Tag Archives: retreats

Be still and know that I am God

[Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash]

This is God’s invitation to us (Psalm 46:10). No matter how full our days or how important our tasks, God calls us to be still before him. 

Stopping is a spiritual exercise. It is the stop that keeps us going. Each Sunday is an invitation to let our own efforts rest and rejoice in God.  

In addition, personal retreats can draw us deeper into God’s presence. Such a retreat can last half a day or several days. This year, IFES encouraged its staff to take time out for a personal retreat. Listen to some of their experiences:

          “It was my first time to go on a retreat. As the time approached, I felt increasingly nervous and under pressure, thinking that I need to use this time well and come back with results. Talking to a colleague helped me relax and simply be open to receive what God has prepared. The Lord is good. He provided a place where I felt safe and comfortable; he talked to me through Scripture, people, and in unexpected moments. Some of it was hard to hear, but very healing. I am planning to make this an annual tradition.”

          “An activity I really enjoyed was walking and taking pictures in the gardens of the retreat centre. It had been so long since I had lingered over simple, beautiful, and quiet things like flowers and plants.” 

           “I used a resource from the Scripture engagement website:  ‘An Honest Conversation with God: Praying Our Lives (Psalm 42-43).’ It provided just the right amount of structure and flexibility.”

          “I read through the prayers we find in the Epistles of Paul, praying them for me and for my region, reflecting on their relevance to this stage of my ministry.”  

          “I would describe my day as ‘mercifully quiet.’ I had one day without all the usual distraction. Some of the time I spent reflecting on my personal and professional life. But I also spent several chunks of the day simply sitting on the floor, resting or watching the rain, and had a profound sense of the presence and mercy of God with me even as I ‘did nothing’. This allowed me to recognise how overstimulated my body and mind have become. In response, I am building in more persistent rhythms to pause and be regathered in my work day.”  It is the stop that keeps us going. When is your next stop? And how will you shape it? 

Here you can find different resources to help plan a personal retreat, to prayerfully reflect on your life, and to connect God’s Word with your own experience. Enjoy!

Sabine Kalthoff
IFES Secretary for Spiritual Formation


Refocusing through retreats

Two women staff workers in a pleasant environment, outdoors, with a guitar, singing, and with books on a table beside.

At the beginning of summer 2019 I had an opportunity to be part of the IFES European staff retreat. The timing was perfect for me, as I had started my three-month sabbatical around the same time. The retreat helped me walk into the sabbatical with a focus on Jesus, and already in a period of reflection on the previous few months.

Scripture Engagement has been really helpful to me in helping me learn new things. The retreat felt like a very safe space to reflect and engage, and as a learner at heart, I found numerous aspects of the retreat fascinating. Probably the most impactful thing for me was the balance of spending time in solitude with God, and with others in community. It was a healthy combination of meditating on the Word, prayer, and learning together.

After having this privilege, I wanted to share it with others. This kind of retreat was pivotal in my understanding of rest and reflection, so I decided to invite a friend of mine, who also works in ministry, to join me on our own four-day retreat in the Czech countryside. It has now become a tradition for us, and we have both since then introduced some other friends to retreats as well.

The crucial combination of solitude and community I experienced at the IFES European staff retreat was exactly what we wanted to recreate on our Czech retreats. Our pattern has been that after some discussion and prayers, we decide on a topic. Some of the topics we’ve had on our retreats include ‘Prayer’, ‘From mourning to dancing’, ‘Knowing I am loved’, and ‘Resilience in times of crisis’, among others. We always start our days with a Lectio Divina spent in a solitude time, then we share about our experience in scripture. Afternoons tend to be spent in some reflection (timeline, topical reflection), hikes or some manual labour.

These retreats have quickly become my preferred method of rest and vacation. It helps me with spiritual disciplines in my life, gives me more clarity about God‘s story in my life, and deepens my relationships with those who spend time on retreats with me. My friend Ráchel once said that she can‘t think of a better vacation as a ministry worker. I agree with her. I believe that as a ministry worker, I am at risk of spending my time with God only for the purpose of succeeding in said ministry, of slipping into business talk with God, rather than a deep relationship. I am at risk of going about my ministry by doing, rather than being. Retreats like these help me not to fall victim to these risks, but walk with God and carry out my ministry more meaningfully.

Eva Petržilková, UKH (IFES Czech Republic) staff worker