Do you hear what I hear?

I closed my eyes in the struggle to quiet my thoughts and settle my heart. I was having trouble this morning finding the stillness within to ponder a bit of scripture, to make space for the Spirit to illumine the words before me. My old antique clock–the one that hung in my childhood home and now keeps time in my grownup home–tick-tocked loudly from its place on the wall just above my head, reminding me that I was losing precious time…

When I was younger, I measured time in years. As I grew older, months became the unit of measure. Growing older still, it was measured in weeks, then days. Now sometimes it feels like I measure time by the hour, if not by the minute

A few more minutes passed as I tried to tame my mind, and I gradually became aware that the steady rhythm of the clock’s pendulum had quieted. With a sigh, I realized that I had forgotten once again to fetch the old key and wind her up–a must for antique clocks!

For a moment or two, the silence seemed deafening.

But in the absence of that noisy tick-tocking reminder of time marching by, I became aware of other sounds, the sweeter sounds of a new day…

…a mourning dove’s gentle coo

…the sweet song of the windchimes outside my window

…a cardinal’s joyful trill.

My mind quieted and my heart settled as I simply listened. The Spirit was indeed illumining me, tuning my heart to the heart of Creator God. I was being invited to let time stand still while I communed with God, sharing his delight in his beloved creation. In those quiet moments I also sensed his whispered reminder that I, too, am his beloved creation.

My prayer for you today is that you would allow time to stand still for a bit, inviting the Holy Spirit to quiet your noisy world…and in that silence and solitude you would experience God’s joy in all his creation…especially in you.

A Quiet Place

Once a month I slip away for a day of solitude.

If you are thinking, “Wow, that must be nice, but I could never afford that luxury,” read on.

When I first considered a day apart each month–a day to leave all the demands of life and ministry behind in favor of several hours of simply being in God’s presence–it seemed formidable. Could I make the time? Surely it would be impossible to incorporate this into the rhythm of my life. And even if I could, what would I do? Oh, wait…it’s about being, not doing. (That was enough to make my Martha personality hyperventilate!)

But, honestly, desperation is the true mother of invention…or at least of intention. A deep desire to simply be still before God was gnawing at my spirit like a hungry infant demanding to be fed. Eventually I gave in, reserving a day at my favorite retreat house. It was glorious! I came home refreshed and refilled. So I studied my calendar and chose one day I thought I could spare each month for the next three months. Then, at the end of that three months, I booked a day for the next three months–without carefully studying my calendar. It became no longer about a day I could spare. Now it is about putting the retreat day on my calendar and scheduling everything else around it. Who would have thought it would work? Not me! Yet I’ve integrated this into the rhythm of my life and, amazingly, have never felt the time was ill-spent. Everything has gotten done that needed doing.

 

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Yesterday was July’s retreat day. As I got on the road, I had an overwhelming sense of Father God welcoming me, inviting me to just come and be with him. After the flurry of throwing my “stuff” in a bag (more about that in a minute) and getting out the door, his invitation triggered a necessary slowing down. Funny how that aligned with the need to literally slow the car as I left the highway for a country road. As I made the last turn onto the narrow lane that leads to the retreat house, I smiled at the cows lolling in the shade, lazily chewing their cud, hardly noticing my noisy intrusion into their morning reverie. I pulled up to the house and disembarked to the hearty welcome of croaking bullfrogs who inhabit the pond. Again I smiled. Peace began to flood my soul.DSC_1622

As is my habit, I made some coffee and then went out to the porch swing with my prayer book to begin my day with God. Sipping coffee while praying the Morning Office in the midst of the frogs’ song with a gentle breeze wafting across the porch…peace that passes all understanding.

I always bring “stuff.” I’ve wondered if I do this because I’m afraid God won’t show up and I’ll need something to fill the time…something to do. But God has never failed to show up, and I have never felt the need to do anything on these retreat days. My bag of “stuff” usually includes my Bible, my journal, a coloring book and markers or colored pencils (don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!), a book or two of a spiritual nature, and my camera. What I have learned is that any or all of these things may be God’s “tools” for the day–things through which we connect more intimately. Yesterday it was the camera. (Truth be told, it often is.)

DSC_1733I wandered down one of the trails, snapping pictures of the flowers and a critter or two,┬ámarveling at a couple of brightly colored birds who were not willing to sit still for a photo shoot, taking in the glory of God’s creation.When I had my fill, I returned to the house and settled again on the swing in solitude, occasionally journaling a snippet of DSC_1772conversation with God, but mostly just basking in the slowness and simplicity of the day.

Later, back at home, I looked at the pictures I’d taken. I realized that many of them contained insects feasting on what God provided. I hadn’t necessarily seen them from behind the lens, perhaps because they were so small or because the sun’s glare washed them out of view. Yet there they were, getting their fill. And I realized that I, too, had gotten my fill of God today–enough to sustain me through another month of life and ministry.

A day of solitude will do that for me. I bet it will do it for you, too.

 

So how can anything go wrong?

Ever have one of those days when you just need a hug, or a smile from a stranger who doesn’t expect anything from you, or just a simple encouragement? Perhaps today is that day. I pray that you will be blessed by the wisdom of Julian of Norwich…

Behold, I am God.

Behold, I am in all things.

Behold, I accomplish all things,

Behold, I never withdraw my arms from my work.

Behold, I never fail to guide all things

toward the purpose for which I created them,

before time began,

with the strength, wisdom, and love

with which I created all.

So how can anything go wrong?

Indeed, how can anything go wrong with God? Be encouraged…He’s got this. He’s got it all.

hands of God

Excerpted from All Will Be Well: Julian of Norwich, (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1995, 2008, Quest Associates), pg. 22