Tag: Christianity

Ladies Retreat

Seven Women in Seaside
Seven Women in Seaside

Last August, I asked the question “what is a retreat?” in hopes of generating a glut of comments on my blog.

I hoped for five. I netted one (which was actually a pingback to my own blog). What did I do wrong?

I think I asked the wrong question. In any case, I decided to share my retreat experiences in this forum one more time (yeah, if you believe this will be the last time, I have some swampland in Columbia County).

It began in May when our small group of women at church decided we didn’t have the manpower woman-power necessary to host the annual state-wide ladies’ retreat at Crystal Springs campground.

It would be nice for our core group of women to spend some quality time together. We talked and shared. One woman notified the campground that we wouldn’t be able to host. Bummer.

Enter my mother. She asked if we thought a Monday through Wednesday early in October would work in our schedules. Sure. Why not?

She called her timeshare reservations department and booked two three-bedroom condos. The next week, she announced to all of us that a place had been secured, these are the dates and we better start planning it.

Sometimes, we need just that sort of foot in our hinder parts to get us started in the right direction.

Image from puzzlepuzzles.com

Bad news for me: Everyone looked at me and asked, “Can you prepare a program?” You see, the whole idea to host the retreat in the first place had been mine.

“Uh, sure,” I respond. Internal conversation: “Please, God, you’ve got to help me with this. I have no clue what we should do.”

God is good. By August, I knew the lessons would be about encouragement and I knew our activity would involve writing cards to each other.

The week before I headed off to Hawaii, I sat down with my Bible, concordance and a spiral notebook and begin outlining the lessons.  I wrote out a proposed schedule for the three days.

You know what happens when you make a plan, right? It’s like a double-dare to the Devil. He jumps in and tries to make a mess of the whole thing.

We got rooms on different floors. The resort is worse than a rat maze without cheese. People over a certain age either don’t carry cell phones or don’t answer the phones they carry (I was going to say perhaps they can’t hear them ring, but I’m probably in enough trouble already).

None of it mattered in the end. The lessons seemed to encourage everyone. (Awesome! Since it was an Encouraging Escapade, anything less would be a bummer.)

Schedules work more as a guideline. All four lessons were shared and the prayer partner rotation eventually made its rounds.

Shopping and beach combing found its way into the mix. Some of us even got to put mud on our faces followed by anti-aging products galore. Ah, youth reclaimed!

In the end, we all decided we wanted a repeat. Well, we wanted all the ladies from our church to join us, so it wouldn’t be an exact duplicate. We felt refreshed (even though we were yawning), relaxed and closer together than ever.

Do you think you can experience the same rejuvenating and uniting effects without leaving home? How can we find a “retreat” amidst the demands of daily life?

Personal Ethics

Even if I’m not really going to college in my sons’ minds, they still manage to use me as an editorial service. If they want a B or better on a paper, it undergoes Mom’s red pen before it gets turned in.

(I love that I can actually mark everything in red just by selecting “Track changes” from the “review” menu in Word. I don’t care what they say about red marks being hard on self-esteem. There’s something about marking in red ink that makes me feel like a real editor.)

This term, my business marketing son is taking two ethics classes. He sent me a paper entitled “Personal Ethics” that outlined his own values and character and how it was developed and what sort of things influence or change it. In a world where my sons still “know it all,” reading this paper made me weep proud.

The son in question
The son in question

The paper was divided into four sections: personal vocation, personal values, character and ethical choices. Since it was for a business class, one might expect dry reading. Not so.

First of all, my youngest writes with a loud and clear voice. He doesn’t have the best grammar (and his spelling would appall without spellcheck), but any reader can get a clear picture of who the writer is behind the words. This aspect of writing can’t really be taught and it’s essential for a successful fiction writer.

This is the “choke me up” section of the paper (parents will understand):

“My core values are something that I would like to pass on to my kids someday. I feel that everyone’s values show up in who they are and can be reflected in their children. That is the reason why I believe so many of my values came from my parents because they taught me to live a certain way and they themselves lived that lifestyle in front of me. It is amazing how much of an impact parents have on their children.”

For those of you who have yet to hear “Thank you” or “You really helped me” from your children, don’t despair. They may be assigned to write about something like personal values in a college ethics class. When they stop and deeply consider why they believe what they believe, they’ll realize it’s because of you.

Parenting – the most important job on the planet earth.

Hang in there, folks. One day, you could hear the words “well done” from the Lord Jesus Christ – and maybe even your kids.

