Oasis Madrid will hold neither a “service” nor a Gathering Event this Saturday, 31 May. Occasionally throughout the year a certain month will contain 5 weekends (instead of just four). On the first and third Saturday of each month, Oasis Madrid hosts a corporate worship service; and, on the second and fourth Saturday, we host a Gathering Event. It has become our custom to observe a Sabbath rest when a month happens to have 5 weekends. In such instances we take the Saturday of that weekend and dub it “Solitude Saturday” for the purpose of ceasing activity (yes, even “Christian” activity!) so that we may spend time with God in simplicity and solitude.
In fact, the name of our community (Oasis Madrid) suits this kind of rhythm, since we are convinced that every once in a while weary travelers need a place where they can simply stop and rest to drink in the living water of God’s love and grace. This Saturday (31 May) I would encourage you to do just that. Just stop. Just rest. “Be still and know that the Lord is God.”
Some time ago, I read a book by Thomas Merton. In one of the chapters of that book I came upon a paragraph which speaks to this need. He writes:
“We do not live merely in order to ‘do something’—no matter what. Activity is just one of the normal expressions of life, and the life it expresses is all the more perfect when it sustains itself with an ordered economy of action. This order demands a wise alternation of activity and rest. We do not live more fully merely by doing more, seeing more, tasting more, and experiencing more than we ever have before. On the contrary, some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual.”
Solitude Saturday is really about “doing less”. It helps us embrace a “wise alternation of activity and rest.” In short, it helps us rest.
At the same time, as we enter into this weekend I am very much aware that some of us may not be able to observe solitude due to travel or special visitors or other activity that simply cannot be avoided. Heather and I, for example, will be away on a leader’s retreat. Because of that, we will be unable to take a Solitude Saturday (although, of course, the retreat itself is designed to give us a rest). And many of you may find you have a similar sort of situation. If that is the case, don’t worry. Simply try to take another day on a future weekend to “be still”.
In either case, try to be intentional about it, because solitude is the kind of thing that doesn’t just “happen.” It takes a conscious act of the will to choose solitude, to cease activity. So, see what you can do to clear your schedule this weekend if possible, but if that is not possible, see what you can do to schedule an alternate time of solitude within the next two weeks.
I am also aware that many of you reading this do not live here in Madrid, so you may feel this is something just for those who are part of Oasis Madrid now. If that is the case, please know that “distance” does not need to prevent you from joining with Oasis Madrid in rest. We are family, whether near or far, and we can still unite in the simple practice of solitude. If you live or are away in another part of the world this Saturday and you plan on joining us, won’t you drop us an email or leave a comment here, letting us know you’ll be joining us so we can be mindful of one another? Thanks.
In closing, here are some ideas and guidelines to help you embrace solitude this weekend. I have shared these items in the past, but include them again here as a reminder.
These are not “hard and fast” rules. Feel free to tweak them to suit. But, in general, if you can apply these things to this day, you will get more out of it:
1. Turn your mobile phone off and don’t answer your land line, if you have one.
2. In general, resist the compulsion to “be around people” just “socializing” this day. It sounds strange to say, but “people” can become an “addiction” for some (myself included!). This is a day to disconnect from the world in order to connect with God. This is not to say you need to spend the whole day alone (although some of you may like to try this), but do try to at least spend a good portion of the day with just “you and God”, if possible.
3. If you are with others during this time: try to use few words. Let your conversation be characterized by simplicity. Do lots of listening. And spend lots of the time in comfortable silence, even. In other words, give each other permission to just be quiet, to feel no compulsion whatsoever to talk.
4. Refrain from using the internet or from emailing.
5. Keep the TV off the whole day.
1. Spend half the day in a park, just listening to the wind blowing for 3 hours while you lay on your back, with your eyes closed or looking up at the sky.
2. Sit down and just listen to some piano music (with no words) for an hour or so. And really listen.
3. Sit for an hour “doing nothing”. How often do you get to do that, really?
4. Write a nice long letter to God.
5. Pray. Just you and God.
6. Praise. Sing a song to God, a cappella. Maybe even an old hymn. For that matter, sing several songs, one right after the other, all your old favorites.
7. Go for a walk around your neighborhood in silence.
8. Read some poetry.
9. Meditate on the Psalms or a story from the Gospels.
10. Paint or draw. A tree, a hand, a cloud, a bird.
11. Go for a hike.
12. Take a long bath. (Preferably in that order!)
The main thing is: just be content to be with God. God rested, and so can we.