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Visit this room to be spiritually fed

Need a Spiritual Retreat? Here’s How 
We must be deliberate about spiritual renewal the way Mary was when she chose "the good portion."

Spiritual renewal is a pressing need in our driven culture. So many of us are torn in many directions as we try to balance family, church, business, leisure and devotional life. Often, we find ourselves compartmentalizing these things and our time is dictated by the current crisis. Of the two sisters that invite Jesus into their home, it is Martha that so exemplifies our attitudes as “anxious and troubled about many things”. Mary on the other hand sits at Jesus feet and is commended for “having chosen the good portion” which will not be taken away from her (see Luke 10:42).

sailboat

Taking time for spiritual renewal is surely the heart of the Sabbatical commandment. We are not designed to go flat out for seven days a week. Neglecting this principle will cost us dearly, for God will often force us to take time out, one way or another. I am convinced that many of our illnesses are God’s way of requiring us to catch up on those hours we should have spent in rest and reflection with Him. Not only that, but we miss an immense blessing when we neglect to look after our spiritual health. We become preoccupied with things of the world.

I have found that in my own life, spending time alone with God is something that I have had to schedule.

I operated an engineering consulting business for 25 years and was later called into full time ministry as a pastor. During these years, there were so many pressing things to be done, I decided that I had to be proactive about scheduling “time alone with God”. Because I also enjoyed sailing, I would take personal retreats on my sailboat. Because Sunday was such a packed day, I would take Mondays off, leaving Sunday evening, sometimes after dusk, sailing off alone onto Lake Simcoe, allowing the wind to dictate my destination.

With autopilot engaged, sailing allowed me time to reflect, to pray and to read Scripture and worship. I would pull into one of the many harbors on the lake, or anchor in a bay and spend the night. The next morning was devoted to reading Scripture, worship, reflection, journaling and prayer.

The boat became my personal prayer closet, I was able to renew and refresh my spirit allowing God to speak to me. Setting sail again mid morning, I would be back in homeport in the afternoon. Although, I had been away less than 24 hours, I felt thoroughly renewed and was able to enter the week refreshed and recharged.

Sometimes I would take guests with me, but I found that it was very hard to get them to be still. They would chatter incessantly about trivial things. So I made it a rule to observe a silent time. While we were sailing, I would allow no talking for one or two hours at a stretch, forcing my guests to read, reflect or pray.

It soon became apparent that this was actually an immense blessing. This simple practice soon led to organized spiritual retreats on the boat. As spiritual formation had always been my passion, this presented a great opportunity to take a group of people and devote two or three days 24/7 to spiritual renewal. Thus Deposits of Faith was born.

At Deposits of Faith, we are dedicated to helping Christians excel in the faith, their calling and their devotion to Jesus Christ. Our sailing excursions are one aspect of our work. Our sailboat, a thirty-four foot Catalina sloop has three cabins and can actually can sleep seven, but we usually limit the numbers to five men or three couples. Typically a three-day excursion will leave Sunday evening and return Wednesday evening. All meals are supplied on board and we usually put into one of the harbors around the lake for the evenings.

Currently we are doing excursions for groups of men and for married couples.

We start each day with a worship and devotional time, which includes group interaction and sharing. We take time to get to know one another and share our stories. We also pray for one another and engage in a learning session around the theme of discipleship.

After breakfast, we set sail and observe a time of silence with personal reading, reflection and prayer. Our destination and pace is always governed by the weather and the Holy Spirit. In fact, the metaphor of wind and Spirit is a powerful one. Sometimes the wind is barely discernable and we have to hoist every sail available to develop some momentum. At other times, strong winds require us to reef sails and hang on as we beat upwind. The sailing experience itself becomes a metaphor for life in the Spirit.

We spend much time listening to the voice of God for ourselves and for one another. By mid afternoon, we put into a harbor or an anchorage and prepare dinner. The evening is capped off with a final devotional and teaching time as we observe the evening of worship.

Lake Simcoe out of Barrie, Ontario is ideally suited to such excursions. It is actually about the size of the Sea of Galilee. As you read the Gospels, especially the Gospel of Mark, you see that Jesus was always getting in and out of boats with His disciples. The purpose is usually to escape the crowds and to go to the other side of the Lake where Jesus could pour into His disciples and then preach and heal in the other towns. Typically, the crowds following Jesus would follow Him around the lake and sometimes other boats would go with them.

I can imagine Jesus using this “alone time” with His disciples to great advantage. In addition, it would give them time to recharge between bursts of ministry. I imagine that their destination was often dictated by weather and wind conditions.

Likewise, in our excursions, we have no set destination. We allow the conditions and the Holy Spirit to lead us.

People often ask me what the accommodations are like and if we spend all of our time on board the boat.

The boat that we are using this summer has two double staterooms and a main salon that allows privacy for couples. A shared head (washroom) features a shower with hot and cold running water. Most nights we put into a harbor that has guest washrooms with showers available and we are able to spend several hours off the boat, in quite pleasant surroundings. We take walks and visit local towns, so as to provide a break from being on board. The most common feedback we get is that people really feel that they have had a totally refreshing and recharging experience that feels more like a week away than just a few days. Since our primary focus is discipleship, the cost of the excursion is left up to our guests on a freewill basis.

While sailing retreats are not for everyone, we have learned that taking time out for Spiritual renewal is essential in the Christian life. I encourage you to be creative in thinking though how you can take the things that you enjoy this summer, whether hiking, camping, canoeing or kayaking and use them as Spiritual retreats.

Here are some simple hints:

1. Practice solitude. Get alone and pray using simple formulas such as ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication).

2. Always take your Bible with you and have a personal reading plan. Read small portions of Scripture and pray them back to God.

3. Reflect on your surroundings and ask God to speak to your spirit. Slow yourself down and listen.

4. Use music to advantage: worship and praise as you are underway.

5. After times of solitude, come together with others and discuss your experience. Share what God is doing in you with others. Share your hopes, dreams and fears.

6. Pray for one another and enjoy the sweet fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ.

I encourage you this summer to escape the driven nature of our culture that we so easily fall into. Schedule some regularly for a spiritual renewal. Model this for your family. You will be renewed, refreshed and blessed with fresh insight as you seek to be filled with His Spirit.

Les Galicinski is executive director of Deposits of Faith. A consultant, author and pastor, Les and his wife Judi live in Barrie, Ontario. For more information on sailing excursions on Lake Simcoe, visit www.depositsoffaith.com or call 1-800-461-9902.

Originally published in Business.Life magazine, summer 2010.

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