About twenty years ago I read a book called The Youth Builder by Jim Burns. In it he describes taking a mini-retreat periodically to help maintain his sanity in the midst of a busy, busy, busy ministry life. I was inspired to begin my own trek into this practice. As the years have passed, this discipline has become part of the rhythm of my life and I have refined the process to work effectively for me. In time, I dubbed this custom a "Solo Day."
A Solo Day is a day (or sometimes more than one day) set aside to refocus specifically on God and what He is doing in my life. It involves prayer, Bible reading, reviewing my life, journaling, and goal setting. It happens about every 3 months around the same day each of those months. In May just before my birthday, I review the entire year and consider the entire coming year.
Usually I begin with prayer, asking God to guide this time and to speak to me. Then, often (although not always) I read a large portion of Scripture (a whole book or several chapters) with the expectation that God has something to say to me through His Word. I continue with prayer and journaling about what God has communicated to me through the Bible.
Then I focus on three core questions:
- Where have I been?
- What is God doing?
- Where does God want me to go next?
Where have I been?
I review the last 3 months. I reflect on outstanding memories. I review my journals. Occasionally I review my calendar. Here I am gathering data, looking for facts and events.
What is God doing?
This is the beginning of the interpretation of the data. I am looking for where God has been at work in my life and around me. Where can I see patterns of His activity? What have I heard Him say to me? What lessons has He taught me?
Where does God want me to go next?
This is the second part of the interpretation of the data and is bathed in prayer and processing. Where does God want me to focus for the next 3 months or the next year? How do I get there? I normally write down some action steps or goals to move me forward toward where I see God leading me.
Last week I had a mini melt down one morning and later in the day, I realized that it was near the date for my quarterly Solo Day. I was feeling stressed out and overwhelmed as I often do just before it is time for a Solo Day. I knew that I needed to put it on my calendar pronto and then keep that date.
For nearly twenty years my Solo Days have been a time to connect more deeply with God, to regain my focus, to discern God's direction, and to emerge with greater peace and encouraged to forge ahead.
How do you help yourself stay focused?