“Be prepared to tell your story” was the only instruction I was given to prepare for a week at Fire Creek Retreat in North Carolina. With a handful of other men, I would be spending the better part of a week with “listening” as my primary occupation. While this seemed a bit odd, the unique circumstances of being invited to this gathering had awakened my curiosity.
I had been aware of Jack Taylor for many years. I had read of an account where his Baptist church in Texas had experienced an amazing revival and explosive growth which could not have been accounted for without a visitation by God. When I heard him speak, years later, I heard a man still infected with God’s kingdom, full of humor, wisdom, passion and freedom. When he called me from an airport in Florida, I was all ears. Sure I was interested in knowing Jack Taylor, but I was also interested in a fresh taste of revival.
God had rescued me at the tail end of a revival known as the Jesus Movement. It too was a time that can only be accounted for by a divine visitation. Rightfully so, revival is addictive. It was hunger for revival in large part that drew Jack’s guests to Fire Creek. Most of us had experienced God in significant ways in large corporate meetings, so our curiosity was piqued, and we wondered what to expect in this small gathering.
Two factors contributed to the dynamic at Fire Creek. First, for us, was the simplicity of telling our stories, discovering God’s fingerprints in our lives under the guidance of a spiritual father. No preaching? No teaching? That may sound underwhelming, but being fully present to each other, away from cell phones and media, was an ideal context. The second component was silent, but it had its own story to tell—nature herself. Today’s passage begins:
The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands…
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech and there is no words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their sound has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterance to the end of the world.
Romans 1:18-20 speaks of God’s eternal power and divine nature being suppressed in man while creation herself remains a faithful witness. Her testimony is sufficient to remove any excuse man might have to deny the Creator.
I think God took us a bit by surprise at Fire Creek. When we disconnected from our routines, it seemed we had rediscovered the capacity to listen and become more available to God and to each other. I didn’t see tongues of fire on any man’s head, but I did see the love of God overtake a few hearts. Our stories had converged with nature’s, creating a setting conducive to renewal.
There is much going on in God’s kingdom; not everything looks like what he has done before. Most of us have prayed for more of God. Have we considered that when he answers this prayer, the new wine he pours will inevitably strain our old wine skins? That said, if we have the opportunity to gather in smaller settings where we might really come to know others and be known ourselves, we should jump in. And, if we can get outside where God has always been speaking, we will have taken steps is a good direction.
Father, those occasions where we perceive you have been more directly involved in our lives, where it seems heaven and earth have overlapped, are naturally desirable to us. We cannot help but love Your initiatives and cry out for more. Help us to live in the awareness that, unless it is You building the house, all our labor will be in vain. Grant that our heart’s passions be awakened and spent on the same things that move yours. Amen.