- (1) : An act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable (2) : the process of receding from a position or state attained.
- A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security.
- A period of seclusion, retirement, or solitude.
- A period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, or study: a religious retreat.
While the word “retreat” can have different meanings, the context of the word as it relates to our Christian spirituality is distinct and purposeful. For hundreds of years the spiritual retreat has been a way and a place for people to re-center, re-focus, and re-connect with God. The act of intentionally withdrawing from the noises and busyness of life in order to re-orient our ears, hearts, and minds to the presence and voice of God is often rewarded with life-transforming experiences and renewal in a person’s spiritual journey.
I have developed and organized a variety of retreat themes that can be easily modified for events scheduled as short in length as one day and as long as five days. The diversity of material I have compiled is suitable for teaching any level of spiritual retreatant. Currently, there are a dozen themes in my catalogue. In no particular order, some of these themes follow:
- A Life of Prayer – explores how prayer permeates every facet of the Christ following life. Introduces and practices the kataphatic (with form) and apophatic (without form) examples of prayer. (Fixed hour prayer, Lectio Divina, Prayer of Imagination, Prayer of the Heart, Contemplative Prayer).
- Asculta – From the Latin meaning “to hear” or “to listen.” This retreat focuses on the discipline of holy listening, being attentive to God and attentive to the other. Reflecting on the innumerable voices of God and practiced times of silence will be among the exercises.
- God’s Story / Our Story – Teaching the narrative approach to reading Scripture and understanding the Bible as the story of God and man. A look at “God’s handiwork” (Poiema; Eph. 2:10) and an examination of the Exodus narrative.
- Patient Perspective – Learning to embrace and desire the Christian virtue of patience. Studies include: (1 Cor. 13 “Love is patient,” Gal. 5:22-23 “Patience as a fruit,” What the Bible teaches about patience, and more)
- Formation, Disciplines, & Maturity – How our God calls us to be formed and transformed into His image. Seeking to answer what spiritual formation is and how it occurs over the lifetime of a Christian. (Scripture explorations from the Gospels of Luke and John, Eph. 4:12-16 are among the resources used for this retreat)
- Creating a Personal Rule of Life – An examination of the Rule of Benedict and a guided exercise in creating a personal rule of life highlight this theme.
- Embracing Rhythm and Simplicity – Exploring the spiritual discipline of simplicity and embracing spiritual rhythm are the focus of this retreat theme. “Slowing down” and personal examination/reflection are primary exercises for this time away. Becoming aware of “distraction triggers” as well as an introduction to various tools-disciplines to anchor rhythm in the busyness of life are featured in this retreat (eg., liturgical calendar, fixed-hour prayer, Sabbath rest, fasting, and more).
- Breath of God – What is the “Spirit-Filled” Life? A look at the historical perspective of the Holy Spirit of God from various Christian traditions. How the Spirit of God works in life around and through humanity and how the Holy Spirit works “indwelling” the life of the believer. (What is Holy Spirit baptism? Who is the Holy Spirit? Life in the Spirit …And More)
- Life Sacramental – Sacrament, Oath, and Covenant. Teaching and sharing the sacraments of the Church as a means of grace. Living out the fruit of our baptism daily. Divine sustenance from the Lord’s Table (exploring the Eucharist) are examples of what might be expected from this retreat.
- Seeds – A reflection and exploration of the “seed metaphors” used by Jesus in his teaching from the Gospels as well as some attention and mention of application from the apostolic teachings of the New Testament. Specific attention will be given to the Parable of the Sower. Supporting examinations will come from the Parable of the Mustard Seed, considerations of the life of a farmer, and teaching of the Vine (John 15).
- The Lonely Dilemma – Much of this retreat will be spent in contemplation, silence, and journaling. The focus is to identify the source of our loneliness and work through issues of forgiveness, unrealized dreams, unmet / unrealistic life expectations, and more. “My soul is restless until it rests in you alone, O God.” ~Augustine.
Ideally, these retreats should be pursued in a place that is peaceful, restful, and surrounded by an ambiance of prayer. Retreat centers, Christian camps, or otherwise designated areas are ideally suited for these retreat themes although I am willing to work with whatever accommodations you may have to provide the best experience as possible for the participants.