Saturday, April 19, 2014

"A time to be silent..."

The last few years God has been teaching me more about what it means to wait on him and spend time together in solitude and silence.   Over the past few months I have simply been overwhelmed at God's love for us and desire to have a unique, intimate relationship with everyone He created.  I'm so grateful for His patience with me and the opportunity to continue to learn and grow in my relationship with Him.  A couple of years ago I read Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, and I highly recommend it.  It's a wonderful book about spiritual disciplines, and when I read it the first time, I remember thinking that I should read it at the beginning of each year... it has way too much in it to digest in just one reading.  So this year, I was thrilled that I finally did it.  Last January, I took a morning that was free and managed to not schedule anything else, which was quite an accomplishment in and of itself. ;)  There is a botanical gardens about 30 minutes from our house which was closed for a while and then recently re-opened, so I spent my morning there.

Of course, it was absolutely incredible to just spend time with God, surrounded by His beautiful creation.  I prayed, read my Bible, listened, and worked my way through most of Sacred Rhythms... it was just a great time to reflect and seek God's guidance on what I should be focusing on in the coming year. 
As I was coming near the end of my time alone, I reflected on how meaningful the last few hours had been and what a shame it was that I didn't take special time with God more often.  God then gave me an idea that led into our church having a women's retreat in March. We started out at the church with worship and a devotion.  Then we drove to the botanical gardens, enjoyed lunch in my new favorite restaurant, and the rest of the retreat was open for everyone to enjoy time alone with God while walking around the gardens.  We provided a prayer and Scripture guide for people to use.  It was wonderful, and it is our prayer that God would use the time to help build habits of solitude and silence for everyone that participated. 

One of the most exciting things that happened at the retreat was nearly half of our participants were Japanese!  Keystone has always had a small number of Japanese members, but since our service is in English, it's always been Japanese who have a high level of English proficiency.  We have prayed for years that God would continue to bring Japanese to our church and in our lives, and it's so exciting to see how He is answering those prayers.  At the retreat our worship, devotion, and booklet (prayer and scripture guides) were all in English and Japanese.  We are excited to see how God continues to move, challenge, and stretch us as we seek to show His love, peace, and hope to the people in this amazing country He has led us to.

So, this is kind of a rambling blog post, but one more thought because it kind of goes along with the theme of silence and solitude.  After the retreat, I really felt like this was the spiritual discipline God wanted me to focus on this year.  So I bought an annual pass to the botanical gardens (yes, I'm quite obsessed with this place!), and it's my goal to go there at least once a month just to spend time with God.  I also felt God leading me to give up facebook for Lent this year, and that has also been an interesting journey.  Facebook is definitely a great way to keep in touch with people, especially when you have friends literally all around the world.  But I was surprised and saddened that going for 40 days without facebook made me feel  lonely sometimes... and that's a little ridiculous.  I am surrounded by amazing friends and family, and I've lived most of my life without social media, so the past 40 days have been a good reminder to watch how I use my time (i.e. don't get sucked in and distracted by facebook - just use it to stay in touch), cherish the time I have with friends and family, and, as always, make sure my relationship with God is my #1 focus and priority.  Thanks for listening, and yes, pictures from the last 40 days will be coming soon to facebook. ;)

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