Four Questions For God Time Of Solitude In A Monastery

With four questions for God, I recently took a time of silent solitude for 48 hours in a monastery. Those who know me well will find that unimaginable. <smile> I truly did, though, as I arrived on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at the Monastery of The Holy Spirit located in Conyers, Georgia. The ecumenical retreat house welcomes people of all faiths. A silent retreat is something I had considered doing for a long time. Now going on age 60 in six short months, one of my mantras is “Dream of it, then do it!”

I sensed God calling me, so I answered by reserving a small room in The Retreat House for a 48 hour stay. I am not claiming to have heard His audible voice. I never have, and perhaps never will this side of heaven. I did, however, have ‘a quickening’ in my spirit, and I am so thankful now that I responded. For any details you might like to read about this unique and sacred place, click here to visit their website.

The room consisted of a twin bed covered with a soft comforter, a desk with a lamp, a chair, and a place to hang my clothes. The shared bathroom was right outside my room. The meals in the silent dining area were both simple and filling. Snacks, fresh fruit, coffee and tea were available 24/7.

The community of monks, 40 strong, gathered five times each day to read scripture, offer up prayers for the world, singing and chanting the verses in unison and in harmony. It was truly a beautiful experience. I made it to every prayer time, including the 4:00 a.m. Vigils on both Wednesday and Thursday. I didn’t want to miss a thing!

As I spent my hours in silence, I noted 4 questions I asked of God:

(1) What do You want to teach me here?

(2) How can I be more Christlike in any given situation?

(3) How can I best love/support my husband as he begins a season of part-time work?

(4) How can I best love/support our two married children and their loves in the current circumstances of their lives? Both couples are coming up to four years of marriage and are expecting their first child September 2018.

As I experienced the many shared prayer times, my own contemplative prayer time, took intentional time in The Word, and created a few collages, I found myself in a very sacred space. One I will treasure, always.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is located close enough to Atlanta to allow a day visit for most.  The Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Monastery grounds are open to the public every day. 2-3 hours is the suggested time for a day visit. All are welcome to join The Monk Community during their prayer times, a time they are dedicated to praying consistently for our world. And The Lord knows how much we need these prayers more than ever. Guests will also want to enjoy nature walks while admiring the exquisite architecture, taking time out from the busyness of life.

In addition to joining The Monk Community for worship in the Abbey Church, visitors will want to take time out to visit the fascinating Monastic Museum full of images telling the story of how this place came to be. In the museum, there is also a video to watch about the life of the monks at the Monastery.

Posted in the Monastery Kitchen

There is a Monastery Garden Center and the Abbey Store where visitors will find many special and unique treasures, including books, crosses, and much more.

The stunning Abbey Church at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Georgia

For those interested in a little more structure and an overnight visit, many weekend, as well as midweek retreats are available in 2018. Some of these include Emotions: “Our cross and our crown” (Feb. 5-8), Embracing Deep Rest In Turbulent Times (Feb 9-11), Spiritual Rx for Stress and Anxiety (Feb. 23-25), Contemplative Prayer (Mar. 19-22), Image Faith & Photography (May 11-13), Yoga and the Christian Contemplation (May 25-27), just to name a few. The entire retreat schedule can be found on the Monastery website. Click here. 

Seen in the Monastic Museum during a self-guided tour, the Monk’s robes and hats from the original group who started this Monastery.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

This time of solitude and silence and contemplation was certainly time well spent for me.  I do realize that many cannot carve out the time for a day visit to a Monastery, much less an overnight stay. I recommend a time for solitude for every soul, but I recognize that this is nearly impossible for most. Therefore I encourage you to find small ways to be alone and quiet. A hot bubble bath? A walk in the woods? A visit to an open small sanctuary? With timer set, sitting in a comfy chair alone? I bet you, too, can think of some way, somehow, to have some quiet, solitude, a time of rich and rewarding contemplation.

“Be still and know that He is God.”

Psalm 46:10

In the hallway on the way to the dining area, there was a framed prayer by Theologian Thomas Merton. I found myself reading and rereading it several times each day. I wanted to share his thoughts with you.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) an American Catholic writer, and theologian.

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Solitude: Seven Ways To Find It

Standing At The Crossroads

There Is No Expiration With Our God

What Is Happiness? What Is Joy?

Wrestling And Seeking

Where Is He? He Is In Us

It Is Well With My Soul

Brevity Of Life

Thank God He Has A Forgiving Nature

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Brevity Of Life Love Your Peeps

Aussie, Holly Butcher passes away at age 27 from Ewing Sarcoma. She leaves behind an unforgettable message for those who want to hear it.
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.' James 4:14

Have you heard? A final letter from a young, vibrant, Australian by the name of Holly Butcher has gone viral.

