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.

Sorry I’ve Been Absent. Catching Up.

I have been working on reducing my tasks and responsibilities, in order to live better. I reduced my positions at multiple organizations. I focused on getting urgent tasks done so I could concentrate on significant and life altering tasks and roles. Years ago I read, Ordering Your Private World, by Gordon McDonald. I also read several Steven Covey books as well as some resource I cannot remember, that suggested dividing your life into your most important roles (I think 7 was suggested) and make sure you balance your life around those roles.

All this was helpful, but actually I found that when I am looking for a system to get me out of a system, I end up busy all over again.

So, I am just reducing to what is important. I am narrowing down what I want to do, to what I am able to do. This includes my roles, my tasks, and my hobbies. I am a husband, father, “family-member,” friend, pastor/director, and athlete (adventurer). My priorities are relationships (1st God, then all others), serving other people with God’s grace, and staying physically active and healthy.

IT IS OK TO SAY NO TO SOMETHING GOOD, EVEN GREAT!!! I have to tell myself that often.

I am able to say no, because always saying yes is really somewhat arrogant and prideful, thinking either I am the only one who is able, or that I am always the one who ought to do it. There is always someone else who is more than able to do all the tasks that are not related to my personal relationships. Someone else is more than able to be used by God to fulfill any role I serve in ministry. I have to make sure, I do not shirk off something he is calling me to, but more times than not, I jump before I make sure he is calling me, instead of seeing He just might be showing me something I just need to be aware of or help someone else heed the call to do it.

Here are just a few questions I ask myself…Is this something that directly affects my relationships, that I am able to do something about? Is this something that directly affects my calling? Is this something that is my responsibility, or am I able to delegate it more effectively? Do I have any Sabbath time or recreation time, and why not? Are there some urgent needs, that are keeping my from my priorities? How does it affect my roles or does it fall into one of my roles?

One of the effects of being overly busy, was I let my health get away from me. I gained 20 pounds and lost my ability to run or cycle any long distances. So, I began to focus on my health, as an urgent need. My attitude, abilities and mental status were affected.

So, I downloaded MyFitnessPal and started tracking my calories. I read several articles on Clean Eating. I downloaded a schedule for preparing to run the Cowtown 1/2 Marathon. I blocked off time each day to take care of these efforts. I do not schedule appointments or find reasons not to do each of these tasks. I faithfully track my calories and stay within the projected calorie count MyFitnessPal set for me. I faithfully run the scheduled distances, 4 times per week, early in the morning. I pay attention to ingredients and seek to eat clean. I have lost over 10 lbs to date and have increased my pace where I am running right at 10 min/mile for 7+ miles. My BP is down. My weight is down. My heart rate is slower. My attitude has changed and I am mentally clearer.

I am working on my relationships…1st with my wife, with my children, with my grandchildren and with the rest of my family. I am taking time to get with my friends. I am spending more time doing the tasks that will directly affect my ministry. And I am making sure I have time to be an adventurer in the areas I enjoy the most…running, cycling, sailing and vacationing with my wife.

I will keep you posted. Oh, and by the way, my new Altra Torin running shoes are the best!!! And my Oboz Hiking boots really did their job and are holding up well as I use them for Backpacking and going to Honduras.

Walk to Emmaus, A Spiritual Journey in San Angelo

Whole Living includes spiritual centeredness, spiritual awareness and spiritual direction. I was renewed and refreshed in these areas at a Walk to Emmaus in San Angelo, TX. My brother-in-law was my sponsor.

When Mel asked me if I would go to Walk to Emmaus, I agreed, but reluctantly. I really didn’t want to go. However, I went, because I had seen a change in Mel. He credited his change to his Walk, and I didn’t want to disappoint him or dampen his excitement.

I really enjoyed the drive to San Angelo with him. I was, in a way, looking forward to 3 days of a retreat, away from the busyness of life. I also, deep down, knew I needed something spiritual, something that would rekindle and recenter my heart. I have been experiencing spiritually depressing and suppressing influences for a while. I have been allowing those influences to keep me from moving forward, they have been causing me to move sluggishly, languishing along.

The Walk to Emmaus was exactly what I needed at exactly the right moment. The Walk is like a conference, workshop, personal retreat wrapped up with surprises that move and encourage you in God’s grace, love and call to service. What an experience, what a renewal, what refreshment! I was moved to smiles, laughs and tears. I was convicted, comforted, encouraged and empowered. I was released and rejuvenated. I left knowing I am loved, forgiven and have an important role in God’s purpose and mission. I knew this at one time. Maybe your knew this or maybe not. Either way, The Walk to Emmaus will either remind you or instill in you these truths in a living active way. The Walk to Emmaus will center you spiritually.

Whole living will not happen unless you are centered spiritually. Being centered, for me, means understanding God’s love, because he has poured it into my heart (Romans 5:5). Being centered, for me, means being continually connected to the life giving Christ in a relationship (John 15:5). Being centered, for me, means being continually transformed by continually “beholding” Christ’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Being centered, for me, means using the gifts God has given me for him and others (1 Peter 4:10). Being centered, for me, means being an active part of a community of faith (Hebrews 10:25).

Make sure you are spiritually centered. Whole Living comes out of a spiritually centered life, no other way. I highly recommend Walk to Emmaus, especially if you need to be centered or re-centered, the Walk might just be what will help you get there, or better said, the vehicle that God might use to get you there.

Narrow to Most Enjoyed, Cycling, Outdoor, Travel


I have discovered, being an adventure/risk-taker junkie, that I often find myself strung out, because I have so many things going on, or I am trying to do so many things I enjoy. Whole-living isn’t filling every moment with an adventurous, risky, adrenaline-rush causing, or satisfaction-promising event, hobby, or effort. Whole-living begins with relationships, which also sustains whole-living. Whole-living does include those activities that you “MOST” enjoy, not all the activities you enjoy. Narrowing down what you do to the “MOST” enjoyed will give you down time and spiritual renewal time, much needed for whole-living.

Sometimes we fill our lives with too many activities, events, efforts, or other enterprises that take our time, energy and focus. Balance. Moderation. Two words often used, but seldom heeded. Maybe it’s actually, Priorities–Relationships (God primary), Enjoyment (as opposed to exhaustion), Renewal (spiritual, mental, physical, emotional). And the time for Relationships to be built, enjoyment to be had, and renewal to take place, making up your whole-life.

I have recently narrowed (this is an ongoing process) down the activities and hobbies that filled my life–flying (private pilot) scuba (dive master), sailing, traveling, cycling, fishing, kayaking, backpacking, RVing, running, Triathlon competing, cruising, and brewing beer. On tope of all this, I taught school, planted a church and directed a nonprofit benevolent organization that operates in Honduras, Mexico and the U.S. Here is where I am so far: I sold don’t fly (sold my plane and am not directly associated with any flying organization) my tri-bike, sold our RV trailer, sold my scuba equipment, did not buy the sailboat, resigned from teaching and cutback on the type of travel we will do.

My focus: cycling (running during off-season), backpacking & kayaking. We will travel twice per year. I will focus on the church plant and nonprofit, combining the two after December.

Narrow down, focus on the activities you most enjoy and that your spouse (others you have relationships with) most enjoy as well. My wife enjoys cycling, traveling, traveling and the church plant as well as the nonprofit. That still gives both of us time for individual activities we are able to enjoy.

Here is my bike. I ride a 2013 Defy 1 with an Ultegra gear set. I have a TomTom MultiSport Cardio with a bike mount. I upgraded the seat with a Cobb Plus. Since I have narrowed down, I have been able to focus, get back on my bike and ride. I rode over 100 miles this week and will continue to ride, building up to be able to ride the 100 K at HHH in Wichita Falls in August. I joined USA Cycling and will ride officially as a Category 5 male racer. I am looking forward to this. My wife and I will be together, she will ride a shorter distance, and we will be with her sister and brother-in-law. We enjoy being with them, building life-long, meaningful relationships while we all enjoy riding together and the whole experience.

This week we will be at Concan, TX staying at Neal’s Lodges on the Rio Frio with family. Again, taking time to build relationships, with an outdoor experience, getting away from the daily pressures and obligations, to rest, recoup, and enjoy. I will be taking my bike!! I will enjoy riding the cool river on an inner tube. I will enjoy a few games of 42 (dominoes). I will enjoy good food, late nights of great conversations, and being with my family.

Narrow down, build relationships, find whole-living.