This past week I’ve been writing and working around the theme of “sacred pauses” in preparation for our morning retreat last Saturday.
It has been a significant experience for me – the way the theme took shape – starting with a verse from Lamentations 2, then the phrase “new every morning”, to a search through the Scriptures for verses related to morning, and on and on.
In musing on the verses, three interesting thoughts emerged. One, the Word is filled with contrast – night and day, light and dark, sadness and joy. Second, there is a definitive rhythm to God’s creation, and it is all by design. And third, dawn and dusk happen slowly – speed is a factor here – we don’t turn off the switch on day and plunge immediately into night, and the darkness slowly eases into day each and every morning. There is something in the speed that deserves our attention.
Contrast. Rhythm. Speed.
And all by design! God created a world so intricate, and all along the way, He’s inviting us in, searching for us, providing sacred pauses through the day and night to find Him.
So at the beginning of our retreat, we spent some time in solitude and silence. We offered five possible paths to follow, and I’ve decided to share them with you here in case they might be helpful as you pause and consider your entry into Holy Week. It will feel a bit copied and pasted because it is. 🙂
Suggestions for Your Quiet Time During Our Morning Retreat
When we go on retreat, however short or long it may be, we’re always invited to pull back, take a breath, scan our spiritual landscape, adjust our sails, and open our hands. It is a time to embrace the quiet, to muse on the Word, to receive the encouragement and counsel of friends.
This solitude time is yours to design—we have created five possible paths for reflection, you can pick and choose or chart your own course. It might be that you just need to sit and receive the quiet—up to you.
Path One—Stopping to Take a Breath
Are you running these days? Is there more to do than time to do it?
Take a moment to set it all down here—write a list of that which is pressing on your heart and soul. It might be that you need to collect your thoughts in one place and then receive the gift of this day.
Path Two—Scanning Your Spiritual Landscape
How goes your world? Are you climbing mountains? Trudging through a valley? Walking across the plains? Making a safe or difficult passage from one place to another?
What’s recently behind you? What’s up ahead?
Are there specific joys you are celebrating? Are you navigating a specific trouble or wound?
Spend some time thinking about your spiritual journey—where you have been, where you are going– you can write or sketch or enjoy a bit of both.
Path Three—Studying Scripture
The Word has countless references to morning, the dawn, first light.
Spend some time musing on the truths presented here, perhaps look up the verses in your Bible to consider them within a wider context.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day. Genesis 1 verse 5
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5 verse 3
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30 verse 5
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 59 verse 16
But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning, my prayer comes before you. Psalm 88 verse 13
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130 verse 5
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143 verse 8
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me for I have redeemed you. Isaiah 44 verse 22
But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Malachi 4 verse 2
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1 verse 35
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13 verse 12
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1 verse 19
Path Four—A Reflection on Mornings
“Morning, Sacrament of Hope” by Macrina Wiederkehr from Seasons of Your Heart
Dearly beloved; we are not living in the dark, and so the day will never take us by surprise, like a thief sneaking into our lives unnoticed. We are children of the light; we are friends of the day. The darkness does not feel at home with us. Therefore, do not continue to sleep as those who have no vision, but wake up and rise with the new day. I Thessalonian 5 verses 4-6 ( a paraphrase )
It is easy for me to cry out eagerly with Anne of Green Gables, “Isn’t it a splendid thing that there are mornings?” There is something so fresh about morning, so utterly new and untried. Morning is a Sacrament of Hope. She is a gift of beginning. Morning looks at me with eyes of expectancy. She slips through the darkness on tiptoe.
I like to be awake when morning arrives, ready to be faithful to the possibility she brings. I want to be waiting for her, open to receive the gift she is.
I learn toward the Keeper of Heaven with arms held open wide. I pray for everyone who, at this moment, is receiving the gift of morning.
The East is getting out her gold
She holds it out against the night
and scatters darkness
with her light.
Then morning comes
climbing over the hill
like an eager, restless child.
She pauses just a moment
then casts her color on the earth.
Morning, color me bright
I’ve been afraid too long
The color of fear is dark
darker than night
But your glance is full of light.
Don’t hurry morning;
Dress yourself in light.
Climb over that hill lovingly
Hand me a new day hopefully
Get into my bloodstream, and
color me like the rising sun
I’ve a mind to be contagious
Color me bright.
Path Five—A Reflection on the Night
“When Night is Your Middle Name” by Jan Richardson from In the Sanctuary of Women
I am a night owl. I love the dark hours. Periodically I work on going to bed earlier, but it feels like entering alien territory, trying to make sense of a landscape and a language that I have a hard time fathoming. A friend, knowing my dark ways, once asked me, “So what do you do at night?” Oh, what there is to do at night! “I read,” I told him, “or perhaps write, or pray, to soak up the quiet, or unwind in front of the TV.” I take time to gather up the threads of the day; it is a period in which interruptions are rare and intrusions are few, a space where my soul can catch up with me. If I have spent the day around people, my inner introvert needs quiet time before sleep. If I have not had enough solitude by day’s end, insomnia ensues…..
Even though I love the night, I sometimes find myself wondering, What illumination might God be calling me toward? Are there any mysteries I have become too willing to live with, any space in my soul that needs to be brought out of the shadows?
It is one thing to live with the mysteries that attend our human lives, to enter into the rhythms of the sometimes strange ways that God works with us. The older I get, the more I think of God as the Ancient of Days, the Holy One of the Long Haul, who seems so deeply fond of working things out over vast expanses of time. This aspect of God calls us to trust, to step out without seeing what’s ahead.
It is another thing, however, to allow the shadows to enthrall us. Mystery has its own enchantments; without spiritual practices and habits of discernment to ground us, those enchantments can lull us into becoming overly comfortable with the shadows and the places of unknowing that we find in our journeys. If I’m willing to live in a ceaseless process of discernment that never leads me to action, if I cannot see a place of brokenness in my own soul or in the soul of the world, then I don’t have to do anything about it.
That’s called denial.
Has some corner of my soul lived too long in shadow? Of the mysteries I have been content to live with, is there one that God might be ready to solve? Am I ready to receive the clarity that might come? How will I meet the God who longs to shine God’s face not only me but through me as well? How will you?
May you have the courage to turn your face to the God who meets you in the darkness and in daylight.
Enjoy dear friends, if you choose to walk some of these paths, may the words and thoughts land in gentle places.