On the second leg of my Colorado trip I spent three days in Colorado Springs using the St. Francis Retreat Center there as my home base. I had finished reading "Falling Upward" on the plane out, and didn't get to read while I visited Brett, Julie and Ben Smith. When I arrived at the retreat center I knew that I wanted to do some reading, prayerful reflecting while walking the grounds, and exploring the area.
The retreat center actually started in the 1920s and 30s as a facility owned by the Modern Woodmen of America which treated people who contracted the White Plague, or Tuberculosis. Treatment was done with exposure to fresh air, sunlight and healthy foods. It was an effective treatment for TB sufferers, and was used extensively until the TB vaccination was developed and the number of people with TB dropped. They sold it to an order of Franciscan sisters who used it as a school and as a convent over the years. Now it has many facilities over its many acres which climb Mt. St. Francis, including the retreat center, a nursing home, convent, spirituality center, worshiping parish and cemetery. It was just beautiful and the perfect quiet place for me to spend this private retreat portion of my trip.
Colorado Springs is the site of the Air Force Academy, and along the freeway coming into the city from the north sits the football stadium in a very scenic setting. You may notice at the top of the picture a yellow airplane and a white glider. During the day, these two were constantly buzzing overhead, training for pilots at the academy. Since there is 300 days of sunshine per year, this is the perfect setting for this kind of training.
I visited the Garden of the Gods, a wonderful park featuring interesting outcroppings of geological rock formations. It was indeed a unique and stunning place to drive through.
Always present in the western skyline of Colorado Springs is Pike's Peak. I drove the 20 mile road up one day - it is quite an adventure! There are not very many guardrails, and the quick drop and beautiful vistas on the side of the car were almost like a threatening creature pressing in on me. I had to force myself to focus on the middle lines and ignore things to the right of the car in order to make it all the way up. I also took a sweatshirt on the trip for the sole reason of needing it on the peak. Of course, I left it in my room at the retreat center, so I ended up standing in 30 degree weather with blowing wet snow flurries flying around me in shorts and a t-shirt. Fortunately they sell coffee and hot chocolate at the restaurant at the top, and it is also tradition to get a donut there too.
Leg number two was relaxing and contemplative, as well as inspirational as I read Rachel Held Evans' "Searching for Sunday". I love her writing, and her story is one that I fear many in our society has experienced - being pushed out of church because of blanket exclusionary statements proclaimed by pastors and parishioners alike. As a person who was raised as a "super Christian" in an evangelical church, when she became an adult, Rachel struggled mightily with her own personal Bible study, the stances her church wanted her to take, and and understanding of "Grace" that breaks down all barriers between all of us sinful human beings and God. I hope many folks at Clinton Heights will read it and give me their feedback as well!
Peace and blessings!
Pastor Ralph Wolfe