Recently I went with Andy and Jim (two of the finest looking brothers you will ever meet) to a weekend retreat in White Bluff, Tennessee. About a hundred people were present, including Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings. If you’ve never heard of these two guys you can find their stuff here. Most of the weekend was set aside for free time where everyone could simply get to know each other and share their journeys in the Lord, but there were also times of group discussion where everyone gathered for dialogue with Wayne and Brad. Here is my review of the weekend, based upon some rather shoddy journal notes I took along the way.
First session. Lee introduces himself as a “recovering Baptist”, jokingly, as if we’re about to start an AA meeting. This gets a good laugh. John from Louisa, KY (only an hour from where I live!), says that he and his wife are lonely and hoping to connect with other believers on this way. Joe is a former pastor (I think), who is “detoxing” after receiving the “left boot of fellowship” about three months ago.
At this point someone asks how many former pastors are present. A fair number of people raise their hands. Wayne asks, “Are the rest of us going to confess our sins, too?” (Good one, Wayne!)
Conversation ensues, and the essence of it all is this: Our intention is not to discover the best way of doing church but learning how to live loved by our Father, and seeing the body of Christ naturally express itself out from that reality.
(It should be noted that there was a wide variety of people present at this retreat from every walk of life, even a few sisters who flew in from the UK, believe it or not. One of these sisters, a lady named Jo, told us that she knows the grandson of T. Austin Sparks!
At breakfast I meet a brother named Jason. Great guy. To my surprise I discover that he lives in The Woodlands, TX, where there is an organic church that I know of (of which this brother is a part). Small world!
I sit and listen as Blake tells Andy of the change God is working inside of him. Among other things he is amazed by the fact that he is good friends with a man named “Bubba”, simply because they are so different naturally.
Session two. We all gather in the auditorium and sing some old school worship songs. Very enjoyable, but at the same time it makes me appreciate re-written lyrics. Interestingly enough, I hear more than one person over the course of the day talk about how some of the songs they otherwise enjoy regrettably contain lyrics that no longer accurately reflect a true knowledge of who God is to them, or their experience with Him. For instance, it’s hard to sing the words of How Deep the Father’s Love-“how great the pain of searing loss/the Father turns His face away”-once you’ve come to see that the Father in fact did not forsake His Son on the cross, but rather that He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Then it becomes better, perhaps, to sing it like this:
“Though darkness veiled His lovely face, the Father never turned away…”
Anyway, I try to get Andy to teach everyone some of the songs we sing in the church here at South Shore, but he’s too nervous. I understand, of course.
Then Wayne begins a time of talking to the Lord together. Many of the saints present are accustomed to referring to God simply as “Father”, and their intimacy with Father betrays itself in their prayers. Many prayers are offered, nothing at all “preachy”, though; each one is brief and personal. Very nice time.
Many amazing words are spoken about God’s love for us, and how knowing Father’s love is able to make us free from the power of sin. A Jesus who prays us through our failures before we even make them (see Peter)-I don’t know about you, but this is a Christ I didn’t meet in Sunday school!
As Wayne and others are sharing, all I can think of is all the people I know who would benefit from hearing this, simply because of how much it is benefiting me. To see God’s love set forth so clearly is very healing, to say the least. Whatever the circumstances that have shaped our lives, the fact of the matter is that our problems lie not with other people but with ourselves. “It is not what goes into a person that defiles them, but what comes out of them.” This, however, is good news and not bad, because it means that our healing can come regardless of how other people treat or respond to us.
After lunch Jason, Andy, and I spend some time praying the scripture together. Wonderful moment. As natural as breathing. We each talk to the Lord in the same way we talk to one another.
Over dinner I chat with John and his wife, and I find that they live only an hour from us. We share our stories and make a real connection. There is even discussion of a possible visit in the near future.
Later that night, around the campfire, I finally get Andy to sing some of our songs. Everyone likes the idea of re-writing lyrics. Here is a sample of one of the songs we sing, set to the tune of “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie”:
Jesus died, died, took our sin and He died
Our burden was heavy but we’ve kissed it goodbye
So this is our answer if you ask us why, saying
Why did Jesus Christ have to die? (2x)
So He could live, live, triumphant o’re sin
Resurrected and ascended and now living within
He laid down His life so the war He would win
And now we are His very own kin-
We’re brothers and we’re sisters in Him
After two nights of sleeping in the same cabin as Jim (you know who you are, brother), I’m convinced that snoring is his superpower. 🙂
Wayne and Brad sum it up nicely in our final session together: The two of them were simply a “good excuse” for the rest of us to get together this weekend. (That may be true, but we’re sure glad you were there, guys!) Let me also note that both Wayne and Brad made themselves available to the other saints for conversation all throughout the weekend. You’d be hard pressed to find two more touchable, down-to-earth guys than these brothers.
Special thanks to Jason Duncan and everyone else with The Way network who put this retreat together. It was a little taste of heaven, for sure.
I suppose a good summing up for the entire weekend would be in the final conversation we all had together. The question we found ourselves considering was this: To what are we committed? To an “it”, some thing (such as a church program or institution, or some meeting we feel obligated to attend), or to a “they” (people) and a Him, the Lord Jesus Himself?