Church retreats have been a part of my life since I was 14. This particular organization, the Young Adult Network (YAN) is very precious to me and it is my privilege to be a part of the planning team every year. It is such a joy to attend meetings and work with other mature adults who are committed to the future of their respective churches. I love seeing people interacting and friendships (bromance) form. There were flakes who backed out of attending but I was overly grateful to spend time with those who showed up during their birthday weekend or despite being ill.
When it comes down to it, what makes a retreat so great? There are amenities, workshops, atmosphere, games, and songs, all with consideration to cost. For me, as long as the speaker does his job to illustrate the issues showing us the reality of our identity and what Christ has done for us then I’m good. Otherwise, people just need to show up and be blessed. That, and a free flowing soda fountain at the conference center, aw yeah!
I: Jesus and the Gospel
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39
Pastor Brian said he will attempt to boil down all the complicated religions of the world –
All of them: You are on the bottom of the ladder and you need to climb up doing ABC (5 pillars, Eightfold path, 613 commandments, give money, etc.)
Christianity: Christ came down the ladder and we are invited to sit the top with him
What did it take for us to access such a thing? God is perfect. Therefore anything broken and inconsistent against him should be destroyed. Brian noted most heroes don’t fear their destruction, Socrates drank the hemlock calmly and many martyrs and revolutionaries died for the cause with gusto.
But something brought the son of God to his knees and asking for another way. What could have rattled unflappable-always-in-control Lord Jesus who calmed a fierce storm with ease and raised the dead? The full wrath of God is infinitely fearsome and apocalyptic, yet Jesus took on the cup of full of the punishment humanity deserves. We can’t appreciate how sweet the good news is until we concern ourselves with the extent of the bad news. We are dust but for some reason he values us. He is on our side no matter what. That means we have freedom from opinions or expectations. This is the good news, not merely good advice like all other philosophies. We can live without being worried about failure or rejection! *relieved sigh*
II: Jesus and Status
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17
There are so many benefits from our unshakeable status as children of God. But we seem to focus on things that are inherently neutral but get in the way of our pursuing him. We feel slighted when our ideas are stolen, when our talents are overshadowed by rivals. It is human to revel in our strengths and desire recognition, but it traps us in a cycle of pride and insecurity. We keep our eyes on ourselves. The way out could be to just stop sizing each other up or evaluating how well we succeed in social situations. Brian said it’s not just about cutting off our quest for esteem, but hold onto the fact we have God’s humility and confidence which feeds us and keep our eyes on him instead. Then when others fail we suffer, when they succeed we rejoice. We have to redirect ourselves to this upside down thinking and will be healthier for it.
III: Jesus and the World
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:25
Jesus did not choose to go along with the world. He is a curious character, saying weird things and going against convention all the time. Is it that the world is playing a certain key and he is off starting a counter culture movement? Wrong! The world is playing the wrong key. Jesus was present at creation and it all belongs to him to run as he sees fit therefore we need to learn to play the correct way with him.
It is not an attractive prospect, we are used to seeing the pretty packages offered to us and many voices call to us constantly, but the contents are useless and empty in the end. We try to use God as a tool, saying that we will follow if _____ and set limits because we want our desires and his free blessing, not discomfort that leads to maturity. Jesus said crown me or kill me. That means 100% commitment one way or another. I find myself wavering often, 80% one day, 60% another since I am not immune to voices from without and within promising a better life. We need to challenge them and ask, why should I trust you? Did you die for me like Jesus did? We have every reason to trust God but we tend not to. It will be obvious to God and those around us whose words win the battle.
IV: Jesus and Service
Two lovers walk along the pier at night. The man turns to the woman and says “I love you so much, and I’m going to prove it to you” and promptly jumps off the edge to drown. We don’t see any value in such an act. If Jesus just went and died a horrible gruesome death to demonstrate his devotion, we might have the same reaction (um, thank you?) However, if the woman in the story was drowning and the man saved her but perished while doing so, we see the beauty in his sacrifice. Jesus died to save us because there was a price to pay. If we take someone’s phone and drop it in a cup of coffee, we might be forgiven but there are consequences in that the broken item needs to be restored/replaced.
V: Jesus and Love
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
These words are commonly thrown out during weddings and even found in secular songs (with inappropriate slants). It seems all flowery and harmless until you actually consider the active nature that love demands. According to God, love is a series of choices, not just a state of being. I look at this list and feel like there’s no way I embody even one of those statements. We tend to be patient in general until someone betrays us, then we react like a porcupine, with its defense spines made to impale the other. Love costs us, are you willing to pay?
Brian said love means telling the truth. When you see someone doing wrong, tell them you love them too much to see them in bondage. Looking the other way is unChristlike (that so interferes with my m.o.). God did not look the other way, he chose to speak to us and acted for us. Even though we are undesirable, he did not act out of pity, he showed up on our level with compassion to heal. Do not solely give love to those we believe are worthy, it should be given without conditions or thought of return. We have to stop faking politeness or keeping distance, genuine kindness is the answer to selfish behavior.
Walking the Walk – Conflict & Drama
As administrator of registration, I worked for weeks on end putting all the details together and communicating on what to expect. This is not an area I was familiar with and wasn’t aware of how it was run before. Prepared as I was, there were a lot of unforeseen contingencies that hit me big time. Previous to the actual event I was never more prone to such stress or swearing in my life. My excellent set up was thrown over and I was overwhelmed like never before, feeling like this was a storm with so much noise without escape. If not for my friends on the team supporting me and helping with the logistics it would have been a total disaster. Normally I would have some sense of composure and years worth of self control, but I was on full sour mode. I’m sure most people saw I was on edge and were on the receiving end of my hateful state. I apologized as much as I could, my main concern was that others enjoyed themselves and weren’t damaged by my worst behavior. As it is, I’m game to improve for next time should I be entrusted with such a daunting project.
Workshop 1 – Giving Thanks
Being thankful is essential to wisdom and results in more happiness. I am grateful for my journey thus far and somehow I managed to find wonderful friends and live in a free country for now. I had to stop and look outside of myself in the midst of the work and shake off all the negative feelings that rose throughout the weekend.
Workshop 2 – Principles for Dating Wisely
Romance is the last thing on my mind during retreats, especially when I’m involved in planning. I took this one to support my friend and also it worked out to where I was able to get administrative tasks done during the talk (yes, rude of me). I did pay attention and was reminded how we need to choose selflessness over selfishness, which is my whole aversion to dating. I love my freedom and running my life the way I see fit. Also it was good to see the guys reprimanded on their lack of decisiveness and clarity.
– Guys getting their nails painted
– Pink deco guitar with pink shirted musician
– Nerdy friend running like an awkward ninja
– Team hiking (sort of)
– Cute baby moments
– Realizing my dream of showing a movie during free time
Thoughts Upon Return
It was a lot of activity which was a drain for me and going around the site was a workout. So pleasant to be back home where I can appreciate the silence away from social interaction. I did feel a longing and frustration with some of my relationships, unable to see a way to change them, but really it’s no use wishing as God’s love is more than enough for me, as the song goes.
Truth – our lives are run in pursuit/worship of money and status. I see my bosses tying their lives to the ups and downs of business, slaves to numbers without regard of others’ well being. Many Christians are no different, holding onto the lie that is the American Dream; consumed with comfort instead of living radically and generously. I see lots of dead people, they just exist, instead of fully devoted to a life worth living. Don’t waste time consuming endless garbage of the flesh and the world! As I look forward to a couple years ahead to the next retreat I wonder what what changes are ahead and if I keep my eyes on Jesus if what I build will last.