A Monastic Retreat, in Moments

The website for the Retreat House at St. Benedict’s Monastery isn’t perfect. Everything I need to know is there, but it is not the most beautiful design or the most efficient layout.

But I don’t need it to be beautiful or efficient.

Sometimes, the real thing is so full of glory that no matter who is telling you about it, or how, the glory will seep through. This is that sort of thing, where nothing earnest can be misrepresented, where even the blurriest picture will cause us all to gather around.

 

I fill my arms four times and carry food and suitcases and books to my room. I know there are mountains outside, here in Snowmass, Colorado, but it’s too dark to see them. I stack my books high, and there are too many for one pile.

This is the day after Easter, or rather the night, and the Retreat House is empty except for me. Everyone came for Holy Week, and the second of April isn’t Ordinary Time, but it seems it may as well be to everyone else.

 

I fill my journal with the past and the future, with remembrances and visions. I truly pray for the first time in a long time. And as I fill in the rocks and plants and other features of a labyrinth in my coloring book, At Play in God’s Creation, my eyes fill with tears, and the decision I had come here to make, and indeed thought had been made, turns into grief and I let myself grieve.

Mount Sopris as seen from the Retreat House
The view from my room (Mount Sopris)

It isn’t always the story about the story, but it sure seems that way to me. I awaken to dreams and hopes, and then I fall asleep and sleepwalk through the grid laid before me. And then one day, when the sleepwalking starts to take a nightmarish turn, I wake long enough to remember and cup my chin in my hands as I take in the beauty in the distance, the beauty I could be a part of.

I want to come awake long enough to do good in the world, a good I can sustain because it bubbles up from the truest, deepest parts of me.

 

I only leave the Retreat House for Vespers (I thought about going to Mass, but I don’t know whether or not I’m allowed to take the sacrament, so I skip it). I try to take in the details of what I see and hear, not just what I feel. One monk sits on a cushion. Blue jeans poke out at the bottom of their robes, ending in sandaled feet. Sometimes I turn to the right page in the book and can follow along, but sometimes I lose my place and can only listen.

The services end in darkness and quiet, but the silence is not absolute. The monks greet us on the way out, and I find myself shy.

The church, as seen from the guest chapel
The church, as seen from the guest chapel/meditation room

I meet Sarah and Pat at Vespers, and they invite me to drink tea with them in their hermitage, a separate guest accommodation. It is the best tea I’ve ever had, a tea that actually tastes as good as it smells. And we talk about wistful things and tangible things, wise men and meaningful stories and standing in unfrequented spiritual spaces. And I know I am talking about my life as I wish it to be, my time as I would like it to be spent, not as it is.

We only have so much time in a day, time to decide what we will fill ourselves with and what we will spend ourselves on.

 

I pad across the thick carpet and lay on the floor of the Prayer Hall. The low lights make wondrous shapes and so do the wooden beams far above me, and the silence is deep. I take pictures and I walk back and forth, alone and at peace.

Lights and shadows in the Prayer Hall
Lights and shadows in the Prayer Hall

I feel like I am on holy ground. On my way out, I stop at the bookstore and pull objects to myself, trying to bring this place with me:  a book about this monastery, a CD of Gregorian chants, beeswax candles, cards made of pressed flowers that aren’t perfect in form, but are perfect for having been made here.

 

I keep craning my neck to see Mount Sopris, and looking hungrily in the rear view mirror. The mountain was before me three days ago when I was arriving, but in the dark I hadn’t known, hadn’t seen. And now I am stealing glimpses as I come down off the mountain.

Staying Attuned {an Advent reflection}

Mbale, Uganda
Mbale, Uganda

Dear Uganda,

We will be meeting each other soon, and forming first impressions. The sun we both know will shine on us at the same time, and in the short hours I have with you I pray I will be straining to see.

I’ve been writing to two of your children, a boy and a girl, and I know a little bit about you – about climate and crops and family life – but not nearly as much as I should.

I know there is violence and poverty, illiteracy and corruption. I know there is beauty and I know there is pain.

And I know that I often see the nations of Africa with bleary, blurry eyes, until all I can make out is a giant swirl in the shape of a continent.

Today I’m writing at Annie Rim’s blog, for her series on Advent. My first guest blog! Join me there to read the rest of this post.

Live Coals and Broken Places

a multitude of candles

When a live coal sits atop a piece of wood, powered by breath and prodded by sticks, the wood eventually becomes a coal too. And with enough time, the heat begins to chip away at the wood.

