They say, do what you love. Listen to what brings you joy and do that. I have a ton of passionate pursuits on my journey of faith. One of them? I love speaking at retreats.
Last month was a highlight for sure- I had the honour of speaking at a beautiful camp north of Calgary, Alberta for their annual women's retreat. Although speaking 4 messages is a ton of work as I pour my all into it, I come away from a weekend like this inspired and renewed myself. (Click on the photo below to view some pictures of my time there):
It wasn't a typical retreat I've spoke at where most of the women might have known each other from one particular church, but rather it was open to anyone and there were pockets of groups who knew one another, some who came solo, and some small groups of women from their home church who made this their annual retreat! LOVED the diversity of women there:)
I spoke on the topic- Restoration: Heart, Family, World!
We ate incredible food, went on a nature prayer walk, zip-lined, rode a horse, played games, learned a silly New Zealand sport "Huck a Boot" (thowing a rubber boot the farthest),
Giving ourselves permission to play is a challenge for some. We often pride ourselves in being- well, "Grown up". I started my talk Friday night with my own personal faith journey with a photo of me being a little girl, growing up in Minnesota and the call of Christ to have Child Like faith. Meaning, putting simple trust in the God of Creation as we can learn a lot from children and their ability to trust easily and not be so jaded by the scars of life. Women's retreats are an incredible time for us to pull away from the stresses of life and to focus on our own journey of faith. I love speaking at them, truly I do. Meeting new friends, sharing my story, teaching from the word of God and encouraging others to get out of their comfort zone and experience God in a new way is life giving to me. My heart explodes with gratitude when I hear feedback from others of my messages that it was life giving to them.
I am no perfect speaker- I am no theologian, and I most definitely am not a licensed counselor, BUT- I know the pains and joys of life to share and can easily identify with others. One of my greatest joys at retreats or when I speak is having the opportunity to pray with people. We all long for the same thing- to be loved, accepted, secure and significant in some way. I can't impart those truths to people in my humanity- but I know the One who can. The One and only perfect teacher, preacher, counselour- Jesus.
The women at the retreat may forget my personal stories I shared throughout my four messages when they leave that picturesque setting in the woods, but that's AOK with me. What is most important is that they don't forget the truths that I shared from the Word of God which confirms their true identify and unveils eternal promises for all who believe. Some responded by sharing scriptural truths on a sticky note as I posed the question- Who are you? Which mirror are you looking into to validate your worth?
With Easter coming up, we are faced with the question of what the cross means to us. Retreat or no retreat, the entire world is reminded each spring to reflect on the truth of Jesus'' life, death and resurrection from the dead. What is our personal response to the words of Christ who poses the same question to us that He asked Peter and the disciples as recorded in the Gospels:
"Who do you say that I am" Matthew 16:15
Who is Jesus to me? Where do I begin! For starters, He is the Light who guides my path, My Saviour who saved me from myself and my Deliverer who took my sins to the cross. He is my Healer of the wounds, pains and tragedies I've faced thus far and will face into the future, my ultimate Restorer of my heart, family and my world.
It's a joy filled journey filled with hope permeating our lives now and into eternity one act of faith/ one prayer at a time. Restoration starts in our own hearts, extends to our families and ultimately seeks to engage the world. Christ Jesus did His part, we must do ours and ultimately trust Him with our entire lives- the good, the bad, the ugly. He cares about each and every part of what concerns us. Prayer- it's a powerful gift!
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12
We may not all get a chance to "go to a retreat", but we can retreat every single day, or divert our attention from the stresses of life that rob us of our joy or steal our hope sometimes. A famous line my pastor has said numerous times to reiterate the need for balance in life and to avoid burnout is:
Withdraw Weekly (a sabbath)
Abandon Annually (disconnect completely).
It is in these times of regularly "retreating", we can expand our lives by simply incorporating some spiritual disciplines into our lives like prayer, (Verbal or written, solo or group prayers), meditating on scriptural truths, engaging in creative worship (singing, dance or artistic expression), celebration, gratitude, etc. Because when we do, we can find centre & rest for our souls.