Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Way of the Heart--thoughts on solitiude

I mentioned this book, The Way of the Heart, in my last blogpost about sacred spaces.  I've been reading this book by Henri Nouwen in preparation for the upcoming retreat in January.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through with the book, having finished the sections on solitude and silence.

In yesterday's post, I mentioned one of the sacred spaces (without elaborating) was my rolling sanctuary. I've talked about that before.  When I'm in my car, travelling about, I often drive in silence in order to listen.  It depends on my day and my needs.  Lately, I have needed to create more space than normal of silence and solitude in order to be able to live, love, and lead well.

I say "well", but that isn't always the case.  I do the best I can with where I am, thankful that God is full of mercy and grace.

Thus, the need for space, for quiet, for solitude, for silence.

I have been on the journey to the true self for several years now, intentionally focusing on this because of SoulFeast,  the 5 day Academy, and the 2 Year Academy. The quote I shared yesterday from Nouwen spoke about the false self and how solitude is the furnace of transformation.

In the chapter on solitude, Nouwen goes into detail on this, sharing the example of Christ in solitude in the desert for 40 days and how Christ affirmed God as his only source of identity (16).

What strength, what power, what affirmation-- to affirm God as one's only source of identity.  Whew.  If it took Christ 40 days in the desert to arrive there, how can my 12-15-20-30 minutes of silence and solitude get me there?!?!  Am I willing to go through the furnace of transformation (solitude) to remember whose and who I am?  I need that.  I need that in order to simply be.  More importantly, I need that in order to live, love, and lead.  But, am I willing to make it a priority?  I've gotten better at creating this space over the years, but it's an area that can continue to grow.

If my identity isn't rooted in whose I am, then I have nothing to offer of any signficance to others.  This takes focus and intentionality.

That is why I have continued to attempt to grow in my silence and solitude journey, in my overall faith journey.

Nouwen reminds that "ministry can be fruitful only if it grows out of a direct and intimate encounter with our Lord." (21)

"Solitude is thus the place of purification and transformation, the place of the great struggle and the great encounter." (22)

"... it is the place where we want to lead all who are seeking the light in this dark world." (22)

Nouwen's writings on compassion align with those of Frank Rogers from this summer's retreat.  Nouwen writes: "Compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of all ministry." (24)''

Food for thought: "When we are filled with God's merciful presence, we can do nothing other than minister because our whole being witnesses to the light in the darkness." (28)

Though I've also read the chapter on silence, that's enough for tonight.  It's been a long day.

Peace and blessings on your journey,


Monday, December 26, 2016

Sacred Spaces for quiet and listening

I looked back to see when was the last blog post I wrote and it was November 2nd.  That says something to me about how busy I've been these past two months.

Yes, it has been the Advent season and things get busy in the ministry during that time.

But it has been more than that.  There have been unexpected things that have caused me to need to take on extra duties.  Though that has been a huge learning curve, time consuming, and difficult, God has blessed in the midst of it.

What I have needed to do during this time is to be much more intentional than normal to carve out time for quiet and listening. It hasn't been easy.

There have been three spaces in the past couple of weeks that have helped me. (In addition to all the time in my "rolling sanctuary".)

Once a month I see my spiritual director.  She always has wonderful Christmas decorations set up.  This year the manger scene wasn't quite all put together yet, but there was a camel from another set in the back of it.  The candle she lit for our time together had a representation of the magi coming to see the child.  Though I can't remember everything and I didn't take the time later to jot down notes in my journal, I know that God met me there that day and assured me that all is well and God is in control.  God also reminded me that a sense of humor throughout it all is a good thing.

I attended a Longest Night Service on December 21st.  There were several in the area that night and during the week.  At first I wasn't going to go to a service, but then I realized that I really wanted and needed to go.  I attended a church where I have provided pulpit supply in the past.  It was good to simply "be", to "be still" and hear from God through the pastor, the Scripture, the music.

On Friday, December 23rd, I attended the Centering Prayer group at Grace Episcopal Church.  I haven't been in a very long time.  It was great to be back.  Even though I've been doing Centering Prayer on my own, there is something to doing it in a group.  Plus, I rarely do a 30 minute sit on my own.  Being with group for the prayer time and then listening to Richard Rohr's "Dancing with the Divine" CD was another needed space for me.  There were several things that stood out to me in the portion we listened to during our time.

Each of these were sacred spaces for me for quiet and listening.  Much needed spaces.  I know that I cannot give from what I do not have.  I need to continue to make sure that I am receiving from the Source so that I can offer the Source.  It is a matter of being intentional, especially when things get more hectic and difficult.

Several months ago I was feeling the nudge to sign up for a silent retreat in January.  If I were to go to it, I wouldn't be able to also attend Resurrection with the youth.  I was conflicted and unsure.  After praying it through, I finally decided to sign up for the silent retreat-- 4 days of (almost all) silence.  The retreat, The Big Silence, is based on Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart and the teachings (non-silence) will be on silence, solitude, and prayer.  As I started reading the book in preparation for the retreat, it was an affirmation that this retreat is exactly what I needed for quiet and listening, for myself and for me as a leader.  I am glad that I listened to the nudge(s).  I look forward to the upcoming sacred space.

A quote from the book:

 "The story of St. Anthony, as told by St. Athanasius, shows that we must be made aware of the call to let our false, compulsive self be transformed into the new self of Jesus Christ. It also shows that solitude is the furnace in which this transformation takes place. Finally, it reveals that it is from this transformed or converted self that real ministry flows." (10) 

The retreat will be held at a new location for me, St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, in Stoneville, NC.

What sacred spaces for quiet and listening have been part of your journey in the past couple of months?

May there be spaces for quiet and listening as we journey forward.

Blessings on your journey,