The fire and I, we made a bowl yesterday.

A few hours before, I was sitting in my car, vaguely aware of a headline, picturing a building or a street corner or another place surrounded by police tape and contained. Then I switched on the radio and learned the truth: of a restaurant and a stadium and a concert hall, of AK-47s and explosives, of death and fear that could not be contained.

I’ve never been to Paris, but I could easily picture myself there, out on the town on a Friday night. I have been to concerts and sporting events and restaurants. I have walked the streets of cities glittering with history and beauty.

I turned up the volume to catch every word spoken in French accents. Between Centennial and Arvada, my world expanded with the weight of grief.

And then I got out of my car and met four others standing around a fire, and for two hours, my world shrunk to the size of a smoking piece of wood.

In this slow work of making something, in the conversations that ebbed and flowed, in the smoke that filled my hair and the breath that left my mouth, I found one of the simplest, most natural pleasures of life.

After the coals had done their work, we took tools to the glowing black, scraping and shaping with stones and curved metal, until it was the right depth and width, until it was smooth to the touch.

My feet were cold when we finished, examining our creations by firelight.

“You have some coal dust on your face,” Megan said.

We laughed and I smiled for the camera without running my sleeve across my face.

But when I was alone again, it all came back to me, this most unnatural destruction of life thousands of miles away.

In a car that now smelled like smoke, my grimy face felt like more than a mark of achievement. I thought of Ash Wednesday and lament, of sackcloth and ashes, of mourning and solidarity.

The night could not end here.

I am not a person who jumps at the chance to pray with people. I am not a person who prays much at all, honestly. But tonight was different, so I pulled to the side of the road and made a call and changed my destination.

Over hot drinks, we shared what we knew and settled in on the couch. We had no candles, and the Old English words of Scripture felt unwieldy on our tongues, but it was right, somehow, to speak aloud our hopes and our once-removed grief, to let the words stream from our lips and run circles around us.

But as the night wore on, a new question percolated in me:

Why was tonight so different?

I haven’t felt this strongly for those in Syria or Iraq, South Sudan or Burundi. I haven’t lit candles for the victims of sex trafficking and hate crimes, racism and oppression, starvation and natural disasters.

Maybe because my world looks more like Paris than the broken places in the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia. I can more easily picture a world that is safe, safe, safe, then suddenly, horribly, not safe, than one trapped in an undertow of violence. My walls don’t shake from bombs falling two streets over. I do not wonder if my family and I will survive another day. I am not faced with the choice of whether or not to risk death by fleeing from death. I always know where my next meal will come from.

We are praying for Paris, and rightly so.

But may our hearts be split open for those living in constant violence, as well as for those to whom it comes like a scream in the stillness. May we light candles and fall to our knees and be moved to action wherever life is being destroyed.

Sometimes the work of justice and shalom and love is a consuming fire, but more often, I think, it is slow work. It is one page, one cup, one word, one coal at a time.

But when a live coal sits atop a piece of wood, powered by breath and prodded by sticks, the wood eventually becomes a coal too. And with enough time, the heat begins to chip away at the wood.

The fire and I, we are making something.

When the Darkness Wins

Today, I’m mourning the loss of a man I never knew.

I read line after line about the impact he had on people, about their love for him, about his love for them. There was so much more to him than the brokenness in him and around him. There was kindness and faith, there was a love of Mumford & Sons and Raisin Bran, there was a whole person-sized ray of light.

Then, he returned to his hometown, where he was murdered.

It breaks my heart that he died, and in such a horrible way. That the darkness won.

I light a tiny candle for him, to pray by. Behind the flame is his picture on my computer screen. I pray for everyone who’s grieving, everyone he left behind, everyone who loved him. But that doesn’t seem like enough, so I pray into the mystery to a God who’s supposed to be outside of time. I pray that the assurance that he matters, that he is seen, that he is loved, would reach Trinity Smith before he dies. I’ve never heard of anyone praying outside of time like this before, but all I know is that I can’t just pray for his survivors; I must pray for him too.

For him, and for all the others like them, those men and women who are so often not seen.

Help me see them, now, before it’s too late.

I blow out the candle, and a small amount of wax runs down the side, and it looks just like a tear running down the side of a face.

