Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Week Seven

The discipline of Solitude

“Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon Him in yourself”- Teresa of Avila

I love how Jesus was often retreating to a place of solitude with the Father. I imagine it was His lifeline. We forget that although He was God, He was FULLY man with the same human limitations that we have. And He died… not so we could just have just any relationship with the Father, but so we could actually have HIS relationship with the Father. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just assumed that was unattainable and didn’t take full advantage of my God-given ability to connect with the creator of the whole world in this way! He IS our lifeline.

As He walked and taught and lived on earth, He still teaches us today. He is calling us from a place of loneliness to solitude. We will all feel lonely at times and if we don’t chances are we are masking that loneliness with temporary satisfactions. But instead of us going to those things that only place obstacles in our lives from fully receiving the love He is pouring out, He desires intimacy for all of us. This happens in this place called solitude.

Interestingly enough, we don’t have to have complete silence to do this… although I find it easier to attain in that place it’s not always available. Foster says it best:

“We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment. Solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place. There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times. If we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart…. There is a freedom to be alone, not in order to be away from people but in order to hear the divine Whisper better.”

I love Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s intellectual interpretation of the paradox and balance of the essential elements of spirituality: “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community…Let him who is not in community beware of being alone…Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.” Well said Bonhoeffer Oh, and by the way… I think you covered everything and every person. Don’t you just love conviction of the heart? I’m actually learning to love the challenge of letting go of things that are unnecessary to my journey and burdensome and picking up things of great value for the road ahead. We must have a good balance of both community and aloneness if we are to continue to walk in obedience safely.

“Under the discipline of silence and solitude we learn when to speak and when to refrain from speaking… and simply to refrain from talking, without a heart listening to God, is not silence. Silence always involves the act and listening,” says Foster.

I imagine by now in this blog you are thinking, “Shwew, it’s about time Lindsey learned a thing or two about listening.” Hahaha. And, you are probably right. I can always learn more! I was actually convicted this week about how much I do talk… and even write! I feel a season of silence coming soon A month or year at a convent, who knows? Haha. Anyway… I appreciate God revealing these things to me this week so that I can learn to hear His voice clearly at all times. It’s interesting how closely knit silence and trust really are.

Reaching this place of solitude and silence is not all a bed of roses… there is a line in St.John’s poem “Canciones del Alma” that says ‘my house being now all stilled’ that Foster interprets as this, “In this graphic line he indicates the importance of allowing all the physical, emotional, psychological, even spiritual senses to be silenced. Every distraction of the body, mind, and spirit must be put into a kind of suspended animation before this deep work of God upon the soul can occur. It is like an operation in which the anesthetic must take effect before the surgery can be performed. There comes inner silence, peace, stillness. During such a time Bible reading, sermons, intellectual debate- all fail to move or excited us.”

As I write this the song “cold water” comes on by Damien rice… sit and listen to the words…. If you notice the tension of your “self” wanting to fight and not let go… just force yourself to sit, be still and wait on the Lord. I like to think of that deep background voice as God speaking directly to me.

I love what Graham Cooke says about God, "He will never respond to us in the same volume we shout out to Him... His voice is most of the time found in a whisper."

Another thing Foster mentions is important is noticing and taking advantage of the “little solitudes” throughout our day. “These little snatches are often lost to us. They can and should be redeemed. They are little moments that help us to be genuinely present where we are.”

He even recommends withdrawing to a retreat place at least once a year… which is sort of what I’m doing right now as I write this. I think people with families and important jobs have a lot more obstacles in getting a sacred time like this to happen, but it is well worth the effort you put forth to get here. And I do believe God would show up for you in a big way.

“Doesn’t every breath crave a deeper, fuller exposure of his Presence? It is the discipline of solitude that will open the door. You are welcome to come in and ‘listen to God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all-embracing silence’.” Foster

I posted my crazy journal of my week of solitude below. Overall I enjoyed the time getting to know Him even more.


DAY 1:

I realize solitude is a little bit easier for me than others because I’ve had 32 years to really discover my identity without anyone else to think about. As I’ve come to know myself, God’s uncovered all of these passions- that I believe are in each and every one of us. Although I am very passionate about other people, their stories, and loving and serving them… there are countless things I’ve found I am able do joyfully do with no one else around. I absolutely love reading, studying, discovering, writing, journaling, learning, thinking, praying, exercising, and meditating. It’s possible to do these activities with people around but the depth at which you can go spiritually with the Lord seems to be so much greater when you find yourself completely alone with HIM.

