In this short retreat we are going to “consider the steadfast love of God,” Psalm 107:43 NRSV. The purpose of the retreat is to create a space to deepen your understanding and integration of the steadfast love of God and your identity as His beloved. This is central if we are to understand and integrate grace into our lives. Grace flows from God’s love for us and it comes as a gift out of the riches of God. It is not conditional on our need; rather it is the natural outflow of love, and yes we need it.
In a retreat we can’t program what God will do, it is between the individual and God, yet we can create space, we can come open and available to the Spirit. In a retreat we use the gifts of God’s Word, prayer, our mind and tools like pen and paper to do our work with God. Whatever we plan in the retreat, God’s plan is better. So use these devotions and the plan as a guide only. Hold to them loosely. If God wants to dive more deeply into one and ignore the others, follow the Spirit’s lead. If you are tired you probably need a nap, our bodies are often over tired and over worked. If you need “light” times, take “light” times. Take a walk, draw a picture, and take photos of the beauty around you. In all of this cultivate an open and willing heart. Let it be a sacred space and let yourself take a risk in these devotions. Take a risk to grow and to stretch into a deeper and fuller person, one who lives rooted and centered in their belovedness and grace. Peace be yours as you retreat.
When you arrive at your retreat site put all your belongings away, get settled and just sit for a bit, relax and unwind from the trip. After this consecrate the time, offer as much of yourself as you can to God and then say the Lord’s Prayer slowly and let each phrase sink in. Say it two or three times and let it guide you into a prayerful place. This will be the start of each session.
First session for meditation and journaling:
Read Luke 15:11-32
This story is about two sons who have broken relationships with their father and each other. Some of it is rebellion, some pride and some stubbornness. As you pray through the story, where do you connect? Who do you connect through now? Is it the younger son, the elder son, even perhaps the father? How might you have connected differently in the past? Is there growth? Underlying the story is unconditional love which is highlighted in the embrace of the younger son in vs. 20. How has God embraced you? Have you ever felt like you had to earn this embrace? Is there a sense you might have resisted the embrace? Maybe thinking it is too good to be true, that it can’t surely be for me?
* Read Romans 8:39 à what does it say about the eternal embrace of the Father through the Son? How does that impact and shape your sense of self, who you really are?
The true self is who we are in Christ. It is the deepest part of what is real and true. So often we choose to live at the surface, substituting a lesser version of ourselves for who we really are. We allow the superficialities of the society shape our self image and not the depths of the soul’s embrace by God. We are indeed temples and vessels of the Holy Spirit; therefore we are God bearers in our world, children of the Heavenly father. We are so much more than we often realize or even know. Our business clouds our understanding and we live like we are asleep, all the time called to awaken to the presence of God in our lives and the world. Life is to be lived at the depth, deeply centered and as Psalm 1 says “a tree near streams of water.” Our identity as discovered in prayer and the scriptures and enforced by the witness of the Spirit is to be our source of life and the place where we live from. This gives us a centered and rooted life.
Think now about all the identities you have and use. Start with “I am” statements, like “I am a…” Fill all those in. Seek to discover the depth of who you are in Christ. Let that sink in, pray over it and then probe what it would look like for you to live from this center.
Finish the meditation with the Lord’s Prayer. Rest, read, relax and take some time to be after this time of prayerful reflection.