This morning, the sun was shining brightly on the steeple of the church in my neighborhood. It was as if God was waving and yelling out, “Good Morning!” to all of His creation. I felt a peace pass through me.
2 Samuel 23:4 (NIV)
he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.
My drive from Michigan to Ohio was absolutely beautiful. Michigan had experienced an ice-storm and every branch of the crystalized trees glittered for miles, superior to any display of Christmas lights I have ever seen, as the sunshine brought them to life. My simple little camera would not have captured the beauty that was before me; therefore, the photo album is etched in my memory.
To silence oneself for a few days is not as hard as imagined; I accomplished this during the last weekend in March in a most serene setting in Ohio at a silent directed retreat. About 25 others attended this quiet-time to contemplate and discern God in our lives. We were blessed with trained Spiritual Directors to guide us in this journey.
The first evening, we were able to speak with others while sharing a meal. I was one of three participants from Michigan, and I met some awesome Ohioans. We may have talked for 45 minutes or so, but much was shared within those precious minutes. After the meal, we met in a room together to share what was on our hearts this weekend. When it was my turn to speak, I explained that about a month ago, I had a very vivid dream of someone telling me to “minister to the church”. My personal task then was to spend time with God to see just what that meant.
We were assigned one of four Spiritual Directors and we broke into smaller groups to meet with them for further instruction about the weekend and to set up our personal meeting times. After this short meeting, we were excused to begin our journey into silence.
Back in my room, I had a hard time settling in. Earlier that morning, my mother was rushed to emergency and diagnosed with a treatable form of congestive heart failure. It was on my mother’s urging that I go ahead and make my journey to Ohio as I had planned for months. I silently kept in contact with my siblings by receiving updates about my mother’s condition via text messaging.
One awesome cook made all of our meals. Eating in silence was an experience I had never encountered. We acknowledged each other with smiles, but then focused on our food before us and the beauty of the landscape that surrounded us through all the windows in the dining area. We took turns cleaning up the kitchen after each meal. I signed up for clean up duty after breakfast on Saturday morning. I broke the silence in the dining area when I accidently dropped a drinking glass onto the ceramic tiled floor.
Spring was not in the air; however, God gave us sunshine every day. I bundled up and took a walk along the paths in the woods and I walked around the pond and next to a stream. I spotted beautiful birds that I never see in Michigan, I heard the jack-hammer pounding of the Woodpeckers high up in the trees, and two sets of geese were making their homes near the pond. It was so beautiful.
Sitting in silence and letting the Holy Spirit speak to my heart was quite an amazing experience. Spending time in prayer, God’s word, in His creation, and simply resting in Him, made me realize that He is not quiet at all.
During our closing session, we went around the room, as we had at the beginning, and shared what the Holy Spirit spoke to us in our silent journey. This is what I said:
On Thursday, I announced that I wanted to know what my dream meant to “minister to the church”. I found out that answer this weekend.
To minister means to care for others. The church are people everywhere.
The Holy Spirit allowed me to search deep inside of me to remind myself that I love to help people. I have sewing skills, listening skills, writing skills and support skills that I can creatively use to serve God’s people. Although I have ideas on how to utilize my passions and skills, it will be the Holy Spirit that will lead me. I will spend more time in prayer and in God’s word as they will strengthen me.
Philippians 4:13 is my take-away verse:
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
I did not want to leave the serenity of the weekend. My Spiritual Director explained that this is an experience. I can take this experience with me, lean on it, remember it and be thankful for it. I can create new experiences to spend quality, quiet-time with the Holy Spirit. When she said this to me, it didn’t make sense. Only after being immersed into the world once again, do I understand. It is important for all of us to sneak away, quiet ourselves and let the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts as it is true nourishment for the soul. Now I understand why Jesus took time alone to pray to his Father. He was being strengthened for His journey to the cross.
A special Thank You to Sister Virginia, my Spiritual Director. May God continue to use you for His good works.
I tend to carry around years of baggage. Not just a few odds and ends of this and that, but the essence of my heart where tears have collected into pools of water. This baggage is very heavy.
