Monday, February 22, 2010

Best Mens Retreat Ever

This past weekend I was privileged to spend time with 8 other spiritual men at a private ranch outside of Belton, TX. This weekend began about 6 months ago at one of our Rachel's Vineyard retreats. Realizing the retreat is more geared toward women: even when men attend, the level of depth the men are willing to take is not as deep as when there are just men. God began to move on my heart to organize a retreat for men only. I took it to mean another Rachel's Vineyard or post-abortion healing retreat, but every time I thought or prayed about it, the door would shut to that idea.
I continued to seek the Lord, but by New Year's I knew it would not be an abortion centered type of retreat. From the beginning, I knew this had to be a different type of men's retreat. I knew we didn't need another weekend where someone would tell us all the things we weren't doing right and what we needed to change.
I finally sat down to put some ideas on paper, and over a weekend developed the whole plan - from who to invite, the venue, a menu, budget, shopping list, prayer partners, and even an agenda. I continued to ask the Lord how I was going to get all of this together. I'm just one person, and I don't have all the answers. There were 3 key areas where I knew God wanted to work in us: 1) Who am I, where did I come from, and where is God taking me? 2) My relationships and 3) How do I stay accountable?
How was I going to teach all that???!!! I kept hearing in my spirit, "Relax. Give it to me, and I'll do the work." Well, that sounds nice and comforting, but any man can tell you that nothing goes according to plan unless you have a plan. So I continued to work on a plan, even though I wasn't having much success.
So before anyone arrived Friday night, I had written down some introductory comments to make regarding the ranch layout, the sleeping arrangements, food, chores, and of course, the schedule and agenda. Basically, I needed to let everyone know what to expect and what we were going to do. As I wrote the bullet-point "Schedule" on my pad, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, "No schedule." When I wrote the word, "Agenda," again I heard, "No agenda." EXCUSE ME?!?! I was reminded God had said many times, "Let me do it." So I did.
I had just a few rules for discussion - no politics, no preaching, and no doctrinal discussions. After I had covered the bullet points with everyone, I had an icebreaker question. It was simple, and it was based on a conversation I had with a co-worker a few months back. Since we were all connected in some way (I've known one of the men there for over 25 years, and my son was there as well) I asked everyone to tell the group one thing about themselves that nobody there knew.
It not only broke the ice, but it was like one of the icebreaker ships the Coast Guard uses to open a navigational waterway for ships to pass. Two hours later we had already gotten pretty deep. It was time to move the conversation outside, around the fire pit. What better way to get men talking and open? So one of the men appointed himself as Fire Minister, and we broke out cigars, the bourbon, and began the conversation again. We were up until 1:30 Friday night. And it was good.
I was wondering if everyone was talked out when I woke up Saturday morning. But when I came down to the main house, one of the men was cooking, and the conversation had already begun. I might mention again here, that the entire weekend, all we did was talk - and it didn't include sports, politics, or religious arguments - the things guys usually talk about. I did not tell everyone what I had planned to discuss - the Holy Spirit opened and led the discussion.
We had a couple of more guys arrive around noon Saturday, and we discussed "The 5 Pillars of Truth:"
1. God loves and accepts me
2. I have God's favor and blessing.
3. I have God's joy and peace
4. I live out of God's power and provision
5. I have God's guidance and wisdom.
We talked through the afternoon, through dinner and into the night. Again, we were up late into the night around the fire pit again. There were 3 of us that were out there until 2:30 am.
Sunday's discussion was exactly what I had planned to discuss, but again, it was not prompted by me - the Holy Spirit prompted a discussion on accountability around the breakfast table. Awesome.
So all of the 3 areas of discussion I had written down were discussed - without my prompting, and without me having to plan a teaching, or follow a study. The teacher was the Holy Spirit. We were his agenda, and it was on His schedule. I truly learned something God has been trying to teach me for 52 years - how to relax and allow Him to direct.
I'll upload some pictures in another post.