Life Garden Guides: In the Garden
(retreating with God)
I was immediately drawn to the garden theme of the Mt. Zion spring women's retreat in 2004, since my mother and I would harmonize to her favorite hymn, "I Walk in the Garden Alone," when I was growing up. But I was totally unprepared the week of the event, when God called me to sit at His feet and be filled with 24 verses about retreating. Nor was I ever more soul-stirred than when He began comparing this time to a solitary walk in the garden with Him. The experience for me, brought smiles and tears, new understanding and resolve. When the writings were entered and printed out, He led me to give them all to leadership on the first night of the retreat, and spoke four words, "They will be used." This was the fourth time I had been involved with this kind of inspiration. In each case, something different came from listening, and people were blessed - not necessarily in large numbers. I have learned that He isn't always finished when He seems to be; He doesn't waste His works; and He blesses our follow-through.
In the Garden was presenting His deepest desire for intimacy with those who retreat. The samples here will allow you to "see" and "feel" His heart in your own spirit and soul, and understand that even though I merely "transcribed" for Him that day, my own heart became lost for a while in time, from that encounter. And that in itself is renewing for one whose mind is forever spinning. In God's eyes, the retreat is primarily a coming apart from the world to become one with Him, to grow deeper in our relationship with His Son, Jesus, through His Spirit, then to feel His presence in a new and life-altering way - to taste and know He is truly good. However, it is also a test regarding our priorities.
The retreat is also to be a time to fellowship with other believers and seekers, for in that private place sequestered away from life's usual demands, there are many opportunities to do so during worship, mealtime, small groups, in rooms, and in prayer; for all come with their own agendas. The bond between God's children deepens in a retreat environment, and friendships fasten. Opportunities to evangelize are bountiful, as well as chances to help others confront and cope with life issues, while away from distraction and even sources of their pain. Old friendships and new relationships in a church are also in need of nurturing, especially among those who may serve together upon return. Even family members who rarely have a chance to be together without children and responsibility, are given time to re-connect.
Even so, above all else, God wants each to answer His personal heart-call to them to give unto Him an unhindered portion of the retreat. It may not need to be long, to accomplish His goal, but it does need to happen, for He has spoken to each to go there. He made the way more than each knows, for some think they are going for personal reasons, while He alone knows what each and every woman really needs there. He knows full well that we all live in a world where many rarely have opportunity to be alone, let alone a precious weekend with full permission to be with Him, in a beautiful setting of quiet peace. Peace opens doors!
The full set of verses were read that weekend by the key planners, and the Lord touched their hearts, but God was not finished. The following week He poured out yet another set of verses to summarize the entire event. My personal second blessing came that spring, for He had planted another seed in the precious hearts of leadership, to transfer over half of the original set onto slate, through the artistry of a precious sister. Then they were placed all about the June Garden Party. Yes, He had kept His promise - they were used! God simply never stops delighting and revealing Himself to those who seek Him and find Him.
May the selections He led me to place here, touch you and draw you to walk hand in hand into God's garden soon, whether through an opportunity to leave your home, or simply to come apart from everyone for a time of intimacy in your own home. The refreshment that comes from doing so can be restorative and life-changing.
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© Carolyn W. Patrinicola 2005;
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