Thursday, February 1, 2018

Invitation to Solitude & Silence * Book Open House #1





Welcome to Gathering #1 of the Invitation to Solitude & Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence Book Open House.  For six weeks, we'll be exploring Ruth Haley Barton's little guidebook, hopefully with a yearning to grasp hold of and put into practice the spiritual invitations that God is lovingly extending to each one of us who follows Him.

The good news is that He invites each of us to unique individual growth experiences along our spiritual journey.  There's no 1 - 2 - 3 lockstep march toward intimacy with Christ, although the Bible presents many Scriptures that point us to obedience, faith, trust, maturity, and the vital importance of community.

My prayer is that as we sit quietly with Jesus, as we invite the Spirit to search our hearts, as we page through this book and then chat back and forth together, we will all be warmed and encouraged by God's steady tugging at our souls.  And in the process, our desire to be more like Christ will expand, that our growth in faith and the practice of it will bloom and blossom with a fragrant beauty which will in turn draw others to our precious Savior.

Each week I'll be putting several quotes on the table for you to consider.  Feel free to share your 'a-ha' moments and responses in the comment section, whether you've read the book or not.  Like any good book club, I'd love for you to chat back and forth with other readers by hitting the REPLY button under their comments.  

And if you write a post on the subject of solitude and silence, please feel free to share that link in the comment section ... and if you'd link up to what's happening around here in your post, I'll be forever grateful!  

Like any fun open house, you can jump on into the discussion at any time, not just on Thursdays or Fridays.  Feel free to show up when you are able, to come and go and slip in and out, knowing that the welcome mat is ready and waiting for your unique input.  Be sure to come back for a visit or two to see what people are talking about.

Of course, I'd love for you to invite your social media friends to join us!

But please - no preaching at each other.  This is an online community of faith defined by warmth and kindness, safety and grace ... all which are vital keys for emotional health and spiritual growth.  Last time I looked, not one of us has arrived.  I reserve the right not to publish comments I believe to be offensive to others.

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Chapter 1 - Beyond Words
'The image of the jar of river water captured what I knew to be true about myself.  I could not avoid the realization that I was the jar of river water all shaken up and the sediment that swirled inside the jar was the busyness, the emotions, the thoughts, the inner wrestlings I had not been able to control.  It was a moment of self-discovery - which is where all good spiritual journeying begins.

The image of the jar of river water helped me identify where I was, but it also captured my longing and desire to go somewhere else.  To be still long enough so the swirling sediment could settle, the waters of my soul could become clear, and I could see whatever it was that needed to be seen ... that image called to me with the hope of peace, clarity and a deeper level of certainty in God than I had yet known ... I recognized an invitation to be still and know beyond my addiction to noise, words, people and performance-oriented activity.  It captured my desire for something ... beyond the head knowledge that no longer sustained my soul.'

Chapter 2 - Beginnings
'Silence deepens the experience of solitude.  In silence we not only withdraw from the demands of life in the company of others but also allow the noise of our own thoughts, strivings and compulsions to settle down so we can hear a truer and more reliable Voice.  Reliance on our own thoughts and words, even in our praying, can be one facet of a need to control things, to set the agenda, or at least to know what the agenda is even in our relationship with God.  It is in silence we habitually release our own agendas and our need to control and become more willing and able to give ourselves to God's loving initiative.  In silence we create space for God's activity rather than filling every minute with our own.'


and more ...

Book Open House #2 and Book Open House #3 and #4.  And #5 is here and the conclusion is there.


here's why this is the desert island book I'd pack

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explore Ruth's website, her free leadership newsletter, and her podcasts

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*

sharing the book open house
with Holley & Anne

48 comments:

  1. I absolutely love this: "In silence we create space for God's activity rather than filling every minute with our own." That speaks volumes to me today, Linda. I'm not good with silence. It seems there is always some kind of "noise" swirling around me, just like the swirling sediment in the jar. Thank you for this inspiration, my friend. I want to work on letting all that sediment settle :).

