When I went to one of my very first retreats, some 19 years ago or so, I roomed with three "older" women. It's funny as I have been thinking about that retreat over the last few days, and I realized those women were probably about the age I a now, if not even a little younger than I am today.
It was a typical retreat, and Saturday afternoon brought "workshop time." My three roomies, only one of whom I actually really knew at all at that point had decided not to participate in the workshops. The roommate I knew was an "older" woman who was making an effort to be a mentor in my life. She had teenagers at the time, it's just so funny thinking back over my perception, but I digress.
I went off to my workshop obediently and when it was over, I headed back to our room. When I opened the door to the room, it was a profound experience for me. There was such a thickness of the presence of God in the room, it was like walking into pea soup. I could feel the weight of it all around me.
I was a new baby Christian, and I had NEVER experienced anything like that before. I remember quietly crossing the room and crawling onto my bunk bed and just soaking it all in. I listened as the women prayed passionately and I just soaked in the sense of God's presence. It was so sweet.
I'm going to be honest, one thing that disappointed me with this year's women's retreat was the lack of "ministry time" that didn't go on. I remember past retreats where the worship would continue after the message and the women would minister to one another in prayer. There was some of that after the Saturday morning service, but both the evening services ended very abruptly and didn't have any time like that. It made me a little sad.
There was an option of signing up for a prayer time prior to the Saturday night service, but to me t seems the "need" for ministry can be hard to plan for, and I didn't sign up, in pat because I wasn't sure if I needed it or not, not to mention some other challenges the formality of it presented for me personally. I think I have been to too many youth retreats where the Lord completely leads the service, worship and ministry. Young people are far less formal and far less concerned with schedules and agendas, and I think they've ruined me a little for the concept of retreats.
All throughout the weekend I carried my prayer journal with me, and unlike most of the time where I set aside specific time to sit down and journal to the Lord that weekend I was "in and out of it" all weekend, even in the middle of worship at the retreat when I found myself struggling or having difficulty focusing. After dinner Saturday night I made my way back to our cabin and found myself there alone and was crying out to God in my prayer journal.
After a time one of my roommates made her way back to the room and we talked about the difficulty we were both having with the formality of signing up for prayer, but she was considering "crashing" even though she hadn't signed up in advance. As we began to talk and share, we decided instead to just seek God there together.
It began with just the two of us, long time friends on our knees and seeking God together, for ourselves and for each other and for all of us up on the mountaintop last weekend. As we continued to pray we heard our roommates milling about. Eventually they came in to the room and bowed down with us. I wondered if when they walked in the room they could feel the thickness of the Lord's presence. I wondered if they felt the sweetness the way I did, both that Saturday evening, and on a Saturday afternoon nearly two decades before.
It was a wonderful time of prayer and though it wasn't a "scheduled" appointment, God met us there. He spoke strongly words of hope, words of encouragement, and words of life. It was amazing to me how he touched each one of us, and touched each one of us differently. For one, rest; for another, courage; for another, direction; For me He gave me a very specific word of encouragement- a word of life to hold onto.
If you want to hear more about it, I invite you to come back soon and read part 3.