All posts by Erma Gerd

Jacki’s Passion for Retreats


Yes, passions!  I’m a frequent attendee and leader of retreats, from three-hour “minis” to week-long immersions.

For twenty years I have experienced a deepening appreciation, personal use and increased leadership of retreats for people of faith. “Passion” describes my strong, heart-felt conviction that we all need some version of a regular retreat. Perhaps it’s always been that way. Perhaps retreats are the remedy for a particularly imbalanced society and church. Perhaps (probably!) our biblical heritage of Sabbath-keeping is one way to understand the gift of retreat.

Beyond the literal ancient observance of Sabbath lie many other biblical principles that convict me of our common need. The psalmist hears God invite us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Following Christ’s resurrection, the disciples uprooted by grief and disorienting joy abide together in Jerusalem, awaiting together the plans and power of God. The epistle writers urge in many varying ways that we not forsake “assembling together.” Time and time again, I’ve seen renewal happen in the special retreat time, a renewal that sadly doesn’t always occur in the day-to-day “operations” of being disciples, of being church.

So, I’m passionate about the spiritual discipline of retreats. They have an ability to restore and reorient us to God’s work — work that may be in, through or despite us. What that time away looks like will surely vary from person to person, organization to organization, and season to season. The point is an intentional rhythm of consecration, an intentional habit of setting time aside to be uniquely receptive to God and one another.

These are the gifts I appreciate so much about retreats; consider them a glimpse into my leadership style and priorities. These will be present in some measure, tailored in unique combinations, in any vibrant retreat.

Slowing Down – The Gift to sleep a little later, move a little slower, and stop ‘working’ long before bedtime…

— The Gift to ponder without producing, whether in nature’s beauty, around the fireplace or in prayer/meditation…

Play – The Gift to enjoy recreation (re-creation!) and leisure, whether alone or with those sacred souls with whom we’re so often working hard…

Creativity – The Gift to access our intuitive, opening side, whether in arts, music, cooking, movement (or even brainstorming!)…

Fellowship – The Gift to deepen intimacy in a setting that is sensitive to varying needs and styles of relationship-building…

Discernment – The Gift to listen alone or together, to name patterns and accept truths, to identify landmarks and Spirit’s call…

Commitments – The Gift to name response to emerging Truth, to set forth in language of heart and mind the fruits of retreat’s reflection…

Worship – The Gift to proclaim God’s empowering faithfulness amid the valleys and heights of our journey, and the Gift of attending to one another as the Body of Christ…

I believe the Christian gospel to be invitation to the abundant life of Jesus Christ. For this, I believe the Biblical patterns of journey, sabbath, discernment, surrender, solitude and community to be timeless. A “Living Well,” you might say.

Wherever you are on your personal journey of spiritual growth, I pray this stirs your own reflection on current habits and/or needs for retreat! Perhaps we’ll meet at a LWM-sponsored retreat, or at a retreat for your church or organization. Perhaps in our coaching session, I’ll support your exploration of a renewing retreat experience.

Wherever it is, here’s to the abundant life Jesus promised, here’s to “Living Well,” together.


Waiting for a Mentor

Regular readers of this blog may have followed Reverend Jacki’s sacred journey toward becoming a certified coach. This reflects a commitment on her part to enter into professional relationships with clients who will benefit from her as she anchors their growth.

The kind of support coaches, ministers, teachers, and others offer is valuable. We make a conscious choice to hire, work with, and grow with these professionals. Each time we show up for ourselves by fulfilling our commitments to participate in coaching, worship, class, or other enrichment activities, we send a powerful “yes” to the universe. The universe answers back with all kinds of shiny sparkly stuff that we get to share with our mentor and others. As we share, we become available to move into mentorship roles.

This is a good space to thank Jacki for taking this step and to bless her excellent effort. The powerful influence she is is no surprise to the universe, but the form her new endeavor will take has my attention. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be some shiny sparkly stuff, and I am here ready to catch some.

Just as Jacki has concluded her training so she can be available to serve in this new way, I have had new opportunities to move into a career of teaching. This is a welcome change, as I far prefer helping people avoid or solve financial challenges to doing legal work. Although acting as a lawyer gives me an opportunity to help, my true talent is in teaching. Like everyone else, I get tied up in knots I construct of my own fears. I tell myself I cannot support myself as a teacher and that my message of abundance and joy will have an unexpected ending wherein I die broke and living in a paper box. I do my work and recognize that this is untrue, but sometimes god decides to undo some of the knots and give me a little head start in my return to knowing abundance.

The other day, god stepped into a line waiting in the clerk of court’s office. Being clever, though, god did not say, “Hi! I’m God. Cut it out with the broke-paper-box routine. There’s a swine flu thing coming up, and a bunch of people need reassurance and stuff.” Instead, god looked confused and asked if she was in the right line.