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    1. Allowing ourselves permission to sit quietly without an agenda or a check off list is a bit jarring at first, for sure, Candace.

      But after awhile, you begin to wonder how you ever survived without this kind of grace, this oh-so-necessary space.

      I'm so glad you're the one to kick off this discussion. I admire the tenacity of your journey, your story. Thanks for being here ...

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  2. Hanging on for dear life to that phrase: ".. . whether you're reading or not." I'm so intrigued by Ruth's writing and thinking, but there's no room in my brain right now for another track, so I'm going to follow this discussion from a distance and have already been blessed by that image of sediment swirling in the jar. So so good.

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    1. I love the honesty and the kindness you're showing yourself by saying, 'not now,' Michele. Oh so wise.

      And because I do respect your wisdom and walk with the Lord, I hope you'll feel comfortable in contributing here and there when you're able.

      We'd all benefit. That I know!

      Bless you ...

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  3. What a glorious mix of images, Linda.
    Still pondering the sediment jar.

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    1. It's quite a shot, isn't it.

      Years ago, I led a group of single moms in filling their own jars with lake sediment and water. What a powerful impact it is to see all your own stuff swirling and twirling, only to settle down after a time.

      And all becomes crystal ...

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  4. I love the image of a jar full of shaken-up river water - it's so vivid and can describe so well what my brain full of swirling thoughts (not necessarily profound ones!) must look like much of the time!

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    1. Wow, Heather! I can't begin to tell you what it means to have you here today ... thank you, thank you!

      And you're so right, much that swirls is not profound at all ... but maybe as it all settles the thoughts worth keeping will rise to the surface like cream.

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  5. How true it is that we (I) seem to have an addiction to noise and words and activity. That's such a hard thing to learn to do -- to train your mind to sit in the quietness. I'm trying to learn to do this better. --- Sounds like a fun six weeks! Look forward to more great quotes. Thanks for sharing, Linda. :) ♥

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    1. Brenda, you're absolutely spot on. And social media has done nothing except ramp up any addiction that we already had to all that noise and words and activity.

      I can't help thinking that if we're going to embrace a life of solitude and silence, we'll have to begin to say 'no, thanks' to more screens and all the distractions and allure they offer.

      mmmm ...

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  6. The image of the river water swirling in the jar leaped out at me, too, Linda. Although I have been able over the last several years to quiet myself, realizing I need extended periods of silence, I've used those moments for creative thoughts to bubble and simmer in my mind. Today, I intentionally sat in an unusually quiet house for ten minutes, allowing my mind to empty. It was not easy, but as Ruth admonishes, it takes practice. Honestly, I was surprised at how fast those ten minutes flew by (I set a timer). When they were up, I was in no way ready to leave that space and place. I hope everyone participating in this open house will give this practice a go. Would be a fantastic discipline for Lent.
    Blessings to all!

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    1. For some, 10 minutes goes fast. For others, it seems like an eternity. But in those minutes as we release all that swirls, the Spirit whispers peace, whispers Scripture, whispers the name of Jesus.

      And we are refreshed and recalibrated ...

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  7. I am struggling a bit with the book, Linda. I really love the idea of seeking time to be alone with God in solitude and silence--clearing my head of my own agenda and letting Him speak into my heart His agenda. But I'm not sure if I like letting silence be, what seems like, the primary way God speaks to me. I know God can speak to me through my prayer times, but it feels a bit like Ruth is encouraging something of a separation from letting God's word be the main catalyst for hearing from Him. I often take time to reflect and meditate on God's word after I've studied it, letting the words sink in deeply and minister to my soul. But I'm not sure that's what she's saying. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like she wants me to rid myself of any word or even "Word" so that God completely controls what I am thinking in my time of solitude. I'm not so sure it works that way. I tried to do the ten minutes of silence--inviting God to speak into that moment--but I just didn't get a clear sense that He was speaking to me. I know I'm new to this and, obviously, a bit of a skeptic, but it's not matching what I feel or know. I gain so much from my times spent in God's word and then in times of prayer, that I don't feel dry or like my mind is buzzing with sediment. I'm all for meditating--even visualizing--on God with what I know about Him from Scripture. But this seems to be taking it to an extreme that I'm, at this point, uncomfortable with. I will continue to read with an open mind and want to see what you and others think as we go along. And I hope you hear that I am in NO way judging your opinion of this book or anyone else's. It's just maybe not my cup of tea. Hugs to you!

