Tag Archives: retreat

Retreat – Relaxation, Refreshment and Renewal

We’ve just returned from a week spending time at a Christian retreat centre. The manor house had views to die for and was just the place to relax, unwind and let our cares and worries fall away. It was like a little piece of heaven away from work, family responsibilities and household chores.

It wasn’t just a holiday, but more a vital time to refresh ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. Space to just ‘be’ and begin to get things in perspective – God’s perspective hopefully – and seek the way forward. The community are there to see to your needs, adults and children, and were available to lend a listening ear and pray with us if needed. There were also precious moments of time shared with other guests.

I had a completely open agenda for the time and was looking to receive – or give – in any way that was appropriate. My spiritual antenna were out. I needed to hear what I believed God was saying to me and as I stilled myself inside, I wasn’t disappointed, although this often came in surprising and unexpected ways. We came away both challenged and encouraged with things to chew over.

This was an ideal place for someone like myself, recovering from M.E. – chronic fatigue – as there were short level walks or ambles within the extensive grounds and places to just sit and admire the views. It’s the sort of thing that I would recommend for anyone, young or old, who wants to escape from the merry-go-round of everyday life for a while and discover who they are.

My wife is disabled and I was on hand to assist where needed. Also, although they had made every effort to make the old building accessible to all, there were steps to negotiate. On the last morning when I returned to the lobby after loading our car, someone I hadn’t spoken to, but had been observing me all week, turned to me on his way out and almost as an aside said, “You’re doing a good job!” and vanished before I could comment.  I thought, ‘was God saying that? ‘ Either way, it was just what I needed to hear and rounded things of for me nicely.

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My Clifftop Cabin Retreat

An important and significant two weeks.

I had entered my third year with Chronic Fatigue and although there was some improvement, I still experienced considerable physical restriction and the occasional relapse. I felt the urge to get right away on my own for a time. Some friends of ours had a cliff top cabin which became available for a couple of weeks and I jumped at the opportunity. This was the first time I had arranged to spend such a length of time away completely on my own.

At the end of a narrow Cornish lane, I eased open an old wooden gate and fought through overhanging foliage to reach a grassy clearing. Halfway along stood a bungalow. The cedar wood shiplap was bleached white with years of sunlight and salt-laden winds. Cared for, but it had seen better days. On three sides, trees and shrubs affording absolute privacy and seclusion, but allowed magnificent views out to sea.

The interior was very basic and functional, but I had all I needed. After unloading my belongings, I settled into an armchair and looked around. I took note of the thoughtful provision of little extras, like the bowl of fruit and selection of books. I had arrived! This was to be my home, my refuge, for the next ten days. No distracting phone calls, television or radio. Closed off from the world. It was a good feeling. I just sat for ages and feasted on the panoramic ocean view. Passing clouds cast moving shadows over the dappled surface of the sea. A coaster slowly disappeared over the horizon and fishing boats returned to port with the day’s catch.

I decided on an early night and snuggled under my quilt. The cabin didn’t have the luxury of insulation – not ideal for someone with a wonky body thermostat – and I soon woke feeling cold. I piled on extra blankets and pulled on a woolly hat, before trying to settle down again. As I lay there, the sound of the sea had increased to an incessant roar. The Atlantic rollers pounded the length of the bay below. I listened, fascinated, before eventually dozing off.

Next morning, feeling dazed and bleary-eyed, I sat with cornflakes and coffee, contemplating the first day of solitude. I just wanted to ‘be’, Father and I, drawn into intimacy. I needed to hear what He had to say to me, but realised I couldn’t force anything. It would come in His time and His way. I wandered outside and breathed in great gulps of the stiff Atlantic breeze as the gulls circled squawking overhead. It felt like taking in life itself and I wanted it to go on for ever!

The honeymoon period didn’t last however, as by the next morning doubts began to creep in. I was getting restless and began to question what on earth I was doing such a thing for. Perhaps I should call it a day and return home to reality? Thankfully, I dismissed the doubts and fears and pressed on. Sure enough, by the next day a peace began to set in. It’s hard to describe, except to say that I felt settled, stilled inside, at one with Father. Even when I ventured out for a very short walk, my ‘retreat’ went with me. I felt cocooned, set apart.

The following days fell into a sort of routine. Bible reading, listening, writing and journaling and more listening. Whatever thoughts and feelings came to the surface I explored them to see where they would lead. One day an emotional ‘wound’ that had dogged me for years was uncovered, cleansed and healed. As the truth took hold, I became aware of a tremendous sense of freedom and elation. On another, the reality sunk in concerning an important decision I had to make. I just knew what I had to do.

There were no further revelations during the remaining days, just a cementing-in of what I had already heard and received. My wife joined me for the last two days and we revelled in the fresh air and coastal scenery together. All too soon the day of departure arrived.

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