Getaway with God Part 2 of 3

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It’s been really exciting planning my first Getaway with God, the idea of a personal retreat sounds just like the thing I need right now.  Sometimes we just need a moment to get our head on straight, focus back to where it should be, and I can’t wait.

I must admit some of the planning aspect has been easy since I am tacking this on to an existing trip.  So answering the when and where questions were a bit of a no brainer.  In fact, I think if I had to plan it from scratch verses adding it to an existing trip… it may have been harder.  My focus in planning, now, has been the details.

Am I going to lock myself in my space for the day and just really concentrate on God?  Do I want to venture out to enjoy His creation?  And where will I do that when I am staying in a major city?  I do have access to a small kitchen, so I could stop by a store and load up on snacks and meals to munch on, or I could go for a quick bite or order in.  So many options!

Since my retreat isn’t off in a quiet location, I had to veer off from the book a little bit.  I need to get my hands on a map of the area, locating a local park perhaps.  I know there is a zoo in fairly close proximity, and that could be interesting.  I can’t think of a time I have ever gone to a zoo completely on my own.  But what an opportunity to see such variety in God’s created animals.   I can also use the map to find places to eat that are near by and figure out what will work in my budget.  I’ve decided that being my first personal retreat, I won’t be fasting (at least from food).

In the book there is a sample schedule for the 24 Hour Retreat, and I think that will really helpful to follow for my first retreat.  It also helped me to figure out what I would need to pack.

My largest hurdle is determining what type of retreat this will be, especially knowing that following the retreat is going to be a fast paced conference weekend.  On the one hand, I think a Restorative Retreat would be a beautiful way to prepare myself for the conference.  I would be able to rest up, prep my heart for what God would reveal to it during the conference, and set my mind into the right mode to learn.

A Listening Retreat could be a great way to put a cap on some things that have been weighing me down before the Lord reveals new things to me at the conference.  I have some lingering questions regarding certain situations that I would love to address.  Perhaps getting away and being alone with God is exactly what I need to find that peace.

I also have the ministry that I work with, and having a solid 24 hours to dedicate to Goal Setting would be wonderful.  My only caveat with this option is that I’m not sure I can do too much goal setting without the rest of my team there.  So perhaps this is a different retreat for another day.

What does this all mean?   It means my biggest priority right now is to be in prayer and covet the prayers of those closest to me about WHY I am going on this retreat and what God would have me do with this time.

Why Do We Have to Choose

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Due to social media we have a window into the lives of everyone’s opinions about what happens in the world.  We learn about the issues that are the closest to their hearts, the social plights that burden them at night, where they lean politically, and even those little every day pet peeves.  Everyone we are connected to also learns these things about us.  It’s a constant flood of opinions, editorials, pleas for activism, calls for change, fundraising requests, petitions, and news shares that are peppered in among pictures of our kids, meals, and fun.

What I have also noticed is that there is a lot of assumptions being made.  It seems like every major issue is cut and dry.  You are either for it, or against it.  At times it also feels like if you choose to support one issue, then everyone assumes that is the only issue that matters to you.  As if we can’t feel just as passionate about a myriad of issues.  Why do we have to choose?  Does the Lord not give us eyes big enough to see the whole world?  Does He not give us a heart big enough to break for more than just one person or cause?

Then I think about how the Lord talks about the gifting of spiritual gifts, how everyone gets their own gifts at His discretion and each of us will use our gifts for different purposes under His direction.  If all of us were to hold the same issue dear to our hearts, say homelessness, then yes we could eradicate homelessness.  But what about addicts, those in prison, the foster system, those who are ill, the abused, and all of the other broken aspects of the world?  We can’t have a world full of doctors only, we need plumbers and electricians too.

I think it is reasonable to believe the the Lord will burden each of our hearts a bit differently, towards certain causes or people.  He disperses the burden so that we don’t forget about the widow when caring for the orphan, or forget the alien when we care for the invalid.  We need to be careful not to assume that just because the Lord has bent someone’s heart toward a specific cause that they don’t have a concern for others.

And, we should be grateful that the Lord has many workers to go out into the broken world.

Getaway with God, Part 1 of 3

getawaywithgodSometime ago, I messaged my Pastor’s wife questioning if she had ever planned a personal/private retreat.  She had not, but encouraged me that it would be worthwhile.  After all, spending intentional time alone with God can’t be anything short of a blessing.  I still didn’t know how to go about it though.  I asked around a bit more, no luck.

What do you do on a personal retreat?  In my head I envisioned myself sitting in a cozy chair with my Bible, reading.  Then I thought about purchasing a Bible Study with video set and doing the whole thing over the course of a weekend.  Perhaps I would journal until I couldn’t journal another word, or use it as a working retreat to write a book.  Maybe I would fast the whole weekend.  Then of course the logistical questions came rolling in …

When and where?   How will I pay for it?  Can we spare the time away, when I already have a few travel events this year.