The New American Roget’s College Thesaurus suggests a new word other than baggage; impedimenta. The root word is impede which means to interfere with the progress of. The progress of…being still and hearing God’s direction for my life.
Impedimenta come with control systems fastened to my weaknesses. With a booming voice like that of a drill-sergeant only I can hear, I am reminded that I am not good enough, pretty enough, skilled enough, or smart enough. My past mistakes trip me and pull me down only to stare deep into my eyes and say there is no forgiveness. I am told I don’t matter unless I am affirmed.
- – - – - – -
As I stepped onto the Labyrinth at the retreat in June, I chose to leave the impedimenta with the booming voice like that of a drill-sergeant that only I can hear. I cried out to God to rescue me from the heavy trap of lies. I sat in the middle cocooned in prayer. Jesus carried me out and freed me like a butterfly on a beautiful spring day.
Impedimenta-free, I feel as light as a butterfly on its inaugural flight. My wings flap crazily and I zig and I zag through the sky taking flight breaks on all the pretty flowers of the earth. I am free to hear God’s direction for my life.
I take to flight…
Matthew 22: 37-38
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment.
I attended a life-changing retreat June 25-27, 2010 with about 14 other women.
Although I have wanted to go on a spiritual retreat and I talked about it for over a year, I was hesitant to go. I am always hesitant to try something new, alone, that is out of my comfort zone. I should learn to trust that when I am out of my comfort zone, I learn valuable lessons in life.
On the top of the retreat schedule I received at the opening session, it was written: “We must learn to walk away from the carnival of the world ~ to become still and remember what it is that holds us; what, in us, is held.” – Ingrid Goff-Maidoff
Before reading this, my goal for the weekend was to hear God’s direction for my life. God does not have a still small voice when you seek him with an open mind, open heart and willingness to listen.
Through meditative prayer, I connected with God. I felt peace. We dedicated a labyrinth in the room and then walked it as a group, taking turns when we were ready to enter. I waited close to the end because I was out of my comfort zone. I decided to leave my baggage of problems and issues at the entrance and step over them and see what happens. It felt so good to release the baggage I held onto. I walked the labyrinth and prayed for God’s forgiveness for a lot of things, I sought his peace for other things and I just wanted to walk with God. At the center I prayed. Before I started the journey back out, I asked Jesus to carry me as I was spent from the walk in. It was here that Jesus picked me up and carried me to the mountain top experience I have so enjoyed.
I met some amazing women at the retreat. With age gaps spanning decades, we connected having so many similar life experiences. One woman listened to my hopes and dreams for my life and gave voice to urging me to seek what it is I love and want to do. It was through this woman that God spoke to me. This woman/God said, “If you knew you had one year to live, would you be doing what you are doing right now?” This is the million dollar question in my life that has given me back the hope I thought I lost and the ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel once again.
Saturday evening, alone in my room, I wanted to listen to my JPod (IPod with all Christian music and sermons from In Touch Ministry with Dr. Charles Stanley). I was upset after about 6 songs when my JPod announced “Battery Low!” I realize what God did and the sense of humor he has. I tried for a couple of days before going on the retreat to charge the JPod, but it would not properly charge. Obviously God wanted me to spend one-on-one time with him. I am so thankful that my JPod was not charged as spending one-on-one time with God was really my intention for being away at the retreat.
It is hard to put into words what the mountain top experience is like because it is such a beautiful experience. I felt so peaceful. I saw beauty in the flowers in the garden, the rainstorm, the nature walk, the songs of the birds, the pond, and in the talents the other women shared. I was able to bring this peaceful feeling to my home, my job, my family and relationships.
Matthew 17:3-5 (NIV)
3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
In my mountain top experience, I heard the same message, ”This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
I was on a 6-day mountain top experience. Yes, I knew I had to come down, but I learned so much while there. The first time in my life instructions are not vague. I know with whom I need to ask questions. I have been charged with God’s strength and wisdom to go out and accomplish what he has in store for me. In faith, I leap off my pile of baggage and into a life that has been carved out for me.
I look forward to sharing the next phase my life story.