Monday, May 15, 2006

Men's Advance 2006

I’m sitting here, sick as a dog, just contemplating this weekend in which some of our Men set aside some time to draw near to God, as well as some food, fellowship, and fun. It was powerful and beautiful and worth being sick right now, all the administration necessary, and hard work. God showed up.

Above is one of my favorite pictures from the weekend. The men decided to risk diving into shallow water…for fun! In all seriousness, we do not condone the breaking of the law, but the fact is these men of ours threw caution and fear to the wind and dived in anyway. And I think it’s a great example of what men are made for…maybe the enemy, the flesh, and the world are telling us men to be overly cautious, even fearful. In those instances we need to throw caution and fear to the wind and GO FOR IT!

Let me give you some of the highlights from my perspective from this amazing weekend where God truly showed up. But first a huge thank you goes out to:

  • Joey H. for his amazing graphics skills on the flyer
  • Paul C. (and crew) for a tremendous job on sound and other various requisitions (tents, Gatorade, etc)
  • Eric S. for heading up the ever important morning meal
  • Jonathan S. who lost his voice taking his duty as our worship leader very seriously and practicing all weekend!
  • Howie J. and Jacob L. for putting themselves out there and being very honest about what God has been doing in their lives
  • James R. for hitting the ball out of the park with a message on Josiah

Friday Night
Men started arriving sometime between 4-5 pm and kept trickling in until we hit critical mass around 7pm. But they still were trickling in even after that. Howie showed up sick as a dog along with Kevin P. who was suffering from a major allergy attack. Needless to say this was a problem since Howie was to give his testimony that night…but he was powering through it. We started around 8pm it was just starting to get dark.

I opened with an exhortation from Psalm 95 challenging the guys to not harden their hearts if they hear the Lord’s voice this weekend. Then Howie gave his testimony of our powerful Lord who had been teaching him brokenness through Howie’s inability to be perfect and self-dependent. The Lord moved us to form into our platoons and cry out to Him whatever God was speaking to our hearts. Men cried out what hit them about Howie’s testimony, what they needed from the weekend, and praise and worship to our great God.

We then switched gears to the game. Each platoon had two teams of three in which the middle man was blindfolded and held the flashlight. The other two men had to, at all times, hold the middle man’s shoulders. The object of the game was to collect the most silver crosses hidden in a large grass field. The catch was the middle man had to pick up the cross and the other two could not let go of that man’s shoulders. If they did they would have to let go of one cross. They had ten minutes to gather as many crosses as they could and the platoon that had the most crosses won Leatherman “type” tools (kinda the modern day version of a Swiss army knife generally coveted by men.)

As usual, the men were very competitive and rowdy but a great time was had by all. In the end, Christian H’s team won and collected their prizes. One man Josh P. wore his Leatherman “type” tool around the whole weekend. I guess he was proud of that win or it was a badge of honor for him…whatever the case it was on his belt whenever I saw him. The message of the game was pretty much no man is an island. I asked the guys if they could imagine doing that game by themselves blindfolded on their hands and knees. Of course they all groaned yet we try to do just that! Following after Jesus by ourselves with nobody to imitate or spur us on towards righteousness.

We ended the night with a great big bonfire, some cool games in the meeting room, and I believe a night game of ultimate Frisbee. Oh and lot’s of cookies and snacks were eaten as well. Somebody asked me where the milk was and I said I don’t believe in milk and they left me alone after that. Did you know that cow’s milk is designed to make an 80 pound calf into an 800 pound cow? Just some “food” for thought.

Saturday Morning
The morning started for some of us pretty early as we started setting up for breakfast. First off…coffee! Thanks to Molly and Be Aroma for providing some great coffee it helped start the morning off for those that drink that stuff. It was a bit chaotic but the eggs got scrambled (by yours truly), pancakes got flipped (Jim B. and Jordan C.), and sausage was heated up (Tim R.). It was a wonderful hot breakfast after a cold night in our tents, cars, and some slept outside. Some people thought I was the food Nazi but I’m not really sure why. I just need my plate of food or I go crazy! Is that wrong?

We started the morning out with another Psalm reading and Corey T. lead us in a few songs. We then heard from Jacob L. on what God has been doing in his life since last retreat. It was a powerful testimony even though everything isn’t perfect in his life he sees that bringing darkness into the light has allowed God to work.

We then had a bit of reflection time. We handed out a list compiled by James MacDonald in his book “I Really Want to Change…So Help Me God.” He compiled it from lists in the Bible where the author would say, “Put off…” as well as from his years of ministry as pastor of Harvest Bible Church in the suburbs of Chicago. Each man had about 30 minutes or so to quantify where they were with putting off these things.

The last part of the morning was Platoon time. I’m not sure what the other platoons did but my platoon went for a walk! Two by two we walked from our campsite almost back to the entrance of the park. As we walked we discussed our lists openly and honestly with our partner. My partner had a pretty long list and he was glad to have had the time to really take stock on where he is with the Lord right now. It felt as if he would be able to go home and have much to pray over between now and next Advance. My prayer is that God would use the list to change his life!

The final hour I had with my platoon we divided up the four gospels between the eight of us. Two took Matthew, two took Mark, etc etc. We scanned the scriptures for about 15 minutes or so to find passages that showed that Christ was a man worth imitating. In other words, answering the questions what in Christ’s life and teaching shows us how to be a man? I was expecting each of my platoon members to struggle to even get 2-3 passages. I was pleasantly surprised to find most of them had more than double that when the 15 minutes were over.

