A Weekend to Remember
I should start putting a disclaimer on my homepage that says, “If you don’t wanna read A LOT, don’t come here.” I always seem to outdo myself every time I blog as far as the length goes, and this is no exception. I guess you can’t really squeeze two days with God into 100 words or less though. SO get ready to put on your reading glasses and waste hours of your life.
This weekend was phenomenal!! It was my first experience with a time of fasting and prayer, and the Lord showed me so much. I started fasting about two on Friday, and during almost the entire 26 hours of the fast, I didn’t feel hungry at all!! The Lord was my food, my strength, and my song, and through this experience, I was able to deepen some of my relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ, come to grips with several things I was battling with and/or denying, and was able to take steps toward changing them, whether they were habits, attitudes, etc. I left there with a renewed love for the Word, a new respect for some of my peers, and a deeper reverence for the One Who created me and sustains me every day.
So here’s the deal: Friday afternoon around 6, I left my school with my friend, Isaiah, and a teacher of mine, Dr. Cox, and we drove up to Lakewood Retreat for a day and a half of fasting, prayer, and Bible reading. Just before I had left, the Lord set the tone for the whole time. I was sitting in my car, waiting for the two to get to the school that I was leaving with, and while I was waiting, I was listening to Shawn McDonald, and I asked the Lord to speak to me in ways He never had before and about 30 seconds later, He directed me to Jeremiah 33:3, which said, to my surprise, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Awesome, right? I do believe that it was the quickest answer to prayer I had ever received in my life, and it represented exactly what happened.
We arrived at Lakewood around 7 pm, met up with the other 21 people from our group, and headed to our cabins. The guys stayed in Mallard, and the girls stayed across the hall at Coot (When we arrived, I hollered “Men in Mallard and Chicks in Coot!!” Good times). Once we staked our claims on our beds, we went off to the various corners of the campus. Me, Isaiah, and another friend named Joel walked the trails together and had a pretty good talk, during which I found out Isaiah was there for about the same reason as me and that Joel was going on a missions trip to China in about three weeks, so I’m keeping him in prayer and would ask anyone reading this to do the same. He still needs to get his passport, visa, and remainder of his funds, but I know for a fact that the Lord will provide for him because He assured my friend that it indeed was His will for him to go. While we were walking, we ran into Dr. Cox, and together the four of us reached “The Treehouse,” which is exactly what it sounds like, a huge deck in a huge tree in the southeastern corner of the campus at Lakewood. When we arrived, we discovered that there were about four people from our group already up there, reading the Bible together. My party joined them and we stayed for about an hour, and then headed back. On the way back, Isaiah and I lagged behind and talked, something we hardly ever get a chance to do, and we saw a firefly. I tried to take a picture, but with my camera screen busted, I couldn’t see what I was attempting to photograph, so I gave up. A few more feet, and we saw another, which I was able to catch. Isaiah got a picture of it just as it left my hands, and I felt proud that I caught the elusive firefly at nighttime. We walked a little further, and were shocked at what we saw: a group of about 25 or 30 fireflies, all shining like beacons of hope in darkness. I got some shots of them and praised God that He showed them to us. Why make such a big deal about fireflies? One: it was cool. Two: It reminded me of the fact that we should let our light shine, unhindered by our sinful nature, for the world to see. When I was out there, it was so easy to shine like those fireflies. I only hope I can maintain that glow now that I’m about to dive back into my life.
We arrived back at our cabin, and once all the guys returned, we went around the room and shared the reasons we were there. It was both amazing and encouraging to see just how serious every single one of the guys in that room was about their time there. Whether it was to clear up some confusion in their lives, just to get away from everything that was stressing them and focus on God, to hear God plainly and seek His direction, or whatever it was, every guy in there was truly starving for God’s face, not just His hand. Dr. Cox prayed and everyone went to bed except for about 4 guys, myself included. We talked a bit more, and then I went to sleep around 11.
The next morning I woke up around three and laid in my bed for about an hour, and when I didn’t go back to sleep, I went outside and laid by the lake with my journal, CD player (once again with Shawn McDonald), and Bible and just let the Lord speak to me. It was amazing, because despite the hour and how little sleep I had gotten, I was wide awake. The coolness of the air was so refreshing, and the Lord spoke to me and for once in my life, I SHUT UP AND LISTENED!! The Lord told me that no matter how much we want to get to know Him, He will ALWAYS want to know us so much more, and no matter how much we say we love God, He will ALWAYS love us infinitely more. At this time, I started contemplating the phrase “Bride of Christ,” and how it relates to us, both men and women.
The Lord showed me this: A bride is someone who completes her husband. A bride, no matter the degree of physical attraction, will ALWAYS seem her groom to be the most beautiful creature in all of Creation, because her groom sees the inner beauty over the outer. The bride is the one the husband loves above all the other women in the world and the most special one in the world in the husband’s eyes. Finally, the husband defends his wife at all costs. In reference to our relationship with God, though He is all in all and self-sufficient, we fulfill His need for fellowship, we are the apple of His eye, so to speak, and the most special aspect of His Creation to Him, and He loves us so much, He DIED to give us life forever with Him. After I wrote this and a little bit more in my journal, I just laid back and enjoyed my surroundings. I had nothing pressing on my mind, except the face of my Lord and my desire to know Him on a deeper level. I was getting a little chilly, so I went back inside and grabbed my sleeping bag off my bed and laid it out by the lake and snuggled up inside. I was lying there in my little cocoon, waiting for the sun to rise, and as the sky faded from dark to light, I faded off to sleep for a couple hours.
