When chaos swirls, step into the silence. --Meditations from my prayer journal. Silent Prayer Retreat, May 2023
"The quiet is the work." -Every Little Seed, Edition 2 What a beautiful line of both permission and challenge.
As a "doer" I want to ensure, Lord, that even in this silent space, on this silent retreat, I'm "doing" enough, doing it right, holding up my end of this revelatory bargain. Alone with my thoughts, some things have begun to settle out of the noise. Like a jar of riverbed dirt shaken, my stillness has allowed some things to begin to sift...
..."My inactivity is enough for God"... and a fleck of gold rises to the top.
... "The success of this new church congregation will only be measured by its depth"... another granule settles out.
..."I am in control of nothing but my own intimacy with you, Lord"... a gritty clump hits the bottom with finality...
"...My faith will always be lived before the eyes of man. I will survive judgement and false accusations. I will be misunderstood. My own perfection is unattainable, but Yours is intact. Help me, Lord, to always redirect the focus to Your glory even as I let people down."
"If you don't show up with Your presence in these spaces, services and events, then why are we bothering?"...
"No amount of prep, eloquence or decor will save a single soul"... Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus. Let the train of Your glory fill this temple. Your presence is life.
Run this church and give Your servants rest. Let the gold rise to the top as our human lies of industry, performance and pressure settle out. We can do nothing of eternal value apart from You. Help us, Lord, to ruthlessly eliminate hurry... to find these windows of silence and watch our souls heal and cease their swirling.
I was struck today by practices of my father journeying through his 5th cancer. Did he intuitively know to head into the quiet? Hours of stillness on the deck, training hummingbirds to land on his sturdy fingers. Quiet moments in his big blue chair, doing nothing, watching nothing, reading nothing-- silently surviving chemo. I can see him now, sitting on his beloved bench by the lake at Oak Hill Park, the sunlight illuminating the crown of his snowy fringe, trusty pug dog at his side. Did he feel the Lord at work, energizing his cells as the silent minutes ticked by, golden light dancing off the water and seeping warm into his Costco flannel?
Was he whispering prayers to You or only listening to wind and whip-poor-will? Did the fading purple light of those beloved hillsides combine with the distant laughter of children at play? Did he feel You in the passing breeze and the warm scruffy fur of Spunky's neck? Was he simply delighting in swing-sets and scooters, in tumbling grandsons and passing clouds?
As I sat silently at this retreat among friends on my own lakeside bench today, I wished that I had rested with him more... entered into sacred silence with my aging father more than just a handful of times. If only I'd slowed my pace to understand his rhythm wasn't apathy or lethargy or even illness.
It was meaningful work, sitting still. A liturgy of benches.
I was nearby, but I was busy. He was nearby, but he was at rest.
This was the bit of life that added ornate gilding to the mundane remainder and healing to the regular rush.
And I simply wish I'd settled with him there more often. Given him the gift of my nearness, my silence, my presence-- taken a seat on that holy park habitation.
As a few quiet tears of longing and missing and nostalgia slipped past my cheeks today, I was comforted by the silent presence of two dear friends-- arms of wordless embrace, tight hugs of compassion and I was struck with a solacing thought... neither was my father alone.
On that beloved bench also sat three-- an old man, a trusty dog and an unseen Savior.
Pray With Me
You never leave us or forsake us, God. You are all around us, hanging the stars and telling the wind where to blow. The mountains rise up at Your command and cancer flees at the mention of Your Name. Come close when our thoughts are in disarray, when we have more questions than answers, when chaos swirls. When the narrative is muddy, let Your voice ring clear. When our health is stumbling, hold fast to our right hand. When the past promises safe sailing, take us securely into uncharted waves of Your presence, billows of beauty, undulations of hope. Pursue us in our pain, sit with our suffering, comfort our confusion. Enter into our park bench prayers. Remind us to sit down and notice... Your songbirds, Your sunshine, Your omniscience and Your nearness. Help us, Lord, to find healing in the stilling of our souls.