During the last few weeks, I have spent some time out of the parish attending a couple of Clergy training conference/retreats . Whilst it’s always difficult to leave home for a few days, particularly leaving Nikki on her own with the kids, these have been really beneficial, I thoroughly enjoyed them and came away with a real enthusiasm to further God’s mission and ministry at St. Anne’s.
However, whilst I was away I was able to enjoy a bit of quiet time, an opportunity to spend time with God on my own. It is a real joy and a privilege to do this and something I recommend everyone should try if it’s possible. To put aside a set time of retreat, where it’s just you and God. It’s even better if you can do this away from your familiar settings were distractions are all around us!
Over the years I have attended a number of clergy retreats and conferences and have developed a bit of a routine. The evenings are the time when it gets a little quiet (even a little lonely, particularly for me, when I’m used to so much noise around the house!) So it is then that I go to my room, read and pray. I take my journal with me, to write down and record anything that I feel God is laying on my heart or saying to me. I use it write, doodle, draw images, I even stick things in. I often find its in these times, when I’ve purposely made space in my life for God that I am drawn closer to him. Perhaps there’s a lesson for us all there?
A journal is something I was encouraged to keep a number of years ago by a friend. On his advice, I bought myself a beautiful leather backed book, which I decided I would keep for this purpose only. As you can imagine there are now a number of entries in it. This is something I encourage you to try for yourself, it’s a really good way of remembering those special times with God and being able to look back at them is hugely beneficial.
As I was sat in my room, I started to flick back through the pages and read some of the entries. I was suddenly caught up in the feeling of being completely surrounded by God, as I remembered those amazing moments when God had been very ‘present’ at those special times in my life.
Reading through the journal opened up all sorts of good memories and I began to be aware of a feeling of joy growing within me. A feeling of thankfulness to God as I saw how he had journeyed with me through all of life’s pathways. I felt stronger, closer to God. My brain had engaged with the past memories and this helped me to engage with God right there in the present . The passivity I try not to (but often do) associate with ‘quiet times’ had gone. Suddenly I felt alive and surrounded by God’s presence. So much so, that I had to go for a walk, and being so in the moment, this turned into a prayer walk. I found the prayers flowed easily, the rhythm of my walk aiding my prayers.
Remembering and writing things down made them very real, and brought back memories of all sorts of ways God has been at work in my life.
Why don’t you try writing a journal for yourself, you never know where it might lead you?
I look forward to seeing you in and around the parish.