Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sound the Retreat

In battle, retreat is not a good thing. Not even in order to fight another day.

But in its most positive sense, to retreat is an act of moving back or withdrawing. A quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax.

Here's my heart, ladies (and gentlemen)...

Since, well since...actually I don't know since when...but definitely since November, and maybe even with the start of school in September, I have felt like I've been in a veritable pressure cooker.

Life is busy-busy. Activities going every day, every weekend. Life, church, school, ministry. The demand on our time and resources never ends.

As we were preparing for our trip through the rush and bustle of the holidays, and the after holidays, with tax stuff to do, we kept consoling ourselves with the thought that at least we would have a "vacation" on our trip.

I'm chuckling a not funny chuckle here. Our trip was certainly not a vacation. It wasn't particularly restful. Even at the resort I was stressed. There was a pool 30 feet from our porch. I have a roaming toddler. I had nightmares of her drowning. I was on her like a hawk the entire time. Not a recipe for repose and refreshment.

Our last week in Indonesia, when we taught our kid's conference, was probably the least stressful period. We were doing what we love. What we have been called to do. But anytime we minister like that, it takes a lot out of us spiritually. It was draining.

Then we traveled for almost 30 hours straight, (more if you count the drive from Chicago to home), and our bodies had to adjust 12 hours. Literal night and day difference.

Before we were even sort of normal, we jumped back into life with both feet. Work, taxes, school, ministry, running.

And we have gone and gone and gone for the past month. Until Meres got sick with a 7 day stomach flu, and I spent my days holding her. Towards the middle of her week, Mr. Hippie and I both came down with a milder version. 

Everything stopped. Because it had to stop.

No church, no ministry, no running. 

We rested.

It felt good. And necessary.

Again, this Easter weekend, we had company both Friday evening and Saturday. Friday was a great time of fellowship with some friends, but it also served the dual purpose of getting our summer guys' retreat off the ground.

Saturday was chaotic and fun. Filled with family and laughter. And food. Jelly beans and coffee. (not together-ewww...) Plus we ran 11 miles in good time.

Then on to Easter Sunday. Church was a joyful event. Celebrating Christ's resurrection is amazing! We were encouraged and fed. We headed home for a rather anti-climatic afternoon. We ate ham sandwiches, and napped, and read, and played games with the kids, and laughed at two episodes of I Love Lucy, and ate lamb and asparagus for dinner. It was no frills and delicious. 

We rested physically and mentally. We rejuvenated. It was good.

In our busy lives, we feel like there is so much to do. If we recuse ourselves from anything, we feel we are neglecting our duties. We literally have to carve out time to rest. We have to take this rest time from something else we could/should be doing. Guilt accompanies our "no's".

It is not a fun existence. 

My Bible reading this morning was in Mark 6. Here's the story...Jesus' cousin John the Baptist was just beheaded by King Herod. Jesus' disciples were returning from individual mission trips. They had done great work for God-casting out demons and healing the sick. Jesus Himself had been preaching and healing. There are crowds around them all the time. The disciples and Jesus didn't even have time to eat.

And then Jesus tells the disciples, "come away by yourselves into a desolate place and rest awhile."

Jesus and the disciples leave in a boat, and the crowds follow them. Over 5000 men, plus woman and children walked along the shore of the lake, waiting for their boat to land. Jesus' heart was full of compassion for these shepherd-less people, so He got out of the boat, taught and fed them.

Then He sends the disciples away again. Puts them back in the boat and sends them across the lake. Jesus dismisses the crowds and spends time praying.

Jesus, all by Himself on the shore, sees the disciples in their boat. It is the middle of the night. They are stuck in the middle of the lake. The wind has picked up. They are rowing their little hearts out. "Toiling in rowing." And they are getting nowhere.

Jesus, in His grace, comes to them. He walks on the water. Walking from the shore. Approaching the boat. Right next to it. Moving on past. Waiting for someone to notice Him. To see His presence. 

Finally, the disciples see Him. Are they glad? Relieved? No. They think He is a ghost. 

Jesus reassures them. "It is I, be not afraid." He joins them in the boat, and the wind ceased. Peace. Calm.

The disciples were amazed beyond measure. That's the words, folks. Beyond measure. They forgot about Jesus feeding the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes only that afternoon. This blew their minds!

Why? Their hearts were hard. (Mark 6:52)

Here's what I got from this story this morning.

-I need to retreat. Not in defeat, but purposefully retreat for times of resting and renewal. I am actually going to be writing more on this topic in the next few weeks. I need to step back from some things. I need to let my no be no. And let go of the guilt and burden. 

-I need to remember who my Lord is. Jesus Christ speaks peace. He is the Prince of Peace. He brings peace as I allow Him to insert Himself in my life. It is my hard heart that thinks life and ministry can't continue with out me and my contributions. It is my pride. But, the work is the Lord's. He graciously uses me. He is fully capable of keeping it moving when He calls me to step back a pace.

-I need to purposefully retreat. The key word is come. In Jesus' presence is peace for the stressed, rest for the burdened. It is not stepping away to step away. It is not throwing up my hands in defeat-"I'm not getting anywhere. I'm not making progress." It is stepping away to focus on the most important-Jesus Christ. 

-I need to stop toiling in rowing. Our modern vernacular would be spinning my tires. Obviously I'm busy. I'm working. I'm doing. I'm serving God. How come it comes off more like spinning my tires? Maybe because I've determined to keep on in my own efforts. Forgetting to ask God's direction, and enabling. One account says that once Jesus got in the boat, it was immediately at the shore. All that work=nothing. Christ doing it=accomplishment and success.

-I need to retreat to recharge spiritually and physically. To take time to study and immerse myself in the comfort and structure of the Word of God. To pray for guidance on where and how to serve over the next while. Retreat in order to fight another day.

Have you heard the call to retreat lately? How will you purposefully retreat, as opposed to retreating in defeat?