Retreat: luxury or necessity?

Sometimes body, soul and spirit just need some rest, recreation and relaxation – I had my own mini retreat this weekend.

I began on Friday evening with a dose of Downton Abbey – a great way to unwind after the busyness of the week!


On Saturday morning I listened to part of  Tony Horsfall’s ministry  on ‘Behold my Servant’. Based on Isaiah 42, it deals with servant-leadership as exemplified by Jesus.  Tony talks about the calling of the servant (to bring justice to the nations); the character of the servant (the danger of pride, the temptation of power and the challenge of pain); and the confidence of the servant (it is the Lord who calls us, who takes us by the hand and who keeps us).

Tony often talks about our need to stop, to slow down and listen to what God is saying.

‘What needs to be guarded is the life of the Spirit within us. Especially we who want to witness to the presence of God’s Spirit in the world need to tend the fire within with utmost care…Our first and foremost task is faithfully to care for the inward fire so that when it is really needed it can offer warmth and light to lost travelers.’ Henri Nouwen.

Later in the day, I read part of David Adam’s book ‘Occasions for Alleluia’, where I was once again reminded of the need to refocus or re-centre my life on God, this time by a quotation from ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence:

‘Remember, I pray you, what I have often recommended to you, which is, to often think on God, by day, by night, in your business and even in your diversions. He is always near and with you: leave Him not alone. You would think it rude to leave a friend alone who had cone to visit you: why then must God be neglected? Do not then forget Him, think often of Him, adore him unceasingly, live and die with Him: this is the glorious employment of a Christian, in a word it is our profession; if we do not know it, we must learn it.’




By this time, the sun had come out so I went out for a brisk walk, enjoying the spring flowers in spite of the cold wind. When I got back, I warmed up with a drink of hot chocolate in the conservatory.



The evening was spent enjoying a meal with my sister-in-law – sharing one’s heart with a good friend is such an encouragement. ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ Proverbs 27:17.

My own personal mini-retreat has had physical and spiritual components in it. I feel refreshed and refocused. It’s been such a privilege to have had the opportunity to do this. I realise not everyone can take time out. There are mothers of young children and other full-time care-givers who cannot imagine the luxury of this. Yet I would encourage everyone to see if they cannot carve out even a little time to refocus and to re-centre, especially those who give out a lot in their own daily lives – whether as mothers or care-givers, pastors or ministers, health workers or social workers, nurturers of other kinds and people whose work involves a lot of giving. It isn’t always easy to find the time or the space but it is important – perhaps even vital – if we are to be healthy, to stay sane and to keep going.

And if you would like to go away for your retreat, take a look here – I’ve been to Ken and Eva Needhams’ place in the Mournes and it is ideal for this kind of thing.



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