Part of the reason this is is because you are utterly dependent on Him for everything! We are made for intimacy and our tendency is (just like water) to find the quickest, easiest avenue for this. I have had no man in my life for years to give me the affection and love that I so desired. When someone comes along that is willing to freely give me that attention I suddenly feel some sort of worth and companionship I’d been dying for. Nevertheless, the fulfillment of those desires on earth can never truly satisfy my need for intimacy only found in Him. Sadly, most of us never take the opportunity to find it in Him because of other things that have momentarily filled that need therefore our soul remains desperate. I mean, I’m single and I still have a hard time seeking Him for it.

Deciding to take this week of solitude took absolutely no effort on my part. I was just excited to get some things done I’ve needed to do for a long time that seem hindered when I’m available to the world. The difficult part came when I began to feel sick. Yesterday afternoon I started to feel all achy and had a low-grade fever. I know my body is trying to fight off something and I’m doing what I know to assist it in that. Again, just another reason I HAVE to trust in my heavenly Father. I guess in a way I literally am trusting Him with my life. I realize many things could happen while I’m out here alone, but instead of letting fear creep in- I have to choose not to believe the lies the enemy tells and TRUST.

I’ve had a hard time sleeping at night, but not because I’m scared at all… I feel quite safe here. For some reason I wake up every few hours and feel like I’m in the middle of some battle. Then when I finally do get up, my body hurts all over. No matter what, I believe that I’m learning something out here that the enemy just doesn’t like. I also believe that God is doing a great work in me as I seek Him and His mysterious ways are uncovered to my soul. More than anything… I just want to be in His presence. Even if nothing else profound happens, I will be satisfied with knowing that I simply met God here in this little cabin in the woods. I can’t imagine walking away from this the same person.

Lord, take out anything in me that may hinder my heart, mind, body, and soul from receiving your love. I want to be completely deficient of all this world has to offer so I am desperate for more of you.

DAY 2:

Yesterday began with aches and pains. Not quite sure if it was the nice firm bed or the fact I’m trying to get rid of this parasite or a combination of the two plus or minus a few things. I didn’t sleep well either. I did have a good little morning yoga stretch on the back porch and some long needed moments of meditation.

Here are some things I really enjoy about this place: The silence, the mornings, the cool breeze, the warm sun, the birds song, the wild turkeys, being able to think and write with none of life’s interruptions, doing yoga on the deck, singing or dancing if I want, letting the music be my soundtrack, watching Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Honestly, I love pretty much everything about this time. I do wonder if I could actually make it as a mountain woman. I know I can’t kill my own food yet but last night I came pretty close…. So I mentioned there are about a billion things I love, but last night those few things I do dislike…ok hate… ok pretty much fear, came to life. I had just finished watching the 3rd LOTR. My least favorite part of that whole trilogy is when the giant spider is chasing, attacking and spinning Frodo preparing him for death. Ew. I hate spiders! Especially giant ones. I mean, I don’t know many people who’d want to sleep next to them… but they’re pretty high on my “why were these creatures invented, God?” list. Flies, centipedes, cockroaches, any insect that flies pretty much, anything with more than six legs (although that cuts it close), and anything bigger than my hand that is supposed to be an insect (not something out of a horror flick), are all also on this list.

Keep in mind… last week my best friend Aegis decided to put her giant furry Halloween spider on my bed for a nice surprise when I returned home one night. I almost peed my pants. That night I meant to get her back, but instead scared her hubby. Poor Mark got caught in the crossfire, as usual. The next day this thing was in my bathtub with the curtains closed…. Waiting, lurking…. As any giant frightening stuffed spider would. I swear this thing could move at any second… nothing about it looks fake- except it’s giant cheap furry exterior and eyes of beads. Other than that, it’s completely realistic! Well, that night… I think I did pee in my pants a little, and perhaps said a few words I wouldn’t say in front of small children. Fast forward to last night… Watched Frodo being attacked, relived my experience at Aegis’s house… then went to brush my teeth. Right after I was finished I looked over and in the tub was a HUGE real spider. Ok, not as big as the fake one, but a pretty darn big REAL spider… that scurried fast. Ah!!! Sick. I immediately grabbed gun i brought. Ok... not really, but the nearest poisonous cleaner i could find and started shooting. It was half nasty and half satisfying to watch this thing suffer. I figured until God reveals to me why those certain creatures on my list exist I shall kill them if they enter my territory uninvited. I mean, you don’t see me hanging out at the local web late enjoying a few flies for dinner just waiting for mr and mrs spider to come home to my human scare tactics. Anyway… it now sits at the bottom of my trash can all shrivled up in a paper towel in a few plastic bags.

