R&R Retreat for Writers







2013 retreat



UPDATE! the promo code word “breathe” will save you an EXTRA $25!

I’ve been sitting on some very exciting news, and it’s finally time to announce it. THIS MAY 24-26…

If you’ve ever gone to a conference or retreat and had a awesome time but left feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or hit that infamous post-conference slump, something new has been designed with you in mind.

Powerhouse writers (and bloggers) Kristin Tennant and Ed Cyzewski wanted to create a weekend full of rejuvenation, time and space for reflection in a beautiful setting, practical help for writers with professional, emotional, and spiritual support. All this within a small community context (limited to a small number of guests for optimal awesomeness). It will be fun, relaxing and helpful–a time for laughter, honesty, and mutual care. A holistic retreat! Honestly, you’d be crazy to miss it.

All this for less than a typical hotel stay! So cheap. Such a gorgeous setting. So awesome, I can hardly contain myself.


The Renew and Refine Retreat for Writers is just that thing that you need.


Click to get the full details and photos of the accommodations and grounds! It promises to be an amazing time! You’ll want to dig around on the Renew and Refine website and find out more.


Early birds get a super discount.  AND for two days Ed is giving away 3 helpful books!-here.

You’ll find me there too as the Spiritual Director. I’m looking forward to meeting you, spending time together, and listening to your heart. There will be opportunities for engaging in guided Christian spiritual practices like prayer (various forms) meditation, worship, reflection, and silence, as well as a few spots for one-to-one spiritual direction/soul care, if you’re interested. (More on that in later posts)

Stay connected to the info and happenings leading up to this time by using or searching for #RRforwriters tag on Twitter.

Huge Creativity Booster: Don’t Read Cranky Bloggers

So, I have this story to tell you…

I enjoy reading blogs. I read dozens regularly, and this summer I stumbled on a discovery that has really changed how my day goes.

I stopped reading cranky bloggers. It sounds simple, right?

Hang in here with me for a moment, because there’s more.

I didn’t set out to read cranky bloggers, but since I’ve subtracted them from my reading diet things have improved in amazing ways.

• For one, I  feel more hopeful on many levels.

• I have more creative energy.

• I can think more clearly about my goals.

• And, best of all I don’t feel so dragged down, overall, you know in that way that’s hard to pinpoint what exactly what could be wrong. You just feel restless or bothered on an emotional subterranean level. 

Granted, lots of cranky bloggers can be interesting, entertaining, or provocative, and I have enjoyed reading them … but I also discovered that more is at stake as I write, create, and interact.

Grouchy people (bloggers or whoever) stifle my creative energy flow:
The fall out comes in terms of…

• problem solving,

• idea generation,

• interpersonal interaction,

• and the resolve to finish ideas all the way through.

It’s all become the higher priority for me rather than staying with the latest controversy or who-done-it tongue wagging.

A captive no more!

So, I unsubscribed to a bunch of writers who were routinely griping or negative. Sadly, I’ve found a number of Christian bloggers had to be cut from my list. They’re just not the cheery bunch you’d expect really. Some of them are quite popular, but oh well. It was a tough decision actually, but a good one…for me. Life-giving really.

I realize that maybe you’re different. Maybe the tit-for-tat cranky bloggers complete with their fiery commenters spark and enthuse your creative Muse. Do they? Maybe it’s their passion gives you a boost that you need to problem solve or unearth new ideas and projects, and carry them out.

But, does it? Really think about it:
After you read a rant post, or someone’s beef or complaint, and the string of ensuing comments, do you feel energized for your own work or creating your own unique art, or do you feel drained?

See, my creative Muse gets peeved. She distances herself from me, it seems. She finds a huff and leaves in it. Maybe out of embarrassment? Maybe out of frustration frustration? Maybe because it’s all so empty to be even a small part of what is ultimately fleeting and hallow. It’s beneath her. “She”…yeah sure…I suppose that might seem silly to personify my creativity… (and pull a classic Steven Pressfield).

