I have said before and I will continue to say there is nothing like a good retreat that gets your faith renewed, replanted, and re-energized. We make times for vacations, cruises, trips to see friends and we take time to play, but when do we set time aside for two or three days just to be with God? Vacations, cruises and visits with family and friends are great and they are important to our health, but getting away from it all and being with God even if it’s just for 24 hours is just as important for our spiritual health. I go on a retreat of some kind once a year. Last year I was lucky enough to go on several. I went on one with my United Methodist Women friends (their annual Spiritual Growth Retreat) in the Spring, then a few weeks later I was invited by a good friend to attend a Silent Retreat (and yes, I was silent) and then later on in the year a few of my friends got together for our own little retreat. I won’t be as lucky this year I fear. I just came back off of my UMW retreat. We talked about gardening and being replanted and being a truly happy person.
I challenge each of you to find a retreat once a year and attend it. This weekend we went from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon. It was not long enough, but it made an impact. You don’t have to be gone for several days, just having time alone no matter how long or how short it’s worth it. Ask your Pastor to help you find one or gather some close friends and plan an overnight visit. You have to have some ground rules with women (I know). You can make it a shopping time, but most of your time needs to be in prayer and the Word. You need a time to share with one another and talk about the struggles of faith. Sharing with one another often brings new insights or a new way to look at things you hadn’t thought about before.
One of the things we did this weekend was to look at the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. I have always struggled understanding them until I read them from The Message. Let me share with you.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
It’s hard to understand blessed is the poor in spirit, but I get blessed are you when you’re at the end of your rope. I always had trouble with blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, but I get blessed are you when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. Being with others and seeing different translations is often the key to understanding something we have difficulty with. One of the things Rev. Marilyn Jones challenged us with is not only reading and understanding the Beatitudes but figuring out which one you struggle with the most and ask God to help you with it. Just one? (we laughed a little here) I have figured out the one that I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around. God and I will be working on that.
Our news and our political system are so full of negativity that it’s hard not to be negative. It’s hard to be positive when the world seems to be spiraling downward. Another challenge she gave us was to spend time lifting one another up. Encouraging each other is so much better than bringing someone down. We send text messages of all kinds these days and do very little note writing. We remind people about meetings, appointments, and grocery lists. We have a group that sends out prayer requests on our phones. I enjoy each text message I get from my family and friends. What would it be like to receive one in the middle of the day when things are in a humdrum, not much happening day that says, “you are loved by God and you are loved by me”? Or maybe one that says, “You know you just popped in my head and I want to say I am praying for you. You’re such a great friend. God must really be proud of you.” Can you imagine getting something like this in the mail or on a text message? With so much negativity we need to encourage one another. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
These are just some of the topics we discussed, discovered and enjoyed this weekend. I didn’t even get to the replanting that we talked about. So, as you can see with a small group that you gather you can take scripture dissect it, discuss it, pray about it and walk away feeling energized and your faith will get a jump start; something we all need once in a while.
Retreats are special, but then we come home to reality and live life in the world. We must not forget what was taught, what was challenged and we must not walk away being the same person we were before going or retreating. We need to be changed and refreshed and energized to live in this world. We need to let those who want to be negative alone to themselves and we must walk a path that leads to positive, encouraging thoughts. Better yet, how about encouraging those who are negative? How about showing them there is a different way to live?
Well, as I get back to my real world, I am challenged to write encouraging notes or texts or make a phone call or two. I am to work on my Beatitude and allow God to work on me. But, whatever I do I know my faith got another jumpstart and is energized once more until the next retreat or get away with friends to study His word and pray and meditate and share once more.
When are you planning your next retreat? God is waiting to spend time with you.
Dear God: Thank you for the opportunities you have given me to go on retreats; to spend time alone with you and my dear Christian Sisters. Let me never forget what I am challenged to do, help me as I study and grow in the Beatitude that gives me fits, and be with me as I encourage those around me. Help others see the positive in me and not the negative. Help me as I encourage those who are negative to see You and know they are loved by You. Now as I get back to living life in this world and away from all those things spiritual let me live it fully knowing you are in me and me in You. Walk with me daily and live life for You. Amen
Just a note: If you are interested in putting together a retreat and need some help I am always available to talk with you and help you plan. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org God bless you.