New Year's Resolution: Get Away with God
By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer
As we approach the New Year, many of us are preparing our goals and resolutions. Author Jane Rubietta talked to CBN.com about the need for taking time out for God on regular personal spiritual retreats. She shares her vision from her book Resting Place.
Craig von Buseck: What is the message of Resting Place?
Jane Rubietta: The subtitle to this book is A Personal Guide to Spiritual Retreats. If you wanted to say, "I'm going to take a day off every month just to be with the Lord -- just to go deep and refuel" -- there are twelve chapters to take you through a year of time away with the Shepherd.
von Buseck: I love that idea.
Rubietta: The book kind of moves in and out of Psalm 23. It opens with the questions, "Is this for real? Did David believe this? Is the Lord really a Good Shepherd? How does that work? Is this more than just a lullaby or a bedtime prayer for the dying or a funeral eulogy? Is this real stuff?" Then each chapter in the book looks at issues that keep us from getting away and calling God our resting place.
Some of the chapters look at the things that often keep us from getting away into our resting place. One of those issues is our deep fatigue. Why are we so tired? Why don't we believe that God was serious when He said, "Come to Me all you who are weary and I will give you rest."
Other issues that are dealt with include soul hunger, depression, anger, and control.
von Buseck: So is that what you recommend, that people read the chapters one at a time as a Sabbath rest -- one chapter per month for a year?
Rubietta: You can do it however you want. I have a lot of people who read it through bit by bit as a daily devotion. I wrote it this way because of my own needs. I just need to do that once in a while. I'd get away and I'd wonder, "What should I do?" And I got that question a lot from my audiences. "What do I do if I go away with Jesus to find a place to get some rest?" Well, here are some ideas.
And it doesn't help to say that it's not about 'doing,' it's about 'being.'
von Buseck: You're right. That's a nice spiritual-sounding answer. But it doesn't matter if you're hard at work or if you're relaxing, you're always 'doing' something. So to give that kind of 'super-spiritual' answer can be unsatisfying. So when people ask you that question, how do you respond?
Rubietta: Well I tell them that there are a variety of ways we can be with God. So I give suggestions. There is silence. There are questions we can ask, like a spiritual director would ask. People can journal and raise issues. They can move into prayer. They can go for a walk. There are many different ways to contemplate.
The book includes a number of quotes from contemporary or classic writers to contemplate Scripture and to meditate upon.
von Buseck: Or you can go to CBN.com's devotion section (laughs).
Rubietta: You're not supposed to bring a computer with you on a personal retreat (laughs).
von Buseck: O.K., you can print the devotions off in advance and carry them with you?
Rubietta: There you go. That's a good plan.
Another question to answer is, "Where do you go?" There are many retreat centers and monasteries that have really reasonable rates where you can go and stay for the day. They'll give you a room and you can stay overnight. One of my favorite things is to go to a State Park. I love to walk. Everyone has a State Park near them and some of them have inns with a lounge or rooms if you want to stay over night.
von Buseck: Yes, there are wonderful State Parks and National Parks.
Rubietta: Yes, many rustic retreat centers -- those are good places to go. I have a friend whose home is always available and she opens that up for me if I want to go there.
von Buseck: It's kind of like a 'prophet's loft' -- like the Shunamite woman who made room in her household for the prophet Elisha.
von Buseck: I worked with friends who owned a Victorian house and they renovated their attic for a 'prophet's loft.' They told me they were doing this so that ministers who are burned out can come for two weeks, or a month and just find some rest.
Rubietta: Through people in the church you can sometimes find these kinds of places. The tricky thing about staying in someone's home is that not everyone is good at just letting you 'be' and leaving you alone.
von Buseck: Right.
Rubietta: Some people just don't understand why you want to be back in the room all alone. That can be awkward, so it's nice to go to a place where no one else is and just have that private time. What I like to do is to get away without having to set an alarm. I like to stay overnight because then there's that sense that you really have gotten away. You're not rushing back to everything you left that morning.
von Buseck: And you leave the e-mail behind -- and the TV.
Rubietta: Yes. So many of these places, that's the way they're set up. They often won't even have a clock. So that's good for me, just to go where I don't have to set an alarm. And if I'm tired, don't you think that's a good place to sleep. But then I feel guilty, like, "Oh, man, I overslept two hours…" No, this is what it's supposed to be all about.
What will it look like for your soul to rest in God?
von Buseck: How many of us make that our goal? We always say, "Plan and work so you can accomplish a lot." But the Bible shows us that the goal is not in merely accomplishing things, but in our relationship with the Lord and in finding wisdom. The things we accomplish are an outgrowth of that. But it is hard to keep that a priority.
Rubietta: It is hard. I went to a Women in Christian Media meeting recently and Janet Parshall spoke. She asked, "What would happen in our time with the Lord if we just forget our 'to-do' list. If Jesus asked you to forget your 'to-do' list and just spend your day with Him, what would you do?" So it is a counter-cultural move to go away.
The thing that I have to do when I go away is to focus on Scripture and then journal so that I can just get back to my heart again. We run so much and we work so hard and the list is so long that it's never done. To move away from that is more of a process than just a geographical thing. Journaling helps me to do that.
von Buseck: Talk to me a little bit about relationship, and how getting away for spiritual retreats ties in to your relationship with God.
Rubietta: That's part of the problem, that we forget the relationship and just do the work. That's the big danger for us as Christians -- and as Christians in the ministry. We just keep working. We believe the Great Commandment to love the Lord with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength -- and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But we really don't know how to work that all out. The whole purpose of these retreats is to re-ignite that relationship with God.
For me, I like to meet with the Lord in the morning. But it's easy for me to have a checklist; "Read through the Bible in a year -- oh, good, work, work, work, work. Journal… good. Pray… oh, good idea, pray. I'm done."
But what I found was that I really wasn't interacting with God. I wasn't intersecting with God and it wasn't changing me. I'd come out of that just as mean as ever. I'd come out of my quiet time and take my kids to school and be just as impatient and short tempered. I found that if you can do some deeper work, some deeper time with God, that He has more room to work on you. He has more time to get your attention. There's more time for you to really listen to God in your heart.
That's the other thing we have to do. We don't just listen for God's heart, we have to listen for our own heart. We have some specifics from God about His will. We have the Ten Commandments. We know we're supposed to take care of ourselves and our primary relationships. We know what the will of God is in most of our daily things. But it's in the big things that we need to stop and be still about. And we're not good at that. It has to go hand-in-hand with listening to our own hearts and our own desires as well. We need to be listening to God's heart, so that His desires become our desires. But then sometimes we don't listen to either one.
If we move into a place on a regular basis where God is our resting place -- and it really is about soul rest -- then I think we will start changing.
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Jane Rubietta is the author of nine books, including Stones of Remembrance, How to Keep the Pastor You Love, and Grace Points. She and her husband, Rich, live in the Chicago area where they operate Abounding Ministries. Jane is a popular retreat and conference speaker.
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