Category Archives: retreat

True freedom…on #election2012 day

This past weekend 33 women (and one guy, the worship leader) retreated to a beautiful camp to seek God’s voice in quietness, solitude, silence in the middle of orange, red, yellow fall leaves in Central Arkansas. I’ve lost count of how many Silent Prayer Retreats I’ve led in the past several years. All because one day I was looking for a movie to entertain me on a Friday night, and while scanning the blockbuster aisle, I stumbled on a documentary about Being Still & Silence. I had no idea God’s voice in silence could leave me speechless.

On Friday night (Nov.2) I shared my struggle with the woman caught in adultery from John 8:1-11. Struggle. Mental block. Numbness is what I felt a few days before as I read, re-read…read again…that passage that was making me uncomfortable. It wasn’t the nicely-packaged-story, with the nicely-packaged-lesson, and a nicely-packaged-encounter between Jesus and a woman. It was controversial. Scandalous. Naked. Shame. Guilt. Violent. Stoning of  a woman. Blood-thirsty. Legalistic. I didn’t want to enter the story…I didn’t want to be that woman…I didn’t want to be the blood-thirsty Pharisee either, picking up the stone. Savage. I wanted to be the merciful-Jesus. But I wasn’t. A friend prayed for me. A pastor. A brother. Spirit anointed prayer. Broke me. Pierced me. Tears. Snot. Shame. Swimming in the sludge of my sin for a minute was quite enough. Quite. Enough. To ask for Forgiveness. Who was I kidding? How could I speak before these women? teach what? hypocrisy? Damn it. Thank you for making me enter the story. I had been walking around it. But I entered it. Found my place. Sat down. Found my view. My spot. Watched it all unfold. Colorfully. Heart beating. My face in a mirror. My shame. My guilt. My wounds. Redemption.

Saturday we woke up in silence. Got ready without saying a word. Ate breakfast slowly. Ahhh! the dream of a mother to eat in silence & uninterrupted. Coffee in a cup. Hot coffee that didn’t grow cold as you multi-tasked on a normal morning trying to rush out the door to work/daycare! Heart slowing down. Mind starting to let go of busy-ness. Heart anticipating a rhema Word from God. Discerning the Lies of the enemy. Replacing the holes with Truth.

I do not condemn you, either. 
The one with the authority to condemn, didn’t. The ones with the desire to stone: walked away one by one.

Go. Be free. Nah’. Don’t worry about it. A beating will take place. But I WILL take it for you. Mercy.

…and sin no more.
Jesus wasn’t clueless. He knew her sin. But he said it like it is. SIN. NO. MORE. You can’t get any better until someone tells you the Truth, right? preach it bro, preach it, with mercy. grace. forgiveness.

The prayer rooms we entered were intimate:
Abiding Room – with a list of the Verbs of God from The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg.

Forgiveness Room– keep wanting to delete it from the prayer guide, but I can’t, women always get stuck there for hours…hard to let go of a hurt, so used to it, where would we be without it?

Renaming Room – intimate. God giving us a new name. New identity. Seeing ourselves how God sees us. I was disappointed I didn’t get a name, but He gave me 2 words: “Speak. Stand Upright.” Intimate…too much to say.

Contemplation Room – yep. Don’t think. Don’t ask. Don’t read. Relax. Be still. Walk. Nap. Sit. Take in the silence. It’s like a Q-tip that unclogs the crap.

Sharing time….too intimate. No room for details here. But nevertheless my friend & sister, Caffhanie Calloway captured it all. She started listening from God and writing a poem about our time. She listened to God. She listened attentively to her sisters. She listened to the tears, the unfinished words, the pain coming out of our throats closing up, afraid to speak the truth of the lies we’ve believed. She kept writing. Talented. Creative. Rhythmic. Poetic. Raw. Honest. Soulful. She wrote not only for the page. She also wrote for the voice. When she read it with her expressive cadence,accentuating those important words, my mouth dropped. I wanted that voice recorded. That voice. God’s pleasant voice. Smiling voice. Voice pleased. Delighting in His daughters. No condemnation.

Funny. Today is Election day in the United States. But true freedom is captured in this poem.

(shared with permission by Caffhanie Calloway – all rights reserved).

