Sunday, August 16, 2015


This is the sixth blog post for the Companions on the Inner Way summer retreat. The featured speaker is Enuma Okoro.

You can find the other blog posts here:

Blogging for Companions on the Inner Way: It’s Not About Me. 

Seeking Home: Where Do We Come From? 

Who Have We Become?


At the second-to-the-last Lectio Divina group, the passage was I Peter 2:10. My word was “mercy.” 

Well. I’m so good with mercy as a policy (people who have served time for the felony for which they were convicted should get the right to vote in all 50 states!). But when it comes to myself or others with whom I’m in relationship? Not so much. Sometimes I’m so wrapped up in all the stuff that I miss the whimsy and delight and mercy around me. Here’s a reminder of the mercy I have received and the mercy I might consider extending to everyone, especially the people I know. 

Usually, and maybe this is because I’m a pastors’ kid, by the second or third worship in a row, I feel the temptation to skip it. That’s because I never skipped any worship as a kid (I really missed out on potential rebellion and I’m a little bit disappointed in myself). 

I didn’t want to skip any worship at Companions. I ducked out of the healing service early, but that was due to needing to call home at midnight eastern time. And it left me wracked with guilt and feeling disrespectful. (This may explain why I never skipped as a kid.)

It was worth not skipping. The preacher for the Thursday afternoon worship was Scott Quinn. He had me at “Star Trek.” The sermon, with a reading from I Peter 2:9-10, opened with sadness about the death of Leonard Nimoy and confessions of devotion to Star Trek. The character of Spock lived a paradox, never quite fitting in. The scripture reading tells us the hearers didn’t quite fit in because of their faith. They are urged to live that paradox. 

Whether insider or outsider, we belong to God. 

Not fitting in can be positive. Those of us who feel we don’t fit in are forced to look elsewhere for happiness. We can’t look for external validation; we have to look inside. We find belonging in God, in belonging to a purpose beyond ourselves. 

Those of us who are fans of Star Trek remember that in “The Wrath of Khan” (the second movie in the classic Star Trek series, for you newbies), Spock says, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” 

We are given community; in community, we are re-membered. We are reminded whose we are. Sometimes, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many (cf. “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”). Each one is precious enough for the community to sacrifice on her or his behalf. Each one belongs to God and a purpose bigger than yourself. 

The preacher for the final morning worship was Enuma Okoro, a treat for those of us who had been journeying with her throughout the week.  The first reading was  from the book “Passion for Pilgrimage” by Ellen Jones (the section I caught was, “I do belong to God, and this love affair is true”), and the second reading was from Isaiah 43:1.

Enuma shared that where she is from, a name is given to a child on her or his eighth day at a naming ceremony with the elders, in the hope that the child will grow into her or his name. Names say something about who we are and who we could be. In Scripture, God does a lot of naming and re-naming.

We’re familiar, of course, with Jacob being re-named Israel, Sarai and Abram being re-named Sarah and Abraham. A new name means a shift in identity, a new direction. 

Some of us have taken on names or been given names that are not leading us closer to God. We experience people telling us who are, naming us as failures. We take on false names and labels, which make us smaller. One of Satan’s weapons, Enuma said, “is to try to convince us that we are not already named, that we do not belong.” 

But God has already given us names: saint, friend, daughter, son, beloved. We are already named, and God expects us to walk into that name. To be beloved means God is walking with you. “Beloved” is to be beckoned home.

I neglected to tell you we held hands and sang and walked when the retreat began. We did the same as the retreat closed. This was lovely and meaningful, but it was about ten times less lovely because I’m a sympathy crier. At an event like this, a lot of people are dealing with a lot of things. Having space with God in community can remind you of your preciousness, provide you the space to grieve those lost. So when others cried, I almost cried. Ugh, empathy. Messy. (I’m sure empathy is a gift, right? I just hate crying.)

On the way home, with three flights I had plenty of time to think. 

Things I will miss:
Morning prayer by the lake
Structure for prayer and engagement with the holy in community
Singing multiple times a day

Things I’m looking forward to:
2-ply toilet paper
Coffee at its appropriate strength
A whole week of meals with no processed soy products
Squeezing my friends’ baby
Internet fast enough for talking with nieces

If you are interested in attending a Companions retreat, next year’s retreat in Malibu will be February 28 and March 4, next year’s summer retreat at Lake Tahoe will be August 7-12, and the first weekend retreat will be October 14-16 in Newport Beach, CA. The weekend would be a great format for those of you who find it hard to take an entire week away. 

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to attend the Companions retreat and to get to blog for these good folks! And now that I’m back to the office, I carry with me a sense of delight cultivated by the past week.  


  1. Dear Laura,
    Thank you so very much for blogging from Companions! I appreciated your candor and personal challenges with the topics, questions and activities throughout the week. I am a Companions devotee and have attended numerous times (19 and counting!) five of them in Tahoe. Bless the work that you are doing at the National level (and know that bureaucracies exist in any large organization!) Thank you for your insights and for publicly letting the rest of us "experience" Companions. Love, Christa Wallis

  2. Thanks for sharing. I was invited by my friend and couldn't make it this year. Now I really really wish I could have been there! I'm a Star Trek fan too :). Companions sounds like the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola of which I did the 1 year version. What a gift that was! I will hope to attend the weekend retreat for sure, perhaps earlier as well. Thanks again.