Over the course of the next few days, I want to offer you an inside look at the anatomy of a retreat.
I’ll be doing this while leading a retreat.
I’ll be giving you an inside look at the anatomy of a retreat…confessing my private fears and sharing my observations while the retreat is going on. I’ll be a detective of divinity as Barbara Brown Taylor describes. In my off time, I’ll be posting to you–letting you know what I think God is up to in me–and in them. It will be your invitation to be a witness of a retreat and perhaps experience a blessing in some way as you make your way through your own weekend in the days ahead.
Twenty four people are gathering at this very moment in a beautiful coastal house on a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. Today, we’re prepping for their arrival. Putting food in the 10 bedroom/10 bath house. Stocking the refrigerator. Making gift bags that will welcome people. Buying a Sabbath Candle for each couple and placing it in their rooms with a box of matches.A couple has come with us and their help and work is invaluable. We could not do this without help. I’m so grateful they are here and working as hard as they are. I now have a chance to be alone for an hour before the guests start arriving.
A spiritual retreat is an event that has intention, purpose and a rhythm to the time that people will invest.
Intention…our intention will be to flow through the new book, The Jesus Life. We’ll gather from 6 states across the US at dinner with most people having never met. It will be an uphill climb as we journey together to seek to form a bond–a spiritual link between man to man; woman to woman and couple to couple all being linked to God. The Bible promises that a “cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
I’m imagining stress in many of the couple’s lives as the dropped of their kids; said good bye to their jobs a day early because this retreat begins on Thursday—not Friday and this too was intentional. I felt we needed an extra day to create space and time–a mood of not rushing to get through the material and to allow the retreat itself to become the agenda. It’s never about the material–or shouldn’t be. The people who come are material enough for God to reform, transform and conform just as the Potter does the clay. The intent of this retreat is for our Divine Potter to do with us as He wills and wants. It is all a process and learning to submit to the process is key and foremost in being a good retreat leader or facilitiator. Don’t drive the people like cattle. They’ve been treated this way all week long. Love them. Serve them. Expect God to do great things in them… in me.
Purpose…the purpose of our retreat is to encounter the living Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing short. Right now as I sit on the deck anticipating the first person’s arrival. I’m praying for them. For me. For God to show up. There’s a strong wind blowing right now and I”m imaginging this to be the Spirit invading this tiny island with great things in store for us. To meet the Living Lord Jesus on the shore where the waves are pounding–pounding the beach will be another Easter morning for us.
People will rock in the 15 rocking chairs–yes, I counted them. They will sit by the pool….our beach house has its own private pool. They will wade in the water and some will swim. Refreshing waters will revive our souls. For some who are coming are weary, tired and burned out.
Am I prepared enough? Every retreat leader must ask themselves this question and for me, I am probably not prepared enough–even though I know the materiel well and wrote the book we will study. But I’d like another day of quiet—more time of solitude. I broke out into a a sweat as I helped get the house ready and thought…”Oh great, now I have to go put on a new shirt that I wasn’t planning on wearing. Did I bring enough shirts? Do I feel comfortable in them? Or deeper—do I feel comfortable enough in my own skin and soul to lead the people to the water—the Living Water? That’s a good question as a retreat leader to ask themselves. I need to pause now. Bow low. Come before the Lord. Get my heart right and open my self as a vessel before the Lord and say, “I’ve done all that I can do. Now, Lord, you must do the rest. It’s up to you. Not me.”
So, as we begin this retreat pray for us. If these 24 people who are here are touched by Jesus, then return home and live out what God has poured into them…then the retreat will have met its goal.
What is my goal in this retreat? For those that come to encounter the living Jesus. If that happens then it will have gone well enough. And how will I know if this happens?
I will see the prisoner’s set free.
I will see the lame in body dancing again.
I will hear music rise above the waves and it will be glorious praise.
I will simply know that Jesus was among us and this, after all is why people want to come to a retreat.