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You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God,
and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure.

-Deuteronomy 14:2

This weekend I stayed in a Monastery with a little group of writers. We were there to write alongside each other, to spur one another on in the context of the tranquillity of the New Norcia Benedictine community of monks.

It has been a wonderful weekend of solitude, silence, writing, and deep chats with soulful people. My type of people… the writing type of people.

This morning I woke early and took my tea and toast to a bench in the middle of the town square. It was my intention to sit in the stillness of the crisp morning and pray some simple prayers of thanks.

I sat for a while and sipped my tea. I looked over the tall silent buildings.

A monk in long white robes was walking toward the chapel.

“Excuse me,” I called. “Can I come in and pray?”

“Of course, you can!” he replied cheerfully.

I put my mug and plate by the steps outside and I entered the hall. Its walls were covered in murals depicting scenes from the gospels. I had not been in a Catholic church since I was a little girl.

I kneeled on the padded bench and offered my prayers to God. As I was finishing up, a monk began to play the piano and a woman with the most glorious voice sung out.

I watched another monk slowly but purposefully go about his work in preparation for mass. He bowed before the altar and lit the candles. He moved some chairs and tidied some papers.

I heard God speak to me.

Set apart.

At first I thought he meant the monk. The monk was clearly set apart for a particular life. A life of service and prayers on the hour, of vespers, hospitality and service to the Lord. He was clearly set apart in his robes and his commitment to the Benedictine order of life. Set apart for bells and farm work, silence and simplicity. Set apart from marriage and family, television, a social media addiction and the excesses of life.

No, God said. I mean you. You are set apart. I have set you apart.

I know this of course. 1 Peter 2:9 tells me so. But I feel like God was saying something more specific than this. That he was giving me permission in some way to set apart a part of me like the monk I was watching had done.

The mass was starting but I didn’t think I should stay. I left the chapel and retrieved my crockery.

Set apart. I’ve set you apart.

I think it might have something to do with this whole business of writing.

I read some of my novel aloud to my new friends last night. They were full of encouragement.

I’m so glad I came on this retreat. I think God is giving me permission to set time to write this novel. It’s always been my fear that I will spend time on something frivolous when I could be smashing through my masters or contributing more to the family income. But I think this weekend is showing me that it is not frivolous and it is worthy of my time.

Maybe in the chapel, as I watched the monk do his thing, what God was saying was that it is okay to set apart time.

That maybe this writing is also holy work.