Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yes, JT for Background Music!

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."
Matthew 5:16

Since 2004, I try to yearly vanquish into the wilderness for 24-hours: just God and me (and usually some kind of camping equipment). I do not take vacation time. I consider it ministry. There is a part of me that always feels guilty, but that part of me needs to "shut up." Western society lives at a dizzying pace, to our detriment. Culture considers slowing down a weakness, but Jesus found it necessary. I've decided I need more SOLO RETREATS rather than less...even once a month. It makes me a better minister, a better father, a better husband, and a more peaceful human being.

There are four necessary components to my solo trips:
  1. Wilderness. I feel closest to God when I am surrounded by his natural world: trails, rivers, mountains, lakes, trees...
  2. Scripture. I always meditate on or memorize small sections of scripture. This trip I centered on Psalm 146-147.
  3. Silence. I always go alone.
  4. Exercise. God designed the body to move. Exercise relieves stress, calms my body, and clears my mind.
This week, I took a 4 hour road trip to Western Michigan, the Manistee National Forest. The whole trip took 18 hours. As I lost myself in God's beautiful creativity I asked him to teach me, to speak to me. Although I have never heard an audible voice, I do believe his Spirit works on my heartI medidtated on two key ideas during this retreat:

 Psalm 146:3-4 reads:
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing. 

I like to plan for the future, whether that's retirement, health, growing my career, building a church. As a result, I spend a lot of mental energy living in the future. The Psalmist says, "There may not be a future."  When I die, all the planning, all the striving, all the effort is pointless. Many of us are so focused on and planning for "When..."
When I graduate...
When I get married...
When I get the job...
When I get the bigger job...
When I retire...
When I...

...that we miss the "Now." Life is fragile. Don't waste today simply planning for tomorrow. Today may be your only tomorrow: savor it. Don't spend your life planning for a day that may never come. Today is a gift. Celebrate it!

As I kayaked down the Manistee River I moved in rhythm, in harmony with God's creation. I felt peace. Shalom (health, harmony, peace, wholeness) defined God's intent for creation, but our sin shattered his shalom into a billion still does.  Sin always undoes God's shalom; and busyness does as well. Busyness pushes against harmony; it drives the human being faster and harder than its engine was designed to endure...which leads me to "work."

Work is a good thing. God created it. He designed us for it. But work and the modern notion of career are two very different things. Work in the OT is better understood as "caring for and tending to." Man's original job was to care for creation, not to oppress it and conquer it - to work in harmony with it. Work moves in rhythm with God's shalom, while careers are often characterized by busyness. Work is a matter of finding food, constructing shelter, and clothing your body: basic needs. Careers are a matter of reputation, increasing/maintaining your standard of living, and achievement: luxury. Work focuses on the "now." Careers focus on the "when." Work breeds contentment. Careers are never satisfied. Rest is a friend to work. Busyness boosts careers.  Time to get to work!

***All photos and videos shot with the stellar iPhone 3GS. Shut up! Yes, I know there is a iPhone 5. Anyway...the cheesy video is best watched without enlarging it, since enlarging it greatly diminishes its already poor quality.

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