The Sound of Silence: A Quick Fall

There were eight of us on retreat.

Eight beautiful women seeking rest and restoration. Seeking presence and guidance and an un-opposed word from the Lord. Two fearless spiritual directors made the journey with us….women who quietly challenged us to unplug, unfetter, unmask.  To disentangle and listen and be intentional with our time with the Lord.

We went around the circle, saying names that wouldn’t be spoken again in conversation for three days, but would be prayed in hearts every minute. We each told why we’d come and shared how we were feeling as we entered in.

As the circle rounded to me, as hearts were spoken and deep desires named, I cringed at my true feelings. I worried that speaking my heart would open others to the same bad feelings. I shrank back from sharing too much.

But our leaders, they were good.

They saw the unspoken fear and questioned…gently pressing in as if to say, “does it hurt here a little?”

“I’m scared to death. I’m afraid of what God will say and what he won’t say. As I drove up here, I felt all the entanglements of life start to fall away, and that’s good because I got here and I feel free, but I’m also afraid of letting go of all those things that root me.”

I felt a tangible sigh of relief from some of the other women.

There…I said it….No, I am not excited about meeting the Lord here- well, I am, but that’s not the overriding emotion. I’m terrified about meeting the Lord here. I don’t know why I came…why I chose this thing….why I PAID for this…this silence that I am no good at- this locking away of words that makes me so uncomfortable.

We entered silence about 4 pm after all the questions we could possibly think of had been asked. I was like a toddler at bedtime with the questions, “Mom, I’m thirsty.” “One more story, Mama.” “Mommmyyyy, I need to go potttttyyyy!”  But Gail seemed like a talker too…much like me, someone who led with words…I thought, she does this all the time…I can do this too.

Gail asked us to turn off our cell phones, but there was no alarm clock and I hate to miss dinner.  This seemed like a perfectly good excuse to keep it on.  Gail conceded and told us to put them in airplane mode.  Like a crack fiend jones-ing for her next hit, it took less than ten minutes to find myself on Facebook.  The hysterical irony that I was about to post on a comment someone had posted offering to pray for me on my silent retreat was enough to jar me out of my tech-induced high.

Shame rushed in…I turned the phone off, through it across the room, and broken and in tears, started to pray for help.  God said to trust that he had it under control…I said I did trust but kept my ear out for the dinner bell….it never rang….I was twenty minutes late for dinner, and very disturbed.

Our first meal together was excruciatingly awkward.  First, I was not first…I was twenty minutes late.  I was last and didn’t know what to do.  Regardless, eight women sitting around tables trying to ignore one another while eating dinner is just awkward.  Add to that slurping of soup and crunching of salad and silence gets REALLY noisy.  Since I had nothing else to do but listen to others eat, I started chatting with God (I guess that’s the point or something J ) and apologizing for the whole FB/Cell Phone Rule Breach and promising I would do better and he hit me with his first grace.

He whispered, “Charlie’s watch is in the car.”

Huh? OH MY! A watch? Really?

Unbelievably, my husband’s watch- that he took off and put in the console AT CHRISTMAS (5 months ago) is still there….ticking away perfect time.

I practically skipped back to my room to put away my phone.

After dinner, I put my husband’s watch around my wrist, it was heavy and it’s weight against my arm reminded me that God really had prepared this for me. I made some green tea and found a sweet perch on the swings on the far side of the property.  I drank tea and swayed back and forth and could feel my body begin to relax and suddenly realized I was smiling.  It’s been a long time since a smile bubbled forth from my insides, but there it was.

And it was good.

 

 

The Sound of Silence: A Preamble

I survived! Three days of silence on the mountain….and I came out sane!

What can I tell you, by way of introduction, that even begins to encapsulate the beauty and grace that I experienced….well, nothing.

God and I, we chatted and ate and wrote stories and played and watched caterpillars and even drew a little. It was poignant and tender and romantic and oh, so, so restful.

So, like I said, we wrote….a lot….so I will share some of that over the next few days.  I’m still processing so much and still writing so much, that I find it hard to sit and type it all out….my wrist aches from all the writing…

The retreat was a three day silent directed retreat held by Judy Turner of Christview Ministries at Little Portion Retreat Center in Eureka Springs.  Just as a bit of a preamble to sharing my reflections with you, here is what one of director’s, Gail Pitt of Dovehouse Ministries, says of silent directed retreats:

A directed silent retreat is an opportunity to take time away from the noise and distraction of everyday life, to rest and listen for God. God longs for relationship with us–a loving, growing relationship. God loves when we choose to take time away from the things that tug at us to be
with Him. He wants to draw near and to give to us. Prayer is relationship, and silence is simply making a space for us to listen to God. When a retreat is directed and silent, it means that the retreatant spends time alone with God in prayer and silence.

I was honored and blessed to be a part of this retreat.  I can’t wait to share my reflections with you.

Five Minute Friday- Goodbye

 

On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.