As I cracked open the book, Getaway with God (by Letitia Suk), I learned a few things.

  1.  I’m not the only one who felt called to go on a personal retreat.
  2.  I’m not the only one who asked these same questions about planning one.
  3.  Letitia Suk has been doing this since 1977.

Now, I have in my hands the wisdom of someone who has figured this concept out.  She’s answered the questions, from what to pack to what type of retreat you should have.  Additionally, she speaks to not only what this retreat can mean to you today (in this season) but also down the road.  There are suggestions for short retreats (one day) to longer ones, a few examples of when we can bring a friend along and still consider it a personal retreat.

I’m also a big fan of the portions where she shares what other women have said about their own personal retreats. More women are doing this than we realize.

It just so happens that the Lord has made a way for me to plan a short personal retreat, before I even put my hands on this book.  In a few months, I have a conference to go to.  It’s going to be a very busy few days.  The conference starts early in the morning, and my friend and I planned to arrive the day before to get settled into our hotel.  As I was preparing to buy my airline ticket, I was a little sticker shocked.  Out of sheer curiosity, I looked at what the price would be to fly in an extra day early.  Amazingly not only was the flight less expensive, but I would also be able to stay at a quaint little Bed and Breakfast and still save some money.

So, I booked the ticket.  I’m flying in a day earlier.  I’ve got a Bed and Breakfast booked.

I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with all this free time.  Now that I’ve read the book, “Getaway with God”… I know EXACTLY what I am going to do with my extra day! I’m planning a personal retreat.    Over the next few weeks, I’ll post Part 2 which I will talk a bit about my planning process.  Then, I’ll post Part 3 after my personal retreat and fill you all in how it went!

Boxing In Spiritual Gifts

boxedin A few days ago, I was reading a post on Facebook from a fellow leader.  She was lamenting over the fact that she had just had a conversation with a person in the church about having an intentional relationship with their youth.  He was sharing ideas on how’d he would like to become active in their lives.

It was either in the midst of the conversation, or shortly there after, that this leader became aware of a need in the church.  A Sunday School teacher for the teens would not be able to make service, she thought of this man, and reached out to him to fill in.  He said no and she was disappointed in his response.  She continued her lamenting, pointing out that teens want to see they are valuable and people want to invest in them.  She was disappointed this man couldn’t see it.

It is easy to look at that situation and feel that there was a bit of hypocrisy on the part of the man.  One second he is talking about investing in the lives of the youth, but when an opportunity presented itself he found the exit as quickly as possible.  However, I saw something very different.  What I saw was a man who was willing to step in and share his gifts and talents with the youth, and instead was being funneled into serving in an area that is not his gifting.

I’ve seen this in the church before.  I’ve experienced it myself.

As a woman, and a mother, one of the very first places churches have wanted to put me to work as a volunteer is in the children’s ministry or VBS.  There is an assumption that because I am a woman and have children of my own, that this is where my gifting is.  Hardly.  Or, perhaps this just happens to be a space in the church where there is a need and I visibly have all the qualifications.  Either way, I can tell you that to date I have never had anyone in church leadership sit down with me and talk about my gifting and how to use it in the church.  Instead, I have waited until I saw a need that I felt I could fulfill.

My husband once volunteered at a church in our home town, reaching out to the Pastors to see where he could be of service.  They never accepted his offer, and to this day have no clue on how much a blessing my husband would have been.  Even being as involved in churches as I am, I’ve never witnessed leadership take an effort to get to know my husband and his gifting.  Oddly enough the one occasion that I can think of, where someone reached out to my husband for his assistance… my husband handed the phone to me because I was actually the one more qualified to answer.  Clearly despite being apart of that community for over ten years, they really didn’t know either of us.

The crazy thing is that we call ourselves “the body”, and scripture tells us that every person in the body is given Spiritual Gifts… to be used in accordance to God’s will.  Yet, by and large, we are consistently limiting the use of those gifts to the areas WE think they are best used.  Or, dismissing gifts we don’t see the need for and asking people to serve outside of their gifting to fill up the holes on our volunteer rosters.

Statistically we know that in most churches, 90% of the work is done by 10% of the people.  Some sites argue it’s more like 80% done by 20%, but the point stands.  In every church 80-90% of it’s members are not using their gifts in the church.  Yes, some have been called to use their gifts outside of the church through various ministries and organizations.  None the less, it’s crazy to think that the overwhelming majority of the body is atrophied.

In the human body, when a person is in a coma or paralyzed, the muscles atrophy.  Why?  Because they are not being used.  So, these muscles begin to deteriorate.  In nature, when an animal no longer needs certain aspects of their body, they evolve to future generations that don’t have those body parts.  It is why we have blind cave fish.  Since they have lived in caves so long, absent of the sun, they no longer need their vision due to swimming in complete darkness.

