"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Friday, February 19, 2010

Of Vacation, Magnolias, and Lent

I just got back from a time of vacation. For those of you who regularly stalk me and my life stories, you know them as the Monday Night Supper Club people…or more familiarly, the Catwoman, the Techno-Geek, the Nurturer, and the Hiker (obviously, names have been changed). This week we had planned to go to Black Rock Mountain in north Georgia, however with the recent weather, the roads up to the park had become iced over, so we chose to travel south to the Magnolia Springs State Park near Millen. As it turned out, this was a double good thing since my alma mater, Georgia Southern University, was just a few miles down the road. The best thing during these weeks is the fact that no one has to do anything at all. The Hiker enjoys, well, hiking the trails; Cat Woman sits by the fire and crochets things; Nurturer takes care of us by making sure our glasses are kept full and the candy bowls on the coffee table are supplied; and the Geek compares the ringtones on everyone’s cell phones while listening an iPod and previewing videos from three camcorders. Me? I just sit around, watch them, and come up with stories to tell. We all enjoy each other’s company and the time to relax around good friends with whom we can be ourselves…no pretenses…warts and all.

The park is a gorgeous place and I enjoyed spending the time with friends, but also spending time with God during trail walking. I saw Him in the still lake across the street from our cottage; in the trails shaded by moss-laden trees; and in the stars so clearly visible in the evening time with no city lights to fade their brilliance. I heard God talking in the morning birds; the laughter of friends; and the crackle of the fireplace late at night as the day began to wind down. When the time came to head home, it was nice to get back to family, yet it was a hard thing to give up the relaxing and stress-free life enjoyed those few days.

One afternoon I drove over to Georgia Southern and revisited the campus where I became “Jimmy.” It was exciting to see the new buildings and growing campus where I lived for four of the best years of my life. It was comforting and nostalgic to see the familiar sites that I could identify readily with moments of making life decisions about careers, friendships, and maturing as a man and as a Christian. I saw the tree where I was sitting and felt God’s calling to enter a ministry-related field. The dorm front porch where I gathered with close friends on so many evenings and planned pranks and fun as well as the serious discussion that bonded us together forever. The cafeteria where the scary hippie-girl stood on the table, threw a roll at me, and screeched, “What are you looking at?!” The memories and friendships gained during that period shaped me, for better or worse, into whom I am now and I’m glad that they are a part of my heritage.

We, the Christian church, have entered a forty-day season known as Lent. It is a time when we are to withdraw from many worldly things and focus more on our spiritual lives as the Easter celebration approaches. For myself, I have chosen to give up unnecessary computer time and frivolous reading for the Lenten season. This means no Facebook, computer games, and unnecessary surfing....I'll keep with the essentials of email, writing, bill pay, etc., but that's it. My belief and practice during this season is to not just give up something, but to then replace it with more effective ways to serve God. More time in Bible Study, more time in reading good, sound Christian authors who can lead me in continuing growth as a Christian, more writing, giving more of myself to local organizations and people who need a helping hand in life. Not by giving money, but by giving of myself. This year's project is already showing me how out of whack my priorities have become, how addicted I am to stupid time-wasting things.... and what a blessing it is to feel my mind and heart being cleared of the unnecessary clutter.

A time of retreat, a time of reflection, a time of growth. It was good that I spent the beginning of this season with good Christian friends in a place separated from the world. It gave me strength to return home and try to leave some things behind (to give up) so that I can draw closer to my God. I hope you can find the time and place in your lives to retreat and grow during these coming weeks.

So for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy


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