Hearing God in the Silence

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Eighteen local women were purposefully quiet for a day recently, and they can’t wait to repeat the experience.

“What attracted me in the first place was the whole idea of being still,” said Newport resident Pam Cashion. “Nobody is quiet anymore. There is such beauty in turning the volume down on everything else in life and listening to God and how much He loves us.”

Bronwen Newcott journals in Pam Cashion’s yard. Photo by Cindy Christeson

Pam, who hosted the day at her home, explained that silent retreats are much more than simply not talking. “They’re directed, to keep us focused on God. We have so much instant gratification these days; whenever we want to know something, we go right to Google. These times help us learn to listen to God more than others. The women brought Bibles and journals, and Lynn led us in three different meditations through the day.”

The retreat was led by Lynn Ziegenfuss, a leadership development and spiritual formation specialist. “Silent retreats became a regular part of my life when I was in my 20s,” Lynn explained. “The decision and discipline to carve out time to seek God and pay attention to one’s interior life is the only way I know to think and see more clearly, discern God’s leading or invite change and true transformation.”

“Silent retreats usually lead to an awareness of what your life is saying and truly needs, which may include wrestling with God over an issue, gaining a new perspective or just resting,” Lynn added. “Silent retreats are always an adventure because you’re never quite sure what God’s agenda may be; but it’s usually different from our own.”

This was the first silent retreat for Emily McClain.

“I liked the idea of being in silence and really listening to God,” she said. “I also have to say, being nine months pregnant with an energetic 2-year old at home made me think an entire day of quiet, meals included and naps allowed was a good plan.”

“That much time in community, talking with God for me seemed like the most luxurious, nurturing and blessed day. So many things I have been struggling with for so long became much clearer and so much healing and mending feels like it has begun,” Emily continued. “Five days later our son was born. The retreat gave me freedom and hope that God is with my daughter, my son, my husband and me.”

Leslie Casserly loved her second silent retreat.

“I was reluctant to go to the first one but I will remember it my entire life.,” she said. “I felt the same way after this retreat, but God didn’t speak to me when I expected, which makes me realize how often we try to put God in a box.”

Leslie enjoyed the three different sessions, but lunchtime impacted her the most.

“I went outside and didn’t rush. It felt like I really dined with God, savoring all the different flavors and textures,” Leslie said. “I don’t usually like cucumbers but I loved a salad that was full of them, and I saw their value. I realized there are things in life we would never choose, but if we look at them a different way, we can see something new. God used that food to teach me I’m on a new journey. It helped me see that the beauty of God’s blessings and gifts come in different flavors, textures and tastes. I also watched a little leaf withstand the pressure of water in the stream flowing over it because it was tucked under a rock. I realized I’m like that leaf, fragile, but I’m clinging to God, my rock, and I’m not getting washed away.”

Bronwen Newcott has gone on several silent retreats and describes them as “warm, comfortable and safe.”

“I had reservations at first; I thought I might feel antsy and pressured to have a life-transforming revelation, but after my first experience, I found the quiet to be healing and a sanctuary,” she explained. “Lynn leads us through these days beautifully — every two hours or so, she gathers us back together for a meditation and then sends us off for another block of time with a new focus. I am not sure I would find a silent retreat so fulfilling without this guidance. It turns out, these days of silence are one of my favorite things.”

Lynn encourages people to try times of quiet.

“Just try 15 minutes in the morning,” she said. “It’s challenging to not get distracted at home, but sit in a favorite chair and imagine that God knocked on your door and you invited Him in to sit and talk with you. Jesus regularly pulled away to be quiet with God. It must have great value if Jesus did it.”

Cindy can be reached at [email protected]

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