Retreat of Silence

Midday of Day 2 on our Retreat of Silence and I was ready to talk.  Cheryl laughed, gave me a hug, and said, “Tomorrow.”

I was ready to share with my sweet friend what the Holy Spirit has been revealing through this time of silence, of listening, of learning. Ready to talk about the connections I’m making with what I’ve been learning through the last several months and where I hear Him calling me to focus now. Today. This minute.

Ready to talk about the plans He’s unfolding in my heart and mind, what I’ve written down, what’s yet to be written down.
And ready to listen to what and where Cheryl hears Him calling her.

I told God I was ready to start talking, too. Funny thing, He wasn’t done sharing with me and, if I’d have started talking then, I’d have missed a lot of what He wanted me to see and hear, of sweet moments of peace and worship … some of which brought me to tears.

I won’t lie, it’s been tough not talking for almost three days. There are times when hand signals and smiles just aren’t enough. We limited our conversations to only what needed to be said in those brief moments. I get Drew’s advice to do these solo, the temptation to talk is tremendous!

We started our Retreat with two different agendas.  When I let Cheryl know several months ago I was planning to do a Retreat of Silence (we call it the RoS), she said without hesitation that she’d fly down to join me. My friend left the cool-compared-to-Texas weather of North Dakota without even a second thought.

Our conversation just prior to her boarding the final leg of her flight earlier this week,

“Lisa, is it hot?”

“Yes dear.  It’s hot.”

My sweet friend & I started our RoS both seeking to hear God’s voice with an earnest desire to know His heart and eager expectation to learn where He’s calling us to serve. Both of us. Together these few days in the same space and yet alone, because God has plans for us individually as well as together.

I found us a space to retreat close enough to home but far enough away that nothing is familiar. A space where the only thing to capture my attention, our attention, is the quietness. A space where our only priority is to sit at our Savior’s feet and listen. Cheryl & I set our own individual agendas, agreeing to meet at specific times for meals. The rest of our time was solo and we both let the Spirit lead us where He willed. Prior to Day 1, I gave myself a very loose agenda as a guideline to follow: listening, planning & Bible study, prayer.

Sad our time is winding down, I’m tired yet rested. I’ve shed tears over these past days and spent time just plain smiling. It’s been a good respite. It has been a time to stop, to listen and read, and yes … sleep. Would I do this again? In a heartbeat.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV

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Do not be afraid

To all my friends living in fear of the unknown, I hear you.

I feel your pain & anxiety.

I get it.

Because I’m living it.

And I’m asking you to do something with me …
Focus on this: Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat and go on ahead of him.

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. – Matthew 14:22

True, then the storm came and they struggled.

I can apply this to my unknowns, as in, my current circumstance. When I met with my accountability partner in mid-January, I shared with her I believed He was giving me the “green light” to move on, which is something I’d been praying about, wrestling with really, for almost two years. When confirmation came in a form I would have never expected, I knew the time had come.

And yet, change is scary. And I was angry. Really angry. Why? If I was moving forward with His blessing, why the anger, why the hurt? Why.the.struggle?

Because change is scary. Trust is scary.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. – Matthew 14:24

But it’s going to be okay. Because he sees me struggling in my storm of the unknown & he’s there in the midst of it with me.

About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. – Matthew 14:25

Jesus was walking on the water. Jesus was with them in the storm and yet … he walked on the water. In it with us but not a part of it.
His words to his disciples then are just as true now …

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” – Matthew 14:27

So … I’m trusting his promise: he’s with me in my circumstance. And we’ll make it to the other side.

The Sound of Silence

My friend and I are planning a Retreat of Silence. She’s going to fly in for our Retreat and I’m … we’re … so excited to be setting aside time to do this!

The sound of silence … an opportunity to be quiet. To listen to the music of creation. To pause awhile and to hear the Master’s voice.

I’ve been asking myself what I hope to learn … to gain … from our retreat.

  • Is it a new perspective on my life?
  • Clarity in seeking His will?
  • An opportunity to sleep for as long as I want with no responsibilities tugging at me for a few days?
  • Is this time away from “the world” going to be selfish?
  • Is it simply a time to step away from noise – the hum of technology, human chatter, people in general?
  • Is this an escape or is this an opportunity for spiritual rest & renewal?

