Category Archives: Retreat

The bonnie banks of Loch Lomond…

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Prayer …

3God, the Living God, desires a relationship with us. Individually. He communicates with us in so many ways, through His creation, the intricate weavings of nature around us, through people, our circumstances, and that ‘still small voice’ within. 

And yet the clearest communication we have with our Great God, our Loving Heavenly Father is through His Word and times spent in prayer. 

How much God desires us! To be with us! His heart could not bear heaven without us, so Jesus Christ came to be among us, die for us, and bring us to new life in Him at such immense cost to Himself. 

His arms open wide to us in His suffering for us on the cross dispels our doubts over whether or not God could love us, whether He wants to hear from us, to be with us, to take care of us. 

And yet, we do struggle. For those among us who desire a deeper relationship with the God Who loves us so much, whether or not we are yet convinced of His love for us, for those of us who are seeking to find a way back to closeness with God, and for those who want to know whether there is a God out there Who hears us, what small steps can we take in our journey forwards to Him, Who Is waiting, arms outstretched, to Love us, sacrificially love us (agape love) for our own good, as no one else ever could love us?

Might I suggest a simple step if you are struggling to pray? Pray the Scriptures, the True Word of the Living God, found in the Bible, back to Him. Perhaps begin with a psalm or a proverb, or some of the beautiful, passionate, heartfelt and triumphant expressions of the apostle Paul in his letters to the churches, expressing the Greatness of the God he once was opposed to, and yet in Whose purpose and love he has forever been taken up in, to the point of counting everything else as less than rubbish in comparison with the greatness of knowing Christ. 

Start small if you need to, knowing that God loves you, hears you, and also loves to hear from you! Ponder each truth as you slowly pray it back to God, talk over it with Him, and listen. 

Sometimes the seemingly simplest things yield the deepest pleasures. Be blessed. Christ loves you and died for you and Is the gateway of your life with the Father, by the Holy Spirit. Much love. xx

Finding a place of calm…and planning a mini-retreat…

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It’s 12.57am, and I can’t sleep. It is not insomnia as such, but more of an underlying anxiety and restless or nervous fear. I know there is nothing to fear. My Great God shelters me under the shadow of His Wing, and covers me with His Almighty protection. However, I have had times over the years of quite troubled sleep, and perhaps these feelings of unease are remnants of that. And yet, my Beautiful God speaks through the darkness to say: “Peace. My Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give unto you, do not let your hearts  be troubled and do not be afraid”. 

He calls us to “consider the birds of the air” who do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns” and yet, our “Heavenly Father feeds them”. I hope the picture above brings you some feelings of calm, peace and joy. This afternoon a friend came over for a cup of tea and a chat, and we spoke about solitude, community and retreat. I told her about the walk in which I took these photographs and how it touched my heart to see that these beautiful birds, this little squirrel were so uniquely cared for by God. Having an interest in photography and a passion for capturing beautiful moments of beautiful things, I am able to hone in on the detail and marvel over the intricacy of a bird’s feathers, the ridges on its feet and tiny claws, and just how wonderfully designed the life around me is. 

In a world where there is so much noise, uncertainty and fear, it can be hard to find peace. There is so much that feels tumultuous, uncertain, frightening, terrifying even for those people living in war zones, areas of unrest, famine, drought, violence, and sadly the list goes on and on… We tend to think of peace as the absence of conflict, of calm and steady waters, of our circumstances all in alignment when all is well. However, this surface calm is not the true Peace that our souls long for. We need an anchor of Peace for our souls, for we are all at some point in our lives tossed upon restless waters. I searched long and hard for years to find peace, and just as a bubble on a stream, such peace was so fragile, and temporary, certain to burst and vanish with the slightest friction. Temporary peace or calm means that we are forever restless in the ongoing pursuit of calm. The same goes for happiness or joy, of love, of acceptance. However, I have found, or been found by, a Peace that Is enduring, and that is a tangible, real and experienced comfort to my soul at the deepest level. This Peace is the very Person of Jesus Christ Himself. He Is with us.

