The Sound of Silence: In Love Again

I am sharing a few of my journal entries from a three day silent directed retreat held by Christview Ministries at Little Portion Retreat Center in Eureka Springs, Arkansas April 13-15, 2012.  

4/15/12

Everything seems so sensual this morning.

I slept fitfully last night and finally about3:30 am prayed that God would help me sleep.  I dreamed of running through soft grass and swimming naked crystal clear hot springs with the water wrapping around my body.

I awoke and performed my morning yoga. I think that will become a routine again and I felt blood flow and course and my body hummed happy like a well-oiled machine.

The sky is hazy- not gray specifically, but the haziness that comes with humidity and soon-coming rain. The kind of haze that makes colors shout out their names and reminds you of the beach in midwinter.

Even breakfast caressed the senses this morning. Still simple fare, no gourmet chefs here these monks,  but simple food from God’s bounty prepared with love and care.  This morning we ate scrambled eggs and biscuits with link sausage from a package and I nearly did a cartwheel when the monk rang the bell for breakfast.

A smile, bright like joy itself, sprang to my lips when this man and woman spooned up God’s nourishment and I desperately wanted to bubble out “Thank you” but we are still giving each other the gift of silence and I have a breakfast date with Jesus so my smile like joy will have to do and I bound away happy.

I pour a glass of water flavored with lemons and oranges. I taste the slick spring water and it leaps to life on my tongue. Bright notes of floral and citrus play together and maybe a little mint and my heart sings because I am in love again….with this water, with this place, but especially with the Maker of it all.

I linger over breakfast. The smooth blanket of biscuit with fresh butter and strawberry jam, eggs scrambled just right- still soft and so warm. I salt the fruit to taste its flavors and they pop and kiss and mingle together in my mouth and my heart sings happy because I am in love again.

After breakfast, I head out to the place God prepared to do our last Lectio Divina. I’ve saved a verse about battle (2 Chronicles20:15-17) for last, for the time before I return to the real world.

For a moment, I feel fear and doubt rush in.  There is no Absolam here. There has been a caterpillar to greet me along every steo of my journey there sort of as a guide to confirm my steps are his will.

 

“Oh, but I am here.”

I look down and there is a brown and black caterpillar I’ve looked for and found everywhere along the way crawling up my pant’s leg. I wonder silently how long he’s been there.

“All along,” comes a chuckle from God, “all along.”

So I sit and pray and open my Bible to appropriate passage and begin to dig in with God.

I expect words like “Fight the good fight.” And “Go tell the nations.” But instead, Jesus lets  me off the hook. He took down the chore list from the refrigerator. You know the one with:

20 min of quiet time

20 min Bible study

Evangelize

Make Converts

Invite people to church

You know that list? The one that straps me into to “doing” everyday and fills me with shame at my failure every night? Jesus gently takes it off the fridge and crumples it and throws it in the trash.

“The battle is not yours, but God’s,” He says. “Stand firm, hold your position and watch the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.”

I stutter denials and  but, buts.. and he says:

“I’ve given you a story. Tell yours and they will hear Mine.  Love. Go in peace and stand firm.”

And then we sit for an hour and talk about fear-

Of doing too much.

Of doing too little.

Of letting go of fear itself.

Jesus says “Trust me.”

“You make it sound so simple,” I say.

He chuckles, “Simple is not always easy, Cari.”

He doesn’t always sound like my Dad, but today he does and I love him even more for it.

So, OK…Practice trust. Simply trust.

And then Jesus blows my mind-

“Listen. You are doing the right thing. There is no right or wrong way to draw near to me. No twelve step formula to hear my voice. Just listen. Listen for me.”

I breathe deep his peace and look down. There in the leaves are two more Absolams. They raise up the front part of their bodies as if to speak to me or say “Hello.”

But I think perhaps they are saying, “Goodbye,Alice.  Until we meet again.”

15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them,and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 15-17

The Sound of Silence:Grief Like a Stillborn Child

I am sharing a few of my journal entries from a three day silent directed retreat held by Christview Ministries at Little Portion Retreat Center in Eureka Springs, Arkansas April 13-15, 2012.  

4/14/12

I came here seeking answers.  Lots of them.

Anne Lamott says she knows only two prayers- “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I would add to that my own two – “I love you, love you, love you,” and “guide me, guide me, guide me.”

I surrendered my list of “Guide me’s” when I entered silence last night…I laid them all on the altar….save one.

One I kept in my tight-clenched fist, unknowingly holding it up to Jesus with every prayer. My heart whispering, “Guide me, guide me, guide me.” The promise of a new book- a book with 124 pages already written, no ending in sight and a six month writer’s block that wouldn’t budge.

I didn’t realize I had held onto it until I voiced it in spiritual direction this morning. My director, Judy, pressed into that question.

“It feels like you are holding this gift from God very close to your heart? I wonder. Is that part of what is binding you up?”

Fear began its creep up my spine…slowly, like a tentative spider, tick-tickling its way up to my shoulders. I felt my eyes dart to the ground as I pondered and denied. Jesus, bind fear…help me stay open, I prayed silently inside.

