Updated: Nov 15
As I sit and reflect on this weekend I am in the midst of a bustling coffee shop full of chatty friends, loud blenders and clanking glasses. The emotional and mental juxtaposition of the weekend and this environment is a shock to my system. It is something to note that most of us, these days, have to plan intentionally to get away to be with The Lord. Much of our lives is surrounded by noise, literal noise and internal noise. One of the women this weekend hit the nail on the head when she said,
"I had to come all the way out here alone, where I knew no one, only to realize that God is with me and I am not alone and it was wonderful."
Isn't that interesting? God calls us into a wilderness to feel the abundance of Himself inside of our souls. By taking a step of obedience, to come alone, unsure of what it was going to be like she was met with the abundant care of our Savior.
If there is one thing that I can say about BFR overnight retreats it would be that we are working to intentionally set the table for you to meet with God. Majority of the time is spent in silence and we are not shying away from the tension of uncomfortable moments, yet we are guiding you through them, gently prompting you along with a way to step into awareness of how God is moving in your spirit and soul. Whether that is through contemplative practices, grounding tools, journaling prompts, spiritual direction or enneagram coaching- just having the time, energy and space to ponder these with the Lord is priceless.
Our weekend started with a sunset vespers (fancy word for evening prayer) service in the St. Francis outdoor chapel. We took guidance from the natural rhythms that God has tuned in our bodies and in nature giving us guardrails for our lives and reminding us that, even if we are not aware, we have established rhythms -good or bad- that dictate our lives. This weekend gave us space to look at those rhythms, with God, and decide if they were helpful or hurtful. Then we wrote down a plan for changes where needed.
Saturday was a day unfamiliar to most in attendance. By releasing them to do, "Whatever you would like" opened a new door for them. The feeling and permission to do whatever you would like, can be a foreign feeling. We were released from obligation, from guilt, from speaking, from expectation and we had the space to just be. Be with God. Be with ourselves. Be in nature. Be in a state of rest. This is a freeing, yet unfamiliar, feeling for most in our culture. As I sat and re-read The Selfless Way of Christ by Henri Nouwen I was reminded, yet again, of our natural desire as humans to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful. When in silence and solitude, that seems to dissipate. It is no longer about what I can accomplish or the things I say, but about being seen and heard by an audience of one- God.
Each woman met with me, one on one, for Spiritual Direction and my heart was truly blessed by this time. I was able to sit and listen alongside them to the prayers of their hearts and help to point out ways that God is moving and showing up. The practice of Spiritual Direction is so beautiful and humbling in that it is not my words that are important, it is having the freedom and the space to be vulnerable and hear from the Lord and feel his gentle love. Within these sessions we are able to feel God shining His face upon us and pointing us towards His light and His path.
As the sun rose on Sunday and we moved slowly that morning, easing back into the volume of music and one another's voices, we shared experiences of the weekend. We were overwhelmed and brought to tears at The Presence that was felt, the rest that was given, and the impact that was made in each of our lives.
"Moving in silence and solitude allowed me to hear my breath, listen, more intently, to your Word and know that you will never leave me. I'm human and sometimes my nerves and fears get the best of me, but this retreat allowed me to put the focus back on you! Thank you, Lord! Thank you!"
-a beautiful prayer written and read aloud by one of our retreat participants
Being in silence alongside others is an experience that can really only be understood by having done it. Another participant shared that she felt so much security in the silence with others, knowing that others were there, alongside her, with God gave her great comfort. Even though she wasn't talking with the ladies around her, she felt a sense of camaraderie just by sharing the space.
BFR Local plans to have two overnight retreats a year as well as our monthly half day silent retreats. If you are interested in learning more click here or you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org I understand that the idea of silence can be intimidating at first but once you allow yourself the permission to walk through the initial tension you will come out the other side with the "ohhhhh" that is sure to accompany that time.