In memory of Trinity Smith
{image from the Dry Bones Denver Facebook page}

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”    

Matthew 25:35-36

(speak the truth) IN LOVE

a gift in hand
photo by asenat29 on creative commons (flickr)

I want you to receive this. I’m holding a truth, an oh-so-delicate, important truth, and it’s for you. I know you need it, but you don’t see it, and we’re so different, and I know instinctively that the way I give it to you matters.

Once I let go of it, there’s nothing more I can do. If I do it right, you’ll be looking at the truth in your hands, and it will look to you the same way it looks to me, and you will understand, and you will set it somewhere, somewhere in your mind. And it may only change things one-tenth of a degree, but when you mix in time and life and that one truth and other truths you accumulate, that one-tenth-of-a-degree might blossom into something beautiful neither of us expected. Or maybe it won’t. But that part’s not up to me. All I can do is share with you what I see, and share it in a way you can receive.

Stop.

Stop right there.

Those two paragraphs up there, they were what I originally wanted to arrange this entire blog post around. A day and a half ago, that was my plan, and it seemed so right, and I couldn’t wait to share with you what I’d learned about being pastoral, and learning to speak someone else’s language, and words and messages and truth and receiving.

It wasn’t a bad idea, and I value what I’ve learned on the subject, which is why I left those two paragraphs in.

But sometime last night, I was praying, and there was a shift.

Please, God, help me love this person more. And even in my exhaustion, I sensed the shift, the light bulb: What enables me to speak words of life isn’t strategies and plans and good delivery; it’s love. (And how can I write about strategies and how-to’s when I can write about love?)

Oh, maybe my advice will be long-winded, and I’ll have to search long and hard for the right words, and I won’t even find the best ones. But even if this happens every time, it won’t matter because I love you and you’ll see that I love you and all the strategies in the world can’t hold a candle to that.

Yes, yes, speak the truth in love. But start with love. Always, always, start with love, and then think about the how. 1 Corinthians 13:1 says it best: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Go ahead and reread the rest of that chapter, even if you’ve read it many times before.

When I want to help, the best thing I can do is love. Maybe words will come out of that love, or maybe it will be a silent mouth and busy hands instead, or simply an I’m-with-you smile.

Let love replace worry, let love replace the fix-it tendencies, let love replace the desire to control. I can’t change anyone; I can only love.

And if you feel like the love is lacking, pray for more love. And if you feel like the love is strong, pray for more love. We always need more love.

In the Holy of Holies

I know a lot about the Tabernacle. The Brazen Altar. The Laver. The Table of Showbread. The Holy of Holies. Last year, I even participated in an intense, day-long spiritual experience involving Tabernacle imagery and coming to the altar. It brought the fulfilled Tabernacle to life on a spiritual level.

On Sunday, I saw the Tabernacle brought to life physically.

photo by Lyndon Perry on creative commons (flickr)
Similar to the “Tabernacle” I saw, but not the same one. (photo by Lyndon Perry on creative commons – flickr)

I’d been anticipating this for more than a month, but it wasn’t what I expected, not quite, not at first. “The Tabernacle Experience is not a museum. It is not a theatre production. The Tabernacle Experience is an Encounter with the Living God!” says the website for this life-size replica that travels around the country.

I didn’t go to gain more head knowledge, but to gain more heart knowledge. To be transported and transfixed.

I read an oversized pamphlet of information I already knew while we waited our turn to go inside. Maybe it was because of the desert-like heat or my thirsty mouth, but I think it was the audio guide that kept me from fully engaging. Even as I plucked a linen square from the table, tossed a stick onto the fire, washed my hands in the laver, lit a candle, bent over to dip the cracker in the juice, and selected an incense stick to carry into the Holy of Holies, I felt like I was following a script. Because I was. I looked where I was supposed to look, only getting involved when I was told to do so, only walking when the sound of the shofar told me it was time to go to the next station. Everyone else did the same thing. There was no room for quiet and prayer and freedom.

That’s why, at the end of the tour, I retraced my steps alone and without the voice and the shofar. I’m not sure if it was allowed, but I had to.

I found myself drawn, drawn, drawn back to the Holy of Holies. I moved past all the people doing what they were told. I took a smoky incense stick because I wanted to, and entered the Holy of Holies. I was alone this time. Without the well-meaning noise in my ears, I was able to think and pray.

The Ark of the Covenant was a feeble thing of wood and gold paint, unfit even for the B-est of B movies. And yet I reverently touched the wings of the cherubim and placed my hand in the blank space in the middle — the space reserved for Yahweh. And I knelt on the gravel in the dark room and prayed and didn’t want to leave.

