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 1: A sacred, personal space

Photo credit: Kevin Jones

November 28, 2021

Do you look at life from a glass-half-full perspective? Or, is your glass half-empty?

I try to go through life looking at things from a positive perspective. (That is, most of the time.) When situations and challenges rock my boat, I sometimes try to calm things down by praying. Sometimes with meditation and contemplation, too.

Except, sometimes is not often enough. Sometimes.

I was introduced to the Tree of Contemplative Practices through a prayer retreat . My ecumenical association, the Federation of Christian Ministries, sponsored a (much needed!) Zoom retreat earlier this month. This prayer tree, found on the website http://www.contemplativemind.org, immediately caught my attention. Yes, and my mind and spirit, too. I noticed that I had done or been involved in almost every contemplative and spiritual practice listed on this tree. My intention is to journal about the many practices, when and where in my life I had the opportunity to practice, and see whether at the end I have any more insight than I do right now. Which, admittedly, is not much. I journal in hopes of gaining some godly wisdom.

When I pray, or meditate, or contemplate, or whatever journaling I may do, I find it helpful to get into a quiet place. This may not be a whole separate room. No, a chair may be enough. Or, a desk in a corner. You could even put in earphones or whatever sound reducing device you prefer. I suggest quiet music helps, even silence, at times. I’ve meditated to the sound of waves, and of rain. I love to listen to Gregorian chant and baroque guitar or lute while journaling. Whatever calms you and causes your heart rate to slow. Take some slow, deep breaths, too, before you start. Whatever is helpful for you, for your soul and spirit, and for your heart.

Remember, God wants to get in touch with us. Up close and personal, if possible.

Please, pray with me. Dear God, thank You for this time of quiet. Help me – help us to come to You with open hearts and spirits. Thank You for meeting us when we turn to You. In this time of Advent, of preparation, draw us close – close to You. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

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