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    1. Beth, thanks so much for your honesty and your wise observations. Yow know I have the greatest respect for you ... I absolutely hear what you're saying ... and I'm in no way thinking you're judging!

      I love that you are already meditating on God's Word after you've read it ... that you have been able to regularly incorporate those quiet still moments where your heart is focused on Him into your devotional times.

      You're living out what God desires, putting everything else aside and listening to His still small voice speak to you about His written Word. And the results speak for themselves -->'I gain so much from my times spent in God's word and then in times of prayer, that I don't feel dry or like my mind is buzzing with sediment.'

      That has always been a challenge for me ... Bible reading and prayer have too often been something on the to-do list that got checked off and then I was off to do the laundry, run online, or race into my day without investing in any true time of reflection.

      When I sit quietly for that 5 or 10 minutes, I focus on the name of Jesus and the Spirit often brings Scripture or words from an old hymn. I simply listen to what He has for me, sit with those gifts, and end up emerging from this focused time with Him rested and at peace.

      I love that you're taking what you're reading and seeing if it matches up to what you already know to be true about God and His Word. You are wise and sensitive in noticing that you're uncomfortable ... I appreciate your gift of discernment at work.

      God speaks to us in a myriad of ways - His Word, His Spirit, music, devotional readings, nature, life events ... and through godly people like you. Please know I'm grateful you're in my life and appreciative of what you're bringing to the table. As always, you leave me with something to consider.

      Bless you, dear friend ...

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  8. I am most drawn to the second quote from chapter 2, Linda, because I think it has been me far too often during different seasons of my life. Those seasons were ones that were extraordinarily busy on the outside and I started to lose a sense of the inside because it had become noisy as well. As a result, reading the Word was routine and somewhat flat and so were prayer times. If I could get away on a vacation and enjoy the grandeur of God's creation, I could be refreshed a bit. That was never long enough, however.

    I had also been "warned" about the risks of solitude and silence in meditation and hesitated after that, but I am grateful I continued to look, evaluate, and study and even see how often Jesus spent time in solitude. As I began to be more comfortable with minutes of that during my quiet time along with the Word, prayer, and journaling, my intimacy with the Lord grew.

    It also brought about deeper healing and assurance of His grace and love despite all my unloveliness and weaknesses. That made it easier to deepen my prayer life and be more honest about my heart condition (whatever it happened to be). It was this move to understand this spiritual discipline that brought more of a friendship between the Lord and me, not in the casual sense, but as one I shared my deepest secrets and longings with.

    Love and hugs, my friend

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    1. Yes, yes, Pam, I am so resonating with your heart and your life experience. Thank you for sharing just a bit of your journey with us this evening. I believe others will see themselves in your words.

      Drawing closer to God and simply sitting quiet with Him on a regular basis brought a stillness and a healing to my soul during a very challenging time of my life. I didn't realize how much I craved solitude and silence until I actually experienced the joy and peace that came from saying 'yes' to God's invitation to just sit still and be with Him simply because He loved me and wanted my undivided attention and adoration.

      It was the missing link in my relationship with Christ.

      I am forever grateful ...

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    2. Dear Readers ~

      Pam has been writing about silence and solitude in recent days. Please do visit her at https://pamecrement.com/blog/.

      ;-}

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    3. Linda, Thanks for sharing the link. Pam, I enjoyed and was challenged by reading your posts on silence and solitude.

