One component of Storyline’s structures for spiritual formation is the retreat setting. Who says youth groups are the only ones allowed to have powerful retreat experiences?
Retreats have powerful potential because they help us break away from our normal rhythms to look at our lives from the outside. They are helpful for evaluation, introspection and goal setting. We form special bonds with others as we grow together in retreat contexts.
To date, we’ve developed three retreat experiences in the Storyline Community.
The first is Marvelous Light, associated with the season of Lent (February), which seeks to facilitate spiritual cleansing, confession and the reception of grace.
The second is City on a Hill, associated with the season After Pentecost (May), which seeks to equip people to live on mission just as the church did after Pentecost.
The third, and most recently developed, is Illuminate. Illuminate is also connected to the latter part of the season After Pentecost (November – it’s a long season!).
My co-worker, Ryan Porche, spearheaded the development of Illuminate. In Ryan’s words, from the Storyline website:
Developing a personal worship life is crucial for a follower of Jesus. And yet, not everyone relates to God in the exact same way. Illuminate is designed to equip followers of Jesus with tools to grow in their personal relationship with God. The retreat introduces a number of spiritual disciplines, and also provides opportunities to experiment on your own. Illuminate is a rich time in the presence of God!
I participated in the first Illuminate retreat with about 20 other Storyliners on November 20-21. In the weeks that have followed the retreat, I’ve felt more connected to God than I have in a long time.
Here are a few personal highlights for me from the retreat experience:
- Lectio (“lex-ee-oh”) divina (=”divine reading”): I learned a couple new approaches to praying Scripture that I’ve found helpful in the past few weeks. One was the one-step method, where you find a phrase in Scripture and chew on it; another was the four-step method of read, reflect, respond, rest.
- Examen prayer: an ancient prayer rhythm that entails looking back on the last day in the video player of my memory and looking for places I saw God working as well as times where I might have disappointed God. Great times of praise and confession have emerged for me from this spiritual practice.
- Breath prayer: another ancient prayer practice in which the pray-er repeats a prayer throughout the day that can be contained within one breath. I’ve found this prayer to be the most accessible way of beginning to “practice the presence of God” in my life. “Holy Father, fill me with your love” has been my personal breath prayer favorite in the last few weeks.
- Vow of silence: on Friday night through Saturday morning we took a vow of silence. It had been a long time since I’d practiced such intentional silence. What a head clearing practice! It was a powerful experience and left me wanting to plan other times of silence.
- Practice: I appreciated the way Porche emphasized practicing spiritual practices throughout the weekend, rather than talking about practicing spiritual practices. The lionshare of our time was spent experimenting with different spiritual practices and then processing our experiences with other people.
- Relationship: Lectio, Examen and Breath prayer have all made personal relationship with God a much more tangible thing. I don’t know quite how to describe it, only to say that “spiritual disciplines” have often been a source of guilt for me – particularly because I didn’t feel like I was very good at them. I guess I’ve just been practicing the wrong ones, because I’ve found some that energize me and feel so natural rather than a task that I have to check off my list so that I can say I’m a spiritually disciplined person. That would miss the point, for sure.
Thank you, Ryan, for your hard work putting this retreat together. I can’t wait for the next one (November 5-6, 2010)!