Entering the ‘Vast Emptiness’

I’ve been reading the book “Invitation of Solitude and Silence” by Ruth Haley Barton, and it’s been a wonderful experience. The author writes in such an approachable way, and I love her insights into the joy of entering into quiet.

Last week, I read her take on Elijah when he was fleeing from the prophets of Baal. The prophets of this idol wanted to kill Elijah because he proved the power of God. Maybe you remember the two altars? One for the prophets of Baal, and one for Elijah. An offering was placed on the altar, and it was up to the prophets to pray and plead with their God to send down fire to burn the offering. Baal didn’t come through but the God of Elijah, our God, sure did.

Elijah was elated that God came through for him, but also scared witless. All the other prophets of the Lord had been killed or arrested; he was the only one left. And now he was fleeing for his own life. He was tired and scared and needed the solace of God, so he made his escape, hoping to run right into the arms of God in the wilderness.


Elijah was hungry for an experience of the divine Presence, and even the public display of God’s power in the fire that consumed the altars of Baal could not fully satisfy that hunger. He had some inkling of where to go to find what he was looking for, and he was willing to walk faithfully and resolutely in that direction…


Elijah’s wilderness experience is a powerful metaphor for the vast emptiness all of us must walk through on the way to encounter with God. But how we as human beings seek to avoid this truth of the spiritual life! The experience of our emptiness is so painful we will do almost anything to avoid it- and most of us do for a long, long time.


That chapter has stayed right with me, although I read it many days ago. I ask myself, “Am I ready to face the ‘vast emptiness’ and clear my calendar?” Am I willing to put aside some commitments to dedicate time to silence with the hope of finding God there?

It didn’t take much time to realize that God was calling me to rest and quiet. There’s a reason why this chapter affected me so deeply. I believe God is calling me to slow down, and settle into silence. I also think he might be leading me to a new path, which would mean going back to school. Is that something I should do? Well, I’m not sure really, but I’d love the time to investigate that opportunity.

As a part of paring down my commitments, I’ve decided to stop blogging. I’ve been writing here for almost five years, and I’ve really loved meeting so many wonderful bloggers, and seeing friends and family visit here too. It’s been wonderful, but also time consuming. I’m not saying that I’ll never come back (never say never!), but for now, it’s time to sink into more space in my day, and I look forward to that.

May you have a wonderful, holy and inspiration-filled Lenten Season, and a joyous Easter! If you would pray for me, I’d appreciate it so much. Know that I will be praying for you.


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30 thoughts on “Entering the ‘Vast Emptiness’

  1. I’ll be praying for you, Ceil. You will be missed! I hope you will check in from time to time.

    It really strikes me that Elijah saw fire pour down from Heaven and lap up everything, yet as soon as one of the bad guys said, “I am going to get you,” he took off running in fear.

  2. You will be missed. Life is all about adjusting, and adjust we must. It’s not a bad thing, in fact I think it is necessary in many phases of life. When we are sick or injured, when we get older, when we relocate or need time to reassess our lives….it’s an adjustment. I give you credit for acknowledging a need within yourself to take this time. Good luck!

  3. I am in the process of reading this same wonderful book, Ceil, and it is truly speaking to my heart about the need for solitude and silence in my own life. Know you and your blog will be so missed here, my friend, and I, along with many others who love you, will be praying for you, too, during this time of wilderness time. Please do stay in touch by email! πŸ™‚
    Love and blessings always!

  4. I will keep you in my prayers Ceil. Your blogging will be missed, but at the same time I am excited for you as your journey unfolds. May God bless you.

  5. I am praying Dear Friend, and looking forward with great anticipation to what He has in store for you. Even if it is only more stillness, He is enough to fill the vast sea of solitude.
    Blessings, Dear Friend!

  6. Hi Ceil!

    Your post is deeply meaningful. Like many others, I’ll miss your blog posts. Praying for you as you discern your next steps.

    Blessings, my friend, as you walk more closely with the Lord!


  7. I will miss your writings and spiritual insight in so many areas. But I know how much time this must take from your daily life. Since my surgery, I have slowed down, giving me more time to pray daily, As I recover, I vowed not to return to the busy schedule I had pre-surgery.
    So, you are in my prayers daily as you embark on this new path.
    May the Lord bless you, always.

  8. Ceil,

    It’s wonderful that you are recognizing that you are being called to go in another direction. Good for you. I hope we can stay in touch. I am on my sailboat in Guatemala. Staying close to Jesus and working on my What’s New Stories. Back in 2019.

  9. Will surely miss reading your blog. Always so thought provoking and inspirational. Best of luck in your endeavors. I will keep you in my prayers always. Peace and God bless.

  10. Have a blessed Lenton season too, Ceil. I will miss you here, however God’s will is always the Way that is perfect, of course! I commend you for listening. I went into a season a couple of years ago of letting go and experiencing that ’emptiness’ in my calendar. I turned down leadership roles in the church, as well as facilitating groups. Slowing down and just sitting with God, rather than filling the space was tough! And am thankful that I had a mentor helping me through that period. God’s graciousness and faithfulness prevails through all our seasons! May you know His goodness and power as you surrender into this new season. I’m happy for you!

  11. I can’t begin to tell you how much I will miss you and your dear presence here, my friend. I totally understand your decision, and I admire your determination to make room for silence to better hear the voice of God. May He draw you ever nearer to His holy presence. Please keep in touch with me. I am praying for you every day. God bless you always.

