Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In Praise of Retreats

We have spent much of the last week away, up in the North Carolina mountains, at the Create in Me retreat at Lutheridge.  I first went to this retreat in 2003, and I haven't missed one yet.  My spouse went first in 2005, and he has gone every year since, although some years he's had to spend more year focusing on his consulting work on a budget for a local government while he's been there.  This year, we were both more present.

Some years, I've spent more time taking pictures than participating.  This year, I led 2 workshops (one of blogging, one on the meditative practice of making crosses from found materials); I also led a drop in creation station that let people play with fabric, yarn, and fibers to create a scarf (go here for the blog post that shows my first experiment).  So, in many ways, I was more involved, less an observer.

I also enjoyed the efforts of others in many ways.  The Bishop of the Southeast Synod led our Bible study, and it was fascinating.  We had a very different kind of worship experience, the kind described in Curating Worship.  I will write more about these experiences in the coming days and weeks, as well as about some of the things we did that you might adapt to your own churches and groups.

Now comes the hard part:  getting back into regular life, after life on the mountain top.  I think back to the Transfiguration readings, about Peter's desire to never leave the mountain, to hold tight to that spiritual high.  I certainly understand.

But our spiritual texts tell us again and again that we are not renewed just for ourselves.  We are renewed and sent out into the world to heal the world and to stitch it all together again.

I am grateful beyond words to have these experiences that repair me.  I know that there are many people who never go on retreat, who run and run and eventually collapse.  Some of those people never recover.

I've said numerous times that we should follow the example of Jesus, who needed to retreat periodically.  If Jesus needed time away, it shouldn't surprise us that we need time away.  And not just vacation time:  Jesus spent his away time in prayer.

So, if you feel yourself running on fumes, it's time to think about a retreat.  Even if you can't afford one of the reasonably priced options offered by many church camps, there are ways to get away.  Many monasteries, for example, will offer hospitality, and accept whatever donation you can afford.

And if you can't get physically away, you can disconnect for small periods of time.  Turn off your electronics and sit in silence.  Or read something that nourishes you spiritually. Even 15 minutes can make an enormous difference.

And then, renewed and refreshed, you will be ready to re-enter the world and to re-engage.

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