"he raises the lowly"

My soul glorifies the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
Henceforth all ages will call me blessed.

He puts forth his arm in strength
And scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones
And raises the lowly.

We used these words of Mary from the first chapter of Luke for the women's retreat a week ago. They've been a daily prayer of mine for years, a comfort during my walks and words that I thought would be well received by those considered "nobodies" in our society, like many who come for retreats with us. We focused on Mary's embrace of her lowliness, without shame or fear. And it was very well received. The women at the retreat seemed pretty familiar with such humble trust in God (though seemed glad to hear it affirmed once again), and we discussed God's intentional choice to reveal himself through the lowly. "God chose what is weak in the world... God chose what is low and despised in the world..." (1 Cor 1.27-28)

I didn't strongly emphasize the part about casting the mighty from their thrones, though that's been important to me as well. I find myself now, as I have often been in other places and other communities, bringing sharp challenges against some people in organizational leadership here. Against their use of power to punish or coerce, something Jesus strictly avoided. And against their hypocrisy, something Jesus hated. It has gotten to the point that I pray that Mary's words will be fulfilled here, that I realize I have no chance of a good relationship with these particular people until they are brought down, and that I'm pleading for God's arm to move soon and irresistibly.

When I look to our new friends from last weekend, though, my heart melts. It was such a relief to hear their stories and experience their friendship. One of them has already written about bringing another group for a retreat later this summer, and we're eager for it. I need to keep my attention focused on them. That same woman told us of a dream she had here, of many fish being pulled from the big meadow in front of our house, a great catch being drawn in, but then other people intruding, seeming to disrupt or distract from the fishing. As I think about it, we do see all those who come for retreats appear from the direction of the meadow (where the parking area is), though they certainly are fellow fishers as well. And I do need to take care not to be distracted. God is raising the lowly and I want to be involved.

One practical thing I recognized during the retreat was the need to gather a group of advisers again, people to offer ideas and help us coordinate with the rest of the community here. It's fallen apart as different people have left the community in the past couple years. But I want to make sure we don't include people who are in leadership positions this time. There's just too many temptations in those positions, and acceptance of those positions of power really indicates a spirit opposed to the spirit we try to nurture in our retreats. A spirit that embraces lowliness. The Spirit of the anawim.