My 3 Rhythms for Personal Retreat | Phil Rice

My [Phil Rice] Rhythms of Retreat

I had a conversation with a friend recently that led me to write out my own personal rhythms of retreat. This being the beginning of a new year, I thought this would afford us the opportunity for meaningful conversation.

I categorize my rhythms of retreat into 3 parts — daily, weekly, yearly. These rhythms have been crafted over a number of years and are always changing to meet the needs of a given season of time. I’ve also included some assessment tools that I gleaned from Tim Ferriss [found in The 4 Hour Workweek] that I have found exceedingly helpful.

Why are Rhythms of Retreat important to Practical Spirituality?

This is probably no shocker to anyone who has journeyed with me for any length of time. But I believe that our personal rhythms of rest and recovery [retreat] directly impact practical spirituality and the overarching momentum we bring to our life — mentally, physically, and of course… spiritually.

So here we go!


Rhythms of Retreat — Individual Assessment

Daily Rhythms – What daily rhythm(s) will brings me joy [renewal] in this season?

  • Must bring energy/inspiration/encouragement/clarity
  • Must be easily added to schedule
  • Examples: early morning with coffee, morning run, reading poetry, meditation, morning/evening walk
  • Current [Phil Rice] Rhythms include — morning rhythm of hot lemon water, Wendell Berry poetry, and some silent space to commune with God

Weekly Rhythms – What weekly rhythm will bring me joy [renewal] in this season?

  • Must bring energy/inspiration/encouragement/clarity
  • Must be consistent
  • Examples: extra early time [or extra late time] for self care – extended reading, doing a project, working in the garage, extended drive, extended time of meditation, extended time alone with God – if you’re an extrovert, just add a few people to these experiences 
  • Current [Phil Rice] Rhythms include — Monday evening yoga class with friends

Quarterly [Yearly] Rhythms – How should I retreat in this season?

  • Create quarterly [yearly] rhythms of retreat.
  • These can be just a single day at the coffee shop or a 3-4 day trip to more beautiful scenery [or even at a local airbnb].
  • Fill this space with that which things that bring you joy[renewal], along with time to plan for the coming quarter.
  • Current [Phil Rice] Rhythms include — a couple day retreat filled with reading [like, major kindle binge reading… stack em up!], access to a hot tub [if at all possible], yoga, extended quiet space for God to bring impression to my heart for the coming season
  • Note: Becky and I both try to get 1-2 of these in a year [alone… meaning… without spouse or kids]. Even if you can only swing 1x per year for each of you… totally worth it. Becky always comes back from these feeling refreshed and envisioned for not only herself, but also for our family. This rhythm for families is a total game changer. Dudes [men], it’s totally worth it. Give your wife a weekend to herself [at least] and watch it impact your family culture. You’re welcome.


Inventory for Quarterly [Yearly] Retreat


  1. Joy/Delight | What 20% of my responsibilities cause 80% of my overall level of joy/delight?
  2. Anxiety/Stress | What 20% of my responsibilities cause 80% of my overall level of anxiety/stress?

Practical Steps

  1. What practical ways over the next quarter [year] can I can increase my amount of joy/delight based on my answer to question 1? (activities, rhythms)
  1. What practical ways over the next quarter [year] can I mitigate the amount of stress based on my answer to question 2?
  1. Write a list over the course of your retreat of the craziest ideas [personal goals, life-giving thoughts, refreshing activities, wildest dreams] that come to mind. Toward the end of your retreat, or when you are back to normal life, take some time to determine which ideas [or some version of an idea] are plausible and exciting to think about executing in this coming season or over the coming year. Take these ideas add them to your calendar with actionable steps.



Any of this resonate? I’d love to continue the conversation and hear your thoughts.

Thanks for journeying alongside,
Phil Rice


Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember

3 Reasons why we Pray

What is the purpose of prayer? If God already knows and is sovereign in His leadership; what is the point?

Most people have a desire to grow in prayer and to be a part of a community that prays. I have interacted with many christians who express this desire; but struggle to cultivate a lifestyle that goes beyond a simple discipline built into a schedule. I can relate to this sentiment and I do not claim to have mastered a lifestyle of undistracted fellowship. I believe this is possible though, to come to the place in relationship with God that is a continual communion. So I can but only share with you where I am in this journey; reflections on the Holy Scriptures and inspirations from the lives of saints throughout history. 

