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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Solitude 7 Ways To Find It

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Can you remember a time when you were totally engaged in the present moment? Time disappeared. There was only you. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. A chance to be quiet and listen to your heart.

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I recently had the opportunity to have some solitude, a time completely alone, aside from our two dogs, Gracie and Mocha. This doesn’t happen that often, so I wanted to share a few things with you about my adventure with solitude. While Donny was away for a few nights on a scuba diving trip, I seized the moments and took an intentional time-out for me. I had been storing up files, clippings, quotes, thoughts from my siblings, all about my Mama—and I had been pondering a book project, entitled “12 Lessons My Mama Taught Me.”

BE still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

I was basically alone, with God, me, and our two canines for a couple  of nights.  After attending author, Lauretta Hannon’s Write-In Workshop (author of The Cracker Queen: A Memory of a Jagged, Joyful Life) on April 9, 2016, as well as currently taking Josh Langston’s Writing Classes, (author of Writing Naked: The Secrets of Dynamic Prose Laid Bare, among many novels) I got down to business. I wrote,  mused, wrote, and pondered. The time was amazing, I must say.

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Found this quiet spot while I was on a hike.

Now, before you say “There’s no way I have time for that!” and just stop reading at this point, I do realize that it is rare for a person to have the luxury to unplug from it all for this long.

Solitude is definitely a gift that few people take full advantage of and I would like to offer some thoughts  on how you and I can seize the moments for being alone, if only for a few minutes in a day, week, or month.

Seven Ways To Find Solitude:

  1. take a walk

  2. sleep in

  3. savor a cup of hot tea

  4. treat yourself to ________ (a massage, shopping, exercise, a nap, gardening, healthy foods, dark chocolate, yoga, reading)

  5. say “YES” to what you desire

  6. say “NO” to that which doesn’t inspire

  7. spend time in nature, alone, enjoying the pleasure of your own company

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    First published in 1854, Thoreau’s Walden has inspired many.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) lived alone in the woods for two years and two months in a small structure built with his own hands, for just under $29.00.

An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. Henry David Thoreau

While I have not been able to get through his book, Walden, cover-to-cover, I have read enough bits and pieces to confirm the benefits of solitude, both long like Thoreau, or short-term like the seven suggestions above.

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…start down that path to solitude.

How will you and I find ways to carve solitude

into our lives in the days ahead?

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On my way home from my time of solitude, the song, The Prayer came on over my Sirius radio.

I pray you’ll be our eyes, and watch us where we go,
And help us to be wise, in times when we don’t know
Let this be our prayer, as we go our way
Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe…lyrics from The Prayer

As I listened to the lyrics, I thought about how much better our world would be if we could just take a few minutes out and utter the lyrics of this song…The Prayer, with Sandi Patty, and Don Pelsis.

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