Friday, July 17, 2015

Retreat: Spiritual, Academic, Emotional

I have spent this week nestled in a Study Carrel in the Moody Library on the campus of Baylor University. I have to thank both First Baptist Church of Arlington and Baylor both for this week. I am on my annual Study Leave from FBC Arlington. This wonderful church graciously allows me a month out of the pulpit and away from my normal administrative duties to spend time studying, praying, reflecting and planning. It is a true gift each year. And - Baylor University is gracious to offer me a place to hang my hat while I am here studying. So - I am grateful, for sure.

I have spent most of the week in the quiet setting of this great library. And yet, I have been surrounded by the voices contained in the wisdom of these shelves. The great voices of the past -- Augustine, Chrysostom, Luther, Wesley, Truett, Ladd -- and many others, have all spoken to me this week. Taking time to listen and reflect on theology, ecclesiology, church history and homiletics has been productive for me. There is just something about the academic setting that contextualizes my thinking. I spent 29 years in school -- so I feel at home in a library!

Also, taking time to ponder the grand sweeping story of the Church in history offers a person some grounding and weight in the midst of a culture that seems quite weightless right now. The orthodoxy of the past seems to now be weightless in my culture today. Sound reasoning and appeals to rational thinking can both be as easily dismissed as a cable TV provider. So, I have appreciated the time to reflect upon the big picture and the meta-narrative of The Big Story.

Also, it has been a time of emotional retreat for me. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the emotional energy required to fulfill my calling. I love people. I love my people in particular. As a pastor, I am personally engaged in the lives of many people. For the past two weeks now, I have been studying at home and here in Waco -- and I have experienced an ease in the emotional pull that is so familiar to any minister who is personally connected to the people of God.

This week in particular has been a time of spiritual retreat. I am a sinner. I need God's personal attention in my life just like any other follower of Jesus. I have spent time with the Father. I have asked the Holy Spirit to nourish and refresh my soul. I have looked to Jesus as the author and prime example for my faith.

Today, I went on a long prayer walk across Baylor's campus. It was a powerful and rich time for me. God touched me on many levels. I just wanted to engage Him on somewhat "unfamiliar" territory. I have never really walked around this campus like I did today. I felt His presence and listened for His voice as I shared my concerns and burdens with Him.

I found the small chapel in the Bobo Spiritual Life Center here at Baylor. It is a small, austere room, decorated with a contemporary but simple cross. I sat in this chapel and prayed and worshiped. Meanwhile, scores of incoming freshmen at Baylor filled the outer hall of the building as their orientation to Baylor University has begun. I could hear the excitement in their voices. I was struck by the contrast of my library setting all week. I have been surrounded by the wisdom of the voices of the past all week. Today, I was blessed by hearing the voices of the future. Who knows how God is going to use this crop of young people for His glory? I found myself praying for them as I sat alone in His presence.

I will return to Arlington today. It has been a productive week. I have renewed energy for the tasks at hand. God has given me a sense of direction for next year for our church. I still have a couple of weeks left to now more fully develop the general direction I have felt led to. I have been blessed by this time here for sure. As a Regent at Baylor, I have been inspired by how I see God using this university for His Kingdom's purposes. As a Texas Baptist pastor, I have been encouraged by my sense of Baptist identity here. 

As a follower of Jesus, I have been blessed by God. I am humbled by how He pays attention to our needs. I am transformed by His grace in my life. I am blessed to be reminded of just how desperately I need Him in my everyday life. 

So - July has already been a time of retreat for me. Academically stimulating, emotionally encouraged and spiritually inspired. Thanks be to God.