When I did leave, this song by Dave Browning came to mind:

Take me past the outer courts
Into the Holy Place
Past the brazen altar
Lord I want to see your face
Pass me by the crowds of people
And the Priests who sing your praise
I hunger and thirst for your righteousness
But it’s only found in one place

Take me into the holy of holies
Take me in by the blood of the lamb
Take me into the holy of holies
Take the coal, touch my lips, here I am

I don’t want to experience a day in the life of an Old Testament priest. Maybe I thought I did, maybe I thought it would be cool, but what I really want is the Holy of Holies. I want to run past everyone, whether they’re carrying bloodied animals or headphones or a long list of rules, run to the Holiest Place of the Tabernacle of my heart, and remain there.

I’m still struggling. This visit didn’t change that, even when my knees were on the ground and my mouth was whispering prayers. I still have a hard time seeing and believing and making sense of it all.

I forget all too often, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want to see and believe and make sense of it all. And being in the Holy of Holies made that clearer than ever.

DTS: Coming to the Altar

When we walked into the classroom that Friday morning, we saw a big, white sheet hanging near the back wall with a midsized wooden cross propped up in front of it.

We were nervous, excited, hopeful. But not surprised.

Our speaker, Mark, had been preparing us for this all week. Work duties were cancelled. Local outreach was cancelled. Instead of the usual three hours of lectures, Friday, today, was to be an all-day experience of finding freedom in Christ, of stepping deeper into intimacy with God, deeper into the glory of the tabernacle in all of its Old Testament foundations and New Testament fulfillment.

While that Friday was the pinnacle of intensity, the whole week had been a whirlwind of color and noise and passion. Mark clocked in more hours of lectures than any other speaker we’ve had before or since, but that wasn’t his legacy. He wasn’t afraid to shout, or look ridiculous, or even offend people if that’s what he thought it would take to reach them … if that’s what he felt God wanted him to do. Sometimes, he was so frank and expressive and persistent that we couldn’t help but laugh, and love him for saying it like it was. Other times, he was so frank and expressive and persistent that we were turned off, offended, even upset. His lectures were chockfull of content, but he spoke with an urgency intended to shake us and make this week, the only week he had with us, be five days we would remember. And, love him or hate him, he succeeded.

“What do you want to get out of today?” he asked Friday morning.

Freedom. More love. Revelation. Transformation.

“Things happen in one day,” he stressed, urging us not to just wish or hope that God would do something, or start something, but to desperately want it. Expect it. Believe it. And God would honor those desires of our hearts.

After this beginning, we filed past the staff members and into the classroom, giggling a little as we took part in the hongi (“sharing of breath”), a nose-to-nose Maori greeting.

We started at the gate with thanksgiving. Songs of worship gave way to sharing something God had done in each of our lives over the past few weeks. Then, we moved into the outer courts of praise. The English students and staff members welcomed us the traditional English way: with cups of tea and handshakes (minus the tea). We turned to each other next, taking mere greetings to the next level. Love through embraces, encouragement through words, and truth through the attributes of God we’d seen in each other.

Then, we began to step out of our comfort zones.

We moved to one end of the classroom, across from the sheet and the cross. Between those objects and us, right in the center of the room, stood half a dozen chairs back-to-back. One by one, we were to climb on the chairs, speak out or shout out words of praise and acknowledgements of who God is, then climb over to the other side. Once there, we could spend as much time in front of the cross as we needed to. Those who felt like they couldn’t make it across would receive help.

One of the staff members led the way, then I stepped out. Before I could climb on the chair, however, Mark had a few words to say to me: He was proud of my courage in being the first girl to come forward, but encouraged me to take my time. I slowed down a little, then clambered up and shouted one “GOD IS…” sentence as the person before me had done.

“Keep going!” Mark said, so I did, and was up there another minute or two before crossing the barrier and kneeling before the cross. While it was definitely a moment of stepping out of my comfort zone, I’ll admit that the music in the background assuaged some of my nervousness. Perhaps it would’ve been better had the music not been there … had our raw voices been the only sounds piercing the silence. Because of the music, too, I had trouble hearing what a lot of the others said, but it was still a powerful experience.

Two people needed to be helped across. One was raised up and carried on the shoulders of others. Another gingerly crossed the wall with the supporting hand of a friend on each side. I was one of those friends.

