Getting Away

A few weeks ago, I went away for a couple of days to Pine Springs camp. I had planned on making a get-away once a year when I took the job at Westminster, and it turns out that I've been successful only twice. More on this at the end.

What do I do on these retreats? It's one of the hardest simple things to do:

1. Sit quietly. I have been an advocate of making sure that we're opening our ears and our hearts for what God might have to say to us, but the truth is that I am one of the worst in the world when it comes to putting that concept into practice. An hour without my headphones is too much. But at the onset of the retreat, I sat on the couch in the cabin and just listened. I've never actually heard an audible voice doing this (though who knows what might come next time), but it's more like a cleansing of the palate. As was the case with this retreat, God was going to speak the whole time. I needed to get my head straight and be ready for it.

2. Read. Mike Yaconelli wrote in his book Getting Fired for the Glory of God that youth workers are horrible about reading. Guilty. But like anything, the busyness of life can get in the way. I don't have time to read when I'm getting ready for that lock-in next week. So to take a couple of days to get away and get a few books under my belt, as well as some much needed personal scripture reading, was welcomed. By the way, reading entire books of the bible in a single sitting is amazing, and you should do it as often as you can. Changes the whole perspective.

3. Relax. This is hard. Very hard in fact. It feels selfish. But the hard reality of it all is that you are useless to those you minister to (and we all minister to someone) if you are tired, burned out, at the end of your rope. Really at that point, you're just annoying. So I had little problem grabbing pizza from Dusty's and listening to the Penguins game (an over-time thriller).

4. Journal. I'm a writer by nature, so I'm sure people will have a hard time with that one. But as I mentioned previously, I think God was speaking to me the whole time I was in the cabin. For as random as my reading selections were, there were a few common themes that kept coming up as I was reading both my books and the scriptures. Writing it down and then piecing it together at the end of the retreat really gave me a chance to see a bigger picture, one that I truly think God put on my heart.

Now the problem here (and it should be obvious) is that not everyone has the flexibility to take a silent retreat. Work sometimes gets in the way. Families get in the way (by the by, Sarah is super awesome and supportive about this kind of thing in my life). Life gets in the way. But for as much as I was putting it off for a couple of years, it truly helps me minister to folks better.

So I urge you, even if it seems like a stretch, take the time to get away. Go somewhere you'd love to be. Take only what you need with you. And most of all, take an open heart, ready to hear what God's going to say for your life!