There are many amazing resources and systems available that can be used to help develop a deeper life in prayer. Yet I believe that the most important thing is not necessarily "how" we pray, but "why" we pray. Without vision we will just check off lists that will either bolster our pride or fill us with shame; rather than having a flowing heart in prayer. 

There are 3 reasons why we pray:

Jesus is worthy because of who He is and what He does. Take a moment and just think about who God is and how he reveals himself in scripture. Around His throne are unending praises. Day and night it is proclaimed “Holy Holy Holy" He is unlike anyone or anything. He is perfect! He is beauty! He is the source of all life; the creator of all things. Consider His cross. He is the Lamb slain befor the foundations of the earth were laid. He is the living sacrifice. He has given all of Himself unto death so that those who were once enemies of God become His children, His bride. He has saved us from Hell and given us eternal life.

He enjoys me in my weakness. Because He is love. Because of His righteous blood that was shed. He can see and relate to us in our weakness. My weak voice, in my brokenness, moves His heart. Every glance of my eye towards Him causes Him to be undone. Though I am distracted much of the time; He sees my reach for Him, and receives it as love that is real. Our coming to God in prayer alwaysbrings a smile to His face. 

God responds to prayer. The Lord moves at the sound of our voices. As we pray, our voices are actually heard in the courtroom of heaven and have impact on the world around us.  As we take time in prayer, through consistency and diligence, our own hearts are transformed over time. Let time and diligence in prayer testify to this. As we behold beauty, we are transformed.

These on not the only reasons why; but in my opinion, they are the primary reasons. My personal journey with the Lord was initiated with a vision for a life in prayer and has continued to sustain me. Even when I struggle to connect with God for various reasons, going back to the "why" always motivates my heart. 

Do these reasons resonate with your heart? What are some reasons why you pray? I would love to hear your thoughts


Zack Roberts —
Prayer Director of Ember

Find Your Voice

Ember is a prayer and creative company. As a staff and leadership, we are personally committed to experiencing Jesus in prayer and expressing His heart and mind to the world around us. We foster an environment and provide resources that gives space for people to experience God. We come alongside anyone searching to help them workout the message burning in their hearts; and how God has created them to communicate His message. 

The Lord has placed a message in every person; it may change through the years, but we all carry within us a witness to the beauty of Jesus. I consider Jesus to be like a multifaceted diamond. Whatever angle you look at, you are seeing a different facet of who He is. We are all uniquely formed; experiencing and perceiving Jesus from different angles. As we seek out the Lord in His Word, with the Holy Spirit, through prayer and worship; experiential revelation of Jesus fills our understanding. 

The Lord has created us in His image; and I believe every person was created to be creative. We were made to express His beauty; together as the family of God. Each of us has a unique way of communicating the exceeding greatness of the worthiness of Jesus. The ways to creatively express Jesus are endless, just as He Himself is limitless. For all of eternity the saints of God will declare His worth and never exhaust the knowledge of Him. Today the world is aching to know God, though many don't realize it. The world in darkness is painfully waiting for the light of the knowledge of Jesus to shine. Jesus is the solution to every problem afflicting humanity. We are the carriers of His light. We shine through expressing the beauty of Jesus. 


Zack Roberts —
Prayer Director of Ember

His Story is Our Story

Right here in Norman, Oklahoma, a small city tucked away in the midwest, we are joining with the worship movement that will usher in the return of Jesus.

While spending time in Isaiah 42, one morning before a prayer set, I was overcome by the revelation that “this is my story.” I love reading the Bible and seeing myself in it. Through the Word we are able to see our destiny as the people of God.

In verses 10-13 the church is singing praises to God from every place on the earth. Jesus said that the gospel will be preached with the power of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28) among every people group(Matthew 24:14). This will be the biggest harvest of souls in one generation; far surpassing any other time in history. It will be in the midst of unprecedented tribulation on the earth (Matthew 24:21.) The Church’s destiny is victory; for in the midst of the shaking, she will be unmoved in her devotion to Jesus. Rather than getting caught up in the confusion of the chaos in the world, believers will have their eyes fixed on the glorious beauty of Jesus. Revelation produces worship; the more we behold the beauty of God, the more praises erupt from our hearts. From the smallest places to the biggest, every voice will join the chorus. In this passage we can see Jesus responding to the worship movement on the earth; He comes in response to the song of love from His Bride. When He comes, He brings forth deliverance and righteousness. 

