Hi, friends. Today’s post is a recap of the spiritual growth retreat I attended last week.
The retreat is held every year for our conference (Western NC) of United Methodist Women, an organization of women who support and participate in mission work, created through the United Methodist Church. Click here to read my post commemorating their 150th anniversary, detailing how they got started and what they do now.
I enjoyed the retreat, though “revival” might be a more accurate term. We had four worship services over the course of about two days. I would’ve liked more intimate activities and time for soul-searching, but I didn’t even have time to read my Bible because the trip was packed with things to do. Perhaps I will make some suggestions for next year. Nonetheless, it was a fun experience. And, though I didn’t get the quiet time I craved, the breath-taking tranquility of my surroundings in Lake Junaluska made me feel contemplative about the wonder of creation.
Our theme for the retreat was “Thorns & Roses,” alluding to how God can produce beauty from pain and use our “thorns” to His glory. Our speaker for the worship services was Clara Ester, a retired deaconess and the VP of UMW. She dropped out of college in her junior year to become part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s entourage. As you might imagine, she shared some wild and stirring stories.
One sermon that I remember vividly revolved around King’s murder; she actually witnessed his death. A huge crowd of workers on strike anticipated a speech from King. Beforehand, King had received a death threat, but he chose to give his speech anyway. Clara referred to Jesus begging that God let the cup pass from Him, comparing Jesus’s agony to King’s; he likely prayed something similar that night. Clara painted a picture of the event–every pew filled and people sitting on the floor in the aisles, a wild thunderstorm rocking the building. And these are among the words King spoke that night—
I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter to me now, because I’ve been to the mountain top. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Of course, being the sack of raw emotions I am, I cried through the story. [Given our theme, the point was that, sometimes, God doesn’t let the cup pass from us because there may be a purpose we don’t see/understand.]
She spoke of other personal experiences that gave her a zeal for those who suffer, hence her becoming a deaconess later in life. She often referred to the thorn in Paul’s side and his saying that he boasts of his weaknesses because Christ’s strength is made perfect in weakness. I relate here because I use my circumstances as a young lady with a disability to inspire others and show the world that joy can be found in the midst of struggles.
Though the retreat wasn’t quite what I expected, I’m glad I went!
Right now, I’m on Topsail Island, and I’m giving the message at another church on Sunday. I hope to get back to my regular reading and writing schedule starting Monday. 🙂
Thanks for reading! ♥