She Free
She free
She wit da broken heart—mended
She wit da battered soul—tended
            Her tattered cape flapp’n
            Holey and dirty
                        Yet da King—He clapp’n
She free
She wit da bruised body—heal’n
She wit da heated stare—chill’n
            She swimm’n like dem dolphins
            Her mangled arms gettin stronger
            Needle points and razor cuts
                        The Spirit accepts hah every touch
She free
She wit da untreatable disease—surviva
She wit da unplanned baby—momma
            She smil’n thru hah tears
            She won’t give up cuz dem fears
                        Hands callused and covered in sores
                        But the Son, He love hah even more
She free
She wit da dark eyes—lighten
She wit da weakened mind—fightin’
She covered in mud
She froth wit fatigue
She crawling thru the anger, violence, and deceit
She plummets thru the ravage, the danger, and the wraith
She naked and unguarded
            All she got wit hah is faith
She hit from all angles—chest, arms, and legs
            Bleed’n from self-deception, pride, and dread
She wit da damaged armor haphazardly hang’n on
            Took that seed thru the field wit hah
Body dragg’n low—pull’n, strugglin’—strugglin’
Strength gain’n, gain’n
Love grow’n. grow’n
 She wit da exhausted state—enliven—layin flat to the dirt
            dredging to the line where love comes first
She wit hah crusted fingers—grasp’n
            Wit renewed force abound—
Securely wit’n the Hand she found

She free

~we found our way, on the way~

I forgot to share this blogpost that Donna invited me to contribute to at our Fellowship North blog. About 40 of us women from Central Arkansas went on a 24-hour Silent Prayer Retreat near Hot Springs. Here is a nugget of what happened on the way. I’d also like to share another account of that beautiful weekend together. My sister-friend Alison Chino wrote on her own blog with pictures that I didn’t capture. She will bless your soul as well.

We stood in a circle on Saturday afternoon, about 40 us, before the Communion Table and I noticed that the table beautifully summarized the beginning and end of our retreat time together:

At one end of the table was a broken, red heart made out of metal.
The night before we had immersed ourselves into Luke 24 and joined the saddened, downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus. The journey started marked with loss and grief. Hope deferred. Wounds. Pain. Regrets. Confusion. Emptiness. Clenched fists. We all came with the same cry of our hearts “search me Lord”.

Then after the broken heart was a small trail of rocks and candles in the shape of hearts.
These symbolizing how the hearts of the disciples were burning when Jesus spoke words to them on the road. This path of rocks and candles reminded me of the journey we began Saturday morning. We woke up in silence, got ready, had a delicious breakfast without speaking to anyone, and then took off by ourselves for hours. We were on our own solitary path of silence, listening to the words of Jesus. Some sat by the lake, some under the gazebos or benches, some brought lawn chairs, some entered the peaceful prayer garden (more like a forest with trails!). During our silent journey we followed a prayer guide that started with the Cleansing Room, then the Abiding and Comfort Room, Identity Room, and finally, the Thanksgiving Room. We allowed the Spirit to speak. Some even chose their own path as the Spirit led them.

The path of rocks and burning candles led up to the Bread & Juice of Thanksgiving at the other end of the Communion Table.

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we looked back at our hardships, situations, wounds, pain, loss, hopes, questions, doubts, and realized that Jesus had been there all along, we just hadn’t seen Him. The grief sometimes is too much to bear. But as we stopped, stood still and listened to His voice for about 5hrs, we couldn’t help but notice that He was present. He illumined our minds and our hearts. It was in the breaking of bread and thanksgiving time that He was most recognized as being with those disciples. Yet, He had been there all along. The journey that had started with loss and grief had ended in praise & thanksgiving. By the time we broke the silence at noon, we had bumped head on with the Grace of the Resurrection, Redemption, and Communion. All of which we already possessed, just hadn’t remembered, because we are forgetful daughters sometimes.

The sharing time after lunch & breaking the silence is one of my favorite parts of the Silent Prayer Retreat. The intimate things that were shared cannot even be uttered because they were so deep. Some women wrote poems. Some said even the trees, rocks, and clouds spoke to them. All read Scripture. We did some sacred journaling. But all women listened. Spent time with the Master. Slowed down our hearts.

We finished praying around the Communion table. One-word prayers. Love those. We just spoke one word that God had burned deep in our hearts, out loud, as well as writing the word on one of the rocks on the table. We left joyful and changed back to our community.

I’d like to end with this joyful invitation taken from a Mennonite Songbook that we read before taking communion:

This is the Welcome Table of our Redeemer, and you are invited
Make no excuses, saying you cannot attend; simply come,
for around this table you will find your family
Come not because you have to, but because you need to.
Come not to prove you are saved,but to seek the courage to follow wherever Christ leads.
Come not to speak but to listen, not to hear what’s expected, but to be open to the ways the Spirit moves among you.
So be joyful, not somber, for this is the feast of the reign of God,
where the broken are molded into a Beloved Community,
and where the celebration over evil’s defeat has already begun.