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Silence, stillness and gifts of God
September 13, 2012

Inside this issue:
Adventure into silence
Still Before God course
Date change autumn Getaway with God

In the next issue of Refresh your Soul:
Gems from ‘Still Before God’
A 5-day Silent Retreat (for men & women)

Adventure into Silence
an 8-day silent retreat

When I tell people that I voluntarily engaged in eight days of silence last month, I’m met with responses like “Eight days!? What on earth did you do for that long?” I wasn’t sure either what to expect but I was intrigued to find out. I’d felt God’s prompting and invitation to take on this adventure, and he who invites always stands ready to provide, even exceeding our expectations.

Normally Refresh Your Soul provides practical input for you to put to use in your walk with God. This article is a bit different as it is more descriptive of my journey. Perhaps it will envision you to also pursue silence, whether that is for 8 minutes or 8 days or somewhere in between.

How do I capture such an experience in a few words when the effect on my life and ministry is far-reaching?

Celebration On the first day what surfaced was an awareness and celebration of God’s goodness in my life. Gratitude overflowed for my marriage, for God’s forgiveness and abundant grace, for the beauty of lifting my soul in worship. All of these gifts became crystal clear as I silenced my soul, which simply opened up space to see and hear things I’d been missing.

God at work It was certainly a luxury to have hours on end available to spend with the Bible. Beforehand I’d thought I might read big chunks of the New Testament during this time away, but that was not at all what this retreat was about. Instead I digested small portions of Scripture for long periods of time. I guess my process wasn’t too different from that of the cows in the field next to the retreat centre as they leisurely ate their fill and then sat down to chew their meal all over again.

Contemplating Scripture is never for the purpose of gaining head knowledge. After ruminating on a story for quite some time, I’d write ‘And ME?’ on a line in my journal, and then explore the story’s connections with my own life and interact with God about what he was saying to me through it. This is where my contemplation truly became prayer. This is where life-change happened as God spoke quite profoundly into my soul.

Resistance Being silent isn’t easy and I faced barriers both from within and without. These had the potential of threatening my whole experience and maybe even of sending me home. I kept reminding myself that I had pulled away for a purpose and so I made the decision (repeatedly) to persevere. I wanted to meet with God. I wanted to receive whatever my Lord had in mind, and I didn’t want to get in the way of that.

The perseverance paid off, and the resistance eventually disappeared. My reward…?

Deep rest The rest that finally settled upon me was more profound than any I have ever experienced. The rest that can accompany a vacation is lovely but it’s very different. With this rest, the temptations to be distracted were stilled. I became content to simply be present with God. I treasured the silence and the peace of the moment. Open. Receptive. Truly listening. It was beautiful.

Moving on Since re-entering ‘the real world’, it remains a daily challenge to live out what I learned at the retreat centre. There’s work to be done and people to see and a thousand things to distract me. But I’ve experienced something that I won’t forget, and I don’t want to allow it to fade into history.

So I try each day to still my soul and to draw into God’s presence.
One thing I know for sure: God is always present.
The choice I have each day: to open up some space to be present to God.

Intrigued? Watch for the next edition of Refresh Your Soul when I’ll introduce a five-day silent retreat planned for March 2013. I’ve also begun a new series on Silence on my Facebook page. . The page is open to all even if you’re not a ‘facebooker’. If you are, your comments will allow more readers to enjoy the content.

Still Before God Course
Mondays in November at Crossroads Amsterdam

I’m in the process of developing a new course. Still Before God offers an introduction to contemplative spiritual practices. It’ll provide some knowledge and experience in the practices of stillness, pondering Scripture, listening prayer and journaling.

The course’s theme scripture verse is Ephesians 1:18-19a where Paul prays that our hearts will be enlightened to know more deeply the hope and riches which are ours in Christ.

Being still before God is no easy task, but it is essential to life. “If you want to be deeply connected with yourself and with God, you must spend time in silence” says Christopher Jamison the host of the film “The Big Silence. If you long for a deeper connection with God in stillness and prayer, if you want to learn to engage your heart (as well as your head) in your times in God’s Word, this course may be for you (or your community).

Still before God runs four Monday evenings in November 2012 at Crossroads International Church.

It will be available to other communities (also in Dutch) as of spring 2013. If you are interested in this course for your community I’d be happy to talk with you about it.

Autumn Getaway with God
note the change of dates

The next Getaway with God weekend has been rescheduled to November 2-4. There are still a few spots left. If you would like to participate, I encourage you to register soon. Registration for the following Getaway (25-27 January 2013) will open at the end of October.

This opportunity is naturally for women who are within driving distance of the south of Holland, but if you know you would benefit from drawing away from the busyness of life and spending a weekend seeking the God's presence alongside like-minded women, consider joining us. Visit the Getaway with God or Stilteweekend pages for more information and to register.

May God's grace bring you to new places of stillness.

Elizabeth de Smaele
MMus, MDiv, CSD
Amstelveen, The Netherlands

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