My niece Becky Downing is completing her freshman year as a creative writing major at Hope College in Holland Michigan and she wrote the article below for one of her classes. It was designed to be a short magazine article. She interviewed me about the history and purpose of Seeking Stillness Ministries. I thought you might be interested in this story.
Seeking Stillness Ministries Offers Women a Chance to Connect With God
by Becky Downing
Psalm 46: 10 reads, “Be still and know that I am God.” However, in an age filled with many distractions such as social media, work deadlines, and family pressures, Christian women often find it hard to live out these words. We open Twitter, but we don’t open our Bibles. We talk in conference calls, but we don’t talk to God. We drive our kids to and from practice, but we don’t drive ourselves to church. Retreat director Debra Griest thinks these distractions have worn women down.
“The Bible tells us to be still in a lot of places,” says Griest. “With the amount of technology we have and the amount of time we spend with other people, we don’t set aside enough time for God.”
So how can we learn to spend more time with God? Get away.
Griest’s spiritual retreat Seeking Stillness Ministries offers women the chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of today’s world and deepen their faith, whether they have been Christians for years or are unsure in their walk with Jesus. However, Griest takes no credit for Seeking Stillness’s formation; she acknowledges God as the retreat’s true creator.
“Before the year 2000 I felt a call from God to do something. I eventually got the sense that I was supposed to go to seminary.”
After seven years, Griest obtained her Master’s Degree in Spiritual Formation from Ashland University, but all the while still seemed unsure of her purpose.
“I had no idea why I was going,” Griest explains. “People would keep asking me, ‘What are you going to do when you finish school? Are you going to quit your job and become a pastor?’ I couldn’t answer their questions, because I didn’t know. I just knew I was supposed to go.”
The answer to those questions wouldn’t arise until 2009, when a friend of Griest’s asked if she would help lead a retreat. Griest agreed, and it went so well that the two decided to lead another.
“We had around 15 people signed up to go, and the day I got the first person’s check for registration in the mail, I noticed it was made out to me personally. I thought, ‘Well, they shouldn’t be making their checks out to me, they should be making them out to a… Oh! Maybe a ministry!’”
From then on, Griest could see clearly why God had called her to seminary. “It was that basic. I sensed that God was telling me that this was something He wanted me to continue doing.” It also became clear to Griest that God wanted her retreats to focus on the subject of stillness: “I run a hundred miles an hour, and I do a thousand things at the same time. I learned in seminary how important it is, at least for me personally, to get away and just spend time with God. The Bible tells us to ‘be still’ in a lot of places, and I just felt that the Lord was calling me to help myself and other women learn to do this.”
Thus, Seeking Stillness Ministries held its first official retreat for women in 2010 and has been going strong ever since. Spring and fall retreats occur over weekends at Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center in Fremont, Ohio. This setting features tranquil walking paths, a secluded grotto, and even a labyrinth, providing the perfect backdrop for faithful seekers to find peace and quiet with the Lord. Seeking Stillness Ministries also hosts one-day summer retreats at Bay Presbyterian Church in Bay Village, Ohio.
During weekend retreats one can expect a mixture of spiritual quiet time and group activities. Worksheets help guide personal time and offer scriptures and questions for reflection. Group prayers scatter throughout one-on-one times with God and feature a variety of prayer techniques. Other group activities include meditation, singing, and Saturday Chapel. These retreats also include varying spiritual themes, such as “Joy” and “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.” Scriptures and reflections ultimately follow these themes, but Griest acknowledges that God can change her plans at any moment.
“I’ve learned that despite all the planning and work I’ve put in up front, God takes over in the retreats, and I have to go along with what He wants to do. For example, during a past retreat centered on forgiveness, one woman shared with the group a story about her past and said that she wanted to forgive the people who had done this to her. By Saturday afternoon, this issue had become the focal point of the retreat. The group was praying for her and helping her, and this inspired more women to share their stories. I basically had to throw away all the worksheets I had prepared for the second half of the retreat because God had taken us in a whole different direction.”
Seeking Stillness Ministries also provides additional spiritual resources. The website www.seekingstillness.org offers numerous blog posts focusing on many topics, such as the power of prayer and the call to action. Griest updates these blogs monthly.
All in all, those attending Seeking Stillness retreats can expect to leave with those words and ways of Psalm 46: 10 in their heart. Griest concludes, “Ultimately, I hope these retreats help people to feel closer to God. I hope they become more comfortable being still, and I want them to walk away with tools that will help them study the Bible and connect with the Lord in everyday life.”
If you believe God is inviting you to be still, log onto www.seekingstillness.org, where you can find registration details. Seeking Stillness’ next one-day retreat is scheduled for July 11th and its theme is “Finding God In Nature.”
The next weekend retreat is October 2-4, 2015.