Sometimes, Time Alone and Away is Needed

I went to Lake Brownwood State Park for 4 days. I rented one of their rustic cabins. I stayed there spending time alone with God, nature and “myself.” I needed the break, the withdrawal, the rest. However, I didn’t just need a “retreat,” but a retreat with a purpose. A retreat without a purpose is just that, a retreat with no intentional desired result, just a rest. With a purpose, one is able to reorient, reprioritize, and renew. A purposeful retreat helps move forward with a new vigor, a new drive, a new energy for life. Without a purpose, nothing is gained, not even real rest. My method, retreat with a Bible, 2 books focused on my present challenges, plenty of water, a secluded site and no food. Yes I fasted for 4 days. I’ll explain fasting fuller in a future blog, but suffice it to say, fasting intensifies one’s experience.

After my purposeful retreat, I came back with clarity–having recommitted to my spiritual, emotional and physical priorities,goals and needs. My goal was to clearly understand the direction my ministry needed to go, how to improve my relationships, and how to be healthy in every aspect as I live day-to-day.

I went to Lake Brownwood State Park, because during mid-December, mid-week, no one is at the park. The cabins are empty, the park is empty and the campgrounds are empty. I am able to spend 4-days walking all over the park, by the lake, through the walking trails and down the roads, without coming in contact with anyone, but an occasional Park Ranger driving by.

Everyone needs some time alone and away from his or her normal environment. But it is only a “rest,” without having a specific purpose and desired result. General purposes are clarity, new energy, and reorientation. My purpose this time had to do with my stage in life and the new launch of a ministry I am involved in, Heart to Heart Christian Fellowship. I needed clarity as to what kind of church God wants Heart to Heart to be, on upcoming decisions concerning Heart to Heart and to let go of feelings and emotions that are hindering my progress in life. All this happened!!

Here are some pointers on taking a “retreat” with a purpose:

1. Find a place you are able to go where you will be away from people and your normal environment. Plan to be gone 4 full days, so make all the arrangements before hand letting people know you will not be using your phone or answering any communication for 4 days. Turn off your phone!! I call my wife each evening, but leave it off before and turn it off after the call.
2. Begin your fast the day you leave by eating a large healthy breakfast. I fast completely except I drink water and coffee. If you are not use to fasting, prepare yourself in advance by fasting 24 hours to 48 hours several times before your fasting retreat.
3. Take plenty of bottled water, because you do not know how the water will be wherever you go. I took a case so I could drink at least 8 cups per day. Do not take food! You will be tempted to cheat. Plan where you will eat breakfast when you are finished.
4. Answer, why do you need a retreat and what area of life do you want to improve. Answer what major decisions, challenges and changes you have ahead. Decide what focus you want to make, before you leave.
5. Take reading material based on the focus you want to have. Example: I wanted to focus on the upcoming ministry decisions, my relationships, and letting go of hindering feelings. I took my Bible (I always take my Bible). I took two books recommended to me, Circle Maker, and Beginners Guide to the Gift of Prophecy. I took another but didn’t read it, feeling I had come to clarity and needed to read the last book at a later date. I also took a blank spiral notebook for note taking and several writing instruments, pens and pencils.
6. Spend each day praying, reading, note-taking, walking, contemplating and meditating on what you have read. I do not follow any “daily” plan. I read as I want to, pray at the beginning of the day and through the day as well as take notes about my thoughts, dreams, visions and my readings. I do not start planning or writing down my strategy for the future until I have had time for reflecting. I usually start writing down my future plans, strategies and actions on my 3rd day.
7. Turn off your phone! I did already say this, but it needed to be said again.
8. Talk out loud to yourself, you are not crazy, that helps work things out.
9. Be open.
10. I usually leave on Sunday afternoon (having eaten a large breakfast that morning). I head back on Thursday morning, finding a great restaurant to eat breakfast on the way home.

I am going to do this 2 times per year. I use to do it 1 time per year, but this purposeful retreat is so beneficial, I am increasing it for 2018. I’ll go in June or July then again in December. I will look for a different place for my summer retreat.

Running for My Life

I am running for my life…seeking to keep physically fit, mentally astute, and spiritually attune. I am one of those that has to have something other than keeping fit to motivate me, so I run in events. My two favorite are Miracle Match in Waco and Cowtown in Fort Worth. I have run in the past without training, and that was brutal. I train now, which makes me feel better on a daily basis and helps me in my effort to lose weight (maintain once I make my goal of 165 lbs).

I have found that many over train (or incorrectly train), use the wrong shoe, and don’t take time to find the best sock. I was one of those. Each one of these can contribute or even cause injuries. I went through 4 different types of shoes as well as one foot injury, knee issues and ankle issues. I ended up with blisters and sore bottoms of my feet, thinking that socks were just socks. I couldn’t increase my pace nor lower my heart rate average. I now run without injuries, am increasing my pace and lowering my average heart rate.

I found my running shoe, the Altra Torin 2.5 (I think they now have a 3.0). I found my sock, the Balega Second Skin Fit Ultralight. I also follow expertly planned training schedules. The Cowtown provided one designed to prepare for the Cowtown 1/2 marathon. I am following it now.

I have problems with Metatarsalgia on my right foot. I tried Saucony, Newton and Hoka One One shoes, each aggravated my problem. My local running store owner directed me to the Altra Torin 2.5 shoes for an ample toe box and cushioning for longer runs. I am sold!!! I have run over 200 miles in them and 2 Half Marathons. I am able to run long distances now without the pain I experienced before. Take time to find your shoe!! Go to a local store with a real running expert who takes his or her time with you. DON’T BUY ONLINE!!

My socks came from talking with the same running store expert. After I explained my issues, he recommended Balega socks. After trying 3 different thicknesses, I now run solely in Second Skin Fit Ultralights. No blisters and no more sore bottoms of my feet.

I have read enough recently to know that over training is a problem with many older runners. We think that we have to catch on all that lost time, when we didn’t run. I recently read an article that pointed out, runners and cyclist who improve, do not run everyday and follow a training schedule that includes different distances, intervals and types. I now follow a schedule prepared by a professional where I run 4 times a week (M,T,T,S). Each run is a different distance and a different type of run (flat, easy, fast, climbs, etc.) Before I run, I stretch and briefly do aerobic exercises to get my heart rate up. When I get my heart rate up to 130+, I stop the exercising to stretch while my heart rate goes back down. When my heart rate goes back down, I start running. All this has improved my pace, average heart rate, recovery and how I feel. I have also come to enjoy running much more than I did. I use to see running as a necessary evil, but now I look forward to each run, actually notice my surroundings while I run, and have great conversations with God and myself in stride. I do not listen to music while I run, I want to be able to think and hear traffic.

Run for your life, but do it with the right equipment and best training schedule.