As many know, my life is currently in a season of transition and I’ve been wrestling with lots of questions:

  • What is my passion?
  • Where is my heart?
  • What am I going to do next to earn a living wage and help to keep a roof over our head, food in the ‘fridge, & clothes on our backs?
  • Is any of this lining up with what my Father’s will is, where He’s calling me to focus my talents and energy?
  • Am I living a life that glorifies Him or me?

So I’m continually asking & answering: What do I hope to gain from this experience?

This is what I know:  I’m looking forward to …

  • time to reflect on what is really important
  • an opportunity to worship and adore the Creator
  • refreshing rest & sleep … both are almost nonexistent these days and things I desperately crave
  • Walking in quiet, stopping to listen, to pray, and resting in stillness and solitude
  • listening for His voice, His nudging, His prompts – free of hourly or daily time constraints
  • gaining a clear focus of where He’s leading me

Excerpted from my journal this morning …

I long to have a relationship, a walk, a journey, like Enoch did with God …

To be so familiar with God and He with me, to be in such an intimately close relationship with Him that one day we’re walking together and then in the next moment, we’re home together … at His home. For all eternity.

To be so intimate with God my Father that nothing in this world would measure in importance or significance … or priority … than to be with Him and do His will and be so passionately burdened for this hurting world around me that the only thing I say or do is to serve others and lead them to Him.

To be so laser-focused on being His hands, feet, and voice to the hurting world around me that everyone I encounter won’t be able to deny the fact that they heard the Good News … that they know Jesus died for them – that God loves them so much.  So very, very much.

What do I hope to gain from my Retreat of Silence?

To hear. To see. To walk. To rest. In Him.

 

“Don’t wait for a fish to find you”

A prayer of surrender: it’s not an easy subject or an easy way of life. In fact, it costs us everything. We hand over our every dream for our lives – every hope, every remnant of control we think we have – to God, and say, “You have it all. You have me. I am yours. Anything you want to do with me. Anything. I am in.”

I read the above excerpt from Jennie Allen’s book, Restless, a few weeks ago and fell to my knees in absolute awe.  Jennie wrote in those few lines the very longing of my heart: to be totally surrendered to God’s will.  One prayer I’ve shared previously is for God to use me however He sees fit and for me to be okay with it.

Is God good or what?

Flashback: I made a commitment in January to attend the women’s Tuesday night Bible studies hosted by my church fellowship.  I very quickly realized my work responsibilities would heavily encroach on this time commitment.  I wrestled, over the next several missed Tuesdays, with trying to continue the study or allow myself the time I needed to finish my work. It wasn’t a battle of urgent versus important but important versus important. After a lot of prayer and receiving wise counsel from my friend and Bible study teacher, I stepped away from the Tuesday night study.

I wistfully told her I needed to either find a study or lead a study that meets on the weekends or maybe during the summer.  Her response? “Don’t wait for a fish to find you.” I love her! ❤

Fast forward to the present: I opened an email yesterday morning talking about a new summer study.

In that moment … I knew.

I knew it was time to step out and say, “I’m in.”

I forwarded the email to my accountability partner letting her know I had signed up to lead a study. I asked if she was interested and if she thought our Lifegroup sisters might be as well.  She immediately responded with, “Yes, share this with them!” and then she asked if she could invite a colleague. Laughing, I said, “Of course!”

Today is a school holiday and I am ready to begin preparations to lead a summer study.  What is it? It’s Jennie Allen’s new study, Anything.

Again, is GOD good or what?

As if I needed any more confirmation, check out today’s video from the Bible study I’m doing:

Message received, Papa.  Please, no fish.

In that Moment

Have you ever noticed the lack of exclamation points in the Bible? I have.  If the Bible had been written Lisa’s way, there would be exclamation points ev.ry.where!

Seriously, this is exciting stuff!  Check out Genesis: “In the beginning God created … And it was good.” God created everything … no exclamation point on any of the first six days of creation.  Fast forward through “the fall,” through the flood, through Israel’s wandering and exile and into the pages of the gospels and God’s story continues to lack exclamation points.

I wonder why.  

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. ~ Matthew 27:51 [ESV]

Next to the creation of the world, the next-greatest moment in God’s story (in my opinion) is when … at the moment Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two.  From TOP to BOTTOM!

In that moment, GOD removed the barrier between Him and us.  

Remember the flaming sword and the cherubim of Genesis 3:24 guarding the way to the tree of life? God placed the cherubim there. Check this out: 

In that moment when Christ died on the cross, the tree of death became the tree of LIFE

In that moment, GOD tore the curtain from top to bottom. No man could do this! GOD did on that day what only GOD could do. The curtain was a barrier, like the cherubim with the flaming sword. GOD removed the barrier between Him and us.

