I spent most of this past week in northern Arizona on a personal retreat. It’s important to practice what I preach, and over the years I’ve recommended to many people that they take retreat time. I also recognize that with a full and varied work plate as a solopreneur, it’s important for me to take time away from my various commitments in order to recharge and reflect on my most basic commitment of all: to my loving and beloved Creator.
There’s no question that I feel blessed by God. It’s clear to me in the many aspects of my ministry which have blossomed and borne fruit over the years. I also regularly get a sense of how God is working in my life through the continued unfolding of that ministry and the sense of deep contentment that I mentioned a couple weeks ago.
Yet our relationship with God is never something to take for granted. Love doesn’t flourish when it’s taken for granted. Just like any other relationship, it needs care and attention. One evening on retreat, I prayed Compline, out loud, on my own, in the place where I was staying. Even though I’ve read those psalms and prayed those prayers hundreds of times over the years, new connections arose as I prayed my way through it. Some connections were related to current events, while others were new spins on familiar words.
Compline is the daily office liturgy I know best—in large part, as I’ve mentioned before, because of the years Henry and I attended Compline services at SSJE when we lived in Massachusetts. Yet there is always more to discover within it, as I was reminded last week in honoring my commitment to God.
Another gift of the retreat time was walking amidst pine trees in the mountains. While the desert landscape of southern Arizona is my usual habitat these days (we’ve lived here for more than six years now!), the ponderosa pines are even more deeply embedded in my soul from my years of living in New Mexico and retreating in the Rocky Mountains.
The trees in the image above kept me company each day on retreat, beyond the back porch of the place where I was staying. It was such a gift to see the sun glinting off individual pine needles and hear the particular sound of the wind weaving through them, a whisper which seems to echo the far-off sound of surf on a sandy beach. The majesty and tall stateliness of these trees remind me that, as part of God’s beautiful creation, I also can stand tall and strong and dance in the wind.
They also remind me to dig my metaphorical roots deep into the soil of creation, and the soil of my Christian heritage, and the nurturing, renewing soil of silent prayer. I listened last week, and received support, insight, healing, encouragement, and strength to proceed for the season ahead. I am grateful.
If you’ve been reading my blog posts for a while, you can probably guess my closing questions for this week’s post: When did you last go on retreat? What were the gifts you gleaned from that time with God? Is it time for you to honor your commitment to your Creator and schedule a retreat?
In my experience in the episcopal church, retreats were never mentioned much less encouraged or provided until I was probably in my 60’s. I was aware of retreats being part of the lives of clergy and nuns etc. but not the regular, ordinary congregations. Is this a practice that has grown in recent history or have I just failed to listen all those years? Perhaps they existed but were more personal, not public? Does it have anything to do with “high/low” Episcopalians? As part of their religious education are our young people encouraged to explore this practice?
Thank you for sharing your experience and your good questions, Jane. Since I didn’t come into the Episcopal church until the early 1990s, I can’t speak to how things were before then. I do think that the growing interest in spirituality amongst laypeople over the past couple of decades has resulted in a growing “industry” of retreat options. For young people, it’s probably more akin to summer camp with some intentional meditative and quiet times included–but I’m not an expert in that area, I admit.
Thanks Shirin for the reminder of the importance and magic of retreats and time apart. It seemed to work pretty well for Jesus.
You’re welcome, Tom, and yes, Jesus relied on time apart with God on a regular basis. I wonder what he would think of our modern retreat centers….
Yes… a definite yes! I need to plan at least a day – maybe just locally at the Desert House of Prayer. Thank you for the reminder and encouragement to reconnect in this very meaningful way.
You’re welcome, Joyce! Unfortunately, the Desert House of Prayer is closed…but perhaps you can arrange to stay across the street at Redemptorist Renewal Center…. I’m glad you found encouragement to retreat here.
Good for you. Kudos.
It was about 9 months ago, after the death of my husband and 14 weeks later, of my mother. The main gifts were the gratitude for the love and that I could/would abide…daily doing morning practice to enliven my relationship to our Creator.
Today being the last day of a 32 years law and mediation practice, yes, it is time for me to give myself another retreat.
I’ve been snooping around the internet, AirBnBs, places near water or trees, Nature abounding. My experiences have been that my searching, then setting it aside, leads to a formerly not found space or solid commitment to that one I’d noticed.
Thank you, Joy, and blessings on this momentous day! May you find the right time and place to honor this life transition and liminal space. I agree that the Spirit will show you the way and am praying that you will find the right place soon.