I left home at midday on Friday for the one hour drive to the Five Star Retreat in rural Hickman County TN. Arriving, I found a group of men already there, sighting in pistols and rifles, adjusting the launcher for the skeet shoot, setting up archery targets, launching kayaks, and setting up AV equipment (after all we did have a spiritual program!) One of the men had brought an industrial sized grill/smoker and was busy smoking manly man food in between sighting in an AR-15. Earplugs were handed out on arrival... a good thing since the sound of weapons firing was incessant. Most everyone was making an outdoor fashion statement with a variety of camouflage, boots, hats, etc., and everyone with a "carry permit" had a holstered pistol. All in all we would have made an NRA or survivalist meeting quite proud.
Around 6 PM we ate some of the manly food ( smoked chicken and sausage), drank sweet tea and coffee and began to settle in for the evening sessions. With all the afternoon activities as a prelude, I was very curious to see what would happen to the 35 ruffians in attendance when the session started. Three guys came up front, one with a guitar, one with a bongo drum, and the leader. Over the years I have attended many church retreats and have listened to a lot of kumbayah moments sung by men whose hearts were not really in it. Thus my incredible surprise when these gun toting believers began to sing with a passion worthy of a Sunday morning charismatic praise session. My heart was filled as I watched these grizzly guys sing "Bless The Lord Oh my soul.... Worship his Holy Name,,," with loud voices and raised hands... And when they sang of worshipping "ten thousand years and then a thousand more" you had to believe it. These guys were the real deal, authentic believers here to experience an encounter with God.
Over the next two days we watched the videos about manly, Christian courage. We had meaningful small group sessions where serious soul baring and confession took place. We prayed for one another for life struggles and freedom from long held bondages. Some of the sharing was gut wrenching but it served to underscore that these men are committed to God and serious about holiness, loving their wives and serving their families. In between we went outside to the ranges and played with our man toys competing as teams in our small groups... sort of a spiritual retreat ying and yang!
One heart warming thing was that experienced shooters, fisherman, and archers took on a mentorship role for those who were not experienced outdoorsmen.... Just as experienced prayer warriors led the way in practical spiritual warfare when we prayed together. It was a true example of 'iron sharpening iron'.
It was a time of spiritual refreshment for me and I did catch about 15 bass! However, at 66, I was the oldest guy there. Sometimes folks my age can get caught wondering if the generations behind us can handle it. Good news for all you worried old farts out there, they have it under control. I could not help but be encouraged by the passion of all those young men who have committed to making a difference in the world by living for the King. With men like these, the Gospel is in good hands... And that makes me smile!