A few weeks ago, I decided to go on a silent retreat for 2 nights. I planned ahead of time to get my head around fasting and being silent! The 7 Fountains Retreat Centre is only 20 minutes away from my own home yet sometimes it can help to change location. So I packed my bag and drove off on my blue motorbike that I have come to love! That was Monday morning.
I arrived around 12o'clock and made and entry into my dairy at 1pm
"Feeling: Retreating like this is like... taking medicine when your not I'll."
It is a bit like a convent with "sisters" walking in their blue navy dresses and white hats.
There is a wooden table in my small room with a lamp and 4 Bibles on the shelf.
One cupboard, an attached shower room and drawn windows.
No talking allowed.
No internet allowed.
No phones either.
This is in stark contrast to my home:
Viber on (what feels like) constant ring mode.
My dogs wanting 100% of my attention.
There are object at home that constantly, yet silently yell:
"Feed me", says the washing machine... "I know you have laundry somewhere!"
"Swing me", sings the mop on a false tone... "I want to dance all over the floor with you!"
The fridge calls me with a strong pull like a magnet every time I pass it...
"Come and cling your hand to my handle and pull the door one more time! I will feed you in return!"
How many times do I pass the fridge, and open-close it for comfort?
C.S. Lewis wrote, "We read to know we are not alone." Today I say, "We open the fridge to sense we are loved." When what we sense is not based in Truth (that sets free), we put on weight and wonder why!
I think God asked me to get away from home for two nights because He wanted to get a word in.
I hindsight I find it sad that He had to do that.
My room was Room #1 called Arrupe... That is how the Thai also read above it.
I was lead to my room in silence. It was a long 2 minute walk (and the wheels on my bag dit not help the ambiance!) Once I entered into my very tiny small room... I got the feeling, "What have I done?"
On the 3rd day, just before I left the room, I had a starteling thought.
Daunting thought at my age... and yet something most of us face at some point in life.
This room suddenly exemplified an old lady's room just before she goes to Jesus. A bed, a small shower room, a Bible, a small cupboard and a kettle for tea. (And a shelf for meds if needed)
It struck me that I have moved, at least every 4 years, to another continent.
SA to Australia, (2007 - 2010) then to Thailand (2010-2015) then the USA (2015...)
The 4 years in Perth I lived in 4 houses and had international travels to Turkey, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and even South Africa which was a bonus in 2009! Before 2007 I was on a sprint to finish my degree and thus I hopped from SA to Scotland to India to SA to Australia...
I thought: "This is both a wonderful, and a very stressful thing at the same time."
If I keep going like this I will not have too much to get red off one day. Just 3 dogs who will pass before me. It was quite a challenging thought.
Why do we store so much?
Need so much?
Want so much!
This is a photo of the small room. It was enough...
The building at the 7 Fountain retreat is quite simple.
Then there were Rabbits. Nice distraction. Better than a cell phone I think!
At least the Garden was nice but the weather super hot. It would have been nice if it was just a tad cooler. I was in my room, on the bed with my Bible 85% of the time.
Because I fasted, I drank a lot of hot drinks. This "coil" I got in India... and it travels with me literally everywhere... if some hotels only knew...
It boils rather quick quick - what a joy!
The other minutes of the day, 30 minutes to be exact, I walked the Labyrinth.
I timed it twice.
30 minutes to be exact.
In the first 15 you make it to the Rock... and then the last, what feels like one hour, to the exit.
Strange what goes on in the mind when you walk this road. Straight, yet not. Long, yet at points very short. Tedious yet refreshing at the same time.
I was only a few minutes in the Chapel.
Of course... you have to have permission to be there.
I wrote in my dairy, "It is very quiet here, and although I make it a habit to practice the Presence of God regardless of what I am doing in the hour, being here, away from home is different and enhance the experience sought."
It is not that I actually liked going away to be alone. As I said in the very beginning, when I left the gate of my house on my motor bike clinging my red beloved suitcase between my knees, driving like a real Thai, I honestly thought, "God is giving me medicine... but because I trust Him deeply I know this must be needed... so I will drink without a fuss"
I have done this a few times before. In 2013 I left home for a 40 day speech fast. The first time I went away was to Jongensfontein next to Stilbaai, for 7 days. It was not a full fast... I ate rice with cheese for the entire duration but told people: do not visit me! My family struggled to stay away. That was the first time. It was 1999. In 2000 I wanted to be silent for only 3 days (back in the days when I was studying Theology) My leaders very quickly got me into an office and into the corner of the office! Thus my "fast" lasted 2 hours max. They told me: "you are trying to bring attention to yourself and not to Jesus" Outch. I laugh about it now. In YWAM they think it's amazing when one does this. I LOVE YWAM! I did a 3 day speech fast in 2005 and my base-leader kept saying funny things at me - but was totally for what I was doing. Perhaps grateful at last that I am quiet!!
