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Depart and Hide Yourself

And the word of the Lord came to him, 

'Depart from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith,
that is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have
commanded the ravens to feed you there.' So he went and did according to the
word of the Lord; he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is east of the
Jordan.
 
And he said, 'Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.' And behold,
the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke
in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and
after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and
after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the
fire a still small voice.
 
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the
Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his
understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has
no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and
young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew
their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and
not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
 
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, 'In returning and rest you
shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.'
 
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by
the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness.
 
And from time to time he would withdraw to lonely places for prayer.
 
In these days he went out into the hills to pray; and all night he continued
in prayer to God.
 
And he took them with him and withdrew privately to a town called Bethsaida.
 
(1 Kings 17: 2-6, RSV; 1 Kings 19: 11-12, RSV; Isaiah 40: 28-31, RSV; Isaiah
30: 15, RSV; Luke 4: 1-2a, RSV; Luke 5: 16, NEB; Luke 6: 12, NEB; Luke 9: 10b,
NEB)
 
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Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah,' 

'Depart from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook...' 
(1 Kings 17: 3). 

Can't you hear the prophet protesting: 'Go hide myself! But, Lord, I'm a
public man! I've gotta be where the action is. How about some more of that
palace assignment? Didn't you just love what that prophecy did to Ahab? Wow!
We really shook him up, didn't we? So, what do you mean, "Go hide yourself'?
Why, Lord, it doesn't make sense when there is so much work to do and so much
life to experience.'
 
That is how Elijah might have responded to his new 'assignment' if he were the
typical Western activist Christian of the late twentieth century.
 
Yet it is possible that, in trying to 'be strong for the Lord', we who are the
people of God neglect the wellspring of real power -- to be with our Lord in
the quiet place. It 'is in the stillness and in staying quiet that our
strength lies', says Isaiah, not in a whirlwind of activity and an abundance
of noise. Retreat -- a time apart from life's action simply to be in the quiet
presence of God -has sustained Christians for centuries. Out of the quiet
monasteries flowed the life and truth that brought stability when the walls of
civilization crumbled in the Dark Ages. Out of the imposed stillness of a
prison cell has power arisen in the likes of a John Bunyan or an Aleksandr
Solzhenitsyn. Out of retreat comes a cure for the malaise of our day; where,
in the words of Frodo Baggins from Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings, 'merely to
be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness'.
 
Retreat brings a 'spot of rebirth', Evelyn Underhill says. Retreat times can
provide spiritual rebirth, quicken what has grown dull and dead in us and make
us more effective in our work. In genuine retreat, that which is foundational
to the spiritual life finally becomes central: namely, our relation to God.
 
John Casteel notes that 'the purpose of retreat is the deepening of communion
with God... the offering of ourselves to God in such a way that he can draw us
into closer communion with himself- and through this communion grant us richer
community with other persons in Christ and a truer understanding of ourselves.
The root of this purpose is to be found in the Great Commandment, "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God", and the second is like it, "Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself".' Therefore, he cautions the Christian contemplating
retreat to remember that 'the true retreat does not aim either "to get work
done", or "to enjoy a holiday". Its focus is not upon a task, a subject, a
problem, or pleasurable inspiration. The centre and justification of retreat
is found only in communion -in a coming to oneself, a participation with
others in Christ, a being in prayer with God.'
 
What is retreat for? To strip away the press of the crowd, the rush of
activity, the sights, sounds and lights of our unreal life so that we can
drive a stake into our purpose for being: 'To glorify God and fully enjoy him
for ever'.
 
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Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. That house was,
as Bilbo had long ago reported, 'a perfect house, whether you like food or
sleep or storytelling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a
pleasant mixture of them all.' Merely to be there was a cure for weariness,
fear and sadness.
 
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
 
 
 
I came back here, and here I have been. I have done this and that. I have
written some more of my book. And, of course, I make up a few songs. They sing
them occasionally: just to please me, I think; for of course, they aren't
really good enough for Rivendell. And I listen and I think. Time doesn't seem
to pass here; it just is. A remarkable place altogether.
 
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
 
 
 
A first retreatant lately told me that when she confessed to her husband what
she intended to do, he took his pipe out of his mouth and said earnestly: 'Go,
my dear. Go by all means! You're just about due for a spot of rebirth.' That
man, it seems to me, had a very clear idea of one function of a retreat: its
power of causing the rebirth of our spiritual sense, quickening that which has
grown dull and dead in us, calling it out into light and air, giving it
another chance.
 
