December 16, 2011

He is like a winter snow,...soft, quiet and slow.

Today, I can take a deep breath. My finals for the semester are done and I don't need to study for an exam for atleast a month. Praising God for some respit.

What I have waited all week to do for lack of time, is to process my thoughts about my silent retreat last weekend. As I have mentioned here before, I am enrolled in a program through Lipscomb called Growing Deeper Spiritually. It is a lay program, not an academic program. One of the assignments before our last residency in January was to participate in a 48 hour silent retreat. I struggled to find a place to leave town for 48 hours between school, photography, and family. God presented me one weekend once I got close enough to see that I could get away, so 2 weeks ago I reserved my weekend with the Cenacle Sisters in Houston. It was a beautiful facility and came highly recommended.

I have to admit that I came with some expectations of hearing God in the peace. My world has been busy and noisy this semester. I believe that there are seasons that life is busy. I also know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and even though God doesn't want me (I am not going to include anyone else in this statement, apply yourself if you want, though), to live my live without margins, He also doesn't want me to idolize the peace over Him, even in the busyness. It has been a struggle, but I have found Him in each day, within purposeful breaths, in His Word, through my prayers. I was reminded in my latest reading, The Good and Beautiful God, the words of Dallas Willard, "Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry," however, Smith, the author, talked about busyness and hurriedness as two different things. I appreciated the reminder, and was also reminded that there are places of quietness and silence I can find in each day, even if it is busy. Anyway, I think my task this semester was to not let hurry take over, and to have a heart open to God in all circumstances, it was difficult, but God's mercy and grace showed up and found me, I just needed to surrender.

So this past weekend it was me and God in the quiet, in the beauty. After arrival, instructions and a tour of the facility by one of the Sisters I was silent. I was asked if I wanted to visit with a Sister for Spiritual Direction while I was there, and I did. During our first meeting she gave me some scriptures to ponder and read several times after asking me questions about what I had expected while I was there, which was nothing, but being with God.
One of the scriptures came from John 1.

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ 39He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed*).

So like the disciples, I just spent time with Jesus.

It seems the older I get I realize that it is the out of doors speaks to me immensely of God's love and provision for His beloved. The words I heard and the love that I received this weekend were greatly through God's creation. I did feel lonely at times. Sometimes being alone in a crowd is more lonely than being completely alone. I told Rob it was the best of times and the worst of times. There were events that were happening this weekend that I sacrificed to be with God in silence.

Best of times: Sat. a.m. 11:30
"I have felt your presence in all. My long dawdling walks on the path full of bridges and grand foliage filled my morning. Oh, to have a walk with You each day that has such beauty to see. I am thankful for this Cenacle of beauty. In everything I see Your fingerprints."

Worst of times: Sun. p.m. 6:40
"Father, it is even more quiet and dare I say lonely on this Sunday night. You are with me, I know, but the house has cleared of most of those on retreat. As far as I can tell it is I and one more...My day was full of silence and peace mixed with restlessness to be home and with my family. YOU oh, Lord, are the only call I would answer to take leave at such a time of year. It is my duty to fulfill my silence for ICS, however, it was even more my desire to be led by You in 2 days of me at your beck and call. I am here Lord."

There was an art corner that I spent time doodling and painting. There was a book in the art corner that was like an open journal, I spent time reading thoughts that others left behind about their experiences, their healing hearts, their gratefulness, along with their drawings and paintings.

I told a friend today that asked me about the silence that it seems that there are no great loud revelations for me in the times of silence. However, I do feel loved, and I feel like God is present. For me, it is the time after the retreat ends that I feel a stronger resolve of love and devotion to God. It is in the residual of what is left over that I find where God has left His mark on my heart from our devoted time together. The fire inside of me burns more steadily for God as it has been tended to with great care and a dedicated seeking heart, without distraction.

Of course I took pictures of the blessings of God within my weekend. Pretty things. The first couple of pictures is where I did my morning Bible study. In a remote part of the Cenacle overlooking a ravene. The other images come from my walks around the grounds, and on the walking path that is right behind their property. You will see a hidden gate that one can go through to enter the public walking park, where you will see the bridges and large fields. It was a beautiful time of year, still color to be seen in the leaves. There are 2 pictures of the dorm style room, and then the slideshow finishes with the Stations of Light. Many are familiar with the Stations of the Cross, leading up to Christ's death. In the 1990's it was discovered that early Christians also prayed through the Stations of Light, the events that take place between the Resurrection and when Jesus goes back to Heaven, the 40 days. You will see my hand in one of the pictures. The moment that Christ reveals Himself to Mary Magdalene. My favorite story in the Bible.

There is a song that I listened to over and over on my way to the Cenacle and on my way home. The words fit my time with God perfectly. He is like a winter snow, quiet, soft and slow. May the words in this song and the places where my feet stepped and my eyes gazed bring a blessing and a reminder that God loves you and I. He is in the silence.

Click here for the slideshow
The music is by Audrey Assad, the song is on Chris Tomlin's Christmas Album.