Abbey of the Holy Trinity Day 1

I write these words in Huntsville, UT, at the Abbey of the Holy Trinity. This monastery is home to contemplative Cistercian Monks commonly known as Trappists. Sheri and I have come here on retreat, and thus we are now officially Retreatants.

Wow! Where do I begin? I have so much I want to say all at once …

I am sitting on the front row in the Church Sanctuary. I just finished eating dinner with the other male Retreatants, and evidently they all know each other and are from the same area of Idaho. It also seems that they are all recovering alcoholics, because the dominant topic of conversation at the dinner table was 12-step meetings. Obviously they don’t feel compelled to adhere to the credo of silence practiced by the Monks and expected of the Retreatants. Usually I would help clean up and set the table, but I came in here to get away from their conversation. And one of the primary reasons I came to this monastery was to experience silence.

Sheri and I went on retreat together back East at the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA. It was also a Cistercian monastery, but silence was expected there. I got shushed on our first day there by the Retreat Director because I was engaged in a little too much conversation. I learned my lesson.

Another difference here in Utah is the fact that I am allowed in the Retreat Center, but Sheri is not. Women are allowed in the Church for services, and also allowed in the gift shop, but the Retreat Center is for men only. Consequently, she will stay in the Guest House owned by the monastery, which is located about a mile down the road near the entrance to the monastery grounds. We decided that I would spend the night with her in the Guest House so that she would not be alone, but we will sleep in separate rooms so that each of us can have devotional time.

Enough about the differences between Holy Cross and this abbey, it is what it is here, and it will continue to be a blessing. This monastery is situated on over 1800 acres, and is ringed by mountains. Monks from Kentucky came here in the 40’s to purchase this land and establish this monastery.

The Monks here balance prayer, manual work, and spiritual study. Seven days a week, several times a day, they gather here in the Church Sanctuary to praise God and pray for all people.

3:30 A.M. Vigils – “Night Watch”
6:00 A.M. Lauds – “Morning Praise”
6:25 A.M. Mass
7:45 A.M. Tierce – 3rd Hour Prayers
12:15 P.M. Sext – Mid-day Prayers
2:15 P.M. None – 9th Hour Prayers
5:30 P.M. Vespers – “Evening Prayers”
7:30 P.M. Compline – “Final Prayers of the Day”



We can’t see anything, it’s black. We don’t feel anything, it’s black.

Barren. Empty. Remote. Dark. Lonesome. Excluded. Cold. Fragmented. Colorless.

Black is black is black is black.

There’s no substance, no life, no feeling, no light. We can scream and no one hears, cry and no one cares, grasp and not feel anyone.

And we can’t expect the light to come to us. Or can we?

No one can steal what is in the heart and mind, no one can touch the inner self … unless we let them. No one, save God.

Will the light come to us? Can we manufacture light? Can we fashion hope? Can we create love?

Light is light, and black is black.


What do you want?

Do you believe that God wants to bless you and give you the desires of your heart? Have you spoken frankly and openly with God about where you want to go in life, about what you want to do, about how you may serve humankind?

Do you know what God is looking for in your life? Do you know how God expects you to live? Do you agree that you should live in harmony with God’s will?

Are you willing to believe that following God does not mean that you have to abandon your goals? Do you believe that God partners with you to give you fulfillment?

To answer some of these questions, look at some of God’s promises included in Scripture. In Jeremiah 29:11-13 it says:

“11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Excerpted from Compton’s Interactive Bible NIV
Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 SoftKey Multimedia Inc. All Rights Reserved

This certainly does not sound like God the Scrooge, does it? Do these verses from Jeremiah make you think that God wants you to live as a pauper, scraping by from paycheck to paycheck?

Do you think that God wants you to lack self-confidence, to have a poor self-image, to be negative and pessimistic and cynical? Is that what God wants?

As it is said in the vernacular, “Hell No!”

God is honored when we walk confidently and successfully through life.

