The Wilds of New England, I guess I need to get busy and finish my report on the ladies' retreat ...
So last month (September 13-14), I had the opportunity to attend the Ladies' Retreat featured above. There are usually two retreats, and sometimes I've attended both. This year I felt like I could only do one. I have heard Mardi Collier before, and I knew that the sessions with her would be a blessing. They surely were.
This is probably the most unprepared I have ever been for a retreat. I think I finished with packing maybe 90 minutes before my friends picked me up! I don't really have a reason -- just that it was a busy day and that I had a lot of things (especially laundry) that I wanted to complete before leaving. The Lord provided a ride to the retreat with my daughter and friends from her church, so we had great fellowship along the way!
After arriving at The Wilds of New England, we found our cabin and selected our bunks. The cabin was one of the newer duplexes, near the bathrooms, and up a steep little hill. After my first trip up this stony little hill, I was thankful for our hilly everyday walking route which had somewhat prepared me for it.
It was nice in many respects, but if we had known none of us would get much sleep, we might have been less enthused. Still, it's a retreat. No one really expects to get much sleep.
After getting our bunks all made up, we headed for the coffee shop. It was a warm afternoon, so though others were getting hot drinks, I chose an Italian cream soda. I like to get a combination of coconut and pineapple -- so refreshing!
|This photo by my daughter Carrie shows part of the coffee shop, Cool Beans. The porch to the shop is visible through the door.|
After dinner, we moved to the new barn at TWNE for our orientation, fun time, and our first session with Mardi Collier. Mardi's theme was "Our Good Shepherd" and focused mostly on Psalm 23 and John 10. Session 1 was titled "Reality" and pointed out five important truths: 1) We are sheep who are needy and need a shepherd; 2) Jesus is the Good and Great Shepherd, the only One who can meet the needs of His sheep; 3) True sheep don't listen to the false voices of strangers, but to the only way to God: Jesus, the Door of the sheep; 4)The thief wants to steal, kill, and destroy the sheep, but the Good Shepherd came to rescue and free sheep from sin and death; and 5) The Good Shepherd provides for His sheep physically and spiritually through all of their lives. Of course there was scripture to go along with all of this. Two quotes that I jotted down from this session were these:
If Christ can meet our deepest need -- that of salvation -- can He not meet every other need that we have?
"I shall not want" does not mean we never go through difficulties. But our Good Shepherd goes through the difficulties with us.
There are always activities going on that first evening after the session finishes -- a campfire, Cool Beans, the Sweet Shop, games -- but I don't think I've ever had the energy to do any of them. I usually head for the cabin and get ready for bed. That's what I did this time, but I didn't sleep ...
When Carrie was ready, we headed down to Cool Beans. On the way, she showed me this glorious sunrise she had captured from the porch of the cabin. So beautiful and a wonderful blessing to start off our day!
We hadn't expected to be able to get coffee this early; we were just going to the coffee shop as a quiet place to go where there would likely be a fire going. However, we soon found we could order coffee if we liked, so I got a large hazelnut for each of us. So restorative!
We passed the time until breakfast chatting with other ladies and with one another, and getting nicely warmed up after a chilly night. A yummy breakfast awaited us: Pancakes (with warm syrup!), sausages, peaches, and even lemon poppy seed muffins. Bring on the comfort carbs! We all needed them.
After breakfast we had Session 2 with Mardi, then God and I time. Session 2 was titled "Relationship" and focused on three important truths: 1) The Good Shepherd knows everything about His sheep and wants His sheep to know Him well; 2) When sheep are afraid, quarreling, or irritated, they are unable to rest. They need the presence of the Good Shepherd, who cares for them and wants them to be calm, content and satisfied; and 3) Sheep need to spend much more time getting to know their Shepherd. A quote from this session:
Sheep are ruminating animals. We need to ruminate -- meditate -- on truths about God, to chew on these truths over and over.
Carrie and I ended up going to separate, quiet tables in the closed coffee shop for our God and I time. Mardi had given us an assignment. I always like it when speakers do that. She had given us a handout with information from her book, What Do I Know About My God? and instructed us to choose one or two of the things we can know about God
I never really (that I can recall) looked closely at the contrast between the one who trusts the Lord and the one who does not. The person who is not trusting in God "will not see when good cometh." He won't even recognize good when he sees it! How sad is that?
(One time, at a couples' retreat, Mr. T and I went to the gazebo below for our God and I time. That was a lovely place, too.)
Following this, there was some free time. I went back to the cabin and read and rested just a little. Our friend Patty had the heater turned up and it was really toasty in there. If only one of us had figured that out the night before! 😉
Session 3 came next. It was titled "Restore" and focused on three truths: 1) All sheep want to go their own way and stray, but straying from our Good Shepherd is foolish and dangerous; 2) The Good Shepherd wants to refresh and restore us spiritually each day and will come after us when we stray; and 3) The Good Shepherd loves lost sheep and pursues them; like Him, we also should love and pursue lost sheep.
A discussion in this session that really spoke to me included the following ideas:
As sheep, we may be drawn away from our Shepherd for various reasons:
• We stalk off rebelliously
• We have unconfessed sin in our lives
• We meander off and are drawn away from what God says is important
• We become distracted in our thinking
• We believe Satan's lies about God
• We have sinful weak areas in our lives.
All of these ways of straying can begin with one common factor: not being in God's Word. We can't know or be close to our Shepherd if we don't read His Word.
We're in a dangerous, vulnerable position if we stray from following our Shepherd.
Wow! I found this so sobering and rebuking. I don't want to be in that dangerous or vulnerable position ... do you?
So then we had lunch, a really nice meal of make-your-own burritos -- or maybe fajitas or soft tacos -- not sure what it was classified as, but there were flour tortillas, Mexican seasoned chicken and every topping one could think of for these. There was also a spinach salad, I believe.
Hours of afternoon free time came next. Carrie and our friend Gail went on a hayride, while others from our group went to the zipline and maybe laser tag ... I can't remember. Later, Carrie and I played table games with our friends Kristina, Stacy, Gina and Beth, who were there from churches in MA. We also enjoyed treats from the Sweet Shop at that time: in my case, a pumpkin Nor'eastah, which is like a blizzard made with vanilla ice cream and pumpkin. Such a delicious fall treat!
A quote or two from this session:
We tend to think that we can do so much better for ourselves than Christ can do for us. But we don't need to find green pastures and still waters by ourselves. We only need to find the Shepherd.
Sheep are also led in scary, uncomfortable places at times -- for instance, the valley of the shadow of death. Several important points were made here: 1)We pass through the valley of the shadow of death; 2) The verse says, "For Thou art with me." We never go through trials alone. God goes with us; 3) We walk through the valley of the shadow; we don't panic and run. We can walk calmly because the Shepherd is with us; 4) A shadow implies that there is light shining from somewhere.
Wow. I had never thought about that last one before!
And just one final thought concerning basic Christian disciplines to help us follow for His name's sake:
* Read and study God's Word carefully
* Memorize God's Word
* Be faithful to your local church.
These seem so basic, and yet many Christians don't do them all (and some don't do them at all). What a difference it might make if more of us worked at this!
|Leaf lines by my friend Vee|
Following this and just before heading home, we enjoyed a delicious pot roast supper with some amazing cheesecake bars for dessert. What a good thing that the calories had been removed from the food!
So there's maybe more than you wanted to know about our time at the ladies' retreat. It was such a blessing! I hope that maybe someone who hasn't been able to attend a retreat will be blessed by this virtual account.