Saturday, April 18, 2009

What I did on my personal retreat

I've been asked by several people what I did during my personal retreat day last Thursday. I hadn't taken a personal retreat day in a long time, much too long. Every time I do it I wonder why I don't do it more often. I really want to make it a more regular practice. I really needed this time for restoration and direction. "He restores my soul". Psalm 23:3

If I don't block out time on my calendar far in advance and guard it ferociously, it just doesn't happen. In fact, there were several things that came up on Thursday that seemed pretty important. It almost seemed like a test to see if I would cave and not follow through. But, of course, I was able to delegate everything, which I think is part of the benefit of taking the day. It is kind of like fasting. It reminds me that the world and Breakthrough go on just fine without me. I get untangled from my co-dependence on my work.

By the way, isn't it interesting that the Israelites were told to "deny" themselves and take a sabbath of rest (Leviticus 16:31)? I would think a sabbath of rest would be considered self-centered rather than self denying, but it really is about withdrawing from the many things that hold our focus and about presenting ourselves, instead, to God, for reflection and renewal.

I started the day in my usual place where I light candles and sit in prayer, meditation and Scripture. For this special day I followed several of the retreats from the blue Upper Room Guide to Prayer. There are 12 monthly retreat models in the back of the book. They involve 30 minutes of silent listening followed by Scripture readings, readings for reflection, reflection, prayer, journal writing, recreation, rest and then repeating the cycle.

At one point in the retreat I felt led to get out my acrylic paints and try to put on canvas what I was experiencing. I created this painting.

I'm not sure what it is exactly. There is the sense of being carried on water which is a bit turbulent. (I often feel carried.) Then there is definitly new green growth, sprouts, shoots of new life coming out of something that looks like a heart on fire, or a germinating seed or an egg. Anyway, I have never done a painting like this before, so it was an experiment for me and I actually kind of like it.

Then I did another retreat cycle and then drove out to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. I hadn't been there for years. It has changed a lot (great new kids play area). I walked several miles until I found a place to sit and did another of the retreats.

I was affected in several ways by the day. My soul, which had begun to feel dry, was definitely stirred and restored. One of the themes of the day for me was power. Luke 6:12-19 describes the effect a night of prayer had on Jesus. "One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God." After the night in prayer Jesus chooses his disciples and a large crowd gathers around him and it says in verse 19, "the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all."

Power was coming from Jesus. He would later say in Acts 1:8 "you shall receive power".

Zech 4:6 "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord. Spirit = Ruwach = breath

Acts 17:28 “For in him we live and move and have our being.”

Ephesians 3:16, “strengthened by his Spirit in your inner being”

Joshua 3:5 “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Consecrate - sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified

Amazing things, wonders = alp, pala, paw-law’
  • to be marvellous, be wonderful, be surpassing, be extraordinary, separate by distinguishing action
  • to be beyond one's power, be difficult to do
  • to be difficult to understand
  • to be wonderful, be extraordinary, marvellous (participle)
Psalm 20:7 "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."

Anyway, there was lots to ponder. I ended my time by refocusing on my personal mission in life and did some planning. It was an amazing day. I really want to make this a monthly practice.

Do you have personal retreat days? Where do you go? What do you do?

1 comment:

Simon said...

This sounds a great time of renewal, Arloa. Here in the UK we are fortunate to have a good number of monasteries and friaries which offer a refuge and whose pattern of prayer and worship is a corrective to those of us who live a too driven and activistic life (and ministry!). For the past 12 years I have retreated twice a year for three days from hectic noisy west London to stay with the brothers at Glasshampton, an Anglican Franciscan community in rural Worcestershire. It's located half a mile up a rutted track from the road and every time I go there is life-giving and restorative. Yet, each experience is different. Prayer, worship, walking, reading and sleeping ... and in March I reviewed all my notes and learnings from my Chicago visit and CCDA conference.
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