Wednesday, January 31, 2007
A Resting Place
Last year I bought this book: Resting Place, a Personal Guide to Spiritual Retreats, by Jane Rubietta. The cover of it just drew me in. I spotted it in the middle of a year that felt like we were in battle. Gazing at the cover, I saw, not a park bench, but an island, one palm tree for shade, one semi-broken adirondack chair and a tall glass of something ice cold. There was an open book on the seat. This book.

When I sat down and made my list of goals, purposes for 2007, I jotted down 'take a few real retreats'. Our church attendance is around 2000. The women go on retreats. In the past ten years I've attended them, I can only think of one that felt at all like I'd 'retreated'. Most were more like going into the Battle of the Busy, complete with themes, decorations, table favors. Every 15 minutes was scheduled, we listened to a speaker, who often just read her most recent book to us. We were told what each slot of time was to hold, we were always in groups, even when we slept. A few breaks were given, for shopping in town, or group games, etc. I was never alone. Except for that one retreat, when we were given 15 minutes to take communion alone, reflect for a few minutes. It's the one part of all the retreats of the past 10 years that stands out to me.

I know there are exceptions but most organized retreats feel like grown-up slumber parties. Like their predecessors, very little sleeping happens. I wasn't crazy about them back then, I like them less now. I don't go on retreats anymore. They're tiring. I come home worn out. They're expensive, and I'd rather just buy the book and read it on my own time. I can underline instead of trying to write down everything the speaker is saying. It's just much easier to skip the retreats.

But the first few days of January, I went back to the thought of taking retreats, alone. This book had gotten buried in/on/under my nightstand, so I dug it out from under the pile.

Websters defines retreat: withdrawal in the face of opposition; withdrawal to a safe, quiet, secluded place, a period of retirement or seclusion, devoted to religious contemplation away from the pressures of ordinary life, usually as a group activity. What?! How can you be secluded and quiet in a group of 50+ women. I'm with Webster's for most of the definition. Not so much the last part.

Yesterday I met 7 of my girlfriends for coffee at The Farmhouse (also on my 2007 goals). I apologized to the coffeeshop owner as I bought my caramel macchiotta. "We may get a little obnoxiously loud. Please let us know if we are disturbing anyone." We were LOUD, we had a blast. The point of the get-together was not to retreat, but to gather, giggle, gain a little weight from caramel and biscotti.

Tomorrow is February 1. I've set aside half a day, early in each month this year, to retreat. Go away, alone. Resting Place has a chapter for each time you draw away. Portions to read, then portions to consider, pray over, journal, reflect.

The fact that we need to retreat - draw away from opposition - tells me much of the time we're in a battle. Sometimes it's a self-made one, the battle of the busy, or the unnecessarily urgent. I've never taken what I consider to be a real retreat - a time of being alone, noone else, no phone, just my Bible, my journal, and this book.

I told myself at the beginning of this year I would not use the "B" word - busy. I think it's become a badge of honor we wear, a way to say we're important. I've already realized I'm just substituting "I have a lot on my plate", or "I have a lot going on" or "my day is pretty full." Same difference. Tomorrow, for half a day, I'm scraping everything off the plate, going away with no expectations, just waiting to see what happens. If I run out of stuff to do, then I'll finish reading Blue Like Jazz from my reading list.

Scripture tells us Jesus retreated. My basic rule is - if Jesus needed it (prayer, fasting, retreat), I do too. We have several places in our town that would work for this. I'll start at the Farmhouse, and if I see a group of 7-8 women come in, I'll quietly gather my things, and head over to those rooms at the library, where you can shut the door, and be alone. I'll be back to let you know what I got out of it.

Note: Click on image to go to Amazon link where you can order the book.

  posted at 8:55 AM

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