Getting a Spiritual “Workout”

New cross-trainers squeaking on the rubber mat, the woman with a mission – to get in shape – strides into the fitness club. She wanders into the cardio room, tries out the stepper and the elliptical trainer and moves through to the weight room, a hint of perspiration on her brow. A few dozen reps on every machine she knows how to operate later, she steps back out of the gym. High hopes for fitness prowess dashed on the rocks of ignorance, she drives away.

Compare that to the meeting I had with a personal trainer. She asked about my workout routine, my eating habits and what I wanted to accomplish. Purposefully, she walked to the “big boy” weight room, where bars and free weights dominated the floor and mirrors eclipse the walls. Methodically, she escorted me through each station to work every muscle pair, counting out the reps and weight. When I returned two days later for a solo workout, I walked through her circuit two times, covered in sweat, muscles shaking from exertion when the 40 minutes have passed.

Which of these sounds effective? Right – the plan designed by a physical trainer. I want to carry this metaphor right into your spiritual life, using Philippians 2:12 “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Working your Core Muscles: Bible Study

Any physical trainer will tell you that you’re only as strong as your core muscles. Yes, those ignominious abdominals which expand over Christmas and never seem to deflate to their initial flatness once you’ve stretched them in pregnancy.

The same thing is true in your spiritual life. The Bible is where your strength comes from. In order to work out your spiritual abs, you have to open the Book, read it, meditate on it and apply it to your life.

Working your Back Muscles: Group Bible Study

This is a Superman

My physical trainer made sure I understood that if I wanted to strengthen my biceps, then I’d need to work the transverse muscles at the same time: the triceps. To get stronger, you have to work the complementary muscles to the same degree of fatigue.

Do some Superman extensions along with all those leg lifts, and you’ll see marked improvement in both abdominal and back strength.

The spiritual equivalent to a back workout is corporate Bible study. Believers need to study the Bible with other believers. Not only does this keep us from heading out into a heretical la-la land, it gives us a sounding board for questions. Listening to other interpretations of scripture and hearing anecdotes about the helpfulness of a specific verse or passage strengthens our spirit – at the core.

Upper Body Strength: Prayer – everywhere and all the time

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) seems like an impossible task. Sort of like pushups for my weak, weighty self after many years abstaining from those Boot Camp favorites. Our upper body gets used. Did you lift a cup of coffee? Upper body strength required. What about opening your car door? Ditto on the upper body strength. If we have a weak upper body, our actions are limited.

The same can be said for our spiritual self if we aren’t praying. Get the picture of kneeling down, folding your hands, bowing your head and closing your eyes out of your head. You can talk to God with your eyes wide open – driving down the road. Believe me; it’s much safer than talking on your cell phone.

God is nearby. His Spirit is within us. We can whisper to Him at any point and He will hear. That’s what I think unceasing prayer looks like. We’re ready to talk to God at any moment, and we do it on a regular basis.

As in, “God, I have to work with this kid again. You know his sole goal in life it to irritate and exasperate me. Help me show him your love. Give me grace.” This is what I call my “Sixth Period Prayer.” When I pray it, God answers it and I don’t get frustrated with this student.

Cardio: Going and Witnessing
We all know that we can lift weights all day long, but if we want to improve our fitness, we have to do more than that. We have to elevate our heart rate. For me, that’s walking and running, kickboxing and aerobics.

Image from technorati.com

Translating that into our spiritual life looks like this – GO. Instead of sitting on the couch, we go out and tell others about what Jesus has done for us. We’re concerned about their eternal destinies and their earthly sorrows. We can be Jesus with “skin on” and demonstrate his love.

Full-Body Workouts: Living your faith

James is pretty clear that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20) and we understand that if we want to get in shape, we’re going to have to work out. We can’t just watch the videos and expect results. We have to do the work.

Living for Christ is the same thing. Jesus saved us and now He expects us to “work out our own salvation.” Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Our lives should be a reflection of Jesus. Not sure what Jesus looks like. Open up the Bible to the Four Gospels and see faith in action.

Join a Team: Fellowship with other believers

“Working out by myself is just so boring.” I’ve heard this many times from people bemoaning their lack of commitment to an exercise program. The answer: play a team sport. I love basketball, volleyball and softball. I would join these teams and gladly sweat alongside them. I just burned 400 calories? No way! I was having too much fun.

Hanging out with our brothers and sisters in Christ should offer that same sort of boost for our spiritual life. Jesus never intended sharing the Gospel to be an individual event. The church was his way of ensuring that we would have a place to go to get the exhortation and edification we needed to make it through our spiritual work out.

Faith feeling a little weak? I just laid out the spiritual exercise program God intended to strengthen you and me.