Abiding in Exile 4/28/2022

Abiding in Exile 4/28/2022

April 29, 2022

By: Lee Roorda Schott

Returning to God, Again

I led a frenzied meeting a month ago. People came, and we got done what we had set out to do. But I hurried people through it. There was no overt talk of seeking God’s will. I’m not sure we even prayed. I had the sense that we needed to make some decisions on upcoming events and initiatives, and we did. But was God in it?
As the meeting ended I noticed a grittiness in my spirit. I knew immediately how far I was from God, in leading that meeting. I thought, “I’m never doing that, ever again.”
Over the weeks since then, I’ve been paying more attention to my soul. “How is it with your soul?” John Wesley famously asked. I hadn’t realized mine had become so frayed. I had been carrying the weight of huge questions, matters that belong to God, as if they were up to me to solve. I was tired, and hope felt distant. 
I’m glad I noticed. God was there in the noticing. 
Having noticed, I had to change some things. I had to get back to some things that have slipped in recent months, or even years. I’ve returned to older practices of prayer, engaging the Bible, returning to my journal again and again. I don’t have any elegant every-day plan. But I’m forging a different rhythm, including calendaring a monthly retreat day just for being alone with God. 
It's not the first time I’ve made this return, to more intentionally seek God, seeking me. It probably won’t be the last; I’ll certainly slip again. I’m grateful that God welcomes us back. Scripture reminds me others have trod this path before me, and God has met them, too. Has reminded us that we don’t have to be—can’t be!—God. 
And as I’ve prepared to write these words that will go out to you this week, I’ve found myself reluctant to take your precious time with anything other than an encouragement to turn back, too. Even if you’ve not slipped so far, nothing I can say here will be as important as the time you will spend with God, right here and now. 
So, just do that. Stop reading, step away from your device, and go spend some time with God. Put into words “how is it with your soul.” Lean into God’s welcoming presence. Breathe in the Spirit. 
Seriously. I mean it. 
In case you’re feeling stumped, I’ll include a few resources below that have proven helpful to me. I’m sure we each have such a list. Even recording your own such list may be a step to your own return, deepening, and savoring of God’s love and care for you and for the world.
Now, really. Take that time. A gift to God and to your own self.
And maybe one step in a deeper returning.

  • Bishop Job’s classic Guide to Prayer, which comes in a few different versions through Upper Room. A lectionary-based resource with Scripture references, readings for reflection, and more. He encourages us to set aside an hour a day, a day a month, and a week a year for private time with God. 
  • There’s a great, simple daily prayer guide, Pray as You Go, which offers a daily 8-15 minute lectionary-based Bible reading accompanied with questions for reflection that lead you into prayer. 
  • I hope you’re familiar with the practice of lectio divina, an ancient prayer practice in which you read to hear God speaking directly to you through the words of Scripture. Here’s a guide to this practice from the Upper Room (and many other such guides can be found online). The practice of visio divina uses a similar practice to engage with a piece of visual art or even a landscape or other live scene. Again, this is a way to open ourselves to what God would speak to us through our visual sense. Here’s a link to a guide I recently created about this practice.
  • Centering prayer moves us from words to silence, and trusts that God is working in us in time spent that way. A good resource is the Center for Contemplative Outreach; there are local chapters that hold retreats and other events in many ciites, including central Iowa
  • Many of us, through our circuit gatherings, have read Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. I recently discovered her podcast which has, across many seasons, addressed these questions of soul, prayer, discernment, call, and the like. Here’s a link to that website, which also identifies retreat opportunities and other ways to go deeper with her work, which is to strengthen our connection with God.
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