Come Away and Rest

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31

Sometimes stopping our usual activities for an hour or even a day just doesn’t cut it.  Sometimes we need a complete change of scenery to really rest and renew our energy.  This was the case in the verses above.  The apostles had been sent out by Jesus to do his work.  They preached, drove out demons and healed.  They traveled, staying with different people in every town.  When they returned, so many people were coming and going around them they didn’t have time to eat.  They were no doubt exhausted.  Jesus instructs them to come with him to a quiet place, a place that is “remote” so they can rest.

Have you ever done this?  Today we would probably call this sort of rest a retreat.  It isn’t just a vacation, because Jesus doesn’t say — let’s each go off to our favorite spot and engage in the activities we most enjoy.  We’ll meet up again after some R&R.   He says, come with me.  A retreat is a time of rest with Christ.  Like the Sabbath, it is a way to reset and refocus our attention on the One who matters most.  The apostles has been busy doing God’s work, but they needed to sit still and remember why they were doing that work and Who they were doing it for.  All of us can benefit from this sort of periodic rest to renew us in our Christian walk.

There are different sorts of retreats.  I have been on Marriage and Engaged Encounter Retreats, Via de Cristo Retreats, silent retreats and retreats for Pastors and their wives.  Each one is different.  Some are quiet, others are very social.  They all have two things in common:  a removal from daily life and surroundings, and a program that puts Christ at the center.

If you haven’t made a retreat you might want to give it a try.  Look for retreat centers in your area;  find an organization such as Via de Cristo that sponsors retreats;  make your own retreat by going away to a “quiet place” where you can pray, read the Bible and be along with God.  You won’t regret the time you spend with Him.

 

Small Groups of Saints #2 — Joan’s Experience

Small groups work.  I know it because I’ve seen them work in my own life.  Years ago, my husband and I noticed that just about every time we made a big leap forward in our spiritual lives, it was because of participation in a small group.  They’ve been an integral part in my journey of sanctification(The word sanctification is related to the word saint; both words have to do with holiness.)  Justification is something we already have through Christ’s sacrifice, but sanctification is a process in which every Christian participates, a process to become more and more Christlike.

My first group, was a Bible Study group.  I think there were eight of us, plus our Pastor, and together we did a through-the-Bible study of the entire Bible called Divine Drama.  It lasted for two years.  Terry and I had young children at the time, so we took turns going to the weekly meeting. Whoever attended the meeting took a tape recorder and recorded the lesson for the person who stayed home.  Believe it or not, people talked to the recorder to send the missing member messages!  It was lots of fun, I learned to put all those Bible stories into the correct chronological order, and grew very close to the other participants.

Later we attended Marriage Encounter and Via de Cristo weekends, both of which recommend follow-on small groups.  They encourage deep sharing about the personal and spiritual life of the members.  You learn how others are struggling, or succeeding in relationships with God, family and others.  You pray together.  You encourage one another.  You engage in evangelism or other Christian activities together.

I can’t explain exactly how all this works, except that if you are open and patient, the Holy Spirit does all the work.  It doesn’t even matter if you have a lot in common, because you have this one big thing in common — you are all followers of Jesus, and you have a desire to grow in your faith and understanding of His will.

So, my advice to you is this:  if you haven’t experienced a small group, find one or start one!  Do a Bible study, talk about your spiritual life, pray together, find a group project.  Be consistent;  give it some time.  You’ll be amazed at what you, God and your brothers and sisters in Christ can do together!

Would anyone else like to post about their personal walk and how small groups have played a part?

Dem Dry Bones

Image result for the dry bones of ezekielHave you ever felt like a pile of dry bones?  I know I have.  There was a time when I became totally exhausted and burned out.  The children were young and my husband had a long commute;  all the responsibilities for the household and everybody in it fell upon me;  my job became increasingly unrewarding and even my relationship with God seemed distant. I kept going, just putting one foot in front of the other, but I wasn’t happy with my life or myself.

What happened?  All I can say is God changed things.  Not in an instantaneous flash of lightening, but through a slow, steady working in my life.  I went on a Marriage Encounter weekend which did a great deal to revive my marriage;  a few years later, I attended a Via de Cristo weekend which revived my soul. Both of those experiences led to small groups and deep friendships that grounded and sustained me. The children grew older and more self sufficient, jobs changed and life turned around.

Have dry bones times come back?  Sure.  However, now I have the experience and  confidence of knowing that if I stick with God, they will pass.  When we’re faithful to Him, He changes things.  Sometimes He changes us!  It’s amazing to see what God can do.  He can even make dry bones live again!

“Behold, I am doing a new thing;  now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19

Joan’s Journey continued

My husband and I met while I was in college. By this time I had stopped calling myself an atheist but I wasn’t going to church and had no real interest in God. After several years of marriage we went through a rough patch in our relationship. Terry wanted to go to graduate school, while I was anxious to buy a home and start a family.  Our short term goals were different and this caused a big conflict. We finally decided that Terry would continue in school, and we moved to Montgomery County, midway between my job and his college. At this point, Terry suggested we join a church.  I guess we both felt this might put our relationship on firmer ground. Terry’s family church was large and I felt disconnected from the service. All we did was sit in the pew and listen to others speaking or singing.  The way I had learned to “do” church was Lutheran, so I told Terry that’s what I wanted to be. After some research he settled on the Missouri Synod because they believed in Biblical inerrancy.  Any Lutheran church was fine with me –I didn’t know there were different kinds of Lutherans.  We joined a church nearby and I was happy to be back in worshipping in a familiar service.  We attended church regularly, but weren’t active in other activities.

A year later we moved back to Frederick because we found we weren’t close to anything or anyone important to us.  We bought a house. Terry had a long commute but at least we were close to friends, family and my workplace.  The only Missouri Synod church in Frederick was a small mission congregation meeting in a Community building, so we went there.  I wasn’t too thrilled.  I preferred the big Lutheran Church downtown with it’s beautiful facility.  But God knew what I needed.  I was quiet and shy.  Had we joined that large, established church, I would have become a pew sitter.  In a mission congregation, you can’t do that.  Everyone is needed, everybody knows you and you can’t hide.  If Nancy was my soul friend, and Terry was my soul mate, Peace In Christ became my school of spiritual formation.

I was elected church council secretary at my first voter’s meeting.  How terrifying!  For months I hardly opened my mouth, and I tried not to miss a single word in my minutes! Finally, I relaxed, realizing that nobody was out to judge my job performance.  In fact, a friend there once told me that “church is the best place to try something new.  If you fail, they’ll still love you.”

Our pastor became a friend.  He knew his parishioners well, and encouraged me to use my gifts and stretch my comfort zone.  After we had children and they started Sunday School, we went too.  For the first time, as an adult, I studied the Bible regularly and found that knowing Sunday School stories from childhood, and bible history from college courses, did NOT mean I knew it all.  I met Christians who applied the Bible to their lives and I started to do that too. I can’t begin list the activities that helped me grow spiritually, so I’ll mention a few “high spots.”

Terry and I read the entire Bible in a 2 year program called Crossways.

We went on Marriage Encounter weekend and a Via De Cristo Christian retreat weekend.  Both had follow up small group meetings in which we participated.

.We taught Sunday School, I worked on the church newsletter and wrote VBS programs, and Terry was an elder. We were busy with church and our friends there constantly.  I began to see myself as a mature Christian and a congregational leader.

to be continued further …..