Retreat into Soul Care

Embracing the outdoors for inner renewal

by Stephen W. Smith

We’ve all probably said these things:

I did a retreat once—but that was a long time ago.

I heard about solitude—but I am too busy to do it.

I’m too busy—I can’t find any time for myself.

I tried silence—but didn’t like what I heard in my own head. So I quit.

I always wear ear buds—I don’t like to be quiet.

Most people know the joy of being a tourist for a few days. We work hard all year anticipating taking some time off to go visit the beach, do an overnight in the mountains, swim in a stream, linger in a chair under a tree, or sleep in late. We like to visit places that give us the chance to have a break from the routine.

The more I hear people catching on to the phrase soul care—the more I see a tendency to witness people treating caring for their souls like a place they visit once or twice—if they’re lucky—but they certainly can’t stay there too long. After all, there is work to be done; tasks to be checked off; quotas to be met; benchmarks to be realized. Who’s got time to care for their souls when the ship is going down, people are suffering and there’s money to be made?

Here’s the deal: soul care is not a box you check. Caring for your soul is altering the entire way you look at life—live your life—and find contentment within you never knew was possible. Soul care is integrating all of life into one whole life—not trying to spin the plates to keep everything in life afloat.

In 2000, my wife, Gwen, and I stepped out of a form of ministry that was burning us out and taxing our health and into a vision for a ministry that ushers people into an understanding of their own lives, personal stories and journeys as they search to find the great love of God.

At Potter’s Inn in the mountains of Colorado, our breathtaking views are the first urgings to slow down, release the burdens we bear, and open the ears of our hearts to hear God’s calling to God’s heart of love. Our work takes the traditional Christian camping experience deeper for adults while still embracing the gift of creation in the renewal of our spirits. Aspen Ridge is the retreat center of Potter’s Inn located in rural Divide, Colorado. Our 35-acre ranch is nestled in the mountains at 9,000 feet of elevation with scenic views and abundant wildlife. We host guests from around the world for soul care, spiritual direction, and guided retreats. Lodging ranges from accommodating groups to a cabin for one, where you pack in food and water and immerse yourself in solitude to hear the sounds of nature and the voice of God. The invitation is to come away from what taxes us and, in a setting that reminds us of God’s creation and our place in it, find again a way to keep and guard our souls.

At Potter’s Inn, as well as other retreat centers where we are invited to lead groups, we expose people to a new way of doing life, and we train them to practice the care of their souls. Caring for your soul requires a waking up—an awakening to this simple truth: there is something more to life than making more bricks with less straw. All of us feel the tyranny of the urgent to do more with less. But caring for your soul is most often about doing less than doing more—that’s the paradigm shift you embrace when caring for your soul. Nature itself is a model of this: what we gloss over in pursuit of modern productivity is itself teeming with creativity, life, and awe. Stepping away from the demands we face every day is the starting point, the first awakening, and giving ourselves over to the wonder of the outdoors puts us in touch with our souls and the strands of love that call us to God.

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