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Archive for the ‘Solitude’ Category

alone prayer

“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.”
 Ellen Burstyn

Normally, if someone told me to go away, I would be hurt and offended. But Jesus isn’t just anybody; when He tells me to “go away,” I am more than happy to do so. Then again, He never asks me to go away from His presence; quite the opposite in fact. He longs for us to get away from the cares of this world in order that we might spend time in His glorious presence.

Mother Teresa summarized this well when she stated: “We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God, together as a community as well as personally; to be alone with Him — not with our books, thoughts, and memories but completely stripped of everything — to dwell lovingly in His presence, silent, empty, expectant, and motionless. We cannot find God in noise or agitation.” ¹

Although Jesus never had difficulty in finding God, the Father, even He felt the urgency of going away from the crowds and from the daily demands of life. We read many accounts in Scripture of Jesus doing just that.

For example, the apostle Mark recounts that Jesus, after what must have been a very demanding and exhausting time of ministry in Capernaum, “went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Mark 1:35

Mark also records another time that Jesus, after teaching for a long time, fed the multitudes, then:

… made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray. (Mark 6:45-46).

Luke records that Jesus “withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.” And that at another time He “he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” 5:16, 6:12).

No doubt Jesus went to the wilderness or the mountain in order to secure His privacy, but it is possible that He also felt God’s presence more keenly in the beauty and solitude of nature. I know I do! The most intense encounters I have had with my LORD have been while I was alone in the mountains; alone here meaning without the company of another person, but engulfed in  God’s very real, nearly tangible, presence.

Wouldn’t it be nice, dear reader, if we could all just take some time to go away, for an extended period of time, to the mountains, or seashore to spend time with the LORD, and He only?

But let’s be practical; very few of us have the opportunity to do so. Nevertheless, it is crucial that we make time in whatever way possible, as Mother Teresa said, “to dwell lovingly in His presence, silent, empty, expectant, and motionless.”

It is equally as important to occasionally take a temporary furlough from certain activities, be they television, sports, blogging, or whatever particular that steals away your days and whittles away your hours. Actually, this is why you haven’t seen a new blog on this site for a while. I was being obedient to God’s instruction to “go away” for awhile and recharge my batteries, spiritually speaking. Now that I feel more energized, I plan to do more writing again, LORD willing.

In closing, I wish to reiterate that God longs for us to go away from the cares of this world in order that we might spend time in His glorious presence. And if we can do so in the beautiful and majestic cathedral of nature, that’s all the better.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~John Muir

¹ Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers

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I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere… Sort of heroic super-people, all of them beautiful and witty and calm and kind, and I always imagined that when I did find them I’d suddenly know that I Belonged among them, that I was one of them, that I’d been meant to be one of them all along, and everything in the meantime had been a mistake; and they’d know it too. I’d be like the ugly duckling among the swans.”
― Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

As a child, all I wanted was to be loved by my parents and accepted by my peers. I tried in so many ways to make that happen, but my parents had their own issues and my classmates were just downright mean. If only I hadn’t been so desperate for acceptance at school, I might not have fallen so easily into the other kid’s traps.

Some of their taunts were less demeaning than others. The pencil incident might have fallen into this category, except that my foolish error earned me the nickname “Stubby” for most of fourth grade. As I said, kids can be mean.

Normally, I was suspicious when other kids showed an interest in me, but on that particular day, I totally dropped my guard when one of the really popular girls walked up to me and began chatting as though we were long-time buddies. I thought perhaps there were a few “golden people” after all. During the course of the conversation she asked me if I preferred long pencils or stubby ones. “Long,” I answered truthfully, “and very sharp.”

“Me too, she replied. “It looks like we have something in common after all.”

I stood there dumbfounded as she walked away, but I was happy.

Then the unthinkable happened; a second “golden girl” came up and began chatting with me also. I should’ve suspected something was amiss, but I was too busy basking in the moment. This girl also brought up the topic of pencils, but unlike the first, she volunteered that she loved writing with stubby pencils before asking me my preference.

It was very wrong of me, I know, but I wanted to have something in common with her too, so I assured her that I liked stubby pencils as well. “That’s what I thought,” she smugly barked, then walked away. My heart sank as the two girls started their confab, while shooting arrogant glances in my direction.  Naturally, they shared my indiscretion with all the other kids. They all sang their stinging words, “Liar, liar, pants on fire” and “Hey Stubby, got a pencil?”  until I was practically in tears and longed desperately to return to my invisible status.

Little did I know, but I was never invisible to the only one that mattered. Not only did He love me unconditionally, and accept me just as I was –lonely and broken- He loved me enough to lead me to a golden place when the time was right.

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
~~Psalm 139:1-18 NIV

To this day, I still don’t like stubby pencils. But I don’t keep a beautiful glass jar, full of long, sharp pencils, on my desktop because I have something to prove. They are there to remind me of the power of words. I guess that is one reason I still love the feeling of a pencil between my fingers. Every now and then, I pick-up one of my long, sharp pencils and think to myself, God loves me just as I am, and He has written me in His book.  And that, dear reader,  often inspires me to write words of encouragement to you.

I know that my words, in the midst of the psalmist’s are, as Mr. Yates penned, the ugly duckling among the swans.” Even so, I hope you were encouraged by them in some way.

Postscript: The opening quote from Revolutionary Road does not reflect an endorsement for Mr. Yates, nor his book.  Truthfully, I have never read the book and cannot, therefore, speak to its contents.  I merely stumbled upon the aforementioned quote and felt that it accurately described how I felt as a child, dreaming of far away places where people were kind and underdogs like myself would be accepted.  Mr. Yates’ book, as I understand, is a secular work with questionable themes.  So again, I am not endorsing His book by sharing this beautiful quote.

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Just past a golden cornfield in the middle of nowhere, lies a very quiet, obscure refuge. Though I haven’t been anywhere near the place for decades, it did serve me well during my dreadful teenage years. Life was very bleak back then, almost more than I could bear, so I was very thankful to have my own private “sump” to escape to.

The sump was really a drain-off ditch for the fields during the rainy season. Few people even realized it was there because it was carefully hidden behind a wind-breaking wall of trees. For most of the year, the interior of the sump looked like a dry creek bed strewn with a few fallen trees – those were my chairs, or airplane seats, or whatever else my imagination needed them to be at various times. I spent many hours alone in the sump contemplating the complexities of life or simply crying; it was very soothing. Had I known God back then, I would have spent many hours praying in the sump, but it would be many years before I would come to know Him. Still, looking back, I am certain that He was there with me in that place of refuge even though I was unaware.

Jesus, our Messiah, also understood the need for quiet refuge, especially to pray:

And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone (Matthew 14:23).

And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed (Luke 5:16).

There are several other Scriptures which indicate that it was Jesus’ habit to go off alone for quiet times of prayer, too many too include here. It seems to me that if the Son of God, Himself, understood the necessity of going off alone to pray, then we, in our human frailty, should do so all the more.

Dear reader, we live in a hustle and bustle world that pulls at us from every direction. It is so easy to become overwhelmed! May I encourage you to purpose in your heart to find more time to go off alone to contemplate life’s complexities, or even to cry if need be. I promise, however, you won’t be truly alone. The Lord, Jesus, will be with you even if you do not know Him yet. He longs to spend time with you and He will meet you there.

I also recommend that you go off occasionally and have some “me-time”  for no reason at all, at least sump-times. After all, there is nothing like a bit of quiet solitude to soothe and refresh one’s soul in a frenzied, hectic world.

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