I do remember something very vivid from that morning when they stopped me. I learned a lesson before they stopped me. I suddenly could not say "goodmorning" to the 12 other girls in the house. I had to show love in a non verbal way which was a huge challenge to me. I most likely gave more side-hugs that morning than any other morning ever before or since.
There is a pattern I have discovered when I do a fast or a speech fast.
1. God calls for it.
2. It is not easy to say yes to it, and one thinks "I have no time" but that is a lie.
3. The first 4 hours, and then the next 24 hours are the hardest. Switching off is difficult and
stillness comes on day 3, 4 or 5. It is pure word of the Lord + obedience that helps one to stay on the course.
This is why it has to come from God. When it is God, you receive the bonus of conviction if you want to leave the path! God's kindness leads us to repentance... What a wonderful thing to have! Both the Word of the Lord, and His conviction is my treasure in this life.
4. There is a voice that tries to take you out: what will people say! You are slacking! It will be boring. Yes, it is boring most of the time. This boredom in the beginning is very painful. The Bible says Jesus learned obedience from the sufferings He had. Boredom for me is like suffering. It took incredible self disciple not to pick up my device for a mindless game to kill time. Instead I picked up my Bible. Every time I did that, it was like warfare.
It was war against my flesh.
It was war against my mind.
I did not give into flesh.
My mind I took captive as I ought to.
What did I win?
Serenity and the beauty of silence after three days. Worth the fight!
The price? The words from God when I finally became still enough to distinguish my thoughts from His.
I picked up my pen and wrote down as thoughts came to me. I did this prayerfully, asking God to show me what was of Him, and what was my own thoughts. I had to sift through much. Because I had time, because I had silence, I could do that over hours and days. This sifting takes time.
I believe that when a person practice the Presence of the Lord for real, he will soon find, that God will take him/her away from others for hours, days, and perhaps months at a time.
I wrote in my dairy, "I think one thing we all have in common when alone, is the facing of self. It is easy to hide from yourself. It is when we are truly alone for an extended period of time, that we can see ourselves more clear. I will compare this to a mirror. When the room is full of steam, the mirror is covered. Switching of the hot running tap, will stop the factor that covers the mirror. It is the same in life. Walking into a silent retreat is like switching off the "running factor" waiting for the steam to disappear.
I can't but think this is why people encourage others to get married. (As if something is wrong when we don't) They cannot think that being alone is fulfilling. They perhaps think of being alone is "lonely" Nothing could be further from the truth. We marry because of love which is not a feeling but an act of the will. Not because we fear loneliness. I was reading through quite a few of Paul's letters to the church during these days of silence and fasting. I find him in stark contrast to my experience with people today. He strongly encouraged singleness. Stats show us that the divorce rate in the church is 50% I find it so strange that people encourage me so strongly, especially at home, to get married. I wish for a balance in the church. This is the balance, that we encourage singleness as much as we encourage marriage. That we do not point out to the singles, asking them to stand so that we can "pray for them to find the partner" but to bless singles as we bless the couples, with a prayer of covering for where they are at. For the grace where they find themselves in life.
I wrote in my dairy, "I am hitting that moment where, when at home, I will stop to read, mutter a prayer and move to the ever calling aspects of life mentioned earlier. The fridge, the mop, the coffee machine, washing basket... etc. Now I enter self motivation and discipline" so I picked up my Bible and read on. I underlined and coloured in wonderful parts of the life of Jesus and words of advice from Paul. I compared my life to scripture and asked the Holy Spirit for conviction.
My walk in the labyrinth.
It was my first time in a labyrinth. I had no idea what to expect or how I would experience this.
It was rather irritating in the beginning. So many turns. I just wanted to walk! Then, all of a sudden, came the longer circles with no turns. That was nice but believe it or not, I very quickly found myself asking the question, "when will this turn again?" It must be the sign of a pioneer I figured! Or an impatient person. I am both in honesty.
It did not come to me that perhaps one object was to finally get to the big stone in the middle. It only dawned on me once I came to it. Suddenly my mind, for the first time and days jumped to Kona... that going there in two weeks from now would become a mile stone in my life.... But as I moved away from the stone, following the path I thought... I will also leave Kona, exit where I entered, and finally one day, exit life. Naked with nothing. But then I thought, "I did find the Stone! I take with me Holy Spirit, the seal that I am redeemed. I do not exit naked. I exit fully clothed with Christ, ready to meet my Maker. My Father. Lord of my life. My faithful friend and caretaker! What a wonderful thought... and wonderful reality. Why have I never seen it in this light before!
I had a wonderful retreat. God spoke many things, and of course some I cannot mention here.
He is good.
I cannot imagine life without His counsel. His love. His forgiveness. Praise His name.