We know a bit about this horrific disease that took Holly from this earth. Sadly, our friends, Dixie and Benny lost their precious daughter, age 21, Christy to this same illness, Ewing Sarcoma.

There are many verses in the Bible about the brevity of our earthly life. Click here to read some of them.

Read here what Holly wanted to relay to whomever would listen before she took her leave since this new year, 2018 began:

Butcher’s poignant post is definitely worth reading in full. But here are 16 especially powerful points:

1. “I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all, so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit. … Those times you are [whining] about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s OK to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively affect other people’s days.”

2. “Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that — breathe. You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. … I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.”

3. “I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise — be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them. .. Appreciate your good health and functioning body — even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is.”

4. “Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; more than I could ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.”

5. “This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus, imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves … strange! … but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. … Anyway, moral of the story — presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas.”

6. “Use your money on experiences … or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit. Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.”

7. “Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo.”

8. “Listen to music … really listen. Music is therapy.”

9. “Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.”

10. “Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing OK?”

Group of friends at a restaurant with all people on the table occupied with cellphones

11. “Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.”

Climbing Mt LeConte with friends June 2016

12. “Work to live, don’t live to work.”

13. “Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.”

14. “Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life. You might want a mediocre life and that is so OK.”

15. “Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.”

16. “Oh and one last thing. If you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year — a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.”

Wow, just wow!

The greatest single cause for atheism in the world today is christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. Brennan Manning, Author of All Is Grace

Previous Posts You May Have Missed:

Fighter Jules Furr Takes Her Leave

Where Is He?

Hurting Hearts, Painful Pasts

Run To The Roar

No Expiration

Humble And Kind

Charlotte’s Web

A Grace Disguised

My Heart Will Go On

Music Moves Us

What Feeds You And Me? Let’s Follow Our Heartsong

Tears To Teddy Bears: A Story Of Courage

4 Ways To Best Help The Bereaved

Never Forget

Are You An Egg, A Carrot, Or A Coffee Bean?

In The End, It’s Times Like These In The Following Images That Mean The Most In This Brief Earthly Life That We Live.

Girlfriends since Fernbank Elementary…the eight of us are known as FFs (definitely Friends Forever)
Walker and Noah 2016
Football, Friendship, Fellowship, Family
The freedom we enjoy in America is such an incredible gift. Many Thanks to all who serve, past, present, and future!!!
Leigh Andrews Fogg December 30, 2016
Christmas 2016 with Dad Page
Kathy and Joan on one of our countless Kennesaw Mountain Hikes
A few minutes to BE Still. (see Psalm 46:1;10)
Big Sis, Leah measures her little brother, Walker’s height

Contemplative Prayer
March 2017 Breckenridge Joan with my two awesome “in-law” kids, Jessica and Scott.
Anytime spent in a House of God
Kristen, founder of Kids Boost (kids boost.org) a non-profit which encourages kids 8-18 to give back to their communities!
My niece, Rachael and her family expecting #2 in this new year. They live in Wash State, but are close to us in Heart.
Grown-up, Meg takes a minute to hug on her MIMI.
Two of Meg’s Grandmas take time out for laughter!
Paul fixes Kay’s bike before Taylor’s Ride, October 2017.
Our quarterly Sister Session! Love this special time with my three sisters. Always feel like Mama is sitting there with us.
A Colorado visit with our Sam Hill Gang!
A local artist as he paints the majestic Rockies.
Leah and her Daddy-O March 2017.
Walker’s High School Grad Party, May 2010 with his GoodDaddy, My Daddy who passed on 11/11/13.
Newborn Donald Walker Page, born 2/27/92.
Our God calls us to have faith like a Mustard Seed. (see Matthew 17:20 which tells us we can move mountains with faith this size).
It is such a gift of this earthly life to take a few minutes to admire the handiwork of our God during a sunrise or a sunset.
Enough Energy and Strength to hike Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, June 2016.
The intricate details in Nature bring such delight and joy when we take the time to notice.
Our four-legged, furry friends make the best companions ever!

