“May your days in this beautiful Shenandoah Valley be an occasion of increased personal prayer, of spiritual refreshment, and experience of God’s love.”
I felt as if the Lord penned those words especially for me. The Lord called ME for a vacation with HIM. When I pulled into the Abbey God’s handiwork “WOW”ed me. As I drove the winding road, up and down hills, through cattle pastures, with the Blue Ridge Mountains as the backdrop, I giggled and thanked my Father for inviting me to experience this with Him.
I decided the best way to start the week was with an evening of cleansing of self. Before I could bring prayers for others or listen for the Lord, I needed to make sure I got out of the way. Psalm 51 provided the meditations for my heart.
Wash me clean, purify me… Purify me and I will be clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow… Create in me a clean heart. Renew a loyal spirit within me… Make me willing to obey you. The sacrifice you deserve is a broken spirit.
Retreatants stay in the guesthouse of the Abbey. There were eleven guests. The environment was comfortable and serene. I was given a private room and bath with access to the library, chapel and the grounds. Meals were taken together in silence. Which afforded my first major lesson right off the bat.
As I sat with all these people of faith I wanted to ask questions. “Where are you from?” “What brings you here?” But alas, my self-discipline proved strong and I refrained. If you are at all like me you are probably asking, “What’s the point of silence?” Well, now I know.
In Robert Thomas’ book Passing from Self to God: A Cistercian Retreat, he says that in our solitude we descend into ourselves and find God. “The just man dwells in the tabernacle of his heart where God also dwells.” God dwells in my heart and your heart. The busyness of life and the noise of earthly distraction often keep us from the most intimate moments with God – within ourselves. (Some passages to consider on God’s dwelling place: 2 Cor 3:18, Eph 2:19-22, 3:17, 1 Cor 6:19.)
So that’s day one. More tomorrow.