As I drove home, after sweet goodbyes to many friends, I found myself asking the same words the crowd posed to John the Baptist as he began to prepare the way for Christ: "What then shall we do?" I wanted to return, not merely with thoughts and ideas which would be quickly crowded out by the hustle and bustle of a busy home, but rather with a clear grasp of those things which I would do. How would my life, and potentially the life of my family, be changed by the small investment of a weekend?
I am going to reflect on each session I attended and choose one thing which I do not want to forget, one thing I can do so that life can be all living.
Why have I chosen a Charlotte Mason education? For me, asking myself this question launched the amazing journey of the weekend. Nancy Kelly began her session of the Pre-Retreat Gathering with a picture of her family and shared that they were the reason she had chosen a Charlotte Mason education.
"What would you do with a free weekend?" Art Middlekauff challenged us with this question during his session of the Pre-Retreat Gathering. The goal of the question was get us to reflect on the atmosphere we as parents produce in our homes knowing that children breathe in the atmosphere emanating from their parents. If we really believe in the good of those things we are asking our children to do as part of their CM education, why would we not be doing those things ourselves? In short, are we as parents contributing to a true or fake atmosphere in our homes?
I have a very specific commitment in mind, and I do not make this decision lightly. During the opening plenary, Nancy Kelly spoke on simplicity and the link between simplicity and the single eye Christ spoke about in Matthew 6:22-23. "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"
John Wesley sheds much light on this passage in his sermon, On A Single Eye.
"Simplicity and purity," says a devout man, "are the two wings that lift the soul up to heaven: Simplicity, which is in the intention; and purity, which is in the affections." ... Let us attentively consider this whole passage, as it may be literally translated. "The eye is the lamp of the body:" And what the eye is to the body, the intention is to the soul. We may observe, with what exact propriety our Lord places simplicity of intention between worldly desires and worldly cares; either of which directly tend to destroy it. It follows, "If thine eye be single," singly fixed upon God, "thy whole body," that is, all thy soul, "shall be full of light," -- shall be filled with holiness and happiness. "But if thine eye be evil," -- not single, aiming at any other object, seeking anything beneath the sun, -- "thy whole body shall be full of darkness. And if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" how remote, not only from all real knowledge, but from all real holiness and happiness!
The weekend gave me the clarity to see that the commitment I had made was not done so with a single eye fixed upon God but rather with an evil eye fixed upon self.
Jan Wright was there with her beautiful books from Books of Yesterday, and, yes, I do view the glorious time spent on the first evening looking through the books as a session in and of itself. I only bought a few books (that was sooooo hard). One was to complete my son's hardback collection of Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain. It was actually the only book "not for school" I bought and hence have the complete freedom to read.