FRIENDS! Paul and Donny act crazy as they grill together.
Opportunities for Service whether Home Or Abroad! Here are two of the interpreters who worked with me in Rio de Janeiro on a recent mission trip.
NEW LIFE!!! “A BABY is God’s opinion that life should go on.” Carl Sanders
LEGACY! The gift of a loving, godly legacy never goes away. In fact, it only grows as a family grows. My late parents were married in 1947. My Mama was only 21 years old. They were missionaries in Africa for over five years, raised six children who are still married to our original spouses and were married 58 years at the time of Mama’s Homegoing in 2006.
I first met this group in 1976 and February, 2018, we will celebrate our 40th Reunion on Hilton Head Island over President’s Weekend!
Moving Our Bodies More To Encourage Better Health and More Strength.
BIRTHDAY PARTIES!
BOOKS! Have you visited a library lately?
My friend, Sarah, who was evacuated from Katrina in August 2005.
Just some of our fun, crazy, extraordinary extended family, December 2016.
time out during a Women’s Retreat for a walk in the woods at Lake Blue Ridge. Love our Piedmont Church Friends!
It is always a gift and a privilege to help one in need, like this little guy who is holding his shoebox provided by Samaritan’s Purse
As Mommy to Leah and Walker, it was always important to me to teach them to be givers. Thankfully, they and their spouses are such giving, compassionate, loving people. This makes my Mama heart smile really BIG!
Paul honors the life of his son, Taylor Heston Read who passed March 7, 2015, a life well-lived.
Collage art with my ladies at The Women’s Extension every other Tuesday morning fills me UP!
ART matters, here I am with artist, Holly Irwin and my original piece by Holly: Country Meadow. The girl in the piece is “me” when I was my younger self.
My two favorite girls in all the world. Leah, our daughter, to my right. Jessica, Walker’s wife to my left. St. Augustine Summer 2016.

 

Joy Comes In the Morning

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I’ve always loved the name “Pamela”, since my niece Pamela, born in 1986 has been a special part of my life. So when this young homeless woman told me her name, I just smiled to myself.

The day was a sunny Sunday morning, March 15, 2015. I walked and walked in the beautiful city of San Diego, California, while my husband, Donny, attended a conference.   As I moved along, I hummed a favorite song, seeing the lyrics in my mind: Brave, by Sara Bareilles. Carrying my Bible close to my heart, my plans were to find a Presbyterian Church about one mile from our hotel and worship there at the 11:00 service. I soon discovered that instead, my day would be spent in “a church” on the streets of San Diego and not inside the walls of a building. Heavy-hearted, with my husband’s dear Dad on my mind with his recent hospitalization in the CCU with pneumonia, paired with grief over the very recent passing of the son of our precious friends the Reads, I sat on a bench to rest right outside The Old Spaghetti Factory, at the corner of 5th and K in the Gaslamp District. Weeping quietly, I took this picture of my Bible, my cup of hot coffee, and a San Diego map.

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Just after taking this picture, as I glanced to my right, I saw this woman standing alone right next to my bench. Homelessness is a concern in every big city across our great big world, and sunny San Diego is no exception. In fact, locals this past weekend told us countless times that the reason for their multitude of homeless folks is because of their year-round pleasant climate.

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I am not my mistakes. I am not my old habits. I am not my PAST. I am a beautiful reflection of God. I am forgiven. I am loved. I am free. Shanel Cooper Sykes

To help minimize panhandling on every corner, the local San Diego community installed meters like this one to collect pocket change to aid those without  a home. I thought this was a good idea to share with folks at MUST Ministries back in Georgia who work tirelessly to help the down and out in our hometown community. Many humans have similar thoughts regarding the homeless population, wondering how they got there, are they alcoholics or addicts, is mental illness a part of their day, and isn’t it “their fault” that they are in this situation? Raised by such compassionate parents, my heart has always been tender towards these souls in need. In fact, back in 2002, when Leah was in 8th grade, I taught her class all I knew about this subject, using Phil Collins’ Another Day in Paradise as a springboard. And after recently reading Yankoski’s story in the book Under the Overpass, my heart has become even softer towards these folks in need, believing “every heartbeat has a story.”

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I am like a pencil in God's hand. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used. Mother Teresa

So when this woman showed up next to me, my response was not a surprise to me. And when she shared her name, Pamela, I smiled through my tears, understanding intuitively that her being there was no accident. Pamela is my niece’s name, the sister of my late nephew Brad (Brad’s story is here: 525,600 Minutes, Remembering Brad Today, Celebrate Me Home). Though Pam, all alone in this big city, did not approach me, I invited her to have a seat as I moved myself and my things over. Note: I am not looking for accolades with my story, I simply followed my heart like I do in most every circumstance I find myself in these days. Pam was not the only one who was in need, I was in need, as well, and I believe that was the reason she was placed in my path that day.  (See two recent past posts to understand this better: Choose Not To Be Blue and Choose Not To Be Blue: Part Two.)