I woke up around 7:30 and took all my stuff with me back to the cabin. We all packed up our stuff and headed to the group meeting at 8 am. We got our agenda for the day, which was basically to go wherever we wanted, seek God, and come back to the meeting room at noon for some sharing. We then went around the circle and discussed why we were all there so we knew how to pray for each other. We prayed for about 20 minutes, and then we went on our way.
After the meeting, one of the people who came with us was out on the porch of the meeting room and playing worship songs, one being “Your Grace Is Enough” by Chris Tomlin. I listened to the words and they sunk in deep and inspired me to write the final journal entry of my trip. The following is an abbreviated version of it.
” ‘Your grace is enough…’ Four simple words with such great importance, such heavy meaning. No matter what we’re going through, what we’ve done, what we’ve thought, even if we are abandoned, persecuted, bed-ridden, or whatever, God’s grace is enough to pull us through. He reassured me that Satan can’t do anything to us without God’s express permission. Satan is still a created being, and as such, MUST submit to his Creator. Why then, does evil exist? Why do trials and temptations come? ‘The testing of our faith produces patience,’ and we’re called to ‘let patience have its perfect work in us so we’ll be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.’ If we do lack anything, God encourages us to ask Him and He says He will give it to us ‘liberally and without reproach’ until our cup runs over. The Lord knows exactly what we need and will provide it, whether it be deliverance from bondage, direction in life, peace among our families, or something else. God wants the absolute best for us.”
After I wrote that journal entry, I went off looking for a spot to sit and read the Bible, and eventually I ended up on a large hill near a petting zoo. There were about five others from our group, guys and girls, out there, but we were spread out enough to still have one-on-one time with God. For about the entire four hours we had between our meetings, I stayed in Psalm 119. It was one of my favorite Psalms before, but now it means even more to me. The Lord showed me so much, and instead of writing in my journal, I wrote directly in the margins of my Bible. The entire Psalm is a prayer that focuses on the love the author has for the Word. Nine times in the Psalm, the author asks the Lord to revive him, and you can’t imagine how much I can relate to that. I could go on for hours about everything the Lord showed me in meditating on just that one Psalm, but this blog is already long enough and there’s still a lot to tell about the rest of the retreat. About halfway through the Psalm (it’s a very long Psalm), I got up and went back to “The Treehouse” and finished the Psalm there.
By this time, it was about noon and we met as the whole group. At this meeting, we shared a bit of what the Lord showed us, prayed again, and then we had the choice to either break up into small groups or to go off alone if we still needed more one-on-one time with God. I went off with Joel, Isaiah, and a couple other friends of mine, Jacob and Dave, and we went to “The Treehouse” for a Bible study through the book of 1 Peter. Joel, Isaiah and I arrived at The Treehouse before Jacob and Dave, so we went through the first chapter without them. What we would do was to go through and take turns reading a chapter, and then we’d stop and discuss what we’d just read. It worked beautifully and we learned so much just by bouncing our thoughts off of each other.
Once Dave and Jacob arrived, we started talking about different passages, ended up reading Romans 8 (a chapter both Joel and I confessed we wanted to memorize), and a few other passages as well, and eventually, the three of us who got there first left and stopped at a little outdoor church out by the lake, continuing our study with a couple girls down there Julianne and Julianna. This church was an interesting sight: There were no walls, but for a small one on the back of the stage that was open on either side of the cross in the middle, and on the ground in front of the stage were pews that were little more than logs on supports. All of us sat on the pews and continued in 1 Peter chapter 2. We went through the entire book, still continuing our policy of taking turns reading and bouncing ideas off each other as we reflected on what we read. It was amazing because one verse would remind someone of another verse and they would share that, and then someone would mention one verse that meant a lot to them and find that almost everyone else got the same encouragement out of that verse, and as a result, we were able to build each other up. After we finished 1 Peter, we were joined by Dr. Cox and another girl named Rebekah, and we ended up going all the way to 2 John. The Lord revealed so much to us all and really blessed our fellowship, and before we knew it, it was time for our meeting with the whole group at 4 pm.
As we met this final time, we were able to rejoice with each other at what the Lord had done, and once again we prayed. We brought our fast to a close with dinner at Cracker Barrel. Never in my life has food tasted so good. In closing, the Lord really broke through and revealed some things to me that I needed to hear and know, and I left that retreat with renewed vigor, stronger devotion, and clearer sight.
If you’ve made it this far, I say “GET A LIFE!!” Just kidding…I commend your perseverance. I don’t blog often, but when I do, I do it up good!! God bless and I’ll see ya next time!!
– Brian M.
Currently listening: “End of Grey” by Decyfer Down
“United We Stand” by Hillsong United