Friday, April 23, 2010

My Not-So-Private Idaho

Back from the rugged beauty of Idaho. Spent ten days in the center of the State, just outside of Challis (two hours drive from the Idaho Falls airport, if that helps you locate it in your mind, and it probably won't).

Snow capped mountains. Gurgling creek. Rocky escarpment close by, panoramic vistas from the higher places or the larger valleys. Mostly perfect weather with a touch of snow, rain, low slung clouds - but wait - here comes more sun with high clouds floating by on a soft breeze. Mmmmm...

Don't think I've really been back to Idaho since my adolescence when I went two years to Sun Valley to train at ice skating camp. Yes, I tried my hand at figure skating, thanks to an influential Phoenix neighbor. He went on to Ice Capades. I gave up by age 14. Still, I have skating to thank for some of my favorite memories of that era as Idaho was a world away from the arid summers in the Arizona desert.

This trip to Challis was to join a team of care providers for the twelfth Vineyard-sponsored "Pastors Sabbath Retreat". The idea is to bring together a limited number of pastoral couples for some deep care, refocusing, refreshment and personal ministry of several kinds in order to strengthen their grip on God, each other, their ongoing well-being, and their higher callings. It was a five-star delight to be a part of the team that provided everything from healing prayer, personal counseling, fun, worship, excellent teaching, an invitation into several kinds of spiritual disciplines and more. The retreat leader mentioned that he took a look at what eight other denominations were doing to provide care of this kind to their pastors. The answer: "not much". Seeing the value this kind of experience delivers to pastors first hand, I felt both privileged to be a part of the care team and a little sad for those in ministry who have never had (or taken) the opportunity to sabbath and invest in their own hearts, lives, marriages and well-being.

Coming back, I feel the satisfaction of having made my contribution as a team member and the blessing of sensing my own skills in providing care go up a couple notches. For example, over the course of the time I was there I taught a session on forgiveness, provided pastoral counseling for individuals and couples, led a couple private deep healing prayer sessions, helped with a hundred little tasks, and generally focused on helping the participants feel very loved and cared for. Doing these things in a place of exceptional beauty and peacefulness was, well, a slice of heaven.

Now, back in the OC buzz, I pray that something of the Kingdom of God that was so beautifully in evidence in Challis will come within me here. Thanks, God. Thanks, Vineyard. Thanks, Idaho...

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