As I went into the prayer set that morning, I was undone by this story. This is what we are doing at Ember. This is what Jesus is calling the Church into. Rather than responding to the troubling events of our day with fear and lashing out with retaliation; we are looking to the one who is mighty to save. Our worship pulls on the strings of His heart. Praise is our warfare. It looks foolish to the world because they have yet to see who we are singing to.

This is also a principle for our daily lives as we face trials of many kinds. If we posture our hearts to meditate upon and behold the beauty of Jesus, He will anchor our souls in peace. God will bring the breakthrough, no matter the situation, through our declaring His goodness.

He is faithful! He is good! He is able! God is mighty to save!

Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise from the ends of the earth,
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
You coastlands and you inhabitants of them!
11 Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice,
The villages that Kedar inhabits.
Let the inhabitants of Sela sing,
Let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory to the Lord,
And declare His praise in the coastlands.
13 The Lord shall go forth like a mighty man;
He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war.
He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud;
He shall prevail against His enemies.


Zack Roberts —
Prayer Director of Ember

DWG (dreams with God): brokenness

My dream:

I was sitting on concrete curb and felt someone sit by me. It was Him. His presence is soothing… I always feel at ease around Him.

“Cheryl, let me show you something about brokenness.”

He and I turned to see a painter with a blank canvas. We watched as a flowers and luscious greenery emerged from the once white empty space. It was mesmerizing, quick, effortless. The painter completed his work and it was breathtaking. A wave of contentment washed over me. Before I could say something to Him, gloppy black paint splattered onto the new painting from out of nowhere. My mouth hung open as I realized the result of the black paint- the picture was ruined. He and I sat in silence as I tried to find words to express my disappointment. My mind raced to understand why He had shown me this.

“This is what happens when shattered people continue to walk in broken patterns without healing little one: even the beautiful things I want to give them will be tainted. This isn’t fullness. There is more.”

My interpretation:

Choosing to walk in brokenness and refuse God’s invitation to healing is choosing less. It is walking around the mountain instead of climbing it to find fullness on the other side. Oftentimes I try to get around the deeper things happening in my heart in order to avoid the pain there… but pain demands to be felt and brokenness will manifest in ugly ways when it’s not taken to the Lord. Bitterness, anger, not forgiving others, are all reactions to wounds we’ve received from others. These things taint life and hurt our relationship with God and others. Even mistrust and cynicism stem from hopes that have been deferred over and over again. This is the black paint of our lives: when we don’t go to Jesus with our pain.

These are the things that can detract from being thankful, having hope, and experiencing joy in the Lord. We miss the beauty of God’s goodness all around us when we are suffocated by unaddressed issues in our heart.

This dream was an invitation to bring a broken heart to the Lord and allow Him to speak to places of hurt. It’s an invitation to let Him and other believers into places of shame, resentment, guilt, condemnation, and more and allow oneself to be seen in need of help. The right people won’t condemn you; they will speak the Truth over you and pray for your heart to be restored.

At the end of the day, this can be a difficult, time consuming process. It’s no easy thing to bare your heart before God and His people, but I’m devoted to doing just that.



I don’t want to go through life and not experience the fullness Jesus died for

I don’t want to miss the beauty of who He is


Cheryl Cochran —
Prayer Room Manager of Ember

A Song in the Wilderness

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor (trouble) as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.

Hosea 2:14-15

What are we to make of the wilderness? The language of scripture is beautiful and poetic, but there is real suffering in the afflictions of the wilderness. Why does God draw us through trials? How are we to respond?

There are specific seasons of the soul that we become aware of our own barrenness under the pressures of life circumstances. And there are periods that God seems to be distant, though He is never truly far away. Indeed He is closer than a brother; His Holy Spirit dwells within the heart of the believer and is all around us. It is His discernible presence that seems far at times.