We went around in a circle and shared our favorite passage. Let me tell you either I had a great platoon or these guys are geniuses cause they found some tremendously deep passages! A passage about “narrow is the gate” and how that’s so true also about being a man…it is a narrow path. Another one about servant leadership and how Jesus didn’t just tell people to suffer for God He actually did it. He was an example! All of it was good and I learned a great deal from those men.

Saturday Afternoon
Lunch was a sandwich bar and because I didn’t pre-order the sandwich catering package from Costco we had a mix of sandwich meats trays and wrap trays. I tried to convey that they need to pick either the wraps or the sandwich but I’m either not a good communicator or men don’t really listen. I think it’s a little of both! It was fun though we had enough food for all in the end so it all worked out.

The rest of the afternoon was free time. I hit a brick wall in fighting my cold so I lay in my tent while the men played. And I mean played! As I lay there listening in the grassy area there was a whiffle ball game AND an ultimate Frisbee game going on at the same time. In the horse shoe pit there was a spirited game of horse shoes happening. Picture if you will men with their shirts off thoroughly enjoying themselves. It’s kinda like Lord of the Flies but without all the weird stuff. That’s what I’m talking about!

A little later when everyone was hot and sweaty we headed to the lake to cool off. I stayed behind resting and some of the guys prayed for me to feel better. I finally did and headed to the lake after jumping Nate R’s car…his battery died from recharging his camera battery or something. When we get there I see them jumping off a table and having to run to clear the 2-3 foot shallow area and into the 5 ft area. And I heard Bryan yelling if any of you get hurt CalvarySLO is not responsible! It was kinda funny.

I got in the water only to find some of the men decided to put the tables in the 2-3 ft area so they didn’t have to jump so far to get to the 5-6 ft area. Well the first table they put in was under water so they put a 2nd and 3rd table on top of that one. Bryan asked me when I was gonna stop this and I said at 4 tables. They never did put a 4th table on cause 3 was pretty cool! Kyle L. must have taken diving lessons cause he was the best diver out there.

Then the ranger showed up. Some of us saw him call for reinforcements the minute he parked his truck. He asked us what we were doing with his tables and one guy said we were diving off them and did he want to join us. He wasn’t amused yet. Then he asked us if we were all over 21 and how many of us were drinking. He was flabbergasted to find out none of us were. He checked every one of us out and just could not comprehend that we weren’t drunk.

Right about then the A-Team military boat come roaring into view…I could have sworn I saw a 50 Caliber machine gun on it. I guess that was the ranger’s backup cause he started talking to them over the radio. I think he was saying things like nope they aren’t drunk…really I checked…no they seem like pretty ok men…over. B. A. Barracas and Face took off in the A-Team military boat and we all collectively sighed some relief. Mr. Ranger told us to put the tables back before 4pm when he was off duty. We said yes sir and he shook his head in disbelief and took off. After that some of the guys lead by Dan M. swam to the buoy just off shore. It’s pretty hilarious to see 4 grown men all trying to sit on top of a buoy…I prayed the A-Team wouldn’t see them and try to shoot them down.

Back at the campsite there was much rest taking place. Half a dozen or so men were snoozing under a shady oak tree on blankets in the grassy area. Another half a dozen or so were in clusters under the other shade trees talking about lofty things like bird flu and To Kill a Mockingbird…huh is that related? Weird. I was worrying that the BBQ guys weren’t there yet to burn the wood for dinner. I finally called Ribline and they said they had already cooked the food and the guys were on their way up. Whew!

Saturday Evening/Night
The dinner was amazing. Johann W. is from Sweden. I had breakfast with him Sunday morning and he said, “That dinner last night was amazing!” I agree! If we do this again we will be calling Ribline up to cater dinner for sure! I pulled out some Lemon and some Chocolate bundt cakes from Costco to complete the meal and we were some happy campers let me tell you.

I had a great conversation with Jordan C. who is vegan. I found out that he chose this lifestyle out of a conviction he has about world hunger. I was both amazed and convicted as I was shoveling cow and chicken products into my belly. And I realized that men have strength of conviction that is amazing. Whether it’s choosing to be vegan or deciding to put away some money for retirement or train for a marathon/triathalon. The challenge is to allow God to use that strength of conviction for the Kingdom…like Jordan has. He put it well, “This is my small contribution to World Hunger.” Wow!

We then had a Saturday Night service with Jonathan starting us out with some worship songs. I was happy he added my request for Hail Jesus You’re My King! I love that song! James came up and gave his now world famous message on Josiah. I’ve already got much feedback on men wanting to turn their idols into powder. We had a little after glow time after that and some words were spoken and heard. It was sweet to be sitting there in the dark worshipping and hearing from our Lord under the stars.

That was it…the men were good enough to help clean up and there was very little for me to do the next day. It seemed as if our goal of having guys grow closer to God and with each other was met. Many of the men stopped to say good-bye before they left and let me know that all our efforts were worth it.

The End
I know finally huh? I usually don’t like to write this long…long but not this long. Five of us stayed the night Saturday. I know I got some good rest that night. I had a little sunrise service for myself at 5:30 am or so. It was a trip to see the sun rising in front of me and the almost full moon behind me. I felt like Luke Skywalker for some reason I don’t know why. In some ways I’m relieved the weekend is over but the area of my heart that longs for heaven sure wishes it could never end! Some day it won’t. Until then I’ll continue to enjoy being overseer of KingdomBuilders as long as God sees fit to keep me there. It’s hard but it’s always worth it!