by Carla Mueller, Coracle Associate
Last fall, I felt the Lord inviting me into an extended season of rest. 30+ years of performance orientation and a career of fulfilling that drive for achievement working in a Los Angeles public school had left me exhausted. Dry. Cynical. Ragged.
So when God continued turning my eyes to a self-imposed sabbatical rather than a new place of employment, it was easier to say yes than I would have thought. Though the responsible, practical, importance-craving parts of myself objected to taking months away from industry and income, I was just too tired to argue. I came to Corhaven with hopes and expectations but no plans or strategies; I was ready for someone else’s strategies. All out of answers, my plea was for God to meet me.
And oh my, has he.
It’s very common for people coming to Corhaven to ask for a retreat “how-to” guide, a structure to follow to make the best use of their time—I certainly assumed there was at least a “starter kit” of activities for the weary soul—but you won’t find one here. There isn’t a formula for encountering the God of the Universe and no program that the Lord Jesus Christ follows to make himself known to us. The Holy Spirit is not directed. The sights, sounds, scents, words, and silence that will clear away the walls around a heart and envelop a son or daughter in everlasting love are individual, unique, intimate. They cannot be prescribed or manufactured. No, I was not given a list of strategies upon my arrival, but I was given freedom and space to be honest in the midst of turmoil, to sit with God and ask my questions, to be held by God and stop asking questions, to breathe in a place where I felt loved and that held no expectations of me except to be present.
The essence of Corhaven—a place to meet God…a place to be met by God—is to create space for God, then let God show up and do what God does. (What does God do? Speak. Embrace. Heal. Refresh. Restore. Reorient. Forgive. Love. Pour out love. Overwhelm with love.) And so, there are countless seating areas throughout the property, chairs around fire pits and benches thoughtfully placed along a babbling creek. There are warm and welcoming guest quarters with simple décor and reminders of the God who loves us and heroes of the faith who have gone before us. There is life all around, in the woods, in the gardens, and in sweet animals who often seem to carry the very presence of Jesus to you. You know that the property is prayed over fervently and frequently; the peace is palpable.
Anyone who has spent time at Corhaven knows how special a place it is, but it can’t be that we may only offer respite, care, and opportunity to encounter Jesus if we have 17 lush acres of woods, a blanket of stars unobstructed by streetlights, and cozy guest rooms. We know that God is everywhere at all times, longing to be with us. And we are his ambassadors, called and equipped to welcome in all who are seeking his kingdom, with whatever place we have. We can create space for brothers and sisters to meet him, to be met by him, wherever we are, no matter how small our place is.
At Bill’s suggestion I recently watched a short documentary about Ludmilla, an elderly woman in the Czech Republic who has designated her home as an Embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven. She’s a widow living in a small house, but her home is known as a place for those in need. Sometimes she knows who will come on a given day, but she’s even more thrilled when there is a surprise visitor because she knows that anything that happens will be entirely dependent upon the Lord’s initiation. The brokenhearted, the scared, and the weary come. People like me. People like us. Ludmilla offers simple food prepared with care; she offers a place to rest, to be silent, to be heard, to weep, to laugh; she offers God time and space to speak and do what he wants, what is needed, and agrees with his will in prayer. She has little to give materially but knows that the giver of life and of every good gift is at home in her home, is at home in her heart, and she is ready to receive who he wants to meet there. Can you imagine the level of confidence it takes to declare your home an embassy of God’s kingdom? But Ludmilla, who is certainly a minister of Christ but not by ordination, is quite clear about her mission. She says, “We are all ambassadors. The Lord Jesus didn’t choose to do it any other way. He simply entrusted us.”
At Corhaven, I have met God and been met by God in ways that have brought so much healing, hope, and life, and it’s been a joy to be a part of caring for this space so that others can also encounter him here. For all of us who have been blessed by this or similar spaces, may we be granted the vision and confidence of an elderly widow and remember that we, too, have the capacity to create little embassies of the kingdom of heaven, safe places for the heart for anyone.
After all, Jesus entrusted us to do so.