Thursday, May 10, 2007

Soul Thirst & Sabbath

This past weekend I had the pleasure and privilege of going on a weekend retreat with about 10 other guys from the Lancaster, PA area. The retreat was hosted by Lancaster Bible College (LBC) and lead by my mentor and best friend who is now a professor at LBC. This was the third installment of "Soul Thirst", a weekend retreat for student ministry leaders. Each retreat focuses on a specific spiritual discipline, through discussion and experience. On this Soul Thirst we looked at the discipline of Sabbath or rest.

I was very excited for this retreat, especially because the summer is fast approaching. I was praying that God would use it as a weekend of preparation for the summer, which He certainly did. Entering the weekend I actually felt rested. This past year has been a good one for me. I haven't been burned out by work and ministry. My plate isn't SO full that I'm going crazy while getting nothing done. I've also spent good time with my family after working during the day and on the weekends. I'm very thankful for the rest that I have had in this full time ministry.

As we drove from LBC to the retreat cabin I was excited to think that for once I was going to go on a retreat where I wasn't going to be completely convicted two minutes after it began. On the other hand, I was very eager to explore and experience the discipline of Sabbath AND to learn how God wanted me to change my life to be more like Jesus in that area.

We had a great weekend with beautiful weather. The whole retreat was designed for us to be challenged with God's Word concerning the Sabbath AND to experience times of Sabbath within the retreat weekend. I must say that disciplining yourself to rest is much easier than disciplining yourself in Fasting or Solitude & Silence. I found myself to be rested as I predicted. My body physically didn't need to nap during the day so I was able to spend a good amount of time reading, praying, journaling, and eating. I also enjoyed meeting a bunch of new guys from the Lancaster area and seeing some guys that I knew from previous Soul Thirst retreats.

Through the Soul Thirst retreat God brought to light something about the rest I have been getting. Yes, I've been getting good rest. Yes, I'm not burned out by the ministry. Yes, I'm taking care of my first priority - my wife and kids. BUT, when I was resting I wasn't always resting in Him. The purpose and the effectiveness of Sabbath is - that God is the One we are to rest in. Sure we can rest by taking a nap or reading a book or some other pleasurable activity, but those things should not be where we run to for rest. The key behind Sabbath is asking God to show you what things in your life need to you can rest, and what things need to be added so you can rest and find delight. The Sabbath is characterized by a lack of work and the presence of delight. In Genesis, God created the world in six days. Then on the seventh day He declared that creation was complete and He said, "It is good." God also gave us the commandment to observe the Sabbath - a time to cease working and delight in what is good.

I had a great weekend and I definitely grew closer to God through His Word and experiencing the discipline of Sabbath.

Lions and Tigers and Bears...Oh My!

Last week Kelly and I were up late cooking food for a retreat I went on this past weekend. Actually, it was more like I was helping Kelly cook. Anyway, it was late at night when we finally finished cooking. I grabbed a few bags of trash that we had made and headed outside. I hopped on the golf cart (which was still outside from earlier in the evening) and drove to the dumpster down at the maintenance area. I threw the trash in the dumpster and hopped back on the cart. Sitting on the cart for a moment I heard something on the other side of the fence behind me. I paused and listened carefully thinking I didn't really hear anything. Then I heard it again. It was a gentle noise, as if something was taking it's time, meandering along the other side of the fence. By that time I was definitely intrigued to see what it was going to be. The noise faded away...but came right back further down the fence on my left side. I was expecting to see a cat or a possum squeeze under the fence on its routine trip to the camp dumpster for a midnight snack. Then I thought..."What if it's something else? What if it's a raccoon or a dog or a raccoon with rabies." So I continued waiting, listening and watching the bottom of the fence just 15 feet away. After what seemed like an eternity I became impatient. "What was it?" Then I decided I had had enough. I was just going to drive the golf cart out around the corner and see what this thing was. As I moved my foot to the gas pedal, grabbed the steering wheel, and looked up...
I saw a massive dark shape slowly and quietly sneaking around the corner by the gas tanks. There was no question about it. It was a bear! As it came in plain view my eyes scanned from its back to its head. Oh yeah, it was a bear! Like any red-blooded American standing between a black bear and its evening meal (with barriers on either side)...I yelled, "Woah!" I know what you're thinking..."Ohhh, real manly." Well, it was a very deep, "Woah!"
Before I could blink the bear turned and ran. Immediately the thought entered my mind that I couldn't see this bear any more, I didn't know where it went or where it was, and to get home I was going to have to drive around that fence. So I hit the gas pedal, threw my hands up in the air, and starting growling and yelling. I rounded the corner by the fence and just caught a glimpse of the bear heading out around the trailer about 30 yards ahead. I could barely see it (no pun intended) which made me realize that I didn't have my flashlight on. So I continued down the road after this bear yelling, waving my hands in the air, while fumbling to turn my flashlight on and drive at the same time. In just a few short seconds I passed the trailer, scanning camp grounds rapidly...but it was gone. Maybe it ran straight for the woods behind the staff cabins or sprinted up towards the main building and down into the woods by the lake...I couldn't tell. With a slightly elevated pulse I turned around and drove back to the house eager to tell Kelly.
So there you have it. That's my bear story. It's been a while since I've seen a bear here in Brackney. I saw them all the time during my freshman year of college in Wisconsin. But, it has certainly been a good while since I've seen a bear or come that close to one by myself.
There are a few important things everyone should know about black bears:
1. They usually are more afraid of you than you are of them.
2. They will be more afraid of you if you look bigger then them. If you can - stand up straight, raise your hands, and yell.
3. Bears usually only attack when they feel threatened. For example: If they are cornered, or if you are in between a mother and her cub(s).
4. Bears can run faster than horses in a 1/4 mile sprint. So if a bear does charge you...don't just run away. Run to the nearest building and get inside.
5. Being in a group of people is usually the safest situation. If a bear charges you and your friends, the only thing you have to worry about is whether or not you are the slowest runner in the group.
6. These helpful hints only apply to black bears. If you encounter a brown bear, kodiak, grizzly, or polar bear...say your prayers and get into the fetal position.

Thanks for reading. Tell me about your bear story. Click on the word "comment" in the white box below.