- Evelyn Underhill, Light of Christ
 
 
 
Now those who control the modern factory -- wiser in their generation than the
children of light -- know what all this means in the exhausting and
impoverishing of human material, in nervous tension, apathy, unrest. So there
is no good factory without its welfare department, its rest room, its
opportunity for quiet. To withdraw the worker at times from the clatter and
pressure is to increase the quantity and quality of the work. So I sometimes
think retreats should be regarded as a bit of spiritual welfare work; quite
essential to the organisation of the church, and specially to the efficiency
of its ministers. I am sure that were the making of at least a yearly retreat
an absolute obligation of the priesthood, this would be a far more direct way
of renewal than some of those now proposed.
 
I don't mean by this to recommend the retreat for merely practical reasons --
because it makes the effective active Christian even more active and effective
than before. I would rather recommend it because it puts in the foreground and
keeps in the foreground that which is, after all, the first interest of
religion -- so easily lost sight of -- the one thing needful -- the soul's
relation to God.
 
- Evelyn Underhill, Light of Christ
 
 
 
We knew as a fellowship that our mission as the church in the world would be
in peril if this outward movement did not have a corresponding movement of
retreat.
 
- Elizabeth O'Connor, Call to Commitment
 
 
 
Many people seek fellowship because they are afraid to be alone. Because they
cannot stand loneliness, they are driven to seek the company of people.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
 
 
 
We needed to learn to live from a quiet centre.
 
- Elizabeth O'Connor, Call to Commitment
 
 
 
Later the soul will bring forth fruit exactly in the measure in which the
inner life is developed in it. If there is no inner life, however great may be
the zeal, the high intention, the hard work, no fruit will come forth; it is
like a spring that would give out sanctity to others but cannot, having none
to give; one can only give what one has. It is in solitude, in that lonely
life alone with God, in profound recollection of soul, in forgetfulness of all
created things, that God gives himself to the soul that thus gives itself
whole and entire to him.
 
- Charles de Foucauld
 
 
 
Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that
call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give
account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out.
If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ's call to you.
 
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
 
 
 
The one therefore that intends to attain to the more inward and spiritual
things of religion, must with Jesus depart from the multitude and press of
people. No-one doth safely appear abroad but he who can abide at home...
 
Who so therefore withdraweth himself from his acquaintance and friends, God
will draw near unto him with his angels...
 
Shut thy door upon thee, and call unto thee Jesus, thy beloved. Stay with him
in thy closet; for thou shalt not find so great peace anywhere else...
 
Seek a convenient time of leisure for thyself, and meditate often upon God's
loving-kindness. Meddle not with things too high for thee, but read such
things as may rather yield compunction to thy heart than occupation to thy
head.
 
- Thomas a Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ
 
 
 
I believe the retreat as a part of our normal spiritual routine will yield on
the whole its fullest results when we regard it more often and more generally,
in Abbot Delatte's beautiful phrase, as an opportunity of 'steeping our souls
in the beauty of the mysterious'. To dwell quietly and without self-occupation
in the atmosphere of God is surely the best of all ways of redressing the
balance between the temporal and eternal sides of our life.
 
Evelyn Underhill, Light of Christ
 

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Lord of the still small voice: It is no wonder that so often I can't hear you
for the roar of the crowd that is in my world, for the rush of the schedule,
for the sounds of a never-silent age that is full up with music boxes blaring.
I'm weary of the noise and the hustle, yet I can't stop; No -- that isn't
right: rather, I won't stop to discover the renewal of being quiet in your
presence. Yet how can I imagine that if in your incarnation you had to get
away to be with your Father in peace, that I shouldn't need to get apart with
you before I come apart without you?
 
Lord of my soul: May deep call to deep; may your voice call to my spirit
stirring it to life. As a lover calls out 'come away with me', so I hear you
calling me to yourself; where I can know the embrace of your love being set
free in the intimate moment with you alone. May I no longer run from aloneness
with you,. but rather run to it with heart open wide. May I no longer fear the
quiet, but rather delight in the gift of silence with you. Lord of all:
Present to me a place where I can meet you as a blessing of your grace.
Protect the time you a lot to me that no intrusion would come to assassinate
the precious moments of stillness with you. Prick my heart that I may never
forget, even once, that it is you I need to fill the void in me. Provide that
retreat I so desperately need in days of stillness, in hours of quiet, in
minutes of rest and peace, even in seconds when your presence is so real that
it transforms my soul. So meet me; by your grace.
 
Amen.
 
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A Benediction
 
May the peace of God, which transcends all human understanding, keep constant
guard over your heart and mind as they rest in knowing the love of God through
Christ Jesus. And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
rest upon and abide within you now and always. Amen.
 
 
 
Rowland Croucher ed. 
High Mountains Deep Valleys 
(Albatross / Lion), chapter 3

 
rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland