In this week’s 850 Words of RELEVANT, we look at ways to detox after the holidays. (You can go here to read the article, which looks at fasting, organizations that help you give away old items, ways of performing acts of service and practicing silence.) Here we look at three different ways to help you refocus in the post-Christmas aftermath.
The Gospels tell of several incidents of Jesus fleeing the demands of an awakening world and heading off into the desert. Before Jesus started His ministry, Matthew tells of Christ taking off for the wilderness, alone for 40 days. And perhaps one of the most well-known biblical calls to solitude and silence, God tells us in Proverbs to “Be still and know that I am God.” But even if Jesus needed to get away from the hustle and bustle of New Testament-era civilization, today with the constant noise of emails, iPods, cell phones and media, finding solitude and ever-elusive “stillness” can be increasingly difficult. But as we exit the holiday season—a time full of travel, shopping and appointments—and enter into a new year, it’s important to look at ways to find time to exercise God’s call to stillness.
Along with daily exercises (see section two) to find time for silence and stillness, actually getting away can offer time for reflection, spiritual refocusing and even relaxing. One option for individuals seeking a particularly spiritually-focused trip can check out monasteries that offer short-term stays. Saint Joseph’s Abbey www.spencerabbey.org) in Spencer, Mass. is the home to fruit preserve-making monks. The group’s call statement is Mark 6:1: “Come away to a lonely place all by yourself and rest awhile,” and has 11 guest rooms to welcome visitors on weekend retreats. In Trappist, Ky., Abbey Gethsemani is home to monks who make cheese, fruitcake and fudge, and lets guest come and observe a tradition of silence and prayer for a weekend or a short stay.
If monasteries aren’t your thing, just getting away for a few days or even an occasional afternoon can provide a chance to recoup. At NPS.gov you can check out a listings from the National Parks Service and find out what different parks have to offer. Whether you’re into camping (Redwood National Park), hiking (Appalachian National Scenic Trial) or even surfing (Cape Hatteras National Seashore), there are National Parks around the country that give you a chance to get away. At the National Parks Service website you can search getaways by location and activity. For regional parks, check out your state’s parks service. (Usually, you can get to individual state park services’ homepages by just Googling the state’s name and “state parks.”)
But remember, though traveling to cool locations and getting away on occasional weekend jaunts can be refreshing and fun, taking to time to make stillness part of your lifestyle is a key to detoxing from the noise and busyness of life. Jim Palmer says in the article “Unplugging: Way We Need Spiritual Retreats” (Winter 2007 RELEVANT Leader), “I am beginning to see the monastic way isn’t so much a matter of geography but fashioning one’s own desert in the midst of our daily existence, shaking off our compulsions and dwelling conscious awareness of who Jesus is and depending on what He’s done and who He’s made us to be.”
Detoxing doesn’t always have to be something drastic—there are small things you can do throughout your day or week to break up the monotony and keep you engaged. Here are some practical steps you can take to stay on point and avoid having another case of the Mondays:
The Daily Audio Bible Podcast
Reading the Bible can be tricky. Reading the Bible regularly can be even trickier. Brian Hardin’s Daily Audio Bible Podcast is an excellent tool that you can use to read through the Bible at a reasonable pace. The production of the podcast is even said to be great quality. The best part is the different translations Hardin incorporates into the podcast—each day’s verses are read from a different translation in an effort to balance out your experience. Since podcasts are free, as well as transportable (you can play them in your car via CD or ipod), it’s an easy and effective way to read the Word on a daily basis.
On paper or computer, writing your thoughts down is not only therapeutic but rewarding as well. Studies show that journaling/blogging helps an individual stay connected socially to their peer group. Writing down your thoughts and ideas is even ideal for end-of-the-year reflection. Going back and reading what you’ve written will remind you of the trials you overcame and the joys you encountered.
Shutting out the Noise
We’ve all heard our friends brag that they made the ultimate road-trip or car ride album, but does anyone ever drive in silence? Shutting off the radio, CD player or ipod for even one car ride gives you the chance to slow down. Perhaps on the way to work you can drive in silence and allow yourself to get ready for the day; thinking through what you have to get done ahead of time leads to less stress and aggravation. Riding in silence can also benefit you on the drive back from work, letting you wind down and relax once you’re home. We’re not saying take an entire road trip with the mute button on—just turn off the noise, even if for a little bit. You might be surprised what you hear.
A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works
Let’s face it, C.S. Lewis has left some big shoes to fill for other aspiring Christian authors. His fiction and non-fiction has been recognized worldwide—foundations have even been based around his scholarship. What better way to begin (well, sort of begin) 2008 than with a little bit of Lewis in your everyday routine? This collection draws from his masterpieces such as The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, Wem and many more. These readings are a refreshing and intriguing look at the life of a man who will be remembered for many years to come.
A world that’s constantly inundated with new media, books, movies, music, TV and radio, is sometimes hard to escape. And though it’s not practical to try to cut all the noise in our daily lives, being intentional and taking time regularly to engage with thought-provoking and spiritually-enhancing media can make a difference in our own relationship with God. Here’s a breakdown of several films and resources that can offer a refreshing break from the regular entertainment routine.
Into Great Silence
This critically acclaimed 2005 documentary looks at life inside the Grande Chartreuse monastery, one of the most reclusive communities in the Carthusian Order, nestled in the French Alps. The film itself is a practice of monasticism. There is very little speaking, and aside from the sounds of nature, it explores the haunting calm of silence. It’s nearly three hours long and uses the shots of scenery and clips of monks at work to examine the slow beauty of a life void of noise. The movie is certainly not a conventional film, but offers an unforgettable taste of reflection and spiritual discipline.
Planet Earth: The Series
Watching Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth series is an almost worshipful experience. For this 11-part nature series, filmmakers spent five years traveling to remote parts of the world, observing nature and wildlife in ways never before captured on film. For fans of the nature documentary genre, it offers an amazing look at regions with groundbreaking hi-def technology; and for viewers looking for a departure from the typical fare, the breathtaking look at God’s creation is at the same time awe-inspiring and humbling.
Mars Hill Bible Podcast [ iTunes Link ]
Every week this free podcast offers talks from speakers including Rob Bell, Don Miller and Chris Seay about faith and its application to daily life. Along with the audio from the topics that focus on spiritual growth and deep scriptural application to your life, the church also gives free PDF downloads of sermon resources for further study.
Jason Upton: Beautiful People
Jason Upton’s unique style of worship music is truly unlike anything else being released. On Beautiful People, Upton combines tender worship ballads, narrative songs of testimony and reflective lyrics that seek and ponder a deep relationship with God. More than just background music, listening to a Jason Upton album is a spiritual experience.