Last Tuesday morning, the fellows journeyed to Pisgah, Alabama to spend a week at CamptoKnowHim. It was a week of intentional fellowship that provided a unique space to study and practice spiritual disciplines. Our learning was guided by guest professor, Hule Goddard Ph.D., who taught us the importance of implementing “sacred rhythms” in our lives such as creation, the body of Christ, sacraments, scripture, and solitude. These habits taught the fellows on how to encounter God richly, focusing especially on the disciplines of rest and community.
Experiencing God through creation was a heavy focus of the week, as we were surrounded by the beautiful national forest. Dr. Goddard spoke of how evident God is in nature if we have the eyes to see it. (Psalms 19:1-5) Additionally, Mr. Hule stressed the necessity of rest. In our culture, we often get caught up in the busyness of life and we become too exhausted to do things for Christ. He explained the necessity of rest by using the beautiful analogy of abiding in Christ.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
When a branch is attached to a vine, the vine nurtures the branch, but we often treat abiding in Christ in an opposite manner. We sometimes think that we must always work hard, pray often, or study Scripture to receive God. While all these things are helpful in knowing Him, that’s not what abiding in Christ is about. Just as all the branches must do is to allow the life-giving nature of the vine to flow into it, we simply need to surrender ourselves and rest in the presence of the Father.
On Wednesday, we were given time set aside to practice the discipline of solitude in nature. This is something that many of us were unfamiliar with because of our accomplishment mentalities meaning, we always feel like we should be doing something. At first, many of the fellows (especially the extraverts) were nervous about several hours in the outdoors by themselves, but after this time of personal reflection and prayer, everyone came away refreshed. In our solitude, we were able to observe God in nature and abide in Him by laying down our strife and opening the valves of our hearts to his abundant love.
During this retreat, we were able to practice community in very intentional ways. We were free of the distraction of technology and on a flexible agenda. There was space to grow friendships through meaningful conversation and simple fun. During most evenings, the air was filled with laughter as both the students and staff ate meals and played card games together. Furthermore, the piano was constantly crowded by those bringing the building to life with music and song. Our community also had exciting opportunities to go on a night hike, repel down a cliff, and complete a low ropes course. Not only were these experiences fun, but they helped us make great memories, cultivate friendships, and build our skills by working together as a team. One evening, our class was broken into smaller groups, and we had the opportunity for personal encouragement, expressing the strengths we saw in each other and praying over one another. This was actually the body of Christ in action.
The week of at CamptoKnowHim closed as the sun set over the valley, painting colors on the sky that reflected God’s own character. In that sacred time, guided by Hule Goddard we worshiped, prayed, and took communion in community. It was an evening that many will never forget.
If the students and staff were to agree on a word that reflected our week at sacred rhythms, I think it would be—refreshing. This space allowed us to leave the normal routine of our lives—free of technology, work, and assignments and it encouraged us all to implement rhythms into our everyday chaotic lives. We learned to rest in the presence of Christ, to abide in His nature, and finally to experience the rich community we have in each other.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.