For the first time in nearly two weeks, the temperature broke its 90 degree humility hold. It was a perfect day to sit on a patio in downtown Kansas City with a group of close friends, sipping a beer, forgetting about the hectic work week, and giving thanks for 70 degree weather. A perfect day for such things, but 32 young professionals decided instead to pack their bags, drive an hour or so to a place they had never before been, with people they had yet to meet, in order to be a on retreat called Fan into Flame.
We sat there, teachers, dentists, social workers, pharmacists, and engineers. We sat there at 7pm on a Friday night in a little wood paneled room with a fireplace to our right, and a large window to our left overlooking Lake Doniphan, sharing what our first email address was, and why we came. Amidst the laughter, and the growing familiarity, emerged the common desire to find peace, and to be more full of God.
These two themes resurfaced throughout the next day and a half: peace that transcends all understanding and the abundance of life through the Holy Spirit. The emcees reminded us that whatever reason we came, God has a plan for our time here. “We want you to leave this retreat saying ‘I am full!’ Fists in the air. I am full," they said.
The following talks titled Jesus is Lord, Introduction to Expressive Praise, New Life, and Repent and Believe walked us through the basic Gospel message:
- Invite Jesus to be Lord of all areas of our life. God wants our friendship not our checklists.
- We are made to worship. The daily reading are filled with shouting out to the Lord, and worshipping God with song and dance.
- The spirit brings new life, a life that lays dormant in the hearts of many Christians after baptism. Holiness comes one day at a time with each choice for God.
- There are habits, thought patterns, little things in our lives as well as big sins that keep us from God. Turn away from them, and turn towards God.
Experiencing Peace, Joy and God's Love
Saturday afternoon flag-football was played, choices against God were confessed, and the property was scattered with men and women letting God speak into their lives in a new way as they sat silently listening, writing, and resting. That night, we gathered and prayed with those we had been in discussion groups with throughout the weekend, bringing ourselves and each other before the Lord, rejecting what is not of God in our lives, and welcoming the Holy Spirit to work more fully. Peace, joy, and God’s love.
Sunday morning, Fr. Mattingly celebrated mass and spoke on the exchange of a lesser good for a greater good. The exchange of what we have for what God has promised. We are made for community, to go forth from this weekend choosing to change, choosing to keep exchanging comfort, ease, and whatever sin, for truth, the Holy Spirit, and life.
Fists in the Air. Full.
We came as no people. We came as individual young professionals trying to live a good life, and we left as a people eager to let God work through us. Before going our separate ways a few men and women shared what God had done over the weekend. Someone faced the group and proclaimed “I know God’s love for me!” Another with the smile of a man who is free said: “the obstacles that kept me from God are gone. I surrendered them. They are gone. God is near.” Fists in the air, a third spoke, “I am full!” Fists in the air. Full.
The weekend was over, the suffocating heat returned to Kansas City, but the peace and love found on the retreat lasted longer than the cool weather. With hands and hearts open, 32 of us came, and God took our sparks of faith and fanned them into flame. Flames of love that extend beyond a weekend and into a lifetime.