Part 1 of a 2 part blog on Kathy’s journey toward leading contemplative prayer retreats. Kathy will be leading a WG contemplative retreat in April 2013. For more information or to register for the retreat see WG’s Silent Retreat page.
A new world opened to me in 1985 when I took my first silent retreat on a small lake in Sturgis, Michigan. It was my first taste of intentional copious time of holy leisure. Silence is the dynamic of retreats like this.
In 1991, I had a desire to introduce others to this spiritual discipline so I invited six college students to a one-day retreat at The Hermitage, a silent retreat center in Three Rivers, Michigan. I just let them go with little instruction, something I’d never do now!
I experienced Christian spiritual direction at a silent retreat for the first time in 1994. My husband, Tony, and I volunteered for a three-month internship at The Hermitage. Abstaining from dialogue invited retreat participants into spontaneous uninterrupted experiences of God’s presence.
During my time at the Hermitage, weekly spiritual direction sessions gave me the chance to understand more fully something I’d been reading about for years. I was drawn to the comparison of a spiritual director being like a spiritual midwife. That fall after our return home and just before our son was born I found a grace-filled director to continue the process. She was instrumental in helping me discern a potential move. We were praying about a ministry job offer for me in the mountains of Virginia and I needed a sounding board for processing.
Three years after our internship we moved from Goshen, Indiana, when I accepted a ministry position in Bath County, Virginia. Our children had just turned five and three. I continued to take my own personal retreats; with work and young children even four hours free from children and errands was valuable. I escaped to a nearby country inn owned by friends. As a couple Tony and I had learned that giving each other time alone was an investment personally and in our marriage. In chunks of solitude without tasks or devotional agenda I could catch my emotional breath, catch up internally without all the external busyness.
During our time in the Virginia Allegheny Mountains I began work on my masters at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. My interest in spiritual direction grew as I focused on Spiritual Formation. Part of my ministry job included providing spiritual direction to ministry leaders and missionaries on sabbatical or retreats. Extended times of silence often bring clarified purpose and direction.
From Loren Cunningham’s book Adventures in Faith and Finances I learned a “how, what and when” prayer principle. When God speaks the “what” (call related) the “how” and “when” come later. Faith is built as we wait for clarity on these two components. It takes discipline to avoid birthing an Ishmael. Although Abraham was called to be the Father of many nations, a season of faith-waiting was required before God’s plan of “how” and “when” was revealed.
For me this looked like shelving my desire to lead others into silence. I designed a brochure, had a couple of friends give me feedback then slipped it into the filing cabinet. I simply couldn’t ignore an internal flashing red “wait” light. That piece of paper stayed in the filing cabinet for seven years.
Wed, January 23, 2013
by Kathy Stoltzfus