Monday, October 1, 2012

Following Jesus into the woods.

Better a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.
Prov. 27:10

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecc. 4:12

I spent the weekend up in north central Minnesota with 21 other guys from Living Waters on a Men's retreat.  Twas most enjoyable indeed.  It has been said of our church body that we are the opposite of many churches in that our men are the ones who tend to be tight with each other and go do things like this, while the women are a bit less so.  I'm not sure if that is exactly true, but it is interesting.

We spent the time at one of the guy's cabins.  It is located in the Brainerd area, which has a massive chain of lakes all connected by channels.  Apparently this whole area lives off of conferences and such.  It has more golf course than I've ever seen.  I guess that even in the winter, the place is packed thanks to ice fishing and snowmobiles.

It is also home to the original Mill's Fleet Farm & car dealership. (Also known as The Man Store.) Their  motto is "If we don't have it, you don't need it."  All I know is that when I go into that store I seem to grow more chest hair.

Autumn in Minnesota is beautiful and lasts for maybe 2 weeks if you are lucky.  In this instance, we couldn't have asked for better weather, and colors were at their peak.  While most of the guys went up there to fish, golf and shoot at things, I told Pastor Scott that I wanted to just hear people's stories and get some writing done. (Both were accomplished.)


And now for some photos...

<--- b="b"> Naturally, our diet was horrible.  The only vegetable I saw was pickles for burgers, and corn as in corn chips.  There was plenty of bacon, steaks, brats and hotdogs.

It hit the gym hard this morning in a vain attempt to rid myself of some of this.

<--- b="b"> We had a large fire pit for steaks and witches.  Most of my clothes smelled like ash until they were washed this morning.

<--- b="b"> About half of the guys brought their guns.  For some reason, the older I get, the more nervous I am around them.  Never the less, the guys from Living Waters like to hear things go boom.

The boys headed off to some target range in the area for clay pigeons and stationary targets.  I think others simply wandered in the nearby woods hoping to run across a random terrorist.

<--- font="font"> Like I said, all the lakes are connected by channels.  I find it amusing that they needed to put up a warning sign for boaters to duck when going under a channel bridge like this.

I was told however, that more than one boater has whipped under one of these with their canopy still up, only to discover that they now had a convertible.

<--- b="b"> Brandon and his Miller beer.  It was an America made beer, so it doesn't really count as actual beer.

The stereotype of Baptists (Living Waters is a member of the Baptist General Conference...formerly known as Swedish Baptists until we decided to open heaven up for Danes & Norwegians.) is that they do not drink alcohol...or if they do, they will not wave at each other in the liquor store.

I have also heard that Baptists will not make love standing up because people would think they were dancing.

My personal thought is that if I asked Jesus if it was sinful to drink beer, he would respond by asking me which brand I was planning on drinking.


I was very happy that I got to page 12 of chapter 4 of my book.  Writing that thing is hard!!!  I get maybe a little over one page an hour.  Still, it is interesting to see how once I get going, the stories tend to write themselves and take on a life of their own.

Other than that, it was fun to get to know some of the guys better.  I've said it before that I often have a hard time around most people who call themselves Christians.  As a result, I fully understand why non-believers do too.  I want to trust them, but I have to be careful.

That having been said, Pastor Scott made me ride up with a guy who is relatively new to our body.  He was interesting.  The very first thing I noticed when he turned on his truck was that he had his radio tuned to Glenn Beck's talk show. (He's an Anti-Christ false teacher as far as I am concerned.) I figured that made any discussion of politics out of range.  Still, he was an architect, and he showed me some of the buildings he had designed up in that area.  I thought that was pretty cool.

I also got to hear the stories of some other guys, too.  If you think about it, everyone is a story in progress.  We are all walking auto-biographies if you will.

What all of these guys had in common, near as I could tell, was that they really did want to follow Jesus.  That means a great deal more to me than wether I agree with them politically, about sports teams, or on fringe theological issues.  I want them to help me follow Jesus better.  They want the same from the other guys.  That is what really matters.  Actually, at the end of the day and of our lives, that's ALL that matters.

As I listen to these guys, I discover who I am safe around.  I learn what issues I can discuss, and more important, who I can be vulnerable around.

I mentioned to a few that the last time I was on a men's retreat, I had one of my major depressive episodes and ended up turning into a puddle and sneaking out of there before anyone knew I was missing.  I told them that I had honestly been a little worried about that happening again.  The one guy who had been there before when that happened told me that he would just duct tape me this time until it passed.  This was good to know.

The other guys thought that was amusing and liked that I could be that open.  I can't emphasize enough how important the ability to be open and vulnerable is.  Pastor Scott is rather open about his issues, and other pastors have criticized him for that.  That's pretty stupid if you ask me.  Jesus never said that he was going to magically take all our baggage away.  He said that he would bring you through it with his strength.  There is a significant difference.

To many Christians wear masks to church.  "Yup, Jesus dun healed me and now I'm problems what so ever."  Jeez, that is so dumb!  If I am going to follow Jesus into his kingdom, then I need to be open about various struggles.  And to do that, I need other folks who are open about their own stuff.  We all have skeletons in our closets, and ghosts that haunt us.

Pastor Scott models that.  I try to model it too.  I have no confidence in myself...seriously, I don't.  But I am confident in the ability of Jesus to do his thing with my big, old mess.  I think that is what the other guys are looking for too.  It was nice to be around people like that.

Thank you, Jesus, for those dudes.



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