So, another little “incident” happened last night. Thankfully my dad left me a gun and taught me how to shoot it before he left. I thought it was pretty cool at the time, not really thinking that I’d actually need to use it. Well, last night I came pretty close. It was about 230 or so and I had almost drifted off when I thought I heard something like footsteps on the front porch. Sidenote: you know those times when you’re alone and it could be a coke can rolling across the porch and you’d imagine it to be a big hairy man with a knife and a cigarette? This like, for real… sounded like footsteps. I figured I could freeze in fear, hide under the bed… or do the most logical thing. So I grabbed the gun, turned on the floodlights and baracaded the door to my room After that I made a plan of escape if someone were to actually try to come in, I prayed… gave it to God then went fast asleep Best sleep so far actually.

The days are pretty easy here, and I actually wish I had more hours in the day to write. The nights are fine, but I am definitely challenged a bit with the dark creepy noises while in the cabin in the woods in the hills of Arkansas alone. But honestly, I love challenges… and if I never did anything like this I’d never learn to depend on my DAD in this way. I do feel so blessed to be here!

A big part of me wanted God to do some revolutionary work in my life this week… or to write this brilliant book… or something! The other day I got a text from one of my accountability partners and she so wisely said, “just surrender to what God has before you in this time”. I love that. Seems so easy, but letting go of our will is sometimes one of the hardest things we can do… but definitely the most rewarding. Once I did that, it took the pressure off for ME to accomplish anything, and for God to do everything that he wanted to do in me.

I’m starting to lose track of what day it is… that’s kinda nice too.

DAY 3:

So today was great. My only complaint is that the end of my time here is coming too quickly. I think I could use about a month locked up in a cabin to get anything done. It has certainly been refreshing though! After writing for a few hours this morning I decided to find this river I’d heard so much about. I knew it was gonna be quite a little hike, but I was ready for a little physical challenge.

I set out to find my precious river found the road and about 15 minutes later had run all the way there. On the gravel road, however, I had heard all kings of noises and been told to look out for snakes. As I ran along I would hear these loud crunching noises and seriously got my phone ready to capture bigfoot in action. As as the tiny squirrel hopped across the road I thought about how LOUD and obnoxious the devil sounds sometimes as we are walking down our path minding our own business... but how small and helpless he really is. Anyway... about 15 min later I arrived at a small little dirt road, followed a little path through some woods and found myself at the banks of a beautiful quiet river!

It was a place on the river totally empty of any life form except me, some birds and possibly a few other animals. I waded out to the middle, sat on some dry rocks in silence for awhile, enjoyed the majestic waters flowing around me and had a few revalations.

Going up the mountain was a different story. The first few minutes I tried to run up the hill and then started getting severe pains in my side. It probably had something to do the parasites I’m trying to kill off. Anyway… it took me twice as long to get back and man, I was parched! Painful, but totally worth it!

Got re-fueled up and booby- trapped the porch for the evening, no one getting in this joint! Haha.

DAY 4:

“Sabbath rest”- Hebrews 4: 8-13

Silence- let my words be few. More power in less words if they come from a place of ultimate rest, most likely purely connected to the source!

I felt as though I was finally learning one of the reasons why God brought me out here on this day. It wasn’t so I could be “productive” and write a best seller, or even so I could organize all my thoughts, or catch up on work, or to conquer the great outdoors all by myself. Those might have been good things, but the root of my absence from civilization, business, codependency, and comfort was to find stillness and true rest in Him and him alone.

What I learned from the river yesterday was priceless… as I sit upon this dry place with the water surrounding me I find myself all alone on an island that I’ve chosen to be. Just be. I imagined my hunger and thirst driving me to the source of the river and when I found it the more I drank, the more I became thirsty for Him. Then, the more power that flowed from this source throughout the path dug out by nature. The course of this river may have been determined, and the power and might of the water was always there… but it wasn’t until I tapped into this source that the dam began to open wider sending all of it’s might and strength out… covering all my rocks and boulders of sin with such grace and mercy. Eventually those places became the most beautiful along the river where others could sit and glorify God for what He’d done in my life, taking the ugly pain of past mistakes and making them beautiful rapids of his love and glory. Pretty soon every dry place was covered and all I could do was submerse myself in the river and be restored and refreshed letting it move me throughout the rest of time.

Today I learned that even when I go back to the “real world” and have to face life, business, people and their issues, brokenness, temptation, sadness, etc… I know that I have this river of peace steady and ever-flowing in my heart. No matter the chaos that surrounds me I have this image of God ordained power and might flowing over all of my inequities as I continue to tap into the source in my life.

DAY 5:

This morning I was practicing some balancing moves on my yoga mat on the back deck. I felt stronger and more balanced than I had in a while. My gaze was fixed on Him, I was aligned with the word, and fully engaged in what God wanted to show me. The only problem were these stupid giant flies with beady eyes that kept landing on me. At first I began to get upset and as predicted would fall out of pose. They were taking my attention off of my focus, therefore re-directing it to them fueling my anger.

