus on the waterfall that is pushing the stream. But mostly I am taken at how the rushing water’s edge so quickly becomes a calm and casual flowing stream.
I am taken in by what seems to be in my life so much time at the waterfall. There is always a rush and a push and something else that needs to be done. There are always things that others feel I need to be doing, or at least doing better. I long for a better way of taking that part of my life, and just as this river has shown me, to move the high energy pace to an even steady flow. There must be the one, in order for the other to happen. The question is at what point does the rush of water lend itself to being a steady flow. Something causes the change to occur. Could it be that is what was meant in scripture when we are told to “be still and know that I am God”? Could it be as simple as putting all the rushed, high energy parts of our lives, at the feet of Jesus; just as the waterfall hits the foot of the river base, and in that instant all the parts come together and move steadily, peacefully onward. I close my eyes and l think thank God for the living waters. Not just the rivers I have been seeing today. But the life changing and sustaining waters of God, Christ and Spirit that fills me to overflowing and shapes me today.