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  9. I tried to reply to Beth but i can't seem to open up a text box through the reply prompt. I can relate to how Beth feels and her observations. I, too, have never been comfortable with Ruth's suggestions and have had no success bringing myself in what I think she is calling silence. But again what works for one may not work for another. I live alone and often I fight the silence that is all around me. Words have always been the vehicle that God has used to speak into my distorted thinking...His words and the words of others more wiser and experienced than I. I have often tried to sit in "silence" but my brain does not shut off. In my quiet times and sitting at Jesus' feet, my goal is to get away from my own selfish thoughts. I NEED to constantly have truth, right perspective and something to focus my thinking on that guides my thoughts in the right direction.

    Ruth's analogy about the sediment in the water was interesting but then I question the fact that the sediment is still there even when it settles. I like better the way gold is refined and purified cause the sediment/impurities are brought to the surface and skimmed off.

    On page 36, I sense Ruth's goal and mine are the same: [quiet times] are merely a means through which we regularly make ourselves available to God for the intimacy of relationship and for the work of transformation that only God can accomplish.

    Linda, I relate to more of your description of sitting quiet as scriptures and hymns come to mind and as you let yourself relinquish your to-do list.

    The most I have experienced silence and solitude is when I lap swim. I am alone in the constant flow of water, earplugs are in and I see so very little. Thoughts come and go and I use this time to pray. I have realized some interesting and life directing things as I swim so for now, my 45 minutes of swimming is as silent as I can get.

    This is fun and I love hearing everyone's perspective on this concept of quiet times with God.

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    1. How fascinating to discover that swimming time can be an effective prayer time, as a space to discover what's going on in your heart as well as your head, even as your body does its thing in the water!

      Don't you just love how God speaks to us in ways that we ourselves need at just the right moment? As we make ourselves available to Him, He breaks through the boxes and the barriers and makes His love known to us.

      Love that. Love Him!

      So very glad you're here, Carol. I knew what you'd say would make a difference. It always does ...

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  10. I love the conversation already happening. Beth’s Thoughts as always are thought provoking. I certainly hear her heart in what she is describing.

    For me, I completely related to the sediment jar. I was reading Ruth’s description of the jar and how she felt and knew she was also describing me. Silence is an art that requires us to empty ourselves so there is room for Jesus. When I make space, I am going to be able to hear more clearly from God. Ultimately, it’s His truth that needs to be filling my mind and not whatever the world is preaching.

    I am looking forward to digging into the book some more. I only finished Ch. 1 so I can’t wait to read Ch. 2’s quote in context.

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    1. Mary, I love this conversation, too! Iron sharpens iron, and even if we don't agree with everything someone might write or say, there's always something we can glean.

      Interesting about the sediment in that jar. Many of our challenges, circumstances, and stuff will never go away. Life happens. But as we sit quiet with God, all that swirls can settle down and we can see His heart, His plans, His love more clearly.

      I love that you've weighed in on what you've read, Mary. After all, you're the one who taught me what brave and courageous looks like.

      ;-}

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  11. Your welcome always warms my heart, Linda. I read this yesterday and again today. These words give me pause for reflection. Even though my life already is by necessity not filled with to-do lists, my mind is often like the sediment in that jar. I keep filling that jar with what people want me to think or to be or what is expected of me. Soon it's swirling, along with Satan's lies, and I see no clear view of who God says I am or even what my heart tells me is the truth. I have to read God's Word and spend quiet moments with Him in prayer and contemplation of His Truth in order for it all to settle and to more clearly see His perspective. Thank you for this study and for a safe place for everyone to share their honest opinions. I love what you said to Mary, "Iron sharpens iron, and even if we don't agree with everything someone might write or say, there's always something we can glean." I admire honesty, and I think differences make our understanding even richer. I love gleaning both from your post and all the comments. Love and hugs to you!

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    1. The discussion's the best part, for sure, Trudy!

