Be Still and Know that I am God
Psalm 46:10a (NLT)

A personal retreat provides a great opportunity to refocus, re-center, and refresh our life. says it this way:

When we’re being pulled in so many directions, we may become fragmented, losing our clear focus and purpose.  We begin to play catch up, trying to put out fuses, or just keep our heads above water.  We become reactive instead of proactive.  The principles of God, that we have built our life upon, become a little shaky and we begin to rely on our own human understanding instead of divine wisdom.  Striving replaces resting in Christ and often times, over exhaustion of our minds and physical bodies set in.  In other words, we become a hot mess mentally, physically, and spiritually.

I love the author’s description. Phil put it this way after taking a personal weekend retreat at a local convent.

It was like someone washed the slate of my heart, soul and mind clean. It seemed like every day it gets written on and prayer and our time with God takes an eraser and rubs away the dirt, but that dirty, chalky residue is still there. During the retreat, it was all washed clean.

It’s interesting that after only a weekend of personal retreat Phil reported finding the traffic on the drive home jarring and the television intrusive.

Such experiences are wonderful for the soul…but it can be difficult (impossible?) to build several days alone with God into our schedules. That doesn’t mean we have to go without a personal retreat. While at least a full day is best, you can retreat with God in just a few hours. I experience a mini-retreat with God most Saturday mornings. I have the luxury of not having children who need care and I specifically set aside Saturday mornings to be with God. I guard that time carefully. It’s in my calendar and I don’t schedule something else in its place without recognizing that I am making a choice.

You cannot appreciate the true value of a retreat alone with God until you’ve experienced one. Let me encourage you to give it a try, though. You will walk away from the retreat with an uncharacteristic peace and calm about you. It’s a bit like a relaxing vacation on steroids because not only will you be relaxed, you’ll have met with God. Can there be anything more worthwhile? Can there be anything more exciting? Can there be anything more rewarding? Obviously, the answer to those rhetorical questions is “no.”

Here are some tips for making the most of your time away with God.

  • Approach your time apart with the Lord with the right perspective – have a right purpose. While the benefits of spending time away with God are many, they shouldn’t be the purpose of your retreat. The purpose of your retreat ought to be spending time away with God. Don’t go into the retreat with a list of things you expect Him to do for you. Approach it as you would approach dinner with a friend – that is, looking forward to spending time together, sharing the details of your lives and enjoying one another’s company. This is relationship building time.
  • Have a plan. This may seem counter-intuitive to the first point, but it’s really not. Having a plan simply directs your activity (or non-activity) during the retreat. If you’re not accustomed to taking time away with God, you may be uncomfortable with the time. Your plan will ease you into the retreat. You don’t have to stick to the plan if the Lord leads otherwise, but having a plan ensures you don’t spend your time staring at the walls or playing Solitaire. Having a planned start time will keep you from putting it off or getting caught up in other things. Your personal retreat with God is a very special date – who wants to be late for a date with their special someone?
  • Don’t over-plan. You want to include plenty of time to hear from God, so don’t over-plan with things that keep you busy. God doesn’t rush through thing. He does expand time to allow us to do more than it seems we should be able to do (and I don’t know how He does that, but it sure is cool!). But he doesn’t rush time. And spending time with Him shouldn’t rush from one activity to the next.
  • Include as many of the following things in your plan as time allows. If you have a whole day or more, you can enjoy al these activities with God. If you have only a few hours, limit your activities to just a few.
    • Worshipping through music. Have some idea of songs you might listen to and/or worship with.
    • Reading Scripture. I recommend reading it aloud at least part of the time. Hearing God’s Word can have a very different impact on us than simply reading it.
    • Prayer. Remember to include time to listen to God, not just talk to Him. Let Him speak to you.
    • Journaling in some way. Most people write or type their journal, but if you are an artist journal in pictures. If you enjoy scrapbooking, build time into your plan to journal the retreat in a scrapbook.
    • Enjoying His creation. This can be as simple as enjoying flowers in a vase to taking a nature hike to watching the snow fall or the puffy white clouds float by. Do something to connect to the awesome creative side of God’s nature.
    • Studying Scripture. There’s a difference between reading Scripture and studying it. Take some time to study a small passage in depth.
    • Closing time. A good retreat is hard to walk away from. Include time at the end of your plan to enjoy God and thank Him for meeting with you.
  • Be flexible. Don’t move from one activity to another simply because your plan says it’s time to do so. Move from one activity to the next when you feel a release from God or a “finished-ness” about the current activity. This is a no-pressure event. Accomplishing your plan isn’t your goal. Meeting with God is your goal.
  • Don’t let food be a distraction. Many recommend that you fast during a retreat. That can be very good. It can also be just fine to eat lightly during the retreat. There are times when I find fasting to be a distraction from meeting with God. There are other times when fixing food and eating is a distraction from God. Follow the Lord’s leading and don’t feel guilty about your choices.

Of course the most important tip I can give you is to just do it!

Retreats are a time when we stop everything and pay attention to God. Give it a try. He’s worth it.

Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.
1 Samuel 3:9 (NLT)

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