Today I want to share a few final thoughts and observations as I bring this Gethsemani Journal series of blog posts to a close.

I want to thank the shepherds of the Broken Arrow church where I serve for seeing the long-term value in providing for an annual week-long sabbatical for the ministry staff.  While I have benefited greatly in past years from attending conferences, seminars, lectureships, and one-week intensive seminary courses, I have never gained so much spiritual refreshment and renewal as I did during the week that I spent in a silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani.

I also want to thank the Trappist monks who live, serve, and receive guests at the Abbey for the warm welcome, the gracious accommodations, and the idyllic setting that are provided for retreatants.  I was blessed by your kindness and hospitality.

My sabbatical week caused me to rethink our typical approach to what we commonly call “retreats.”

First of all, when I normally mention to someone that I am going to be attending a retreat, one of the first questions that I am asked is, “Are you speaking?”  The assumption is that I will be teaching and/or leading some sort of discussion.  It was wonderfully refreshing, not just to be freed from the preparation of lessons and the preoccupation of presenting them, but to be relieved from talking altogether.  “No, I won’t be speaking this week; at all!”

Secondly, I returned from this silent retreat incredibly rested and refreshed (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), rather than the usual feeling of exhaustion that accompanies the end of a retreat.  That’s because most retreats could be more accurately described as “Bible Boot Camps” or “Fellowship Free-for-Alls.”  Roll out of bed at dawn, breakfast, clean-up, lecture, break, discussion group, lunch, clean-up, lecture, 15-minute quiet time, discussion group, team-building exercise, dinner, clean-up, evening worship, cards and board games, campfire and s’mores, lights out, rinse and repeat.  If you’re not exhausted, then you’re just not trying.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  My intention is not to trample on anyone’s fond memories of such events or to devalue the blessings  that can come from them, but simply to suggest that maybe we could find something else to call them instead of “retreats.”

I have already been asked about the possibility of planning a silent retreat for those who would be interested in attending and sharing in the experience.  It could be still be hosted at a traditional camp or retreat center.  The format would just be significantly different, and the schedule, well, there really wouldn’t be much of a schedule.  It would take some creativity and a paradigm shift, but the retreat could center around silence, prayer, reading of Scripture and devotional literature, meditation, journaling, rest, etc.  I am not so naive or idealistic as to think that this would appeal to everyone, but I am confident that there are many who would jump at the opportunity to share in a silent retreat.

“Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while,” said Jesus (Mark 6:31).   We would be wise to accept His invitation.