What I see in our churches today is a LOT of atrophy.  Parts of the body that are no longer working because they haven’t been used.   They become comfortable writing their tithing checks, dropping of donations for the local Christmas present drive… but that is about it.

We MUST become intentional with our members, helping them to identify what their spiritual gifts are.  However the work doesn’t end there.   Once we know what the gifts are, we can then figure out how these gifts can bless our church or community.  As leaders, however, we have to realize that we are not the ones who get to pick and choose the gift based on our own/organization needs.

We must stop boxing in the Spiritual Gifts,

labeling them according to what we think we need.

This is incredibly important, especially with our desire to engage the millennials into our church community.  Millennials desire to be a part of something, active participants.  The want to be a part of a church that isn’t just talking the talk, but walking the walk.  Which means our numbers grow and millennials begin to fill those pews… we MUST have opportunities for them to use their gifts.

There is no way we can accommodate all of these new volunteers if we expect to plug them into the same old volunteer roles.  What a prime time to expand our ministry offerings.

  1. Take the time to get to know your new members and their spiritual gifts.
  2. If they don’t know what their spiritual gifts area, help them figure it out through spiritual gifts testing.
  3. Talk to them about how they see themselves using their gift in the community or church.
  4. Build connections between members who share gifts, or organizations that you know could benefit from those gifts.
  5. Lessen the load on your paid staff by pairing them up with those who have gifts and talents that can be a blessing to them.

 

 

 

The Struggle of Being Pruned

rootprune A few years ago, I had an opportunity to join a community garden.  My purpose was to learn about growing my own edibles at home.  Joining the community garden would give me access to workshops, learn how to tend to my plot throughout the seasons, treat any pest issues naturally, and keep a healthy garden.  It was a tremendous success.  During that process, I began setting up my home container garden space.  Since I was growing plenty of veggies in the community garden, I decided that my home garden would start with herbs.

I set up the various pots, planted seeds for some items and starter plants for others.  I took all the knowledge that I learned and ended up with a gorgeous garden that produced enough herbs for myself and to share.   A year passed and I knew that I would need to amend or replace the soil in the pots to restore the nutrients that the plants had fed off of.  I prepared the new soil, removed plants, removed some of the old soil, replaced it with new soil, returned the plant to the soil, and pruned it back.  Anticipating the plants would experience shock, I was careful to water them frequently and remove anything that died off so that the healthy parts would grow.

Two weeks later, my entire garden was dead.  I was absolutely stunned and headed off to the community garden I once belonged to.  It was time to talk to the experts.  I walked through all of the steps, nods of affirmation assured me that I was doing things correctly.  The owner asked me a few clarifying questions.  “What type of soil did you use?” , “Where did you get your compost from”…. and I answered satisfactorily until the final question.

Did you prune the top of the plants and the roots?

That would be a big NO.  I sure didn’t.  I didn’t know that I needed to.

You see in the community garden, at the end of the season, everything goes.  You harvest what is left and all the remains of your plants are chopped up and tilled back into your garden bed and new fresh amended soil is added in to restore the soil for planting.  In the fall, you start fresh.  New seeds and new starters that you had prepared during the end of summer.

I was returning my plants to their original (or bigger) pots, I was transplanting.  This is different than pruning the plants that are in the ground around my home, where cutting back the top of the plant encourages new and healthy growth.   In transplanting, the gardener must not only trim back the top of the plant but also the roots.  Even if you are putting the plant into a larger pot, the roots still need to be pruned.

I started to reflect on things in my own life, where it seemed like the Lord was pruning me for transplant into something new.  I realized that indeed the Lord wasn’t just pruning the stuff I could see, and tangibly feel, from my life.  He was also working at the roots.  He was pruning away the roots that I had allowed to grow into unhealthy soil.  Some of this pruning would even send me into shock (just like plants).  It was sudden, and I had no time to prepare for it  Or, it hurt deeply and I didn’t understand why it had to happen in such a way  It may even have been an area I was quite comfortable in but it wasn’t where I was going to flourish.

When I prune back plants, I cut them back to a point where they are often unrecognizable to the average person.  Very little of what they once were remains, yet I wait in anticipation because I know that what is coming is far more beautiful or abundant than previously experienced.  The Lord knows this about us, too.  He knows what the outcome will be, despite the heavy pruning.  He knows that He is continuing a good work in you that was started the day your heart turned toward him.  Each time He prunes our lives, He does so because it is GOOD FOR US and the outcome will be GOOD FOR OTHERS.

The healthiest plants provide food for the most people.

Being pruned is hard.  It is a struggle.  It hurts.  It is confusing.  It is sudden.  It can be extreme.

But it is a very good thing, when it is done by a Loving God.