Yesterday I took a one-day spiritual retreat, and I wanted to tell you about it. Spiritual retreats are essential for pastors and highly encouraged for all people. The best pastoral wisdom I’ve heard on the matter is the one-one-one-one rule: spending one hour a day with the Lord in solitude and silence; taking Sabbath one day a week; retreating one day per month, and one week of the year. Although I agree with this general rule, I’ve not followed it fully. It doesn’t seem possible to do so at this stage in life. Is it fair to leave my wife and family for one whole week for a spiritual retreat? Probably not at this point. But after taking a one-day spiritual retreat this week, I’ve decided to work harder at this spiritual discipline. There’s just too much blessing here to pass up! Imagine gathering first thing in the morning with a few people to worship the Lord in prayer and song. Then going off to your room for a time of personal Bible reading and prayer. Just sitting quietly for 15 minutes, listening to God. Then opening up his Word. Reading various texts as prescribed in my spiritual retreat guide. Then resting in God’s presence for an hour. Then writing out a prayer of response. Then going for a 30-minute walk. Then having lunch. Then returning to your room to read Richard Foster’s book on prayer. Then practicing Simple Prayer. Then going back to Scripture. Hmm. I wonder what I should read? And then finding yourself in 1 Peter, and reading it through slowly, listening to the Lord speak through it. Then praying for God’s guidance in pastoral ministry and for the week ahead. Then meeting with your fellow retreaters for a time of debriefing and closing worship. That was the basic pattern of my one-day spiritual retreat. What a blessing! Having tasted once again that the Lord is good, I take him with me as I leave, and now with certainty that he’s with me, as I felt him on retreat! So now you can understand why I feel called to take spiritual retreats and why I plan on being more consistent with them this year. Have you ever taken a spiritual retreat? If not, I encourage you to try it. You’ll be glad you did!
On Victoria Day we had the privilege of participating in the annual branding at the VXV Ranch near Claresholm, AB. My wife grew up on this ranch, so we try to show up for branding whenever possible, as this is a major event for the family—and for the community. And this is the interesting part for me. There are approximately 10 ranches in the area, and all of them brand calves in the spring. And so most of the neighbors attend all of the brandings. These brandings are a rare sight. Neighbors all decked out in their Western attire, speaking in a Western dialect (with a bit of a southern drawl), and then enjoying a fine meal together afterwards (roast beef, of course!). It’s amazing how working together can build community. These ranchers know and love each other. They help each other out in ways that I rarely see anymore. Although they’re not all followers of Christ, in many ways they reflect the prayerful community of love that the church is called to be. . . . June is block party month in Lacombe. This is another ideal way to build community in your neighborhood and to simply obey the biblical command to love your neighbor. I invite you all to seriously consider hosting a block party. No doubt there’s a bit of work involved—not as much as a branding!—but it’s worth it all when you see the relationships form in your neighborhood.
On May 10 I had the privilege of attending the Forge Axiom conference in Red Deer. The guest teacher, Pastor Cam Roxburgh, spoke about what it means to be missional. The framework for his discussion was Deuteronomy 6:4-9, where God commands us to love Him with all our hearts, soul and strength. When it comes to loving God with our hearts, worship surely plays a part. But interestingly, Pastor Cam took us to Leviticus 1 to discuss worship. So, here are some of the principles for (missional) worship that we learned about: Worship is about what we bring, including stories of God’s faithfulness. Worship is about bringing our best to God—whatever that looks like. Worship is a messy business—things don’t always turn out the way we want. Worship is multi-sensory and participatory—engagement is important. Worship is costly—there’s a personal sacrifice involved. Worship is a drama—the reenactment of God’s story. Worship is communal. I found this conversation on missional worship timely, as we’re currently making a few technical changes to our worship ministry. As we do so, I encourage you all to focus on what’s really important: to keep worshiping the Lord in spirit and in truth, and to keep the mission of Christ central to our being.
I’ve spent considerable time this year reading about and reflecting on worship. Accordingly, I just read In God’s Presence, by N. Graham Standish (The Alban Institute, 2010). Graham is the pastor who encouraged me and my wife at the recent pastor and spouse spiritual retreat. And now I seek to keep learning from him by reading his books. In this book, Graham promotes what he calls “integrated worship.” As he writes, “Integrated worship brings together ancient, classic, contemporary and experimental traditions. The key question is always, what will lead people to experience and encounter the Holy” (p. 126). I like his approach. The question is not traditional vs. contemporary worship styles, but what kind of worship is the Lord calling us to as a local church. Accordingly, I invite you to pray for the worship leaders of this church, as we seek to discern God’s will regarding the worship ministry. In fact, I invite you to pray the following prayer for the worship ministry of the local church:
Holy Spirit, Christ, Creator, I want to worship you, . . . we want to worship you. Even more we want to experience you so that through our experiences we can give our whole selves to you. Help me be a catalyst for leading others to encounter you in worship. And let my reading and reflections lead me to discover your calling to create a holy space in worship where all people can encounter, experience, and embrace you. In Christ’s holy name I pray. Amen. (Standish, 7)
Last weekend we had the privilege of attending a pastor and spouse spiritual retreat in Banff. This retreat was hosted by the Pastor-Church Relations Committee of Classis AB North (our regional body of churches). This retreat came at a very good time for us, as my wife had just finished her college year, and we had just experienced a full and joyful Easter weekend. In other words, we were tired! So, what a wonderful time to get away and be refreshed! We played and prayed together. We walked around Banff. We ate delicious food. And we were fed spiritually through Pastor Graham Standish. Graham serves the Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelionople, PA. He also writes books, leads spiritual retreats and speaks at conferences. I heard Graham about a year ago at a conference in Edmonton, so it was good to continue the conversation with him. He talked to us about calling. What is the calling of a pastor and pastor’s spouse? Graham says we often start with the “what” of calling—what are we called to do. But he says: the “why” needs to come before the “what”—why were you called to ministry? And as I reflected on that question, I was reminded that God called me to be a pastor because I love God and his Word, and I want to help people grow spiritually. So, what is your calling? I invite you to think about that, and let me know how I can help you discover God’s calling for your life.