In that moment, He restored our relationship.

In that moment, God’s plan … a plan He had before the creation of all things … was complete. He knew we would be tempted. He knew we would fall for the deception. He knew we would ruin the perfect relationship we had with Him. Before He even began the work of creation, He already planned to restore us to Him.

And He knew it would be painful. 

But He did it anyway.

Because He loves us.

Amazing.

  

Not afraid

I spent the better part of the weekend talking about being afraid.

My commitment for the weekend was to be transparent.  This statement may seem unusual coming from a woman who has been called, “real, open, strong” by her friends and colleagues. Truth is, I believe we all hold some part of ourselves back from others.  That tiny part of ourselves where hurt and insecurities dwell.  The part of ourselves where fear of failing or disappointing others exists. That very inmost part of ourselves we often deny existence for fear of what may happen if we are truly honest with ourselves and each other.

This is the part of myself I committed to opening others into that weekend.

This was how I approached IF:Gathering last month. 

A good friend and I co hosted an IF:Local at her house that weekend.  The central Gathering took place in Austin, Texas and the entire event was live streamed, as well as DVRd, for local gatherings throughout the world.  The local gatherings are called IF:Locals and I’ve heard reports that there were and still are over 1,000 IF:Locals taking place ALL. OVER. THE. WORLD! 

Our gathering was small … 3 of us taking over Brenda’s house for the weekend. Our preparation for the weekend was fairly easy and informal.  I took care of the logistics – printing all the needed materials, monitoring session updates and sequences through the Local Leaders page as well as monitoring the technology while we viewed the sessions during the weekend.  Brenda and Mary took care of the nourishment. 🙂

Although I am an incredibly reserved person, more comfortable listening and observing over actively engaging in conversation, my most favorite part of the IF:Gathering was when we got to turn the volume down on the TV and work through the conversation questions together.  There was safety in our small group and I allowed the Holy Spirit to gently push me out of my comfortable silence and speak up.  In this process, He allowed me to explore some of the insecure areas I’ve been afraid to share from.

I can’t speak for the other two women, but I came away from IF with an assurance that whatever fears I imagine are simply wasted energy.  The only one judging me is … me.

Our focus for the weekend was on the history of Israel and their crossing into the Promised Land 40 years after their deliverance from captivity. Forty years! God told them He was giving them this land and yet, all but two – Joshua & Caleb – were afraid to move forward into His promise. How so like the children of Israel am I and yet, how so like Joshua & Caleb I desire to be!

As the weekend drew to a close, I had the honor of heading out to Brenda’s flower bed and picking, cleaning, and presenting a rock to each of our group. Our final assignment was to write a statement on those stones of what our next step, our testament & commitment would be following IF:Gathering.

My commitment is to no longer be afraid. Of what others might think, of what may or may not happen.  If I sense God is calling me to join Him in a work, no matter how big or small, clean or smelly, I’ll join Him. And I summed it all up in …



[1] The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? [2] When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. [3] Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. [4] One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. [5] For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. [6] And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;I will sing and make melody to the LORD. [7] Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! [8] You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” [9] Hide not your face from me.Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! [10] For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. [11] Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. [12] Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. [13] I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! [14] Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!  – Psalm 27 [ESV]

Common No More

 

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use.  Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NIV)

How often have you asked yourself: Why am I here, what am I meant to be doing, what’s my purpose?  I don’t profess to know the answer to these questions but I know One who does.

My take away from the verse above isn’t we’re able to cleanse ourselves, but we’re cleansed through our surrendering ourselves to Christ. He’s the One who cleanses us so we’re able to be used for His purpose.

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Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  John 2:6-10 (NIV)

The amazing and awesome takeaway I got from this passage focuses on the jars.

Jars. Probably made of clay. Common. Their purpose? To store. Jars don’t make water; they have to be refilled in order to fulfill their purpose. Who refilled those jars? The people who need to use the water contained in the jars.

We’re like those jars. Left on our own, we fill our jars with our wants, our desires, our plans. Our focus is inward.

When we surrender ourselves to the Master and His plan? The old water, our plans and purpose, is thrown out; we’re transformed into vessels filled with fresh water, fresh plans, fresh purpose.

Who fills us with this fresh water?

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  John 4:13-14 (NIV)

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What’s our purpose … to share one truth: God loves us.