Last week I got to do something I’ve been aching to do for a few years. I spent a week by myself in the most incredible setting. It’s a place I’ve been to many times before with family and friends. It’s a special place that invites the mind to slow down and the soul to open up.
I know many of us get busy and we don’t get intentional about focused time away. Trust me, I’m no expert and this is especially true of Church Planters. Plain and simple, Church Planters are a busy breed with an active mind and spirit. Since I have a heart for Church Planters, I wanted to pass on what I learned and did during my “personal retreat.” My real hope is that you plan on doing something similar, even if for a couple days. Trust me, you’ll come back more passionate, focused and energized for the adventure ahead!
As you read this, take a second to answer these 3 questions:
1. Where is perfect place for me to go?
2. When can I go (I suggest at least 3 days)?
3. What do I need to do right now to make this happen?
Find the perfect place: Setting and environment are everything. Go somewhere amazing, find a place conducive to what you want to experience. Find a place where few people roam. Look for a setting where you can walk, hike and enjoy what God has created. The bottom line is the setting and environment you choose will give you a space and place to unplug and accomplish your “agenda.”
Create an agenda: That’s right, an agenda. Not a minute-by-minute agenda, but be certain of what you want to accomplish each day. Set goals and objectives for your time away. Don’t’ try to do much and don’t show up without any idea or direction of what you hope to accomplish. An agenda will keep you focused and balanced.
Kill the distractions: Go ahead and tweet a captive thought, text a friend, call your family, etc. At the same time put boundaries in place that will keep you from distraction and help you stay focused. For example, I didn’t watch television once. I did bring two movies with me to watch, movies that touched the heart, movies I chose ahead of time and integrated into my overall experience.
Ask people to pray for you: This is huge. Ask people to pray for you. The enemy doesn’t want us to be intentional and focused on what can be experienced on a personal retreat like this.
Shut off the treadmill: My mind spins really fast! I’m always thinking about new things, ideas and ways to advance the Kingdom. STOP! Work hard at slowing things down and keeping the mind from spinning. Pace and peace of the mind is everything, slowing things down is a discipline and discipline is vital to your success at this!
Exercise: If you don’t you’ll gain weight, especially since you’ll be inside a lot, not moving around as much as you do in a typical day. Exercise will give you energy and help you focus. Keep in mind the physical is very important to giving life to the mind, heart and soul!
Eat well: Enjoy a few good meals, cook and eat healthy! Eating a tasty meal and slowing down to eat is part of the process to slowing down and enjoying the gift of time and opportunity.
Enjoy a glass of wine: I said it! Have a glass of wine at sunset. If you don’t drink, then have something you really enjoy and enjoy it slowly while taking in the setting that you’re in!
Choose good books: I brought a few books and chose them wisely. I chose one for my heart, one for my mind, one for my personal growth, one for my ministry and one for the creative side of my mind. Don’t feel like you are required to read every page. Just take time each day to read. Be balanced in what you read and pace yourself!
Intentionally listen for God’s voice: You will be in a space and place where it will be much easier to hear God’s voice. I was amazed at how easy and clear it was compared to the noise and clutter I experience at home. Take time to listen, ask God questions, journal and understand what God is saying to you! God will speak when you go on a walk, read, exercise, eat, etc, he will surprise you and he has a lot to say!
Note the thoughts and ideas that keep you captive: This is vital! There were a couple themes that developed in my time away. Make sure you look for themes and ideas that are consistent with others and note them down so you can revisit them and synthesize them.
Don’t create more work for yourself: Its easy to do, don’t do it. If tasks or to do’s surface write them down and deal with them when you get back home
Be okay being in isolation: This was the hardest but best part for me. I’m not used to being alone or disconnected from people for much less than an hour. Isolation allows us to rest and keep our eyes focused on other things. Maybe the most meaningful and surprising experience was being alone and how it forced me to depend more on God, talk to Jesus and hear the spirit!
Stay “wild at heart:” Thanks John Eldredge for these three reminders. This is especially true for men, we were made to fight, experience adventure and rescue beauty. As best you can, find a way to experience all 3 of these each day you’re away!
Process and download: Find a mentor, coach or friend to process your experience with. Discuss what you learned, captured and experienced. This will help you say things out loud that you haven’t said and find a way to process your experience with someone who knows you and can serve as a sounding board to you.