Nevertheless, I just know full well now that a diet of reading that includes grouchiness creates a dead weight I’m not willing to drag along anymore.

Incidentally, I’ve found the same thing holds true regarding viewing cable news shows (humorous, provocative, or otherwise), political pundits, or too many advertisements. Again, that’s my experience. The return on investment (of my time) doesn’t warrant a close tie.

Cynicism puts a machete to the roots of your creative Source. 


Here’s the surprise ending:

Originally, I thought to myself,

“Okay. I’ll just unsubscribe to this and that, and then in the mornings when I read my email I won’t see the latest and I won’t get sucked in to read them. Sure, that’s the ticket. Then I won’t creatively derail. Yeah! I’ll just find them later, or check after a week, and see what I missed, if anything.”

You know what happened?

I didn’t even miss it. I stopped caring about the hype. I hardly ever went back. I stopped wondering if I was missing a controversy or some buzz about the interwebs. It didn’t matter. It was chaff. I just felt better and had more to give. Perhaps I felt “cured” of that honey trap.

Try a diet of without cranky bloggers for just one week. Don’t open the email, or unsubscribe for just a week, and see if it makes a difference in your life. See if it increases your ability to be creative and amazing.

I think it will, and I wish you all the best!

Thanks for reading.

I’d love to hear from you on the topic.

In which Sarah Bessey Writes a Letter to Bloggers…

In which I post Sarah Bessey’s photo

Sarah Bessey writes at Emerging Mummy where she has become an accidental grassroots voice for postmodern and emerging women in the Church on issues from mothering to politics and theology to ecclesiology. Her writing has been well received in many publications including Church Leaders, Relevant Magazine, A Deeper Story, SheLoves Magazine, and Emergent Village. Sarah also works with Mercy Ministries of Canada, a non-profit residential home for women seeking freedom from life-controlling issues. She is a happy-clappy follower of Jesus and social justice wannabe. Sarah lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, Brian, and their three tinies: Anne, Joseph and Evelynn

Hey, everyone! Lisa, here.

I’m happy to include a lovely person, champ blogger, and Canadian beauty– the one, the only: Sarah Bessey. I could tell you that I love Sarah and that I love reading her blog, but then you would just think, “Duh? Who doesn’t, Stupid?!”

Yesterday, she had a gracious response to the flap about under-represented female bloggers by posting her own list, which you can check out with her handy dandy button (link):

So, I’ll just use this valuable spot, after the 50 Button and before the letter from Sarah (yes, it’s beachfront property, baby) to encourage you to sign on for RSS or email updates for continued awesomeness. Lots of great writers are my splendid guest contributors ( a.k.a Series #4Bloggers ). My first ebook comes out May 1 “Soul Care for Creators and Communicators”. It’s free (until NOV 2012) if you sign up for it here. (It too is part of the awesomeness. More on that in the coming days and weeks)

And now, enjoy!

Dear Blogger:

There are so many ways to be a better blogger, to increase your traffic, to maximize your SEO, to make money. 

I practice almost none of them.

After nearly 8 years of writing my life out online, I’ve made almost every mistake one can make. I’ve learned the hard way to write angry, but publish when I’ve calmed down. I’ve received my fair share of angry criticism and lavish praise. I’ve been convinced that I’m God’s gift to the blogosphere and, usually within a few moments, pretty sure that my blog is an abomination upon the earth. And I discovered that what is good for the Google analytics isn’t always good for my soul.

In the midst of the reactionary, often inflammatory, competitive, over-saturated, addictive world of online writing, I repeat to myself, “Remember who you are, Sarah.”

