And Speaking of Retreats …..

“To be on a Pilgrimage is to go through Christ to the Father under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, bringing others along with you.”

The quote above is on the first page of Pilgrim’s Guide which you will receive if you attend a Lutheran Via de Cristo Weekend.  While some retreats are quiet, maybe even silent, this one is very social.  There is singing, group discussion, and sometimes even skits and jokes.  It is definitely about Christian community and being with others.  If you’re an introvert like I am, it’s doesn’t seem particularly restful.

My husband and I made our original weekends in 1990.  Recently I was part of a group of cursillistas (this is the term for someone who has made a cursillo, or 3 day retreat of this kind — the movement originated in Spain and so many of the words used are Spanish) who showed up to help with a weekend retreat in progress.  I got to see some “significant others” from my past Christian walk, others who “came along with me.”

I’ve heard it said that every Christian needs a Paul (mentor), a Barnabas (peer/encourager) and a Timothy (someone to mentor) in their lives.  The first person I ran into was Doris — Doris is older than I am, and a Christian I have always admired her calmness, good judgement and maturity.  Definitely a Paul.  Then I saw Mary.  Mary and I are close to the same age, and our children grew up in the church together.  We shared so many experiences as we matured spiritually and became leaders in the congregation.  Mary is a Barnabas.  Finally, at the end of the evening, I got a hug from Amy, Mary’s daughter.  “My mentor” she exclaimed as we embraced.  Wow!  I never knew Amy thought of me that way.  I guess she’s my Timothy.

While helping with the weekend was not a traditional “rest” experience, it was rejuvenating to reconnect with others who have influenced my life, and who have been influenced by me. It’s a way of taking a break from the day to day and gaining some perspective by looking back.  We don’t always see what’s being accomplished while we’re in the midst of things, but God is always at work.  Whether you’re resting or relaxing, on retreat or celebrating the sabbath, remember to take someone along with you.  We’re not meant to journey alone.

For more on Via de Cristo see these posts:

Persevere Upward

A Prayer of Personal Dedication (Obedience)

My Via de Cristo Experience

Reunion Group Relationships

If you attend a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend, you will be encouraged to continue growing in Christ by participating in what’s called a reunion group.  This is a small group that meets on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, whatever you choose) to talk about how things are going in the spiritual life of the members.

I have been in a reunion group on and off for over twenty years.  The groups change, of course, as people move or their life changes.  The group I am in now meets at our church once a month, and each month we discuss an aspect of our Christian walk:  piety (this covers things like prayer, worship and moments of closeness to Christ), study or action.  Each of us has an opportunity to tell how we’ve been doing in that area and what our plans are for the coming month.  We encourage one another and hold each other accountable.  We pray together and we pray for each other.

Over time being in such a group together fosters strong bonds.  It was my first group that taught me being quiet and shy didn’t mean I couldn’t be a leader and influence others for Christ.  The group I am in now started this blog!!  My reunion group sisters are the kind of friends who will support me, encourage me and jump in to help if I take on a commitment!  They hear my confessions and keep my confidences.  Through the years in reunion groups I have helped to plan congregational activities, organized small group Bible studies, participated in “crafty” projects (that one is a real stretch for me), and had fun in the process.  Rightly lived, a reunion group becomes a Christian community affecting the world.

If you’re not in a group like this, don’t put it off, it’s too important.  You don’t have to go on a Via de Cristo weekend;  you don’t have to call it a reunion group;  you don’t have to do things exactly as we do.  The point is to find a group of others who want to direct their lives to Christ and grow in faith.  Meet regularly, pray together, encourage one another, work together for Christ and hold each other accountable.  In years to come you’ll look back and be amazed at what God has done through you and how you have grown in faith together.

I hope our readers and my sister bloggers will join in by discussing this further.  Have you been in a reunion group (or a similar accountability group)?  How did it impact your spiritual growth?  I want to hear your stories.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us knot give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10: 24-25

 

 

 

A Via de Cristo Prayer of Confession and Forgiveness

This is another prayer from The Pilgrim’s Guide which participants receive during their Via de Cristo weekend.  Every time I read through it I am humbled to see my own sin and God’s gracious forgiveness.

It is hard for me, O God to confess my sins and not merely repeat well-worn phrases with which I try to cover my real guilt.

I am a sinner.  Why is it so difficult for me to see this, Lord?  Why am I so bothered with a few things I do wrong while I think nothing of my lack of trust in you?  Why do I feel guilty when I do not live up to my own standards but hardly blush when I fail you?  Why do I imitate those who are unholy instead of following the Christ?  I must confess it is because I am weak in the face of temptations, and without you I am nothing.

All I can do is plead mercy, O God.  I cannot even hold up the honesty and fullness of my confession.  All I can do is trust your love in Jesus Christ.  I surely cannot trust my love for you or Him.  Hear me for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lived for me and died that in Him I might live.

Forgive me, Father!  Forgive me even this, my poor confession.  I need your forgiveness for Christ’s sake.  Amen

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