Unplugged and Recharged
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
I didn’t actually press the “publish” button for this blog today, I set up the posting in advance. In fact, I haven’t been online for at least 4 days and plan to stay unplugged for at least 4 more. Oh yeah. I am currently right in the middle of my annual gift-to-myself of disconnecting from most high tech devices so that I may concentrate on important low tech pursuits such as:
- listening to God’s Voice
- interacting face-to-face with real people I love and rarely see
- exploring natural beauty on long walks
- strategizing a balanced life for 2015
- silence and prayer
And most of it is being done in this lovely Victorian Inn on the left deep in the heart of Texas (painted by artist Sherry Green-Peck). This is my 7th year of doing this and honestly, I don’t know how I would have started each new year without this wrinkle-in-time…
As part of my Rule of Life (see last week’s blog) I occasionally take time away to rest, recreate and rejoice. This is not a luxury, but a necessity if I am to have the kind of life that God calls me to — dwelling with Him so that I may be filled in order to pour out to others.
And yet, our culture rarely supports such pursuits: “If you live in North America, you are a prime candidate for slow death by overstimulation. Your environment is busy depleting you with noise, distractions, and the compulsion to always be in a hurry. If I had set out to destroy my identity as a beloved child of God, I couldn’t have done better than living in America at the start of the twenty-first century. The greatest threats are the constant busyness and frantic hurry that demand my allegiance.” (Fil Anderson in Running on Empty)
I’m all too familiar with the consequences of letting distractions and ‘noise’ drown out the voice of God: when there’s no time for solitude and silence all my activities cease to be effective, my words lose meaning and my ministry lacks power. As I look at the great saints of old, one quality they all share is their attentiveness to God in solitude, and so that has become one of the spiritual disciplines I’m seeking to build into my 21st century life.
“In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” is one of my favorite passages where the prophet Isaiah says to people who have distanced themselves from God – You know what to do in order to be whole, but you just choose not to do it! (Isaiah 30.15),
As January comes to an end, how much time have you spent in solitude and silence, listening for the still, small voice of your Creator? We simply must be hushed before God “so that we can listen with our spirit to Him and enjoy His Presence. This discipline also extends to our relationships with people. Silence in the presence of others can be practiced by deliberately speaking less than we otherwise would.” In addition to times of listening silence, I also look forward to special times spent in the company of others and by listening to them I will also be disciplining myself to open my ears more than my mouth. “The discipline of silence before God and people relates to the practice of self-control; the more we develop inner control and composure, the less we will feel compelled to gain outward control over people and circumstances.” (Ken Boa)
This week I’m also helping to lead a Silent Retreat at this beautiful St. Mary’s of Providence center in Pennsylvania where 40 women will spend a whole weekend in silence (yes, even during meals) except for my four presentations on “Dwell.” (yes, there are some funny things I could say about being asked to ‘speak’ at a ‘silent retreat’…smile) I know God will meet us there…
Embracing the contemplative spiritual life does not come naturally to Type A personalities like me. However, in the past few years I have come to not only appreciate but actively yearn for this dimension in my own lifestyle. Psalm 46.10 reminds us to “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Thomas Merton points out that “contemplative prayer nourishes the inner life and begets a luminous serenity that can permeate the various components of exterior life. It is a spiritual homing device that attunes us to the Presence that alone can satisfy our deepest longings.”
I’d love to display that ‘luminous serenity’ of one who has had her deepest longings satisfied from time with her Abba Father! But in order to filled, I must first be emptied…. In order to get recharged, I must first unplug. In a way, it’s a discipline of letting go of control (or at least the idea of being in control, we never really are, are we?). True confession here — it will be hard for me not to check email and facebook for a whole week — eeek!
But the world will go on without my being ‘connected’ that way! In fact, I probably won’t be missed at all! “God did not create you to be all things to all people all the time all by yourself. If you’re trying to do that, you’re insulting His creative wisdom because He created you with limits. He wants to be God and run the universe; He doesn’t want you to be God and run the universe. Yes, honor God by your work, but then honor Him again by your rest. Sometimes God may want you to sit on a stump and admire the woods for three hours because He created that for you to enjoy.” (Richard Swenson in Margin)
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace.” Matthew 6.6 MSG
under the mercy, Cindy
©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
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