“Yeah, I think it is.” I said finally, not really committing to doing much about it. What about this Lord? Can I keep this?

Jesus answered through this slight, gentle woman across from me.

“The story that comes to mind is the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac.”

Oh, Dear Jesus, no! Sharp intake of breath, the fear spider swooping in for the kill now.

“What would you say if God asked you to put this book you are writing on the altar?”

I must have visibly recoiled, for the question softened and was tempered by this gentle woman….by an even gentler God.

“…maybe not for good, but just for this weekend.”

“I can do that.  Yes, God…I will do that.”

I sighed relief thick and heavy and felt God’s antitoxin for fear venom sweep through me- the peace of surrender and trust.

As we finished, Judy prayed for me…for us…

“Jesus, we give you these gifts.  We give you the give you these things we create from our great giftedness- the giftedness You gave to us. We give you this book that you and Cari have been writing together.  We give you the grief of loss- grief that comes when our gift isn’t fully brought to life, grief like that of having a stillborn child.  We give you this stillborn child now…bring Cari peace in its place. “

The image struck me cold and hard and I realized that it was perfect.  That is it.  I have been grieving the still birth of this promise unrealized.  I have been grieving the fear that it would never be at all…that I had misheard and misunderstood.  I have been grieving for the doubt that has welled up in its place.

What a gift Judy and God gave to me in that moment.  A sadness named.  Grief…that is the name of this sadness that sweeps away my joy.  I breathe in the peace of a person who is at home in the silence and breathe in the peace of a God who sends his rescue even when we don’t know that we are trapped.

Jesus, I unfurl my hands and give you this stillborn child.  There is still hope that you will breathe your life into it and return her to me – full of life and vigor. But I lay her on the altar now, Jesus.

 

Photo by Pam Chupp

A Reflection on this reflection:

It’s so interesting to me to see how God uses experiences in our lives to prepare us to receive wisdom from Him.  Just two weeks ago, I played Jairus’ wife (Jesus raises her daughter from the dead during his ministry) in our church’s resurrection drama, The Savior and the Scarlet Thread.  I was looking through pictures of the drama and this one caught my eye.

The Sound of Silence: Stretching the Muscle Bound Heart

I am sharing a few of my journal entries from a three day silent directed retreat held by Christview Ministries at Little Portion Retreat Center in Eureka Springs, Arkansas April 13-15, 2012.  

This morning I did yoga for the first time in many months. I don’t why I chose it today, perhaps unconsciously I thought to stretch and relax my body would do the same for my mind.

My usually flexible and pliable muscles were tight and achy and groaned at the movement. Not unlike the spiritual muscle of my heart.

I’ve been working hard at ministry lately. Serving. Doing. Accomplishing great things for the Kingdom.

And none of that is bad or even outside God’s will, but my heart is bound up by all the heavy lifting.  Like a weightlifter who builds giant muscles, but can’t bend over to tie his shoes, my heart has grown inflexible and muscle bound.

As I stretched, Jesus said, “I prepared for you, Cari. Trust me. Let down the walls and trust me.”

Oh Jesus, please come. Come for me here in this place. I’m waiting for you to just be here with me. I came with questions and requests for guidance and I let them go…I just give them all to you right now.  I don’t need answers, Jesus…I just need you. Holy Spirit, come…I invite you here. Stretch me. Relax me. Be with me here. Come.

3 In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them.

– 2 Chronicles 29:3

36 And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had provided for the people, for the thing came about suddenly.

– 2 Chronicles 29:36

“You provide the fire. I’ll provide the sacrifice. You provide the Spirit, I will open up inside.”

The Sound of Silence: Harmony Creates Tension

I am sharing a few of my journal entries from a three day silent directed retreat held by Christview Ministries at Little Portion Retreat Center in Eureka Springs, Arkansas April 13-15, 2012.  

Evening Prayers, called Compline, are the only time we meet as a group. Our directors call it group worship and my heart yearns for music, but I’m learning to worship without a song and that’s not a bad thing.

We prayed antiphonally and it was beautiful harmony- the voices of these women- raspy from non-use- speaking the 91st Psalm together.

I was unsettled for a moment as the women’s voices speaking in unison came very near the sound of a Wiccan chanting circle.

This is a new sensation for me, this mirroring of my past life. But more and more, I find myself caught off guard by a similarity. Things I have done for years now in my Christian walk will now remind me of rituals or circumstances from my old occult ways.  I find it startling- and I wonder if God has kept this revelation from me until now when I have the maturity and spiritual support to handle it.

So now I find myself back in my room.  Listening to a storm blow strong across the mountain and spilling these words onto paper. My jaw holds this tension like a clamp. My head aches with the force of it and I’m no sure how to relieve the pressure there. I suppose that means that maybe the fear has subsided, but the anxiety still remains, and I am not sure what to do with that, but I know God does so I just sit with it for a while longer and pray that tomorrow will be more comfortable and I just know that it will far exceed my expectations.

 

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.