Day 25: Retreats

December 22, 2021

Day 25: Retreats

Have you ever been on a retreat? Separating yourself from the daily routine and the busy-ness of the rushed and hurried activities? Sometimes, a retreat at a spiritual house of worship or a Christian camp can be revitalizing – even if it is only for a few hours.

As I think back on several retreats I have attended over the past twenty years, one immediately popped into my head. This happened several times, when I took a personal day of prayer. I spent six hours a day away, at a church nearby (in a different denomination) where a friend of mine is pastor.

Sure, I have had wonderful experiences with others at retreats. Excellent times of worship, meaningful speakers, close friends sharing deep feelings and intimate experiences. Yet, for this time of journaling for the Tree of Contemplative Practices, I knew which retreats I ought to mention.

These were times when I chose to step away from my busy life as a pastor at a small church. (Yes, even though it is small, there somehow are plenty of things to fill up a week’s worth of activities and time.) I purposed to take six hours away, from 9 am to 3 pm, on a Monday. Several Mondays, in fact. I had an excellent guide for the retreats in my devotional book. And, so I began.

I purposely turned off my cell phone. As a result, I remember being amazingly focused on the passages from the Bible I read. Time seemed to be sequestered – or I did. Almost as if I was separated, outside of time. I still remember that room in the education wing of the church. Warm, welcoming. Sitting at the banquet-sized table on a surprisingly comfortable plastic chair helped me to focus my mind and spirit on the words and ideas of the Scripture passages I read. And, my mind did not wander. (Much.) Wonder of wonders, I was able to freely journal on the thought questions from my devotion book.  

I do have a worthwhile book that gives much more direction for these solo retreats. I didn’t use it for my solo retreats, which were more focused on prayer and the Bible, and how it spoke to me. This additional book is called The Praying Church Sourcebook. It comes from the Evangelical tradition of the Christian church. I’ve spent some time praying with and walking with friends from this faith tradition, and many of them really know how to pray – I am blessed by their prayer!

Several suggested guidelines include: 1) Let the Word of God speak to you. 2) Write your thoughts in a journal. 3) Plan for variety during your prayer time. 4) Be willing to pay the price (in emotional and experiential terms). And, 5) “Take time to listen to the Lord. Let the Holy Spirit teach you throughout the day. Read the Bible, respond to truths that come alive to you, and apply what you’ve learned in your own life.” [1] Vander Griend has some specific steps he recommends, which look like they would be quite helpful. One profound statement: days of prayer do not just happen. We need to set aside the time, otherwise modern culture, stress, busy-ness and the worries of the world all combine to keep us busy and forgetful. We must break away and intentionally make the time. (And, I am preaching to myself even more than I am writing to you.)

Let us pray: gracious God, thank You for listening to us when we pray. Thank You for times of prayer when it seems like you are right next to us, sitting in a chair or on the couch nearby. Thank You too for those times when we are not sure You can even hear us. Help us to be able to make time, take time to step out of the daily routine. Thank You for intentional times of prayer. Help us to make them, we pray. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Vander Griend, Alvin J., and Bajema, Edith, The Praying Church Sourcebook (CRC Publications: Grand Rapids MI, 1997) 159.

Day 13: Journaling

December 10, 2021

Day 13: Journaling

I love journaling. (That’s what I am doing right now!) Seriously, I have journaled off and on for decades, ever since I was a teenager. Sometimes angsty, sometimes saccharine, sometimes theological. But, always deeply felt and deeply personal.

Since I grew up in a house of books, and my parents (both college-educated) very much valued books, reading and learning, I naturally gravitated toward reading, learning and the written word. I loved to journal (still do!) and soon found myself impelled to put down my ideas, thoughts, and ponderings in written form. Especially when thinking about God, the Bible and theological things. For years, in fact, for decades.

I loved using Scripture in prayer and meditation, and I learned how to do Ignatian prayer (using the Bible passages as jumping-off places of prayer, using a Godly imagination). I’ve been doing Ignatian prayer for 20 years, off and on, and have had such rich experiences! And – always, I journaled my way through.

One of my favorite books on contemplative, Ignatian, lectio divina, and Word-based prayer is The Word is Very Near You by Fr. Martin L. Smith. I love the way Fr. Smith breaks down the process for approaching God, praying, meditating, and then writing about the experience. This is one of my favorite prayer helps. I have spent many a session in prayer with the help of Fr. Smith.

In his instruction (and description) of lectio divina, his words have made such an impression on the whole way I approach God in prayer and attend to Scripture. After the reading: “Express to God in the simplest way the impression the words have made on you.  You may want to thank God for the gift they convey, ask the questions they have stirred in you, put into words the longings or needs they have brought up. ..Your prayer may move into contemplation, a simple being in Christ with God in which all you are aware of is that you are being attracted towards God like the needle of a compass finding the north.” [1]

I do not always make it all the way to contemplation. But when I do, it is sweet. All in all, using the words of Scripture is such a wonderful time of prayer. And journaling is a natural outgrowth of this whole process of prayer. Thanks to Martin Smith for adding to my enjoyment and enrichment of journaling.

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank You for words. Thank You for the ease in which I can express my thoughts, my questions, my yearnings, as well as biblical and theological understandings and insights. I know You have made each of us differently, and some find it easier to write than others. I don’t know anything else. Dear Lord, thank You for giving us the Bible, Your Word. Thank You for giving us Jesus, Your incarnate Word made flesh. Help me – help us to incorporate Jesus into our daily lives, too. Help us to crave Jesus, the living Word just as much as we crave food and drink, and pursue the Bible just as much. Thank You for helping me take in the Word of God through journaling. It’s in the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh, that we pray. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Smith, Martin L., The Word Is Very Near You (Cowley Publications: Cambridge MA: 1989), 120-21.

An Advent of Contemplative Practices


Day 0: November 27


Have you ever felt fragmented and off kilter? I have, a number of times in my life. To center myself, my mind and spirit, I have determined to journal every day.

I discovered an excellent prompt (or series of prompts) in the image of the Tree of Contemplative Practices. Thanks so much to the website http://www.contemplativemind.org for the genesis of this journal idea I will be doing a daily Advent discipline of journaling each day in Advent 2021.

Want to join me on my journaling journey?

In the past few decades, I have engaged in all of these prayer and contemplation practices. Contemplation, prayer and meditation help center and calm me. (The more active practices energize me!) See whether these practices might help you, too!

 

Mission Statement

Have you ever felt fragmented and off kilter? I have.

To center myself and my mind, I have determined to journal every day, for the next few weeks. I found an excellent prompt (or series of prompts) – the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

I will be doing a daily Advent discipline of journaling each day in Advent 2021.

Contemplation, prayer and meditation help center and calm me. See whether these quiet practices might help you, too!

Want to join me on my journaling journey?