By Gavin Bennett
Listen to this short teaching as you prepare for this week's practice.
Read this overview
Think back to a time when you were a kid sitting at the edge of a pond. The water is clear and you can see the 10 inches or so to the bottom – the small fish going back and forth, the plant life, the mud laying calmly at the bottom. Until someone steps into the water right where you’re looking: They stir up the sediment on the bottom and send it whirling. What was at first totally clear is now cloudy and dark and you can’t see anything in it. But over time the water clears again.
Life is similar. One moment things seem clear, then everything is stirred up and our field of vision narrows. The challenge, though, is that we’re not great at stopping and waiting for things to settle in our life like we were with the pond. In the era of fast food and instant everything, waiting and slowing down have been all but eliminated. We’ve been practicing silence and solitude for the last few weeks in smaller bouts – 10 minutes to an hour or so – but now we want to stretch ourselves and try something longer. We want to do what we’re calling a ‘retreat’. The idea is to get to a space where you’re totally by yourself – no phone, no tv, no work, no distractions – and spend 8 hours letting ourselves settle into silence and solitude, waiting for the Spirit to speak.
Begin with silence and prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Say a quick prayer to invite the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together. Then spend a few minutes in silence. Why silence, even when we’re togther? Because we live in a busy, noisy world, under a non-stop assault of distraction. In the midst of all the chaos, it’s hard at times to hear the voice of God, and that of our brothers and sisters. As we gather together as a family, we want to hear what the Father is saying to and through each of us, and respond in turn. A great way to do that is to begin each time with silence and prayer.
Debrief last week’s practice in small groups (15-20 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk about the following debrief questions from last week’s practice:
- Did you practice lectio divina?
- Which of the 5 parts to lectio divina was most difficult for you? Most helpful?
- What insights did you gain from practicing lectio divina?
Open to the Bible together (10 minutes)
Have somebody read Exodus 33v7-11
Talk about the following question:
- The language of this passage tells us that this practice of retreating and inquiring of the Lord in the tent was common practice for the Israelites. Why do you think it was so common?
Have another person read Exodus 33v18 and 34v1-8
- How does God respond to Moses’ prayer?
Talk about the coming week’s practice as a Community (10–30 minutes)
Here’s the practice for the coming week:
As mentioned at the beginning, we’re asking every Community to participate in an extended period of silence and solitude. Here are goals to aim for:
- Ideally 8 hours
- No phone, email, TV, work, etc
- Find a spot where you can be alone and uninterrupted. If possible, go away to a cabin, beach house, park, or retreat center.
Like most things in life, this is going to take some planning. It will not be as fruitful if you just show up and sit for 8 hours. The following is a suggested schedule for how to spend the 8 hours:
8 – 9 AM: Prepare your mind and heart, take a walk, or do whatever will help you set aside concerns over tasks and responsibilities. Try to arrange your morning so you can remain in silence from the time you wake up.
9 – 11 AM: Read and meditate on Scripture, taking time to stop and reflect when God seems to be speaking to you through the text.
11 AM – 12 PM: Write down responses to what you have read. Speak to God about them.
12 – 1 PM: Eat lunch and take a walk, reflecting on the morning.
1 – 2 PM: Take a nap.
2 – 3 PM: Set goals that emerge from the day’s reflection.
3 – 4 PM: Write down these goals and other thoughts in a journal. Thank God for your time together and ask if there is anything else he wants to say. Prepare to enter back into the flow of life.
Note: If 8 hours isn’t doable, that’s ok! Make it smaller. If you have little kids, this can feel impossible. It’s not. Just get creative. Ask somebody in your Community to babysit while you retreat. If they can’t, try splitting your sabbath or day off into two 4 hour chunks. Trade off watching your kids with your partner. But if you’re able to do 8 hours, give it a try. It probably sounds daunting and maybe a bit scary. But it’s more doable than you think.
Work through these discussion questions (10-15 minutes)
- What obstacles will you have to overcome to make a day retreat happen? (e.g. freeing up room in schedule, discomfort of not having phone, etc)
- What do you think you could gain from a day-long retreat that you can’t get in ten or twenty minutes?
- Is there something that you specifically need to hear from God about right now?