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First things first, I figured she was hungry. She nodded. Waiting for our table at a quaint sidewalk cafe, I was moved by the irony of this pleasant young woman who would soon escort us to our table, quietly folding napkins for the many guests who would be by for a meal on this Sunday.

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As we sat across from each other, Pam told me her story. She was stranded in San Diego and needed to get back to Austin, Texas, she had no money to her name, and there was a safe home for her in Texas with her boyfriend and his mother. Though I did not tell her this, and I certainly wasn’t sure how the day would play out,  I knew by the time we finished our omelets that my husband and I would be her ticket back to Austin.

With a full stomach and a good break in the cafe’s clean restaurant bathroom, Pamela and I hit the sidewalk, first purchasing her a big backpack and then heading to nearby Macy’s. We went through several different departments, finding her new lingerie, t-shirts, jeans, and socks. Each time we made a purchase, the employee would snip off the tags, and Pam would slip back into the dressing room to change into her new things, coming out with an appreciative, humble smile on her face. Later, when Pastor Ike called me from Georgia, and I burst into tears telling him all about our friends who had lost their son and Donny’s Daddy, Pamela was the one who was consoling me, putting her arm around me and whispering how sorry she was for my sadness. I shared with Pastor Ike about who was standing next to me and he said, “Joan, that is exactly what I spoke about in my message this morning.” (Click Here to hear Pastor Ike Reighard’s message Passion For Compassion.)

We packed her backpack full, including her old, used, soiled things which went into a plastic bag until Pam would be able to find a way to wash them. An affordable ticket was purchased at a nearby Greyhound Bus Terminal and I left Pamela to wait until the 10:45 p.m departure. Just before 10:30 p.m., Donny and I were strolling around downtown with some friends from Georgia when I realized we were only a few minutes from the terminal. We said good night to our friends, and walked a few more minutes arriving in time for Donny to meet Pamela and for us to bid her farewell. Pamela’s trip would take 36 hours arriving mid-morning on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, and Pamela would call me to let me know she had arrived safely.

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Pamela was so appreciative to have her ticket to Austin, Texas.

Once again, I am reminded of The Boy and The Starfish Story, (click here to read it). It was an indisputable fact that my husband and I could not solve the huge problem of homelessness in San Diego, California, but we made a difference for that one beating heart—which at the same time made an even bigger difference for our own hurting hearts.

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Our annual TTU gathering, January 2015, Abingdon, Virginia in The Reads Home.
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The Reads (far right) travel from VA to GA for Jessica and Walker Page’s wedding celebration on June 21, 2014. Some of our FF Group, The Beasley’s, Carters, Bowers and Pattersons are also pictured…friends since Fernbank Elementary!
Yes, weeping may endure for the night, but JOY does come with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Psalm 30:5 came true on the following day as the sun rose on Monday, March 16, 2015, starting with a long phone visit with my grieving friend in Virginia, Kelly, as I walked along the water, stopping in the loveliest places for a moment of quiet reflection and prayer.

One of my many prayer spots in the  beautiful San Diego Embarcadero Bay.
One of my many prayer spots in the  beautiful San Diego Embarcadero Bay.

Later, I was thankful to see pictures of my precious Tennessee Tech sisters loving our friends The Reads, as they represented our group at Taylor’s Celebration Service which I was able to watch on livestream.

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On March 14, 2015, friends watch a memory video with Kelly….girlfriends multiply JOY and divide SORROW.
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The prayer box which the eight of us gave to Kelly. Our initials are engraved inside to remind her that we are praying for her and her family.
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The card our group of eight gave to Kelly, Paul and Megan to remind them: “We’ve Got Your Back.”

That afternoon, though his wife, Annie had to work, our nephew, Evan, and their 14 month old son, Noah, was able to drive a short distance to meet us at the beautiful Torrie Pines Reserve. Again I was struck by irony: grieving with our friends over the loss of their son…while watching this beautiful boy’s journey begin.

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JOY overflowing as we visited with these two precious ones, my brother John’s firstborn and Evan and Annie’s firstborn, Noah James Walker, age 14 months.

As we continue to pray for healing for our Dad, Don, and peace for our friends The Reads, our faith reminds us to be brave.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 "For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land."
Song of Solomon 2:11-12 “For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”

 How is your journey calling for bravery today?

Is it a health decision, a relationship that needs mending,

a courageous conversation that would be difficult, but beneficial for all?

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