Hear what God has to say through the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:15-29

15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19″After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
21″His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22″The man with the two talents also came. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
23″His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24″Then the man who had received the one talent came. `Master,’ he said, `I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26″His master replied, `You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28″ `Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

Excerpted from Compton’s Interactive Bible NIV
Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 SoftKey Multimedia Inc. All Rights Reserved

I guess God is serious about the fact that we should make the most of what God has given us. God wants a return on his investment in us. God is pleased when he sees us developing our skills, reaching out to others in love, striving for and achieving personal goals.

When God sees us taking care of what we have, no matter how small it may seem, God is quick to give us greater responsibilities and greater prosperity.

Please understand me. God loves the poor, God loves the downtrodden, God loves the persecuted, and God loves the humble.

How much stuff we have is not a reflection of how much God loves us. The size of our house in no way indicates how dear we are to God. There are many that are filthy rich that are far from the heart of God, and there are many that are dirt poor who are close to the heart of God.

God stands ready to bless us richly. In fact, God made us a promise that if we give generously of our time, talents, and money, God will give us far more back than we will ever give away. This promise from God is in his word at Luke 6:38:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

We serve a big God who wants to do great things through us.

Let’s trust in God’s promises of blessing and prosperity, and let’s be cheerful, generous givers. We must rely on God to fill your storehouses so that we can continue to empty our storehouses for the benefit of those we touch!

We love because God first loved us, and we give generously because God has given generously to us.

If we want to succeed in life, if we want to reach our goals, if we want God to bless and enrich our lives, we would do well to be vessels through which God can bless and enrich others.

Fill in the Blanks

As a child I really wanted to _________.

The greatest joy in my life is _________.

I wish that I could _________.

I fear that if I start dreaming I will _________.

As I child I dreamed of being _________.

I like to play _________.

If I could afford it I would _________.

Others tell me how much they appreciate my _________.

Growing up we never had enough _________.

I don’t do it much but I have always enjoyed _________.

In order to have more money, I need to _________.

I believe I am getting better at _________.

When I am having a good day I feel that I can _________.

As a child I was always told that I was good at _________.

I really feel confident when I am _________.

As a child I always felt happiest when _________.

In five years time I want to be able to _________.

God has empowered me with the gifts of _________.

One of the things I like most about myself is _________.

The Last Third

About 15 years ago I went to hear Billy Graham speak at the crusade he was holding in Columbus, Ohio. The very first thing he said in the pulpit was, “The thing that strikes me most about life is the brevity of it.”

His comment did not mean that much to me at that moment, it did not really register. But during that same period of my life I went to visit my Grandma Bertha one day, and she made this statement: “Keith, it seems like yesterday that I was a teenager.”

So I began to think more about “The Brevity of Life,” about what that might mean.

When you are in your early thirties, your awareness of the brevity of life is not nearly as acute as it is when you are older. I am now in my late forties, and the speed with which my life is passing seems to be accelerating rapidly.

The current average life expectancy for an American male is around 75 years, so statistically I am entering the last third of my life.

The last third.

Two-thirds of my life is behind me, only one third remains. Granted, I try to live healthfully and perhaps I will “beat the odds” and live longer than 75 years. But then again, God might have other plans for me and I will live only a few more moments.

In any case, I think more and more about the brevity of life and it is definitely affecting the way I think and the way I live. For example, my priorities have definitely changed. Some things that seemed important to me when I was younger no longer even concern me.

Another example of the change in me is that I am much more inclined to speak my mind when I strongly feel that something should be said. If I don’t say something now, when will it be said?

I’m less inclined to let injustices go unchallenged.

Fixing the fence seems much less important than spending time with my wife … although I don’t intend to let our property go to pot.

I’m more inclined to hire someone else to do the job than do it myself … especially when it involves stuff like digging ditches.

You’d think that I would be more inclined to hoard as I approach retirement, but giving to others seems more attractive now. You can’t take it with you when you die, eh?

Although I still compete, I am far less competitive than I used to be – how important, really, in the grand scheme of things is my Saturday morning squash match?

I want to be more accepting and less judgmental of those who have a different perspective, a different background, a different orientation, a different creed, a different experience.

I want more and more that my life would count for something … that I live authentically and without façade … that I fulfill my God given purpose in life.

I’m in the last third of my life … or, could it be that all I really have is right now?