From here, we moved to the altar to make two offerings to the Lord. We spent the most time here, comforted by the warmth of the blaze, but also afraid of what would be required of us. What would happen when we placed certain items in the flames? Important items, treasured dreams … secret items, shameful deeds. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first was the burnt offering of public surrender at the cross. Some brought passports, money, and other important objects to either symbolically lay down at the cross or give away to others (with the exception of the passports, of course).

I didn’t have any physical mementos of my offering, but I offered up myself, my future, my time, and my right to marry.

Part two, the sin offering of public repentance, came after our lunch break. This was the part I had been dreading, and not just that week. In conversations with other YWAMers over the last year or two, I had learned that this kind of baring of one’s soul happened on DTSes. For months, I had been dreading this, but knew that it was necessary. For freedom’s sake.

This offering of repentance lasted nearly three hours. One by one, after a sharp intake of breath and a painful hesitation, each of us stepped forward into the middle of the room near the cross. A backpack filled with firewood was provided for those of us who felt the need to physically carry a burden as we confessed our sins, then to lay that burden down after repenting of those sins.

I won’t recount what anyone else said, only to say that all were vulnerable and real in what they shared, which gave me the courage I needed to be equally real. No one was forced to speak, but everyone did.

For me, it was a huge step. In the past, I had shrunk from so many similar opportunities. Will I ever be able to be completely open in certain areas? I had often wondered, my heart sinking as the years passed but the morass within me never did. If left to its own whims, my mouth seemed destined to remain forever closed. Hence the strange combination of dread and hope within me as this day drew near.

After we’d repented, Mark would often share encouraging or challenging words with us, or invite others to pray for us. Here’s some of what he said to me then, and later that evening: “At first, you were just sitting there, but then you came up not just once, but a second time and a third time. I’ve been watching you all week. You know that. I don’t have a daughter, but if you were my daughter, I would be so proud of you. God’s going to do great things through you in Asia.”

Our afternoon of repenting was somber, heavy, quiet. Then, after a break for dinner, the music was switched back on. When I returned to the classroom, the building was pulsating with worship. I felt drained. The afternoon especially had taken a lot out of me.

From here on, I’m not completely sure which activity correlated with which aspect of the tabernacle, but I’ll give it my best shot. We reached into the brazen laver (washing basin) of the Word through praying for each other and worshiping. I especially appreciated these prayers, and the love they exemplified, after such a heavy emotional and spiritual ordeal.

The golden candlestick is the Holy Spirit. The staff anointed our foreheads, our wrists, and our feet with oil and prayed for us individually, that the Holy Spirit would come upon us. Following this, we listened for words and pictures from the Holy Spirit about specific people, then shared the messages with those people. Some of us (me included) didn’t hear anything conclusive, a recurring issue for me that has been frustrating and discouraging.

I’ve since realized that my attitude, often a mixture of fear and unbelief, has likely been at the root of it and other self-denigrations. Too often, it’s all about me and what I can or cannot do. Too easily, I’m resigned to the patterns and failures of the past, believing the lies that I’m too weak to ever change. Too quickly, I let hope harden into cynicism.

Too wonderfully, I’m here for six months learning about the God who is faithful and makes all things new.

After the anointing, we took Communion at the Table of Showbread. When taking Communion at home, the congregation is almost always silent. Here in England, though, whether in a church or YWAM setting, the person passing me the bread and the cup says “The body of Christ, broken for you” for the first, and “The blood of Christ, shed for you” for the second. And then I say those words to the person next to me. It makes it so much more real and personal.

The final four elements of the tabernacle were the altar of incense (prayer and intercession), the veil (disobedience/alienation), the ark of the covenant (Holy Spirit – the presence of God in us), and the Cloud of Glory (the Holy Spirit above us), but they weren’t as strongly emphasized, and, if I’m remembering correctly, all that happened after Communion was worship and a debrief that involved sharing our thoughts about the day and praying.

We finished at 10 p.m.

What a day. What a week.

I felt absolutely drained by the end of it, and because I spent the weekend away from Holmsted and without much time to myself, I didn’t have a chance to process it all before the next week started. That threw off my whole week. Since then, though, I’ve finally gotten the chance to sit down with this wealth of material and memory and try to sort through it all.

