Posted by: Ed | May 8, 2008

SOLITUDE, THE DESERT & BEING WITH GOD

[
]A little over a year ago I felt like God was leading me to move ahead in the discipline of solitude & silence. For quite some time I’ve done days of prayer, half days of prayer & various times of extended seeking of God. But it seemed that these were getting squeezed out, interrupted, and too noisy. I also felt like God was leading me to do something different.
So I decided to spend a couple days at the beginning of each month in a desert retreat. I just got back from my latest time.

Some friends from Journey, Butch & <!–[if supportFields]> CONTACT _Con-3C8FAF58FB \c \s \l <![endif]–>Ann Whitely<!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>, have a house that is in the 10-15 miles from a wide spot in the road called Ocotillo. It is a very cool story in itself but Butch built this house in Canebrake Canyon. It’s like a house was built for spiritual retreats. They make it available to me whenever I want for free.

Here’s a few pics

 

 

This is the road I always go for a run on – it’s like a cool Nike commercial running road. I love running but don’t do it unless I have no other way to exercise. My knees can only do an occasional run.

 

 

What does one do in a couple of days of solitude? I’m not sure there is a rulebook. Ruth Haley Barton has a great book on solitude & silence (Invitation to Solitude & Silence)

 

Here’s what I don’t do (or try not to)

  • Talk on the phone – no cell service for miles…
  • Talk – I spend the time in silence. I don’t even pray out loud, until Tuesday at noon.
  • Eat – I try & fast on these days. I don’t want the hassle of cooking etc, but I also find that fasting helps me to seek God with my whole self. I’m not sure I will always fast on these days, but I have for the last year.
  • Fart around with my computer – I journal on my laptop so I have been tempted to catch up on email or other stuff. There is no connection of any kind out there, but I am tempted to catch up. 

 

Here’s some stuff I usually do:

  • Have leisurely, meandering times of Bible reading, journaling & prayer
  • Just sit & look at the beauty – for those of you from outside of CA, the desert has a splendor to it that can take your breath away as much as the beach and ocean, only in a different way. 
  • Fill the feeders & watch half the flying animal kingdom (all kinds of birds including Road Runners) & see what God might be showing me as I delight in them.
  • Read over 3-4 months of journal entries – this gives me the sweep of what’s happening in my life.  It’s awesome to see the things I felt like God was saying in to me (in Gill Sans font – blue) and all the answers to prayer (orange).
  • Take a run
  • Take a bunch of walks
  • Go outside at night – see the splendor of the desert night sky & feel freaked out by it, as it seems like it presses in on me insisting on me feeling my smallness.
  • Read – some books that are great solitude books – Confessions or City of God by Augustine, A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly, An Invitation to Solitude & Silence by RHB, anything by Dallas Willard, anything by Richard Foster, The Dark Night of the Soul by St John of the Cross (better read in the day oddly enough), The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. I’m sure there are others. But for ME these seem to come alive as you read them in the desert. Of course you might start with Henri Nouwen – The Way of the Heart (which is about some of the early desert fathers of the church).
  • Listen – try to notice, really notice what God might be saying.

 

I remember a message that I heard by Nancy Ortberg in which she pointed out that there was rhythm to the life of Jesus of withdraw & engagement (see Mark 1 for example) of solitude & ministry. I need this rhythm in my life. I hope you feel the need for it to. 

 

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Responses

  1. This was a great post Ed. Thanks for bringing us into your personal retreat time. This kind of stuff really kept me centered back in the day…….and then I had kids. Any suggestions for a mom of little ones who can’t get away alone like this? Or maybe this might come up this weekend :)

  2. There’s nothing like lying on your back at night and enjoying the heavens to help get some insight into how BIG our God is!

  3. Bro, there is nothing more awesome to me than that alone time with God. I can’t tell you how many miles I have walked at night while praying and just chatting with Him. I remember times I could not wait for the family to settle down to bed so I could have that time with Him knowing there would be that sense of Him being there stride for stride with me. The desert is the most awesome place for me too when I get can get out there. I was outside of Yuma not too long ago looking up at the most awesome star filled sky. I couldn’t look away and was awestruck at His work.
    Peace be with you and thanks for those prayers you pray over us from time to time. I covet every one of them.

    Blessings,
    joe

  4. I love silence. Being Catholic, I have surprised many people when I tell them that praying is asking the questions and meditating is hearing the answers. I am not sure I have heard any yet. I know God often says NO, and has His reasons, but your message today was very focused on listening for God in our lives. I sure do talk to Him a lot, I guess it’s time I shut-up!

    Thank you for a wonderful service today.

  5. It was great reading about your desert experiences; the things you do and don’t do. We are heading to the desert home ourselves this coming 4th of July weekend (a little hotter than we might like). The intense quiet is so condusive to listening to God’s loving whispers. We’re intensely looking forward to the solitude. Ann and Butch are such a gift.


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