      So perceptive of you to see what's filled the jar - 'what people want me to think or to be or what is expected of me. Soon it's swirling, along with Satan's lies, and I see no clear view of who God says I am or even what my heart tells me is the truth.'

      Wow, so very well said. Sometimes it's good for us to write these things down for when we can see what's happening in black and white, we find clarification which, in turn, allows us to make choices that bring wholeness.

      I so appreciate your wisdom, Trudy ...

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  12. Going to get a copy of this book.. thanks for the recommendation. I just finished a book from Joyce Meyers and need a new one.. - http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

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  13. My book arrived this evening, & I am cozy in bed reading by lamp light while Bruce snores. — I love that Ruth calls this time an invitation. I am contemplating what it means to sit with Abba & welcome Him at our special place. Rather than focus on just being “silent,” I am mindful that this is a time to just “be” with the One who loves my soul best.


    Thank you for hosting, friend. I will try to comment as I can. xo

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    1. Lyli, hi! I'm so glad you're here!

      I'm with you ... that word 'invitation' was so much more compelling than the word 'discipline' which has often been used to describe the ways we connect with God.

      And to say 'yes, please' to an invitation to sit and just be with the Lover of our weary souls is such a huge relief, isn't it, to let our strivings cease ...

      I look forward to your input when you are able.

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  14. The sediment is swirling in my mind the last few days. Now that I am taking some time to be silent, I hope mine settles. The 7 minutes I have been trying each day feels long, but it will get easier. One thing that stood out to me was when she asked if we were doing this out of desperation. I realized I want my relationship with God to feel authentic. Real friendships aren't one sided, like mine has been. I am excited about this journey!

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    1. Desperation has a way of urging us forward because there's no other choice if we're going to make it.

      Ruth talks about being dangerously tired in chapter 4 ... and if anyone's ever been there, they know what a fragile and scary place that can be.

      Been there, done that. And found God right in the midst of it all.

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  15. As I begin this journey, I know silence already is the challenge for me. I always like for my hands to be busy or reading or listening to something. I think a good start for me is at times doing things like cooking or going on my walks without noise or listening to music or a podcast. I already see how so often I come to my time with God with an agenda.

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    1. TJ - yes! I'm absolutely resonating with walking as a helpful way to connect with God ... especially in places that are still and quiet with few distractions except the rhythm of my footsteps.

      You're so right, we've been trained to be busy, busy, busy. And those hidden agendas keep on lurking don't they - we always seem to want / need something from God. Which is fine ... but then there's that time to just be still.

      I love that you're here today.

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  16. Dear friend, thank you for creating a space where it is safe to explore these spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence. We all arrive here from different places in our walk of faith. We all have a great need for HIM but because we are in a relationship, our time together (with Him) will look different for each of us. Since we are also created for fellowship, there are always aspects of that relationship that He wishes for us to share, as Ruth as done. And it is then that He sometimes reveals to us new and wonderful things.

    As with all things apart from the Bible that offer spiritual guidance, I believe we should proceed prayerfully, holding them up against the Truths of the Word, and asking God to reveal His will for us.

    I have only read the Forward, Preface, and Beyond Words. One thing I know, He "is always present even when our awareness has been dulled by distraction." I want more of His presence and less of the distraction. Even from my, limited, human understanding I know He wants that, too.

    Looking forward to more of the discussion . . . (blessings on your weekend, friend!)

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    1. You always arrive softly, gently, June. Put grace and wisdom on the table and leave a quiet peace in your wake.

      And this, right here, says it all -->'As with all things apart from the Bible that offer spiritual guidance, I believe we should proceed prayerfully, holding them up against the Truths of the Word, and asking God to reveal His will for us.'

      Yes and amen on this Sabbath morn' ...

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    2. I second what Linda says, June. :) I also love what you say here.

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    3. That's just plain sweet ...

      ;-}

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    4. Thank you sweet friends, you bless and humble me with your kind words.

