Last weekend was the Garland Women's Retreat--one of my favorite weekends of the year. Since we moved our membership to the Winnsboro church it's the only time of the year I get to see some of these sisters. And it's not just the Garland church. We've branched out to three or four other Presbyterian churches with a Methodist here and there thrown in for good luck.
These friendships are deep, based on a mutual dependence and love for Christ. When you have silent confession of sin with the same people every week and the room goes dead silent for those few moments it's one of the least appreciated bonding experiences you can have. We are all sinners yet love each other anyway and draw on Grace to believe that God also loves us anyway. We go to weddings and funerals for each other. We cheer each other's kids on with each milestone. I love to soak up all that love.
The two best things this retreat is famous for is the great music and the huge chunk of time in the middle of Saturday with a zillion options like canoeing and getting a massage. And one of the most popular options is: Doing Absolutely Nothing. While a lot of the women were off canoeing I ended up on a nature hike up to the highest point in Upshur county.
I’m not exactly sure how old Phyllis is but I do know that she’s has been legally blind for a few years now from macular degeneration (and always tells me I look beautiful). She has been banned from the chancel since she fell down the 3 steps and broke her hip while cleaning up after communion. So we are all very protective of her. And if Phyllis wants to hike up the mountain we’re going to make that happen for her. For the toughest part of the trail two of us locked arms on either side of her because we know enough to protect our treasures, and Phyllis is one of them. I soon discovered my biggest problem was keeping up with her. She gave us a perky pep talk about how it's good to keep active.
We have always had lots and lots of music at this retreat and it varies from year to year. If we ever had all the instruments available to us at one retreat we could probably make an orchestra. Mary Snyder brought her flute but Elizabeth Ball didn't bring her cello. Instead, we had Linda Whitworth-Reed's harp (??!!- a small one) and debuting in their first public performance: three dulcimers playing Amazing Grace the old fashioned way. This was in addition to a couple of guitars and the keyboard that could be either a piano or organ. Plus the drum Mercy and Juliette brought.
These two treasures in the Garland congregation are from Cameroon. They have a sturdy community that keeps growing in our church. One Sunday about three years ago they showed us how they take up an offering in Cameroon. They literally dance down the aisle in Cameroon because to be able to GIVE back to God is a joyous experience for them. We loved the experience so much it's a regular feature now. We haven't quite made it but we're getting there. Not bad for the Hopelessly White Texans that we are here in the Bible Belt. I am in love with this song.
Then as if things couldn’t get any better, this year I was the keynote speaker so I got three 90- minute opportunities to have my say. And, of course, I had lots to say.The three keynotes were based on a conversation I had with God at the Grand Canyon a couple of years ago. Everything went pretty much exactly as I planned it: there were no technological foul-ups in the PowerPoint thanks to a little advance collaboration with Gilmont’s electronics guru. I mostly followed the outline of what I wanted to say. I was confident and relaxed because I knew it was not my own words, but God's, that came out of my mouth.
I thought I said everything God wanted me to say. Mostly, but not exactly. For the past two days I’ve thought of several things I didn’t say that would have made it even better. The last session was based on the concept of "Enough." Then, yesterday morning I found out I didn’t have enough "Enough" because this morning Nancy Gray sent me this tidbit that would have fit in perfectly:
We have no possessions. I think that is a good thing to remind ourselves of from time to time. We own nothing. All that we have gathered around us, the houses and cars and bank accounts, is only borrowed. We will pass away. They will pass away. Whatever we hand on to our children, they will use up, lose, or give away. There is no wealth because nothing physical lasts. No tangible thing has substance, only form. The only thing we truly have is our memory of experience. We have love. We have a sense of beauty. We have joy and peace. Those we do possess. They will stay with us, forever, because they are who we are.
Paul may have reported God's words better than anyone else in his second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12:
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
More than good grades, more than a big salary, more than a lot of new clothes or cars. More than anything society can bring us. God's grace is all we really need. It is enough.
Thank you for a great weekend, Creator, Redeemer, Friend.