Next week, I’ll be attending a spiritual retreat in the greater Chicago area with Ruth Haley Barton. This is a part of the “Transforming Community” I joined earlier this year. As part of the community, I will be attending these retreats every quarter for the next two years. The experience (I’ve been to two retreats thus far) has been amazing and powerful for me. And a lot of my Whole Life Worship blog material has been greatly influenced, in one way or another, by what I’ve learned through the retreats, the books (I’m required to read 4-5 books each quarter), and the spiritual practices. My church helps pay for the expenses of these retreats as a part of my development as a leader. I am so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful church who has invested so much into my life!
So I want to just touch on the topic of spiritual retreat this morning. Many Christians think “spiritual retreats” as an option for Christ-followers; for those who have the time and finances for such an experience, or for those who are ultra-serious about their faith (but not for the everyday, any person Christian).
I think those thoughts miss the mark. Retreats are an important spiritual rhythm for any person who seeks after God. The people in the Bible took spiritual retreats (see the Patriarchs, Moses, Elijah, David). Jesus regularly took spiritual retreats by himself and with his disciples. Sometimes when they ignored the rhythm of retreat, God imposed it on them because they needed it more than they thought (see the Patriarchs, Moses, Elijah, David – ha, ha!)
Retreats are part of the spiritual rhythms we need to take to be unplugged from the world and re-connected with God. This rhythm is daily (personal worship time), weekly (Sabbath), and monthly/quarterly (retreat).
The purpose of the retreat is to get centered on God. A retreat could be long (several days or even weeks) or short (6-8 hours). It can be with others in community or by yourself (I take a quarterly retreat with my staff and a quarterly solitude retreat; at times I’ve gone on retreat with a spiritual friend where we alternate times of solitude and community). You can utilize several spiritual disciplines during a retreat (prayers – of all types, solitude, silence, Scripture meditation, journaling, fasting, liturgy, reading spiritual books etc.)
Here are a couple of thoughts that have been helpful for me during my times of retreat:
1. The focus of the retreat is connection, not discipline. Use the disciplines to help your connection with God. Don’t view the retreat as a time for a “spiritual workout.” Be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in the use of spiritual practices and listen to your soul.
2. Make rest a part of your retreat. Probably the one thing you really need is some “holy sleep.” I usually start my retreat with a nap so I can be fully engaged (rested) with God during the rest of my time.
3. Start small. Don’t start with a 3 day solitude retreat. Rather, start with a 6 hour retreat where you go to a quiet place that you enjoy (maybe a park, or the beach, or a lake, or a retreat center – there are several Catholic retreat centers where you can visit for the day for free or a nominal fee). By starting small, you can have a significant time that leaves you wanting for more. Then you can build up (as your time and resources allow).
4. It takes a while to “settle in.” Don’t expect God to zap you with a mountain top spiritual experience. It might take a few retreats to discover what really ministers to your soul.
One thing I want to exhort you with is this: don’t view spiritual retreat as a “luxury.” It is a necessity for your well-being as a follower of Christ. Make it a priority to plan a spiritual retreat in the next 2-3 months. Your soul will thank you, and you will feel the effects of being a centered Whole Life Worshiper of God.
By the way, because I am on spiritual retreat next week I will not be creating new blogs. I will re-post some of my favorite blogs (“The Best of Whole Life Worship, part two”). I hope you don’t mind. I ask for your prayers during my retreat time, that God would speak to me and that I would have some more good things to share with you in the coming weeks.
#ruthhaleybarton #transformingcommunity #spiritualretreat