For fun, for love of the sound of words, for play, for delight, for joy and celebration at the art of communication.

For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

Won’t you join us?

Here are the rules:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link backhere and invite others to join in.

3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:

Today’s prompt is:  Goodbye

Ready? GO!

Today I say, “Goodbye.”

I say goodbye to words spoken out loud, to external processing, to kiddo belly laughs in the living room and begging puppy barks for apples sticky wrapped in peanut butter.  I say goodbye to television and Facebook, and *gasp* my cell phone.  I say goodbye to the neverending noise that I steep my life in.

But only for a little while….I’ll be back soon.

This afternoon, at 3 pm sharp, I will enter into a time of silence with 14 other retreatants.  For three days we will give each other the gift of a community of silence.  Silent, but not alone.

I am excited and I am TERRIFIED.

After all the hustle and bustle of the last two months and the deep community with my church last week, I am already feeling the effects of withdrawal…the sudden margin in my life has left me reeling…a little sad….and jones-ing for another hit of constant togetherness.

But today I say “goodbye” to my earthly community to say “hello” to my God.

I have spent intentional time in silence and prayer before, but never this long.  There are great things moving and swirling around me, and I desperately seek the center of God’s Will.  Will you pray for me this weekend?

STOP!

Five Minute Friday- Light

 

On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.

For fun, for love of the sound of words, for play, for delight, for joy and celebration at the art of communication.

For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

Won’t you join us?

Here are the rules:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link backhere and invite others to join in.

3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:

Today’s prompt is:  Light

Ready? GO!

“Every secret, every shame
Every fear, every pain
Live inside the dark
But that’s not who we are
We are children of the day”- Kari Jobe, “We Are”

This week our church is performing an Easter drama called “The Savior and the Scarlet Thread.”  Our congregation has been known in the past for these dramas and folks used to come from all over to view them.  My own husband received Christ during the drama in 2003, on among many.  We moved to a new location several years ago and haven’t done a drama in six years.  We thought this would be a building year.

A year of small sets and little dialogue.

A year of small crowds and a little buzz.

A year of well-known songs and a revamped script used in years past.

But God had other plans….

The set is stunning…our set design team turned our multi-purpose room (we meet in a gymna-audi-cafetorium) into first century Jerusalem.

The story is told completely through the dialogue of our actors with very little pre-recorded narration. They cover huge parts of the Old Testament, the Nativity, the three kings AND the ministry, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus in under two hours. I am amazed.

We have “sold out” (tickets are free) every performance….over 5,000 tickets! Last night there were nearly 700 people in attendance.  People are coming from all over to view this drama.

I am stunned by the work God has done through our church and IN our church during this time of preparation! I am honored to be a part of Jesus’ story and be a part of sharing His light with the world in this way that uses a skill set in me that I don’t get to put to use nearly enough. I am blessed by this very real physical reminder that this is my “job” here on earth….my great commission.

To be the light….To push back the darkness and death of this world with the message that there is truth and light and LIFE only in Christ Jesus.

I read once (I can’t remember where, but the man who wrote it got up in my kitchen!) that we are not meant to reflect Christ’s light like a mirror, for in reflection the mirror is not changed by the light…it merely bounces off and shines on others. We are meant to refract the light like a prism.  The light then enters into the prism and is reflected out in a way that is unique to each individual prism. In a way that is personal and beautiful and relate-able.

Lord make me your prism today….let me refract your Light.  Permeate my soul and everything I do, so that your spirit overflows on all around me.  Let me be your light today. 

“We are the light, we are the light, we are the light. So let your light shine brighter.”

 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

STOP!

The Great Fog

I’m supposed to be in the swimming pool this morning. Husband and children sacrifice so Mom can have a little bit of sanity time, but sometimes sanity comes in the form of a laptop, a white page for word-smithing and powerful worship music….

Sometimes worship is sung out through fingers rather than through voice…This morning may my words be worship. May they write out the story that God has written on my heart. May they bring praise to the Lord and maybe, just maybe, a little light to your life as well.

Several weeks ago, on my early morning drive to the pool, a fog rolled in.  Deep, heavy…obscuring everything around me. Headlights cleared a path just a couple of feet in front of me and cast an eerie glow around the vehicle.

As I peered into the glowing haze, a sense of overwhelming, almost paralyzing fear overcomes me.  I sat at a stop sign not 50 yards from my home contemplating turning back. Quiet comfort, sweet snuggly arms waited for me behind, the unknown lay before…and I battled the fear and I battled insecurity and God’s word came to cut through the fray—“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”

Keep going, He whispered to me. I’ve got you.

Deep breath, murmured prayer and off I go, slicing my way through the hazy darkness.

The fog was so thick in spots, even though the subtleties of the road there are known to me, I know where each bump and pothole and slight curve is, I was disoriented by my lack of vision.  I gripped tight the wheel and prayed and continued on.