Now, however, it’s been more than two weeks since that unforgettable Friday, and I’ve been wrestling with what it means, what it looks like, to continue living in that freedom. I do know one thing, though: I can’t just live off of that experience. Been there, done that. After an incredible few months of spiritual growth in 2010, I stopped walking forward. I basked in the glow of what God had done then instead of seeking a deeper intimacy with Him now. I had no accountability, nor did I seek out deeper human relationships. Essentially, I knew the key to a deeper relationship with God in theory (still a major breakthrough), but I stopped applying it and barely looked at my relationships with others. I learned that I couldn’t live on old revelations and unapplied knowledge forever, though, when I returned to school in the fall. All the familiar challenges, insecurities and fears hit me again, and I found myself unequipped to deal with them.

I don’t want to do that again. Now, I’ve discovered a new freedom, a truth to the lie that people wouldn’t love me if they knew the darkness within. But you know what? My value in God’s eyes doesn’t change based on others’ perceptions. He knows the truth, has always known the truth, and still, He loves.

But how to walk in that freedom? What do I do to live each day in light of my value in God’s eyes, to know not just in my head that I am free and beloved, but to know it in my heart and press forward confidently in that knowledge?

Maybe it’s as simple as my revelations two years ago: Focus on God, not on the things I don’t like about myself, and seek Him not as a means to an end, but as an end in Himself. To that fundamentally important ambition, I would add this: To give the love of God to others, and to find people to grow and share with, for mutual edification.

While transformation is a process, our generation is “quick to repent and slow to obey.” So stand up, fix your eyes on your destination, and start moving. Say, “Today is the day. God will change me. I will believe this and will step out in obedience even though I can’t see the big picture.” Do this again the next day, as you wake up bleary-eyed and bewildered. And the day after that, and the day after that.

DTS: Hearing God’s Voice

I came to England with several hopes for these six months. One of them was to experience God in undeniable ways. That desire grew during our first week, as “hearing the voice of God” became a major topic of conversation and practical application.

In an upcoming blog, I will describe in detail a “day in the life” here at Holmsted. For now, however, all you need to know is that we spend a significant amount of time in intercession, and in sharing things that the Lord reveals to us. What does intercession look like here? Well, sometimes we’re in a large group all praying and listening for a word from God on a certain issue, and those who get a picture, a word, or a verse from God share them. Other times, we’re in smaller groups doing essentially the same thing.

And just how do we hear so directly from God? We received some teaching on that very subject during orientation week, the crux of which is a multi-step process of preparing one’s heart to hear from God. The steps are as follows: coming to God with a clean heart, inviting the Holy Spirit in, submitting our thoughts to God, silencing the enemy, thanking God for what He’s about to do, and then, finally, waiting and listening.

So far, it hasn’t really worked for me. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

At first, though, I felt a bit pressured to “hear something.” I don’t doubt that God can and does speak to people directly. When I hear stories of how God told someone something at just the right time, or how He woke someone else up in the middle of the night to pray for a specific person, I don’t disbelieve them. However, God doesn’t speak to everyone in the same way … right?

It’s one thing to come together for a prayer meeting and be open to hearing and following God’s leading regarding what or who to pray for. It seems like quite another, however, to follow a series of steps during a practice session with the expectation that at least some of us will hear something from God. Is this a good way to practice listening for God’s voice, or does it teach us that we should be able to hear from God whenever we want?

For everyone who genuinely hears something from God, I feel like there inevitably will be someone who didn’t hear anything, someone who just heard his or her own thoughts, and someone who just doesn’t know. Our God is not a God of confusion. Hearing God’s voice isn’t a game we play, where some are winners and others … well, they’ll get better with practice.

Then again, I don’t come from a charismatic background, and it’s only week two. Maybe my concerns are for naught, and eventually we all will hear from God, and we will realize that He does want to speak to us in this way, and that we just needed to know how to listen for His voice.

But back to the present. While I haven’t heard from God during these small groups, I’m learning that hearing from God at different times and in different ways is okay. In fact, it’s beautiful.

Five days ago, I had a dream that I’m sure was from God. I dreamed that I was talking to a friend of mine whom I haven’t spoke with or thought of in a long time. In my dream, she was telling me about some things she was struggling with. When I woke up, I knew that the dream was from God, and I immediately began praying for her. I don’t know if all the “facts” of the dream were correct, but the prayer points fit with what I know of her.

During these times of practicing intercession, I will continue working on setting aside what distracts me and focusing on God. I will listen, all the while praying for discernment and believing that He may very well speak to me in this setting. However, I don’t want to “make things up” or share when I’m not sure. I’d rather God spoke to me in His timing, not mine. And if His timing is 2 o’clock on Mondays, I’m all for it.