with Christine & John Valters Paintner, Melissa Layer, and Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

A self-study retreat (start any time, move at your own pace, lifetime access)


The Bible is not a single, declarative statement of fact. It is a series of competing voices wrestling with great questions of faith. Of the many Biblical stories, three (The Exodus, The Exile, and The Crucifixion & Resurrection of Jesus) are the most foundational. Prior to each of these watershed moments our spiritual ancestors thought they had life figured out. They thought that they had God figured out, or at least had come to accept their spiritual fate. And then suddenly everything changed: forgotten slaves are rescued, an invincible nation is destroyed, the Messiah is executed and returns.

This self-study retreat will explore these watershed moments in sacred history that motivated the authors of Scripture to write down their stories of faith for themselves and future generations. Through reflection, contemplation, and creative practice we will ask ourselves these same questions that continue to shape our own faith journeys today:

Do you long for ways to enter more mindfully into this holy time of year?  Are there stories you would like to remember and honor?

Why are we so blessed? (The Exodus)

Why do we suffer so much? (The Exile)

Who was Jesus of Nazareth? (The Crucifixion & Resurrection)

Weekly Themes

Week 1: Introduction and Foundations of Faith (Abraham & Sarah to Joseph) – Why were we chosen?

Week 2: The Exodus (Moses & the Ten Plagues) – Why are we so blessed?

Week 3: The Creation Myths – Why is there suffering?

Week 4: The Babylonian Exile – Why do bad things happen?

Week 5: Incarnation – How is God made manifest in the world?

Week 6: The Crucifixion – Who *was* Jesus of Nazareth?

Week 7: Resurrection – Who *is* Christ Jesus?

Retreat Details

What's Included
  • Rich, engaging content posted six times each week on our user-friendly online platform (with one day for Sabbath rest and integration) . You have lifetime access to the materials.
  • Thoughtful and thought-provoking commentary on scripture passages from biblical scholars John Valters Paintner and Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
  • A song each week composed by psalmist Richard Bruxvoort Colligan to deepen into the materials
  • An audio recording of Christine Valters Paintner leading you in the practice of lectio divina each week.
  • A weekly creative invitation from Melissa Layer designed to engage the questions in intuitive ways.
  • A weekly invitation into the practice of writing Midrash with the scripture texts (an imaginative journey with the scriptures).
How It Works

Six days each week you will receive an email with a link to the day's content. The 7th day is a time for rest and integration. The materials are in written and audio format which you can read and listen to at any time. You have lifetime access to the materials in the course.

Day 1 – Introduction and First Reflection by John

Day 2 – Guided Lectio Divina Practice with Christine

Day 3 – Richard's reflections on a Psalm and accompanying song

Day 4 – Invitation to Midrash writing

Day 5– Melissa's invitation to Creative Expression

Day 6 – Conclusion & Second Reflection by John

Day 7 – Sabbath Rest


Pay in Full


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Your registration constitutes an agreement with our online program Terms and Conditions below.

  1. No refunds are provided for online program registrations. Please consider your purchase carefully and review the many free materials we have on our website to make sure the program will be a good fit or get in touch with any questions.
  2. You will have access to all the program materials for the lifetime of this website.
  3. The registration fee is per person; we ask that you honor our work by not sharing the program materials with others who are not enrolled.
  4. All materials presented in our online programs are copyright. Please contact us for permission to quote in settings beyond the program.
  5. Some self-study retreats include video or audio recordings of session that were recorded in a live community offering of the retreat and may make reference to forums or other modes of sharing. Please disregard these as self-study retreats do not have these available.
  6. All fees include VAT where applicable.
  7. If you need a payment plan or a more of a scholarship to make this program accessible, please get in touch with us. Small group discounts are also available.

Your Guides for the Journey

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Christine is the director of AbbeyoftheArts.com, a virtual monastery exploring contemplative practice, creative expression, and ways to nourish an earth-cherishing consciousness. She is a spiritual director, teacher, pilgrimage guide, and author of nine books on spirituality and the arts. Her deepest belief is that the earth is the original monastery--a wisdom guide and mentor in living a soulful and vibrant life. Visit the "About Christine" page for more information.


John Valters Painter, MTS
John is the online prior for Abbey of the Arts, where he assists his wife Christine in ministering to global community both online and through in-person programs. John was a youth minister and pastoral associate for four years before becoming a high school religion teacher for twelve years. He has a Masters of Theological Studies from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkely. His love for the Bible, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures, emerged when he taught the “Old Testament” at an all-boys high school. John is also a lover of the art of story-telling and has written dozens of short stories, one-act plays, and short films in a variety of genres.


Melissa Layer, MA
Melissa honors our unfolding journeys through life’s transitions and challenges as compelling invitations for creative, integrative, meaning-making in BodyMindSpirit. Serving as a psychospiritual therapist and interfaith spiritual director, she offers compassionate presence and deep listening with the ear of her heart. Calling upon the rich realms of symbol, synchronicity, metaphor and expressive arts, Melissa encourages curious exploration of the Great Mystery in extraordinarily ordinary moments. The evergreen forests of Olympia, WA in the Pacific Northwest are her sacred sanctuary. Visit Melissa's website here>


Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, MA
Richard is a Psalmist, spiritual director and freelance musician. He enjoys all manner of projects in theology and the arts. Through his company, Worldmaking.net, he is publishing imaginative and adventurous songs for the ever-evolving church. Raised in the Midwestern United States, he is a husband to Trish and a dad to Sam. Faves: discovery, music, Star Wars, bosc pears, blue, laughter, naps. Visit Richard's website here »