{Partial} Extended Solitude -- slowing to hear God

{God's presence}

I said I would share more about some specific experiences from Fire It Up February, and this is one of those.

In his book The Life You've Always Wanted, John Ortberg talks about having "an unhurried life." In our culture and age of rush, among other things, we often rush past opportunities to be in Christ's presence. Among other solutions to learn the practice of slowing, John describes "extended solitude." A day taken once a month or so to be alone with God.


He provides an outline that goes over finding a place to be alone and uninterrupted (a park or retreat center), spending time the night before to prepare and ask God's blessing for the following day, then "arranging the day around listening to God" (p.89). He provides an example timeline from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. that includes taking walks, reading and meditating on Scripture, journaling, even eating and taking a nap. I don't know if it's the introvert in me or the lack of alone time I get as a stay at home mom or a combination of the two, but it sounds wonderful!

Needless to say, a day like that is not exactly possibly in this current stage of my life. Even if Daniel agreed to take the kids for an entire Sunday, I would be missing out on valuable (and seemingly rare) family time to do so. Maybe my life and my relationship with God needs that, but for right now an evening of Partial Extended Solitude seemed to be the more realistic solution.

Using the basic outline from John's book, here's what that looks like... (the bold is taken directly from John's outline on page 89)

{Partial} Extended Solitude

  1. Find a place where you can be uninterrupted and alone. The evening I had available was both cold and dark (it's February, afterall), so unless I wanted to spend the evening in my car parked somewhere in the dark, it was Barnes and Noble for me. Not exactly "alone," but at least away from family distractions and interruptions. Well, most days. This day as I started to sit down I realized some friends were sitting at the next table over. Such is life :)
  2. Spend a brief time the night before to get ready, to ask God to bless the day, and to tell Him you want to devote the day to him. This [time] is your gift to God, but even more, it is a gift God wants to give you. My time of solitude was more or less impromptu (Daniel said, "hey, I'll watch the kids right now while you go out and get some 'you time'"), so I didn't exactly have the previous night to prepare. But I did turn off the radio on the way to Barnes and pray the time over to God, asking for answers to the specific burdens on my heart and mind.
  3. Arrange the [evening] around listening to God. This is the basic format I followed (in minutes)...
    :00-:15  Welcome God's presence (what I did in the car) and prepare heart and mind
    :15-:30  Read and meditate on Scripture
    :30-:45  Write responses to reading and set goals to follow through on from the time of reflection
    :45-01:00  Write letter of dedication to God, prepare to reenter society

Is this necessary?

For me: Yes. This time was... well, it was time I wouldn't have had if I didn't schedule it and make it happen. I think God speaks to us in a lot of ways throughout our days and through various aspects of our lives. But there is nothing that compares to how God can speak to us when we humbly come before Him with an offering of our time and focused attention. Not falling asleep in bed or a quick minute before we head out the door in the morning, but a few devoted moments just us and God (and whoever else might be around the park or Barnes and Noble).

Did God show up?

I don't often share what I write in my devotional journal, because it's personal and an important part of my secret life with God. However, I feel God's message to me that evening just might be what someone else needs to hear... so here's some of what I wrote during that time of partial extended solitude on 2.9.12...

I feel as though I'm being awakened more than I ever have before in my life. Things that I've never thought too intently about--poverty, homelessness, orphans, American consumerism and so called "Christianity" in the face of these humbling human conditions and terribly unfortunate circumstances--things that matter to Christ and concern so much of our world... all of a sudden, they matter to me. All of a sudden I care that someone is sleeping (and many more dying) in the cold tonight. That countless children are family-less, and many more are dreadfully poor and not eating today.
I refuse to waste my life in continued ignorance. To call myself a Christian without resembling and drawing closer to the mission of my Christ. I want to take action. To quit thinking that caring for myself and maybe my family is enough to be a devoted disciple. To minister beyond the blessed. To give more of my money and my energy and myself than is expected. To live truly believing that this life is really all about the Kingdom to come. To tell all far and wide. To work together with friends and family to feed the homeless and comfort the orphans and minister to those who really need it. By this we might see how truly blessed we are. We might commit to Christ more fervently and draw closer to Him like no meeting of already believers could ever do. Perhaps I will give Bible studies or pray over the sick. Maybe my children will learn to be true citizens of the world they inhabit all the while shining as a light to the Greater Light. May it be so!

{we will serve the Lord}

I feel God calling me to a "diligent life" in preparation of all He has in store for me. My prayer this evening has been for God to use me in great and powerful ways--to shake up my life--to not let being a stay at home mom be my end all in purpose. I want to grill for the homeless under a bridge. I want to adopt an older orphan that no one wants. I want to live on half our income and give the rest away to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, save the dying, and further God's Word by meeting His children's physical needs (all things mentioned in the book 7). I feel limited by our income and debt and my personality and staying home with young kids. Then, I realize, this isn't forever. We will not always be in this phase of our lives. Our income will increase if/when I work, our debt will get paid off, I can challenge my personality rather than allowing it cripple me, and our kids will grow to be independent. It is what I do in this phase and how I live my life now that determines what phase God leads me (us) to next. Right now, for this time, God is calling me to: 1) raise passionate, caring, Christ-centered children, so they too will help others and spread God's word; 2) pay down debt so that we may freely give; and 3) live passionately from our home, showing the joy God brings in all stages of life.
Putting that in action, 1) I want to do more to teach my kids an awareness of others--sensitivity to the hurting people in this world and the desire and ability to help and show love, to live lives of service; 2) I want to get gazelle intense at paying down debt to do so quickly; and 3) I want our home to be a welcoming place for Bible studies with friends and one day even welcoming our neighbors and strangers.

I then read Acts 6:1-7. Widows were being discriminated against in the food distribution (verse 1), so the 12 disciples bring all together to choose 7 men who can monitor this so the others can focus on preaching and teaching God's Word (verses 2-4). This wasn't a "lesser" job--there were simply separate needs. In fact, the job called for men who were respected, full of the Holy Spirit and wise (verse 3).

Whatever God calls me to is not less than (or more than) His calling for someone else. It's sometimes different based on the need and our God-given skill. But all disciples called should be respected, filled with the Holy Spirit and wise.

I then concluded my time with specific goals from the evening of reflection and a prayer of dedication to God.

So, the short answer: Yes, He showed up.

{He shows up}