That simple phrase has helped me decide what to write and what to publish, what to leave to other bloggers. It’s helped me focus my content, reconcile my values with my work, make decisions about blog growth tactics, advertising opportunities, networking or relationships. It’s helped me not to crash into despair when someone emails with harsh criticism or fries me up in their own blog post as a “response” served with chips. And it’s also helped me not to get too full of myself when praised, I’m very well aware of who I am and, as every one that knows me in real life can attest, I’m disgustingly normal with flaws and frustrations.

But even beyond the world of blogging, that phrase has helped me make decisions about my priorities and values. It’s helped me to shut the computer down most days, to go outside with my tinies, to make space for spiritual disciplines like silence and secrecy, to make cookies instead of nasty comments. It’s helped me to engage in the hard work of real, skin-on community, to put my physical hands to justice and mercy, to rock my babies to sleep. 

“Remember who you are” means remembering that I’m more than a blogger. I’m Brian’s wife. I’m Anne and Joseph and Evelynn’s mummy. I’m my parents’ daughter, my sister’s best friend. I’m Auntie-Mama to my little nieces. I’m someone who would rather eat popcorn for supper. 

And beyond all that, it helps me remember: I walk in the ways of Jesus. I am a peace maker. I am committed to speaking Love as my first language. I am an advocate for Mercy. I am a grace-receiver, a forgiver, a woman after God’s own heart.

So my friend, remember who are. In the midst of the blogging, beyond the blogging, and through it all, remember this: you are loved, you are loved, you are loved. 

Remember who you are, my friend.  

Love, Sarah

Pride and Popularity [Guest Post from Lisa Bartelt]

Here’s another Lisa, and an up-and-coming famous blogger sharing her frustrations of blogging. I was in a bunch of seminary classes and in student forum (government) with her husband Phil. Every time he’d say, “Well, Lisa… said or did this or that…” it would alway take a full three seconds for me to figure out that he couldn’t be talking about me. One of the first times it happened, I just stared at him in what must have looked like total confusion. Thankfully, he pieced it together for me. It turns out we have more in common than just the same first name. Enjoy.

Pride & Popularity

-by Lisa Bartelt

“I don’t read your book reviews, just like everyone else.”


Okay, so I know wounds from a friend can be trusted, but this wound was from my husband.




And he was talking about my blog.


Double ouch.


If his statement hadn’t been painfully true, then maybe I would have done more than laugh it off. But he was right. People aren’t reading my book reviews. Shoot, even when I give books away, I’m not getting a lot of traffic. In fact, the last time I hosted a book giveaway, I wondered if I was going to have to beg someone to take it. (Praise the Lord, I found some willing contestants, and even a winner. Can I get a “hallelujah”?)


I’ll admit it: I want to be popular. As a blogger. And as a person. I want “reach” and “impact” and all kinds of other blogosphere words I don’t know anything about. I want to one day wake up and have magically appeared on WordPress.com’s front page as a “freshly pressed” blog on which hundreds (thousands?) of people have clicked, liked or commented.


I’m not asking too much, right?


The problem, for me, is that blogging is not my day job (heck, it’s not even my night job!) and I suspect it takes more effort than I give to really “make it” in the blogosphere. (Total rabbit trail: that word weirds me out because I was a journalist in Illinois when Rod Blagojevich was governor and we used the word “Blagosphere” to describe the world he lived in. Rabbit trail over.)


Popularity may not be a bad goal, but it isn’t the best goal for a blogger, especially a blogger whose aim is to glorify Jesus.


Do you ever wonder why God didn’t send Jesus to earth now? I mean, if He wanted Him to be popular, there’s no time like the Information Age. Jesus might have had millions of Twitter followers, a hip happenin’ blog and more Facebook friends than dollars in the Mega Millions lottery pot.


If popularity was the goal, then Jerusalem 2,000 years ago was the wrong choice.


God intended something deeper than popularity, which is fleeting. Just think back to high school, or if that’s too painful, think about celebrities today who are popular one week and practically black-listed the next.


No, popularity can’t be our goal. Not if we want more than 15 minutes of fame.


