Janie Beck Kreider is the Associate Coordinator of Public Programs at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center. She is also on staff with the Mennonite Creation Care Network and is part of the Mennonite Church USA communications team. She graduated from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in 2012 with a Master of Divinity degree. Janie lives with her husband Luke in Charlottesville, Virginia and attends Charlottesville Mennonite Church. She enjoys leading retreats, planning worship, hiking and camping, music, cooking, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.
Last month I led a women’s retreat on spirituality and the environment. This was the third retreat I’ve organized since joining the staff at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, and they have all somehow incorporated things I love dearly: singing and worshiping with other women, hiking at night in the snow, sharing delicious and thoughtfully prepared food, and reflecting on stories from the Bible and from our lives.
An important part of the retreat each year is to practice paying attention to the non-human elements in the world around us and in the biblical texts we study together. Following this theme, I led a workshop on prayer practices, including lectio divina, a slow, contemplative praying of scripture. In a small group we prayed excerpts from the long and beautiful Psalm 104:
O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
The earth is full of your creatures.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
And plants for people to use,
To bring forth food from the earth,
And wine to gladden the human heart,
Oil to make the face shine,
And bread to strengthen the human heart….
After praying together, we reflected on how the Spirit had moved in us. One woman shared that bread was the thing that struck her the most throughout our praying, that recently she had been reading about the health benefits of eating a gluten-free diet, and that recent studies have shown that wheat is difficult for the body to digest.
She had tears in her eyes as she reflected on how disorienting and even painful considering this dietary shift has been for her, because of how deeply bread is connected with her spirituality and the myriad ways bread is connected with the story of God’s people as a nourishing substance. Continue reading