Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Let's Just Stay Here

My first week-long camping experience was during the summer right before I turned 11. It was the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference's church camp for 6th graders held at Camp Egan.  I had been there before on some overnight church retreats but this was the first time I got to stay for five days in a row!

Since I ended up a pastor, you might guess that the worship or the small group Bible study was my highlight of the week but I must confess that this was not the case.  The best part for me was playing in the creek.  I caught crawdads and we even cooked and ate them in our small group setting. I swam in the deep parts of the Barren Fork Creek. It also had a section of about twenty feet in length of shale rock on the bottom.  It was slick with algae and you could go upstream and then slide down as the current pulled you along.  There were also places to jump off the bank into deep water.

Overall, it was a great time.  When I got home, my mom asked me if I had gotten homesick.  This thought had never crossed my mind and I think she was a little disappointed that I hadn't missed my family.  In hindsight as a parent, I answered poorly.

Sometimes retreat requires some effort on our part.  I've always found the
rejuvenation at the mountaintop was worth the effort.
Each year following, I went to camp and sometimes went to two or three church camps during the summer.  I did learn to love the worship and the small group Bible studies even if the creek still held its allure.  Each time I was there, when it was time to go home on Friday, I wished that camp would have lasted longer.  It was a special place that held a sense of the mystery of God for me.

Good spiritual retreat is like this.  It captures us in ways that we can't explain.  It features times when we feel close to God or our Christian peers that we can't seem to replicate in the "real" world.  Yet the pull of that world is real and we must return.

This Sunday, we will celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus in the church calendar.  This reminds us of when Peter, James and John went with their Lord to the mountaintop. Peter thought they should never leave.  But the pull of the world brought them down even if regretfully.  As we consider the last of the General Rules, "Keep all the ordinances of God", we may find that regular worship, prayer and Bible study are very important for us. But we don't just stay there.  We must let them transform (transfigure?) us so that we may return to the world as a blessing.

In this we also are caught up in the mystery of God even as we take on God's mission for the world.

My hope for you is that you find greater meaning in life through worship and retreat.

My hope is that you let this guide you into someone who does no harm and regularly practices doing good.  In this we find that the General Rules, much like grace, becomes cyclical for our lives.

In Christ,


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