I am engaging in a wonderful new experiment this year. In order to give practical expression to my experience of solitude, I have scheduled into my calendar four private retreats, following the seasons of the year–winter, spring, summer, fall. These are brief retreats of 24 to 48 hours, depending on my time constraints, but they keep me into a training program of solitude.

Our Leader’s Lead Have you ever noticed the many times Jesus experienced solitude? Mark’s haunting words, “in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place” is the signature written across Jesus’ ministry (1:35). Jesus needed frequent retreat and solitude to do his work, and yet somehow we think we can get by without the same. It is time we follow our Leader’s lead.

An Open Empty Space The major thing a private retreat accomplishes is to create an open empty space in our lives. We learn to “waste” time for God. Slowly, we come to hear God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, loving, all-embracing silence. Gently, we press into the holies of holies where we are sifted in the stillness. Painfully, we let go of the vain images of ourselves that seemed so essential. Joyfully, we loosen our grip on all those projects that appeared so significant.

Most wonderful of all is the empowerment we receive: overcoming love, faith that can see everything in the light of God’s governance for good, hope that can carry us through the most discouraging of circumstances, and power to overcome evil and do what is right.

Praxis I urge every one associated with Renovaré–and especially those who have signed the covenant–to experience a private retreat at least once a year. A weekend is a wonderful time frame, and most church leaders will be glad to free you from Sunday responsibilities and pray for you as you go. If you are like me, you will need to schedule such times far ahead, otherwise competing commitments will eat you alive.

Several practical matters need attention. First, choose a place that is free from distraction. Go to a retreat center that understands what a private retreat is and will honor your need for silence. Or perhaps you can find a mountain cabin, or a beach house. Several are beginning to set up guest rooms or Poustinia’s on their property for retreatants.

Second, stoutly refuse to over-structure the time. Long prayer-filled walks are often more useful than hectic-filled rituals. Quiet meditation on a single phrase of Scripture is frequently preferable to panting through many chapters. Reflecting in a journal on the work of God within us is usually more profitable than massive reading of devotional literature. Sometimes nothing should be done–simply and intentionally “waste” the time for God. Happy retreating!

Starting Soon: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? Choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

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