So here in TO as we Torontonians like to call our city, I am greeted with Fall temperatures...the cool crisp breeze and bright sunny skies makes for a refreshing change. I've only been back here one week and one of the most obvious differences between Phnom Penh and Toronto is the noise level. You don't realize how noisy a city Phnom Penh is until you go out of the city. Its extremely quiet here in Toronto. No monks chanting, no dogs barking or cats fighting, no cars honking, no motorcycles or at least a few here and there, everyone is driving orderly---something I have to get used to again----there is a peacefulness to both this city and even to my surbubria surroundings of my mother's home. I love the silence and solitude. I never realized how much I miss this and how good it is for our souls to be recalibrated in such serenity. Yet through this, I am reminded of why living overseas is not easy at times---the heaviness that is evident from the external factors of our environments can press in on our spirits and manifest in fatigue and other ailments.
Yet one of the challenges of re-entry is to find the right balance between one's personal soul care---entering into periods of solitude to recharge and spending time reconnecting with friends, supporters and churches. Its a strange kind of feeling and one that I have had some familiarity with for in previous short term trips to Cambodia, I used to hibernate for a month after I came back home and not talk to anyone but just spend time with the Lord after work. Unfortunately, I don't have the same luxury to do that as the tables are reversed and I'm not here for a long time, only for 5 weeks (well now 4 weeks) and so I'm listening to the rhythm of my body at the moment and it is saying stop, sleep, do nothing, have no agenda, rest, go for walks. My brain even seems to know its time for a holiday---it has gone catatonic on me---it just doesn't want to think about anything! :-) So with that kind of mindset, my first two weeks I have intentionally decided to ''turn off'' so to speak although I'm sure my staff in Cambodia would laugh at this as they are still getting a round of emails from me each day---but that's because they are emailing me as well! Nonetheless, the need to be intentional in slowing down and just spending time in solitude is something my spirit is craving. Now and then I meet up with friends for some casual dinners when I have the energy but for the most part, the greatest joy during this past week has been the joy to just sleep in although given that I am a morning person, my sleeping in habits have moved from 5am to 7am.
But why is silence and solitude so important as part of our re-entry into our home cultures. For one thing, it is an opportunity to be still from all the striving and for those of us who love what they do, that ceasing from work is harder because the boundaries are blurred. When one is working in their area of passion, its hard to know when to just top and relax because its not work for us, its some thing we love to do all the time so its much harder to turn off. Yet if we are not careful our passions can also become our idols. And so it is the words of Henry Blackaby that ring in my ears these days ''what is most important is the quality of your love relationship with the Lord.'' In solitude and silence, it is an opportunity to reconnect with our One and Only Divine love. Stephen Smith in his book Embracing Soul Care describes how I feel at the moment:
Something happens in solitude that cannot happen in community. Something happens that does not happen at any other time. In solitude, we experience only ourselves. Community offers us companionship. With friends, we share our thoughts, dreams and disappointments. Solitude extends the invitation only to God and we share only with Him. Solitude invites
us to experience the ''oneness'' that Jesus prayed for in John 17:22, when he said ''that they may be one as We are one.'' There is a ''giving up'' when we practice solitude. We give up others and our dependency on them. We give up noise and our fascination with what we hear. We give up our tendencies to be trivial and obsessed with our manic pursuits. We learn to receive what only silence and aloneness can give. When we practice solitude, we open our hearts and hands to finally receive. In our everyday work and life, we're tempted to make a fist to prove our point. Solitude relaxes the palms, prying them open to God's gifts. In these quiet moments we are like a beggar who receives whatever is placed into his hands. In these moments of being ''with God' we find that He becomes the Immanuel who is truly ''with us.'' Solitude replenishes the soul. This is why Jesus made solitude a regular and necessary part of His lifestyle and relationship with God. He detached from people so that He could attach to God. Solitude allows us to be stripped of others so that we can be covered with divine love.
Pray with me that as I detach from others at this point and attach to God in these times of solitude that He would replenish my soul and fill me up up where I am empty and dry and download fresh vision, fresh energy, fresh power, fresh strength for the road ahead. But more importantly, that it will be a time of cultivating a deeper intimacy and closeness to Him so that I can share His heart with those whom He is connecting me to. On September 30th, October 4th, 10th, 13th, 14th, 15th, I will have the opportunity to share at different venues around the city. I am thankful to God for these wonderful opportunities to give testimony of all that He is doing in Cambodia through our work at Ratanak. Yet in order to be prepared for those meetings, I need Him to download to me what He would have me share for apart from Him, I can do nothing. I take heart in the promises of Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.