My 2-year-old son recently went through a phase where he wanted me to sing him to sleep. Bear in mind, I have a voice that, while it does not cause dogs to howl, will not win me a spot on American Idol. I obliged, and it has turned into a nightly routine with both kids.


While there are days I think I’d like to have the adoration of millions of fans and fame of the “Idol” kind, I find most satisfying my son’s request: “Please, you keep singing?”


Maybe it’s pleasure we should seek.


“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13 (NASB)


A couple of weeks ago, my family was on vacation, and I was practically off the grid for 10 days. My Klout score actually went up during that period. (A case of absence makes the heart grow fonder?) Maybe it’s not really about me, after all.


William Featherston wrote these words in what would become the hymn My Jesus I Love Thee: “and praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath.”


As writers, we can carry that sentiment – I will write as long as You lend me the words — into our work, whether thousands of people read our blogs or just our moms and grandmas. (Hi, Mom!)

Lisa Bartelt is an award-winning journalist turned stay-at-home mom of two and soon-to-be pastor’s wife whose work has appeared in The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter. She blogs about books, kids, and Jesus at http://lmbartelt.wordpress.com.

Reflections on God [or what happened with the Jesuits, part II]

Natural Sponge (click for image attribution)

For a short bit of background you can read Part I.

Background in one sentence: On March 6th I went to my first all-day, silent, guided prayer retreat held at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, Pa.
Simply put: I’m hooked, probably for life.
I’m not sure what can rival what happens when I finally unplug, quiet down, and let God be God. This was that sort of time.

In the morning, our group gathered for a brief preparation to guide our personal prayer time. Sr. Maria McCoy shared some thoughts and gave 2 rather simple but profound analogies for God and God’s presence. As we entered an extended time of silence and prayer, these (theological, and ontological) ideas about God were to pervade our experience. And did they ever!

Spiritual Guidance Tip: To get a snatch of the experience yourself, try this: Block off 20 minutes, or more if you can, for prayer. Then, read the following 2 analogies and take them with your into your time. Talk with God about them. See what happens.

She kicked it off like this, “There was once a baby fish…”

I thought, “I don’t care who you are lady, but anybody who starts a pensive day of prayer like that is a kindred spirit!”

The rest went something like this:

There was once a baby fish, who went to his mother and said, “What is water and where is it? I’m so very thirsty, and I think if I don’t find some water soon, I will die.” Her mother said, “Water is all around you. Sometimes you can’t even notice it, because it’s so close and so real.”

God is like water and we are his fish. God is real and ever-present. There is nowhere where God is not. As we swim about, we may not be able to feel God’s presence or see the boundaries of God. We cannot see these boundaries, because God has no boundaries. God continues. God is.

And then another one something like this…

Think of an ocean sponge. Think of an ocean sponge where it is supposed to be…deep in an ocean. The sponge is surrounded by water. But, the sponge is full. Full of that same water too. The water is in, and through, and all around the sponge. You are that sponge, and God is the water. Realize that God, who is your Creator, and everywhere present, is present at the core of who you are. God is the center. God is indeed in, and through, and all around you.

So when sticking to Christian theology, God is omni-benevolent (throughly good) and omnipresent (everywhere present) I pray differently. Sometimes I act more like a dried out sponge, and I forget this basic stuff about God. I forget how this Truth* plays out.

Another amazing gift is that before I went to the retreat, I used the language of water to describe my reason for going (see that part here). I mentioned how physical and spiritual dehydration can, after a while, turn into a kind of lack of thirst–the very opposite of what is most needed. I think refreshing and retreat go together.

When was the last time you noticed your spiritual thirst?

Verses of reflection:

Eph 3:16-19 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Psalm 139:5-8 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths {hell}, a you are there.

*Truth capitalized to denote Truth as a Person (God). Found or experienced in relationship more clearly or fully than through propositional statements or systematics.