Man, what a picture of the enemy right there. Loves to get God’s kids off kilter and out of balance in life by annoying us enough to draw our focus from the one who calls us Be-loved, to the one who calls our bluff. I felt as though these nasty flies were sayin “sure you say you believe, but let’s see what you got”. It was then I started to get it. Ok, either I’m crazy… or. Hahaha. No, really. That’s exactly his plan, to bug the fire out of us… and I wasn’t gonna let that happen. Before too long I just expected them to buzz around and land on me, but instead of getting angry (it’s a fly for crying out loud) I was gonna keep my focus and swat if I had to. Sure, they deserved to die. But if my focus is off of the Lord, I lose the point of it all. Right? Even if I’m honorably fighting off the enemy. Now I know to expect the enemy to annoy the living day lights out of me… and I’m gonna swat for sure, but not at the cost of my focus…. The cross… that cost him everything.

Another thing is I’m really learning just to worship the Lord in silence WITH His creation and in honor of what He’s done among this earth. I had this horrible feeling that there have been seasons I was out of touch with nature and didn’t give God the credit He deserved. There are other times where I knew I was honoring God by simply observing all He’s done in nature. I see how every tree’s limbs are reaching out in worship to Him as they are growing and learning to just be trees that know and love and honor their creator. They do not push or shove, they do not speak ill or hurt others with their actions, they take up no more room than they are given and they allow birds to make homes in their space, squirrels to play, insects to crawl… they see their space as a gift which can be freely given. And we come along and take their innocent life away… and make paper to write these type of words on. It’s a great paradox.

A butterfly flew over and sat in my chair on the deck. It seemed hesitant on whether or not to stay put and every few moments it would fly around and come back. It’s almost as if it thought it didn’t deserve to land anywhere it wanted to land. I wondered how a tiny little creature like that… flapping it’s humble wings… could possibly contain so much beauty and innocence. Then I thought about all it’s done for me in this world. There is actually an element of our existence that depends on the purpose of a butterfly. So, instead of shewing it away and taking over my little thrown I made it the chair of honor for the butterfly to enjoy in peace.

After days of trying to prove myself to God and others at home, I was able to fully relax in the beauty and simplicity of everything around me doing what it was created to do. I’ll in fact miss the silence and perfection of worship at its core. I only wish I had more hands to worship Him with, more hands to serve Him with, more feet to run with, more lives to live abundantly in. Alas, there is a reason I have only two hands, two feet, and one heart. I have a feeling I might be tempted to use some of those hands and feet for my glory, therefore living a life not honoring of Him. We ONLY have one life. And we only have this small amount of time here on earth to worship Him in our lack… and just BE a child.

The Life of Bartholomew

There is not a whole lot that I could find on this man other than also going by the name Nathaniel. Seems that there are some schools of thought that believe he did a lot of mission work in India in his life until his martyr. There are a few ideas on what may have happened to him. One says that He was kidnapped, beaten and thrown into the sea to drown. Another said that He was crucified upside down... and then another that said he was skinned alive and beheaded near turkey.

Boy... I had no idea the disciples had gone through so much. Now I'm starting to wonder if there is a reason we don't speak about all of the ways in which the disciples died. Because so far... most of them were killed because of their ACTIVE faith. It didn't matter what happened to them really, they knew the message that had to be sent out and they were willing to give their lives for it. I'm actually inspired in many ways, not only in their life but in their death as well.

I had a revelation earlier about us thinking that this earth and our lives are such concrete reality and the heavenly kingdom is so far off and hard to fathom. But if THAT is really what IS reality... then what are we if we don't truly connect with that reality and LIVE in it. What IS most important in eternity is our relationship with the Father... and as we see our battles are not of this world, we gain victory as sons and daughters and are able to walk in the spirit in the kingdom on earth... and then see others eyes open to the revelation of His love because of how we LIVE and DIE. We live as though we are dead to the worlds desires so we are able to FULLY LIVE completely abandoned to him... and we die fearless because we are already walking in the kingdom and know our Dad so well. This side of heaven is so short... and I sure don't want to reach the other side having lived a mediocre live filled with fear, anxiety, worry and doubt. WHat an awesome Dad we serve!!!!

Training for the half-marathon

Still same story as last week :) Continuing to run, but deciding what to do. I feel that towards the end of April my training season (in more ways than one...) is morphing into more of a season of work. Excited to see what this look likes and what develops from it! Thank you all for visiting this blog, I love walking with you on this life long journey!

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