Tag Archives: Retreat

Permission to rest

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I don’t know about you but I think in the western work ethic culture, rest has become a bit of a dirty word, connected with laziness and even worthlessness. People value each other by what they do and achieve. The most common response to the compulsory question ‘how are you?’ is now ‘busy’ more often than the innocuous and often dishonest ‘fine’. It’s as if busyness is a badge of honour and worth.

But what if we can only be sustainable in what we do, who we are and how much we can love others if we take time to rest? What if the creator of the universe knew how he’s made us well enough to know that the principle of Sabbath rest he introduced is not only beneficial but is in fact essential to us functioning well and being the best we can be? What if the principle of sabbath is not about what we do or don’t do on a Sunday but about rhythms of rest that nurture who we are?

Sometimes we feel we need permission to rest. But what if the person with the authority to give that permission is only ourselves and waiting for permission basically equates to withholding it?

Maybe in this coming year we need to be intentional about setting up healthy rhythms of rest in advance, giving ourselves permission not to fix, solve and keep everyone happy? Not to meet everyone’s expectations or even our own?

What might rhythms of rest look like? Maybe a night in a week to catch up with yourself. Maybe half a day on a weekend that has no engagements or other people. Maybe putting a few days in the diary for a personal retreat, once or twice a year.* Maybe finding out what makes you joyful and peaceful (going for walks, painting, knitting, journaling in a coffee shop, photography, reading… what is it for you?) and making time for those things without apology.

Maybe if we put those rhythms of rest in place in advance we can live a more sustainable life and have more to give others within our work, family and social contexts. Maybe now is the best time to make those advance decisions.

What do you want rest to look like in this coming year? What do you need to do (or say no to) in order to make that happen?


* You can find a few ideas of places to go to on retreat in the UK here, or in the US here or in South Africa here.

Looking back, Looking forward… A New Year Reflection

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New Year: a good time for reflection.

A good time for looking back, to see where you’ve come from, what you are grateful for and what you have learnt.

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And a good time for looking forward, to be intentional about where you are going.

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For the past few years I’ve taken a day or half day out, on my own, sometime in January to reflect and have found it incredibly helpful. You don’t have to go away to reflect, an hour or two in a park or coffee shop may be sufficient for you. You can write in proper grown up sentences, or scribble and spider diagram in colourful scrawl, whatever you like (I personally prefer the latter). I have shared below a few questions for reflection that might be helpful.

I’ve written before about the value of stopping to reflect. If you are looking for a place to go on a retreat in the UK this is a useful site. In South Africa there are also many retreat places but one I particularly love is Volmoed, near Hermanus. Two books I have found really helpful for retreats have been ‘May I have this Dance’ by Joyce Rupp and ‘Landmarks’ by Margaret Silf.

LOOKING BACK 

1.       Gratitude

What are you grateful for?… all the little and big things that have been special to you in the past year, the people who have been kind, the unexpected treasures, the beautiful things you have seen in nature and in people, the ways you have grown and changed…

2.      Challenges

What were the challenges and difficult things? – List them and think about how you feel about them now. For each of them spend time reflecting on whether you have learnt anything through it, or grown through it… is there anything good that has come from it? For some of the challenges you’ve listed you may not be able to see any good from it yet, that’s fine, you may see it with hindsight later.

3.      Learnings

What were the themes of what you have learnt about yourself, others, life and God?

Are there particular words or a phrase that sums up the year?

If you want to, talk to God about the things you’ve written down

–          thank him for what you are grateful for and what he’s teaching you

–          talk to him about the challenges… ask for his help and healing and thank him for where there is good that’s come even from difficult things.

LOOKING FORWARD:

 1.      Fears

What are you fearful/nervous about?

2.       Hopes and Dreams

What are your hopes and dreams for the coming year?… in different areas of your life… home, friends, family, work, community, spiritual journey. Are there any changes you need to make or actions you need to take this year to move towards these hopes and dreams?

3.      Invitation

What positive growth do you feel you are being invited into in the coming year?

If you want to, talk to God about the things you’ve written down

–          Tell him about your fears, tell him how you feel. Release each thing, situation or person to God, placing it in his hands and choosing to trust him in each area.

–          Share your hopes and dreams with him, invite him into each of the areas of your life. Ask for his help in the areas of your life where you know you need to make a change.

–          Talk to him about his invitation and what he wants to do in and through you this coming year – choose to step into the new year with him, to see his good plans come about.