We are called to “seek peace and pursue it”, and I believe the only real way of doing this is in our pursuit of God, and in our resting in Him. However, there is something to be said about drawing aside from a busy world if and when we can, and to take time out, to pursue quiet surroundings, times of focused reflection and sharing, times for creativity, healing, letting go, rejuvenation, of solitude, and of companionship. 

My friend actually came over today as we are planning a spiritual and creative “staycation retreat”, perhaps for three or four days, as something we can pursue and encourage each other through, together. 

The process itself is quite special, as I have not found it a common thing to find people with whom these things can be shared with. 

And so, as we reach the mid-point of a somewhat wintry feeling April, I continue on with my monthly themes – this month’s being hospitality and planning a creative and spiritual retreat. 

I look forward to bringing you on this journey with me as we venture onwards together into quieter, more relaxing terrain. 

xx

Where your feet may tread…and the fine art of ‘Staycationing’

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Good Morning lovely people,

At least it is the morning on my side of the world! 🙂  It is a beautiful bank holiday Monday, which means I can have a relaxed start to the day, a welcome novelty from the usual ‘Manic Monday morning rush’!

Recently I decided to try something that I hadn’t done before. I realised that if I wanted to really pursue my dreams, then I would have to make a thoughtful and concerted effort to make time to do so.

Like many people, I work full time, and although I enjoy my job and make time in the evenings to relax and be creative, over time stress and the issues of other people can build up and creativity becomes a leisure activity that we indulge in ‘when we have the time’, and therefore that deep focussed immersion of ourselves into a creative ‘headspace’ as it were doesn’t truly happen amid the interruptions and myriad voices and commitments vying and calling for our attention.

So, I did it. I took a few days off work and rather than go on holiday (or ‘vacation’), I decided to create my very own ‘Staycation’ and creative retreat at home.

I can write more about the process of this and what it looked like and how it took shape and what I did, if there is interest. However, initially I had set aside the time for the purpose of a creative ‘Writing Retreat’.

Writing is a passion of mine, and I am working on a couple of novels – my first. One of which I have been working on for a good few  years now, and is dear to my heart, and is an expression of my life and faith journey in an allegorical form – if you like adventure, interesting characters, deep thinking, and profound expression of life’s deepest experiences, then this is a tale that I am perhaps telling for you, as well as for myself 🙂

My second work is more lighthearted, but I’ll save that for another post.

What I found happening, for this particular time set aside at least, was that the scope of the purpose of my creative retreat both broadened and deepened.

It became a time for me to be still, to commune with God, my Creator (I am a person of faith), and to hear my own thoughts.

The solitude and freedom from the usual demands of a ‘9-5’ routine gave me a beautiful opportunity to slow down, to take time, to walk at nature’s own pace, and to dwell deeply in a creative space.

The focus was not so much on ‘producing’, but on being. Even if the creative endeavour was the feeling or thought itself and the expression of the heart in just one line, that in itself was profound – a deepening connection, and a being present and unhurried.

I found a joy in the simplicity of taking time to be, to pray, to find droplets of healing and understanding through this time. I enjoyed unhurried walks by the riverside, knowing that I did not have to ‘clock watch’ or fit myself into the boxes of the world’s schedules – at least, not for this set aside time.

I wrote, I cooked, I sang, I took photographs, I drew and coloured, and enjoyed the time, in a childlike way, simply to be. I also limited my time and engagement with technology, and I found that this was a balm and a barrier against the modern syndrome that is ‘FOMO’ (the Fear Of Missing Out), and at last I could hear myself think, and that was enough in itself.

I feel that it is an important thing to take time to listen and to be, if and when we get the chance. We live in such a fast paced and hurried world that we are often drained of the vitality to be our best selves and to truly enjoy the gift of the life we’ve been given.

Going back to work I did feel refreshed, but just as soon as I got back, I was immersed in the noise of other people’s ‘stuff’, for want of a better word. And yet, I believe that taking time to take care of ourselves helps us ultimately to be more patient and kind and compassionate to other people.

I wandered through and out of my retreat with the thread of thought that on ‘re-entry’ into the world 😉 I would continue to make small and consistent life changes to ensure that although I generally do not have vast amounts of time to take to ‘retreat’ from the daily busy-ness of the world, I can make my daily life calmer, more peaceful, more creative and meaningful.

It is definitely a step worth taking.