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  17. Hi Linda! I didn't realize that this would be a book about meditation. I should have though!
    I loved the idea of the silt in the bottle. What a descriptive image, I really related to that. I like Barton's 'voice' too. She seems to be seeking just as we all are.
    I try to sit in silence for 20 min a day, and some of those times are quieter than others. It will be interesting to continue along with Ruth into the next chapters. Thank you for this opportunity to read and reflect!
    Sunday blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. 20 minutes is a beautiful gift to give yourself, Ceil, a fragrant offering to the Lord. It's been seldom I've been able to do that, and I admire your dedication to be silent in Christ's presence.

      So grateful that you're here ... and so grateful that you've shared the Book Open House with all your fans
      http://www.ceilryan.com/2018/01/21/word-for-2018-read/

      ;-}

      Appreciate you ...

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  18. "Silence deepens the experience of solitude." I'm learning and experiencing the different between the two. I need both. Thanks for sharing this book, Linda.

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    1. We're all in some sort of learning curve, Lisa, aren't we ...

      It goes a bit more smoothly when we share it together, too!

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  19. “Centering Prayer” is a practice that I am exploring. It seems to encourage the same discipline, albeit with subtle nuances. It has deepened the rest of my prayer life and has enabled me to close all of the “tabs” in my life that don’t need to be open!

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    1. Oh Nancy ... what a lovely gift to see your sweet face smiling out at me this morning. I do believe you've made my day.

      May you find these invitations to prayer to be helpful and healing.

      And, 'yes, please' to closing all those tabs that need to be closed once and for all. I absolutely hear you, friend.

      xo

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  20. What a wonderful conversation you are facilitating, Linda!

    This is the thought that captured me in the quotes: "Reliance on our own thoughts and words, even in our praying, can be one facet of a need to control things, to set the agenda, or at least to know what the agenda is even in our relationship with God." There's so much to chew on in that single sentence ...

    I know you've written about how "Invitation to Solitude & Silence" transformed your spiritual life when you first read it 13 years ago, but I can't help but wonder about the "story behind the story," so to speak. Have you written anything about what was happening in your life at that point that caused this book to have such a powerful impact on you. I would love to know more if you are inclined to share ...

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    1. Yes, I've been thinking of referencing this again, Lois, even though it wasn't my favorite season, but yes, this is my story - in which she spoke the dreaded 'S' word.

      http://www.lindastoll.net/2016/08/finally-in-which-she-spoke-dreaded-s.html

      It gives some context on why this book was so meaningful. Praise God that friend is still very much in my life, even at a distance. In fact she's a frequent contributor to our discussions around here, including this one.

      And praise God that He does indeed restore the years the locusts have eaten {Joel 2} and the depth of this conversation just goes to show that He continues to redeem our pain when we ask Him.

      What a wonderful Savior!

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  21. I love that quote from Chapter 2, Linda! That was definitely the part that stood out the most to me from these chapters so it was funny to come on here and see that it was one you had chosen too!
    It's not so much the outside noise I struggle to silence but the noise within- all my thoughts and words. I hadn't thought how much that is about control and that silence is about releasing that to God and making space for him.
    Sitting in silence isn't really something I've practiced. I tend to connect with God by praying, writing or music, but this makes me want to give it a try. I'll let you know how I get on!

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    1. Don't you love that He hears our hearts no matter how we cry out to Him?

      It becomes a real eye-opening experience when we realize how much we want to control ... including our relationship with Him.

      He longs for us to release all our agendas and plans and allow Him to call the shots. It's quite a spiritual adventure, isn't it ...

      Thanks for being here, Lesley. I look forward to hearing more of your journey.

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Dear Reader ~

Technical glitches happen.

* sigh *

Doesn't seem to be a place to leave your comment? Or your comment doesn't show up within an hour or so?

I'd love if you'd email me your contribution ... I'd be delighted to hand post it as soon as possible.

lindastoll @ juno . com

My apologies. And thanks for the grace ...

Linda