Invitation to Retreat

The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God

Transforming Resources

by Ruth Haley Barton

Invitation to Retreat
  • Length: 144 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: September 2018
  •  Forthcoming
  • ISBN: 978-0-8308-4646-7
  • Item Code: 4646

"Come away and rest awhile."

Jesus invites us to be with him, offering our full and undivided attention to him. When we choose retreat, we make a generous investment in our friendship with Christ. We are not always generous with ourselves where God is concerned. Many of us have tried to incorporate regular times of solitude and silence into the rhythm of our ordinary lives, which may mean that we give God twenty minutes here and half an hour there. And there’s no question we are better for it! But we need more. Indeed, we long for more.

In these pages Transforming Center founder and seasoned spiritual director Ruth Haley Barton gently leads us into retreat as a key practice that opens us to God. Based on her own practice and her experience leading hundreds of retreats for others, she will guide you in a very personal exploration of seven specific invitations contained within the general invitation to retreat. You will discover how to say yes to God's winsome invitation to greater freedom and surrender.

There has never been a time when the invitation to retreat is so radical and so relevant, so needed and so welcome. It is not a luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual life.

"I had the privilege to be on retreat with Ruth as she led with a passion and patience that refueled us weary travelers on the faith journey. If you are desperate to meet God, start with this book. Invitation to Retreat forced me to accept a truth all Christians must grapple with: unless we retreat into solitude and silence to be alone with our God, we will never have a real relationship with him. We will spend our lives believing we have a relationship because we go to church, hear about God from others, read and study about God, even hang theological diplomas on our walls. Yet even then, we may not know him. This book is an invitation into the process and the practice of building intentional rhythms into this busy life of ours—to simply be with the One who loved us first and actually have a relationship with God."

Ricky Staub, founder of Neighborhood Film Company

"A wise new guide to retreat, dealing not just with practical questions on how but the even more significant why. Ruth Haley Barton reminds us we need to pause, rest, relent, and let God take charge. She mentions many guides and wisdom figures, but the best is God's Spirit working in us when we let go. I was struck by her final chapter about coming back from retreat strengthened to bless others who need our counsel. Invitation to Retreat is powerful."

Emilie Griffin, author of Wilderness Time and Doors into Prayer

"Early on in Ruth Haley Barton's Invitation to Retreat, she levels the chilling diagnosis: 'If we are honest, many of us have given up hope that we will ever be rested.' Far from hopeless, however, Ruth lays out the comprehensive antidote. From her insightful analysis of just what is making us so tired, to her incredibly inviting description of 'strategic withdrawal,' to the copious practical retreat materials and suggestions, this book might be the first thing you pack for your next retreat. Like a consummate wilderness guide, Ruth paints an enticing picture of the destination then patiently leads us every step of the way."

Jim Martin, vice president of spiritual formation at International Justice Mission, author of The Just Church

"Ruth is one of single greatest gifts that God has brought into my life, and I believe she is a prophetic voice bringing healing and hope to pastors and leaders that are desperate to find rest. Ruth speaks from a deep and authentic well. She has done her own work in creating rhythms of rest that relinquish control, respond to the voice of God, and recalibrate life so that she is healthy and whole. You hold in your hands one of the most impactful books I have read."

Jeanne Stevens, lead pastor at Soul City Church

"I have had the great privilege of attending retreats led by Ruth Haley Barton on more than a dozen occasions. Because she knows the demands of ministry firsthand, her invitation for pastors and leaders to retreat is an urgent one, with a singular focus: to have a fresh encounter with God for our own soul's sake. Invitation to Retreat lays a foundation for the necessity of retreat, but it also serves as a guide for those who have the courage to accept the invitation itself."

Steve Wiens, author of Beginnings, and senior pastor of Genesis Covenant Church in Robbinsdale, MN

"This book offers practical guidance and astonishing insight into the physical, psychological, and spiritual dynamics of intentional solitude. Thank you, Ruth Haley Barton, for sharing your well-earned wisdom about listening to the heart of the Creator and the authentic self."

Mark Scandrette, founding director of ReIMAGINE, coauthor of Free and Belonging and Becoming

"Many years ago when I was just a few years into ministry, I took my first spiritual retreat. I didn't know what to expect, and I didn't know what to do. But more than that I didn't know how desperately I needed it. Ruth led the retreat. Since that first retreat to this very day, Ruth has been a friend, mentor, and advocate for my soul. She has invited me and led me time and again to places of rest, replenishment, and retreat.

This book is the embodiment of how she lives and leads. It is an echo of the invitation given by Jesus to simply 'come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' You need this book more than you know. Trust me. You do. And if you are willing to say yes to this invitation to retreat, I believe that you will find a burden that is far lighter than you have made it and a savior who is far closer than you imagined."

Jarrett Stevens, copastor of Soul City Church, author of Four Small Words


Introduction: Invitation to Retreat
1. Strategic Withdrawal
2. Just Flop Down
3. The Sources of Our Exhaustion
4. Finding Your Rhythm on Retreat
5. Sweet Hours of Prayer
6. Letting Go of Your Grip
7. Relinquishing False-Self Patterns
8. Space for Discernment
9. Invitation to Recalibrate
10. Finding Spiritual Freedom
11. Remember the Signs
12. In Returning and Rest You Shall Be Saved
Appendix 1: Fixed-Hour Prayer
Appendix 2: Planning Your Retreat


Ruth Haley Barton (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founding president/CEO of the Transforming Center, a ministry dedicated to strengthening the souls of pastors and Christian leaders, and the congregations and organizations they serve. For over twenty years, she has ministered to the soul care needs of pastors and leaders based upon her conviction that the best thing we bring to leadership is our own transforming selves.

Trained at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation and the Institute for Pastoral Studies Loyola University Chicago, Ruth is a seasoned retreat leader and spiritual director. A sought-after speaker and preacher, she has served on the pastoral staff of several churches and teaches frequently at seminaries and graduate schools.

Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life, including Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Sacred Rhythms, Longing for More, Pursuing God's Will Together, and Life Together in Christ. She continues to share her thoughts and perspectives on soulful leadership through an online resource called eReflections as well as a podcast entitled Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership.

Follow the Transforming Center on Twitter at @TransformingCnt.

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