  12. Oh Ceil, I will miss you, my blogging friend. But I understand all too well when God calls us to a new ministry, we must answer. And in doing so, leave other ministries. I pray God riches blessings on you in this new endeavor. I know that you will be a blessing to those who will be on the receiving end of your ministry, just as we, your readers, have been blessed by your open heart and encouraging and challenging words.

  13. As much as I would miss you in blogland, I totally get it when someone feels the Lord is leading them down another path. I agree, never say never…and I think that’s a good way to look at it. Right now it is more important to follow the Holy Spirit and if that leads you back (which I do hope it does) then that is all good too! You have always been such an encouragement to me and I will truly miss your posts and sweet comments on mine. Blessing on you, dear Ceil as you go about your Father’s business, and whatever that looks like at this time.
    HUGS! β™₯β™₯β™₯

  14. Oh Ceil, I will really miss you! But I’m so glad you’re following God’s leading. It sounds like that book has made a great impact on you. I don’t have it, but I have gleaned a lot just by following Linda’s Open House. Elijah’s story is so meaningful, isn’t it? May God give you strength, wisdom, and guidance as you follow His leading! Love and hugs to you!

  15. Ceil: This was inspiring. I have a difficult time with silence in prayer. I think I am afraid of what God might say tome, that I really don’t want to hear. But I know how much he loves me, and that love should cast out my fear.
    I will pray for him to speak into your silence, and give you divine guidance.
    It’s been lovely blogging with you these last five years. Thanks for all your kind encouragement on my blog!

  16. I certainly will pray for you Ceil. Your strength is communication, writing and speaking! I wouldn’t be surprised if I would be purchasing your books someday! I wish you the best and pray for wisdom as you follow God’s lead. I appreciate your friendship. Be encouraged because God is on the move and many are uprooting and moving or beginning something new. I’m excited for you, but I will miss you.

  17. Have a great Lent, Ceil! I will definitely miss you in this blogging space, but I respect your decision to honor God’s call on your life. I pray for that level of obedience and, even more, the willingness to carve out that time to hear clearly from Him.

  18. Dear Ceil, I appreciate your willingness to slow down and listen to God on the next journey. And yes you are so right. Never say never! I have learned that lesson! Well, we will need your email address to we can at least chat once in a while, right? I will pray for you dear lady. You are precious and I enjoy your writings. I only blog once a week as it seems that is all I can truly keep up with. Praying that God will give you the desires of your heart. That He will lead you in the direction to go next or show you to just stop and rest a while. Hugs and blessings to you dear lady.

  19. Oh Ceil, as I was reading this incredible message, it hit me hard just as it did you when you were reading it. Every season I say, “I’m going to stay quiet and create more downtime to spend with God” And every season flies by, and I have some fleeting moments here and there and yet, that long-awaited solace and rest never comes. Or I should say I never make it happen. Sigh…

    Thank you for this conviction, friend. And I’m SO SAD to know you are stopping this beautiful blog for the time being. I will miss you terribly, but I am excited to see what God has in store for you and I will most definitely pray on your behalf. Your obedience will bring blessings, I’m sure of that.

    Please keep in touch, would you?

  20. This is not what I expected to read when I popped on over here from Linda’s place. You have such a beautiful writing voice and I have loved every minute of the time I have known you and visited you here in this space. I pray as you rest and pursue what God is leading you to, you discover that it is exactly where you should be. I will miss you and pray that our paths continue to cross.

  21. Will miss your wise words Ceil. I have a feeling you will be back to blogland because what God will teach you in this new phrase of life will over flow and have to spill out on others. It’s takes courage to cut something out of your life that you enjoy and are very good at. Enjoy this step of growth God is leading you into.

  22. Hi Ceil!
    I am far behind in catching up with you here. I am not surprised about the decision to move to more solitude and silence and perhaps to set aside blogging for a bit. This book by Ruth Barton Haley has spoken to me as well. I saw myself clearly in the chapter Dangerously Tired as I was approaching retirement almost four years ago now. It will soon be three years that I have been blogging and I am considering the possibility of reducing the days from 3 per week to twice.

    If you go back to school, I am sure you will do well, but I feel that in many ways I have done that when I returned to graduate school and changed careers as I was approaching 50.

    What I know for certain is that I long for more open spaces in my days than ever before and the quietness of an unhurried life.

    Blessings on you as you follow the Lord’s leading.


  23. Sweet Ceil! I was shocked to read that you won’t be blogging much longer, although I do understand the time commitment that it involves. However, your voice has much to offer, and I hope that through this time of quietness that the Lord has spoken to your heart and given you renewed direction. Times of silence and quiet are good, but it is a seasonal thing, and then we can emerge refreshed and renewed and repurposed for the calling the Lord has upon us. This world needs the light of the Lord shining through us, and we must take it to them, and be the light in their darkness. And many times your words have shone light into my heart, you have a gift for writing! I will miss you, but pray that we can keep in touch, I treasure your friendship! Much love to you sweet friend!

  24. I see you have been gone a long time Ceil – and so have I.

    The church minister who married us has on his headstone

    β€˜Pray for me as I pray for thee….’

    So echoing his words and even though belated, my prayers are with you, Andrina

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