“What’ve you got?” I said, by rote. I was hot, tired, and capable of directing a lost non-lawyer to the right line without making any human connection at all.

God snatched her paperwork to her chest. She was not very forthcoming about the nature of her legal matter, demanding I give an easy answer without her doing any work. (The “good for the goose is good for the god” aspect of this is obvious–now!)

Finally, we ascertained god was right where she needed to be.

“It has been a while. I haven’t practiced law for six years.”

“You were a lawyer?” (Who knew?!)

“Yes. I got tired of it. I decided to make a go of it on my investments. I did fine. I don’t miss the money. I thought I would, but I don’t.”

Right then and there, I poured my heart out: I’d rather teach. I fear the loss of income. I might die, you know, broke and living in a box.

God didn’t preach. Instead, she just smiled and told me how much she enjoyed waking up and knowing her day was hers. She told me about her flower garden. Then, when the clerk called my number, she whispered, “Smile.”

I ran from counter to counter, filed my paperwork, and left the clerk’s office.

You-know-who was in the elevator. She touched my arm as we parted ways in the lobby.

“Enjoy your garden,” I said.

“And you enjoy . . . whatever it is you enjoy.”

Our journeys are sacred. Sometimes they take us to a planned activity, but sometimes enlightenment is spontaneous.

Show up to your coaching appointment, celebration service, or class. Enroll in the abundance classes Reverend Jacki and I are teaching. Enjoy food, fellowship, and formal growth. These activities are opportunities to slow down, connect, and listen to the voice of god in us and in and though ministers, coaches, and teachers. These moments prepare us for the other moments, for the opportunity to recognize god as, in, and through the person next to us as we go through what seems like an unpleasant daily task.


Living From The Inside Out

Food for thought…

Living from the inside out does not mean living individualistically or in a self-serving manner. Living from the inside out means living what Glenn Hinson calls a “contemplative lifestyle.”

For me, it means taking care of the temple of this life: my body and the circles of intimacy and responsibility in which I am embedded. It means, also, spending time in prayer, study, meditation and accountable relationships so that I am ever on the journey of greater congruency and authenticity.

As above, so below. As within, so without. In the bulb there is a flower…


Kata of Forgiveness

Ki haku
Truth unfolding opening
Grief constricting focusing
Pain emerging releasing

Shapes endless


Ren ma
Grounding trust: worth
Claiming space: joy
Mastering anger: now

Rhythms unite


Shuchu Ryoku
Surging peace work
Striking opponents true
Returning center free

No mind

Letting Go

Truth advancing
Breath guiding
Form containing

Ki haku
Ren ma
Shuchu Ryoku

“Forgiveness is taking into full account the extent of the harm done, and choosing to will the well-being of all the victims and all the violators.” –Marjorie Suchocki

I wrote this poem for the community of Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense for their upcoming newsletter. It was inspired by the forgiveness film and workshop on forgiveness I led there in January.


Ash Wednesday

This year I commit, again, to the abundant spiritual life just hinted at in Isaiah 55.

What if Lent were about feasting (as in the marvelous fable Chocolat?)on truly satisfying things: meditation, reconciliation, courageous models, fragile connections.

What if notions of “giving up” were infused with the tenderness of Isaiah 55, not the trappings of self-hating and embattled Christian tradition?

Then, I suppose, we would actually really have the fragile wisdom and fortitude to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem…


Hang Out With Friends


“Jesus stays off the best-stressed list by nourishing in his soul a sense of belonging. He does not dam the rush and flush of feelings, but enters into relationships fully and participates wholly in life– whether in their pain or pleasure, bitterness or blessing, trials or triumphs. Jesus has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to break. Jesus invests in friendships…”

— from The Jesus Prescription for a Healthy Life by Len Sweet

We’ll be studying Sweet’s book february 23-March 23, 2010. 7pm Meditation/7:30pm Study/Discussion. 6554 N. Rockwell Street, Chicago.


Guest House

I have rediscovered this poem by Rumi recently, and have shared it with a number of clients who are really appreciating what it invites: an equanimity and hospitality in how we live each day. Today, I hope you’ll breathe deeply enough, and regularly enough, to welcome and honor all that comes…

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Rumi


Reverence and Communion

All week I’ve been coming across readings which make of communion a way of life… here is the latest, thanks to Spirituality and Practice’s Facebook post. I’m investigating which Dossey book it’s in.

There is only one valid way to partake of the universe — whether the partaking is of food and water, the love of another, or, indeed, a pill. That way is characterized by reverence — a reverence born of a felt sense of participation in the universe, a kinship with all and with all matter.” (Larry Dossey)