The wilderness is the place that Israel journeyed through before they entered into the promised land. The Shulamite at the end of the Song of Solomon is seen coming out of the wilderness leaning upon her beloved. John the Baptist was in the wilderness for 30 years before his ministry began. It is where Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to be tested by Satan.

As we look through the scriptures and throughout the history of lives devoted to God; we see that the way of God is the wilderness. The goal of life is simple; it is to grow in loving God and loving others. Everything God does is maturing us in love. God removes all of the props in our lives. He shatters our pride and self sufficiency. How meager and useless our own strength is. God brings us into weakness, that His strength would be at work within our frame.

Understanding the purpose is a huge part of thriving in the wilderness. I have recently felt overwhelmed with situations in my life happening at once. While I was in the prayer room, we were praying through God’s purpose in leading us through wilderness and one of the singers caught a phrase, “I don’t want to waste this season.” This prayer really impacted my heart. I am tempted to complain or to ignore what is happening, but God has purpose. For me to respond rightly, I have to understand what He is after.

If it all comes down to love; then that is what He is looking for in me. The right response is to love God and love looks like obeying His commandments. Obeying Jesus’ commandments looks like loving my neighbor. It is easy to spend time with God when I can feel Him, but it works a muscle of faith when I don’t feel Him. It is easy to love others when I feel blessed, but it works a muscle of faith to show love when I feel hurt. Every small movement of obedience in the midst of opposition builds up endurance and faith.

This is not speaking of a labor in our own ability. The wilderness strips away all of our own strength and resources. All that is left is Christ; clinging to His word becomes an anchor of the soul. We find the richness of “fellowship” with Jesus in His suffering. He left His throne to come low and be accessible to us. Though He is now at the right hand of the Father He left His handprint on our souls; He gave us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us. The humanity of God in Christ and the working of His Holy Spirit are our stability when the world is shaking.

By grace and through faith in Christ we emerge victorious out of the wilderness. If you are under pressures in life, feeling your own weakness, and experiencing the silence; be of courage. God is with you, He is drawing you into deeper intimacy and leading you into victory. This is the process of maturing in love. Respond to this season with seeking His heart. Devote real time to simply waiting in His presence. What are you to do in the waiting? Simply rest in Christ; meditate upon His word, sing praise with your mouth, abide in His love.

In the wilderness, The Lord is drawing out a song of hope from deep within your heart.


Zack Roberts —
Prayer Director of Ember

Ember, it’s both. A brief explanation.

Ember, a prayer and creative company

The longer we go, the more comfortable we get in our own skin. When we named our endeavor Ember, we also deemed it a prayer and creative company [whatever that means, right? we were’t totally sure at the time]. When anyone asked, we could [kind of] connect the dots for them — we pray in the prayer room and we create as we are so inspired — but we were really still working out the details. A few years in, I can honestly say, we have grown all the more convinced of our way forward. Ember is a prayer and creative company and it’s not Ember if it’s not both.

The Ember Prayer Room

The Ember Prayer Room is essential to who we are. We position ourselves as an organization and as individuals toward Jesus, in the unproductive weakness of worship and prayer. We spend real time and real energy [in our ordinariness] in order to be a place of continual worship and prayer in our region. We aren’t the only ones, we aren’t the experts, but we are convinced that our world is impacted for the better because of these rhythms and that Jesus is worthy of our attention and affection.

Ember Creative

Ember Creative is also essential to who we are. This is our gift to the world, the archived creative documentation of our journey into intimacy with God. There are other prayer rooms. There are other creative organizations. But Ember will be both. These two aspects are inseparable. We must experience the spirit of God in the place of worship and prayer. We are witnesses to his reality in this place. We ask him to draw near, we rest in his presence, we join him in intercession for our region, and we must multiply what we have seen and what we have heard. Our experience of God is meant to be shared [expressed]. And so we do. And so we will.

Inspiring individuals and communities

We are a tribe of creative intercessors. This is our contribution. We don’t claim to be more. We don’t claim to be perfect. But we are committed to walking the path we have been given — inspiring individuals and communities to deeper intimacy with God through our own experience of him.

Much love and affection,
Phil Rice


Phil Rice —
Executive Director of Ember