With week one of the HUGE Men’s forum still weighing on my heart and mind, even through the jubilation of being a lifelong sports fan and witnessing my first ever local professional sports championship, I arrived for week two, eager to learn and eager to grow.
All week I prepped my heart for this moment. I thought to myself that there had to be a reason that the sequence of the Men’s Forum was set up the way it was and that I should work on opening my heart for what would come next. I have to say at this point that it worked. I thought all week about ways that my past has hardened my heart, from being the world’s definition of a “man” and not listening to the more sensitive side of myself to being open to trying new things, new ways to better myself. I consciously made an effort to open my heart for what God had in store for me in this week.
When the worship band played their third song, Chris Tomlin’s version of Amazing Grace, the room was filled with God’s power and God’s grace. I know sometimes you can be in the middle of a worship service at church and it feels like going through the motions. It feels like a few people in the room are engaged and being ushered in to God’s presence and the rest are just kind of there. That was not the case at this special event. This song was incredible, the entire room was wrapped in God’s loving grace. There were men in the aisles on their knees and the room was filled with awesome sound.
There couldn’t have been a better start to the night where Ed McDowell, the Director at Warm Beach Camp gave us a peek in to his “essential self”. The part of him and the part of us all that will out-live these bodies that they dwell in, he gave us a look in to his soul and what he does to fill it with love.
Our latest series here at AC3, Real Simple, was the perfect lead in to this night that Ed spoke to us. Especially the part about finding quiet time with God in the middle of the crazy world that surrounds us and confronting the turmoil within it. Ed gave us an illustration on what the world around us was like. He asked that we all take out our smart phones, turn up the volume and play some music. Then the speakers in the church started playing music with us. This created a hectic feeling of far too much happening around us while he kept speaking and kept trying to keep our attention throughout that minute or so. It was hard to focus on him, there was too much happening.
This is real in our world. So real that it’s scary. We get so busy, so wrapped up in our schedules that we forget that the God we seek is in the quiet, waiting for us to look for Him and to listen to Him. Ed talked about his “alter in the woods”, a place that he hikes to that overlooks a lake that you can only walk to. He remembered a time where he knew that he needed answers in regards to some rough things happening in his life. He knelt at his alter in the woods, with nobody within distance other than the God that he was seeking and got fired up. He was seeking God’s will in his life, seeking answers or maybe even searching for the right questions to ask when he went back to the world to greet these problems head on again. He was feeding his soul.
The soul, on display
Have you ever seen somebody so messed up, whether it be alcohol, drugs or depression that you could look in to their eyes and no longer think that they’re even in there somewhere? I think most of us in this current world have, unfortunately. These are people with completely neglected souls. They’ve absolutely lost touch with it. If you’re lucky enough to have been around or this person themselves were lucky enough to make it through that and come out the other side, to where you can once again see them with their soul intact, you know what I mean. It’s apparent in this world that our soul needs nurturing and it needs God’s presence within it.
Another analogy that was great from Ed was his mother. If you’ve ever witnessed someone passing on from their earthly body, you know what he was talking about. One second a person is there, even when they’re very sick and on the verge of letting go, you can see their soul is within them still. Ed talked about their pastor doing a communion with his family as his mother was nearing the end of her life here on earth. That he distinctly remembers his mother being lost in God’s love and that her soul did a “sprint to heaven” once communion was over. One minute she was there, the next minute there was just this body, the old body that she would never need again as God has given her a new one in heaven. Just laying there with nothing behind her blank eyes. He could see that her essential self was no longer dwelling in this lifeless body, her soul was with The Lord.
Real soul food
You see, we often forget that our soul is our “essential self” as Ed calls it, the part of us that will live on forever. We forget that we need to fill our soul with God’s promises, fill it with God’s word and genuinely seek God’s will to help our essential selves be more willing to love on this planet and to be “fishers of men” as we are called to be. The more well balanced your soul is, the more that feeling that there aren’t enough ours in a day or that you just don’t have anything left to give to your family, church and community will disappear. Feeding your soul is an essential part of being a disciple and a follower of Christ.
Ed talked about the “gotta haves”. The newer, bigger, faster and stronger version of everything that we seem to want these days. He talked about how all of these things fade away. It’s true, they do. We see it every day. No car lasts forever. No TV, no stereo, no fancy phone or a hot tub will last forever. Jesus told us these things, long, long ago but somewhere in the middle of modern culture, we’ve lost sight of that as a whole. God’s love is what is going to last forever. He will endure time, our soul is the part of us that will be there with Him throughout that time, so it’s of the utmost importance that we feed our souls and stay in touch with them.
We must create time and space for this soul food. Ed referred many times to the 10 minutes that he gets in the car, on the way to school with his boys every day. They read a daily devotional and talk about it on the way to school. He makes sure that his son’s days start with quiet time, with time with God so that maybe they’ll have the strength in High School that day to say no to temptations and say yes to boldly living like Jesus did, even at a very young age.
He talked about taking what some of us call our “man caves” and turning them in to a place that can restore your soul, rejuvenate your essential self so that you’re available when a call comes to help. Amazing, culturally relevant stuff like is taught at Allen Creek Community Church, my home.
So, as with all of our learning experiences, we’re not just here to listen. It’s the life application that matters. This journey is called our “walk” with Jesus for a reason. Action is required. Applying these first two weeks to my life has made for an awesome two weeks, I must say.
I’ve realized that my heart was hardened, been shown the way to soften it by letting God directly in to the hurtful things in my past and now am using that open heart in the morning, in my quiet time to let God in to my day with prayer and meditation that is truly bringing clarity to the vision that God has for my life. I feel empowered and this is only week two. I can’t wait to see what happens next week as we continue to build on this tangible, life altering experience.