Sometimes, over a hill or around a bend, there would be moments of crystal clarity where the path before me was plainly visible and I would breathe in a sigh of relief and let down for just a moment, and then plunge back into the hazy darkness.

As I was cutting through the fog, what a perfect picture of our faith walk this experience was.  What an intense experience of all the emotions we journey through on our journey with God.  What a manifestation of the word picture “Your word is a lamp unto my feet.”

In this life, we are surrounded by dense fog more often than not.  We are all trying to slice through the haze and darkness and find our way to our final destination.  Some of us know well the path, some of us are just learning, some choose to march it in utter darkness and others choose to light the way with the word of God.  I am so thankful that ten years ago someone (several of them actually) took the time to help me find that lamp.

Even with light to brighten the way and push back the shadows enough to see our next step, there is fear and insecurity. When we can’t see the way, it’s so easy to want to stay where we are comfortable, where there is warmth and clarity.  But we are called to go….we are called to love….we are called to the great Story of the One who came for us.  He promises to make our paths straight. We just have to lean in and trust the He has us.

Keep going, He whispers to us. I’ve got you.

Thankfully, there will be moments when we will catch brief glimpses of all God has for us ahead and it’s a glorious…stunning…victory. I just hope the next glimpse I get, I will be less concerned about letting down and more focused on taking in the awe of His great plan for me.

This week, as you are peering through the haze, remember what His word says to us:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Preservation

The water swirls around my body- arms pulling, legs propelling.

The rhythm of the stroke takes my mind away to quiet- no kids yelling, no dog chewing, no expectations drumming fingers on to-do lists. Just me and the water. The smell of chlorine and the whirring “whoosh whoosh” of the water pumps permeate my senses.

Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe.

The motion is music. My body is a well tuned orchestra designed by the Great Master. I relax into the early morning worship of a swimmer in water.

Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe.

My face breaks the surface and I gulp in. Water rushes in where air should be.

Immediately my brain snaps back…body takes over and starts to bark its protest. Instinctual response- fear grips, heart races, adrenaline dumps and blood rushes to large muscles…self-preservation kicks in.  But human instinct in water is to thrash, to gulp air and to clear face from below water…human instinct doesn’t save you when you’re drowning…self preservation can drown a girl.

Ten years of swimmer’s discipline takes hold to still the panicked mind.  Blow out…stroke….breathe…blow out…stroke…breathe…touch side and rest, shake off the lingering awareness of fear.

Face down, push off, start again.

Self-preservation is our strongest instinct. In many instances it is a gift that means the difference between life and death…but sometimes it can cause us to lose our life.  It is self-preservation that causes a person in water to drown. It’s what causes a drowning man to fight. Water isn’t the only place where self-preserving instinct is dangerous.

Self-preservation will kill us in the spiritual world.

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25

 

As Christians, don’t we struggle with self-preservation more than anything else?

And just like in the swimming pool, the override switch often must be discipline…must be practice. Today I ask God to help me die to self….to give me a heart to serve only one master- Jesus Christ.

“The unalterable basis of an open heaven is a grave, and a crisis at which you come to an end of your own self-life. It is the crisis of real experiential identification with Christ in His death.”

-T. Austin Sparks

 

 

Unwrapping His Promises- The Promise of His Presence

But the afternoon passes without even waving and tomorrow morphs into yesterday without anyone noticing. ” He writes…my friend who blogs about love and life and what it means to be both.  He weaves a tale of busyness, of Christmas normal, and then of Christ’s love, of Christ’s choice, of Christ’s promises.  I was full of tears and hope when he writes: “Will you not sit with me as we unwrap these promises together?” 

Why yes, Duane Scott, yes I will.  

You can, too, you know…he’s created a beautiful downloadable printable with a writing prompt for each day between now and Christmas.  Share your words with us, here or through email. These are the best gifts of the season….don’t keep them to yourself.

The Promise of His Presence

The alarm clock sounded early this morning—well it seemed early—this morning it was actually set an hour later than normal.  Seems as if the alarm sounds earlier and earlier these past few days. We’ve battled a stomach virus in our house since last week—it brought with it a bone-weariness I haven’t experienced since my children were bassinet-bound babes.

I rolled over and snuggled into the warmth of my husband and began my morning prayers.

“Jesus, come….I invite you here. I love you.”

Heart full to bursting–gratitude spills over the edges of my early morning quiet.

“Thank you for this man, Lord.”

Happy tears sneak past the rims of closed eyes.

“Thank you for our family…for these kids…for this dog…for this house…for this life, Lord.”

This is how each of my days begins.  Ann Voskamp calls this love that flows from thankfulness “eucharisteo”…this life-filling gratitude.  It is the practice that keeps me centered…that keeps me focused…that reminds me of the beauty of all that God has given me.

This morning as I pray, I sense something more.  Something deep wells up.  Something bubbly and exciting.

Something called Joy. Unexplainable…Not for any earthly reason….just a love song from my Lord.

And as I open my eyes, a song plays in my head….

“and He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”