Wilderness Time: A Guide for Spiritual Retreat

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Time in "the wilderness" — solitary meditation on simplicity, prayer, and other key disciplines of faith — is directly in keeping with Jesus' example of going apart to pray. Now, with the clarity and encouragement that distinguish the Renovaré collection of spiritual resources, this gentle guide to retreat unshrouds that historical tradition — and so reveals marvelous opportunities for spiritual renewal in contemporary Christian practice.

Helping us to create self-guided ...

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Time in "the wilderness" — solitary meditation on simplicity, prayer, and other key disciplines of faith — is directly in keeping with Jesus' example of going apart to pray. Now, with the clarity and encouragement that distinguish the Renovaré collection of spiritual resources, this gentle guide to retreat unshrouds that historical tradition — and so reveals marvelous opportunities for spiritual renewal in contemporary Christian practice.

Helping us to create self-guided retreats — for individuals or groups — Emilie Griffin offers plans, encouragements, and suggestions based on her own experience and fortified by the inspiring words of contemporary Christian writers such as Eugene Peterson, Luci Shaw, and Virginia Stem Owens.

A virtual primer for retreat, this volume defines the basics and provides practical tips on setting realistic expectations and on achieving the relaxation and freedom necessary for the soul to become, in the words of de Caussade, "light as a feather." A detailed one-day retreat makes an ideal model for first-timers, and several different examples illustrate how time in the wilderness can be both accessible and wonderfully illuminating — no matter what your schedule. Wilderness Time is another balanced, practical strategy from Renovaré helping us grow closer to God.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060633615
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/28/1997
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 791,175
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Emilie Griffin is the author of five books about religious experience, including Clinging: The Experience of Prayer and Homeward Voyage: Reflections on Life-Changes.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

An Invitation

Times come when we yearn for more of God than our schedules will allow. We are tired, we are crushed, we are crowded by friends and acquaintances, commitments and obligations. The life of grace is abounding, but we are too busy for it! Even good obligations begin to hem us in.

Madeleine L'Engle writes: "Every so often I need OUT; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everybody -- away from all those people I love most in the world -- in order to regain a sense of proportion."'

Often, she says, she needs to get away completely, to her special place, a small brook in a green glade.

Like her, we wish for the kind of freedom we had as children, a carefree spirit, a jubilant heart. Refreshment is what we're after: playfulness, simplicity, a clear space, a time in the wilderness. In Hosea we read:

Therefore, I will now allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her,
From there I will give her her vineyards,
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she shall respond as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
(Hos. 2:14-15)

A separate time with God has powerful appeal. We long for time in the open with wildflowers blowing and blue sky stretching overhead, with birds calling and green trees sighing. We may wonder, is such a gifted time stored up for us anywhere?

In the country of God'saffections, such a time and space are ours for the asking. God is waiting for us, expecting us, offering us a time of restoration. What we're looking for goes by the simple name: retreat.

There may, however, be something in us that resists or holds back from the experience of retreat. We may schedule the retreat, and then balk at it or stall in some way. These fearful, self-deceiving impulses are what sometimes keep us from prayer; we need to break away from such constraints and begin.

Spiritual formation involves a fundamental choice. Choosing to live for Jesus Christ may mean adopting a certain style of life or, perhaps more properly, a rule of life. We take on a series of spiritual practices that will open us to God's work in our lives.

This choice leads to dialogue with God; it warms our hearts for friendship with him. Retreat offers the chance for a fresh start in the spiritual life. No doubt, if you are ready to make a retreat, you have made such a start once before, possibly more than once.

This need to begin and begin again is universal; it is basic to the disciplined life. In his sermon entitled "Christian Repentance," John Henry Newman writes, "The most perfect Christian is to himself but a beginner, a penitent prodigal, who has squandered God's gifts..."

Perseverance is needed to live out our fundamental commitment: to serve God, not randomly but over the long run. Not unlike a marriage or a religious vocation, this way of life is transforming; it will change us. Over and over we must make clean breaks, fresh starts, and new beginnings.

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote a long treatise titled Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. His notion of singleheartedness is a clue to the decisive nature of the spiritual life. To will one thing is to will over and over, beginning again and again, cutting loose from our past selves and stepping into the new drama of self-giving that is the disciplined life. Closer in time to us, the pastor and writer Eugene Peterson has written a book with a title that is a splendid metaphor of the spiritual life: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

As Paul the Apostle has it, we are running a race. We are taking on a kind of training that will shape us into the image of Christ. Retreat, which could be called a decisive moment extended in time, offers us a great opportunity to seek this kind of formation. We are choosing a specific opportunity for grace, a disciplined way that will give us direction. Yet this choice is realistic, not so outrageous or mock-heroic that we can't accomplish it. Retreat is a generous commitment to friendship with God: one that, despite false starts, stumbling, and all the different aspects of our humanity, will nevertheless act, by grace, to form us in Jesus Christ.

Retreat is an opportunity for spiritual formation in the style of Hebrews 12:

And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children --

"My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the
Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him;
for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
and chastises every child whom he accepts."

Endure trials forthe sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. (Heb. 5-13)

Here we must apply our understanding that our God is a...

Wilderness Time. Copyright © by Emilie Griffin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2000

    The value of guided retreat for spiritual growth

    This book is evidence that author Emilie Griffin knows how to access the wilderness spaces of the human heart, and how spiritual power may be renewed and re-activated as each of us comes into personal contact with God. Griffin is a seasoned writer, and speaks with the authenticity of experience.

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