Montreat Youth Conference, part 1

August 5, 2008 by
Filed under: Religion, Youth 

Last week I went to the Montreat Youth Conference as an adult advisor for my church’s youth group.  During the trip, I had an experience that was … well … let me just describe it.

First, a little background.  I’ve written before about my experiences with the church and my departure from the church almost 20 years ago.  If you don’t want to read that, here’s a summary:  very involved as a youth (deacon, Synod YAD, church camp), in college a few things happened and I left the church completely.  I began searching for a congregation related to my return to church just about 3 years ago this month, and joined my current congregation later that fall.  I’m currently serving as a youth advisor for the Sr. High youth group, co-chairing a committee, and I’m about to start serving as a deacon again.

During Monday night’s worship at Montreat, the song “Here I Am, Lord” was sung.  This song was very popular at Camp Johnsonburg when I was working there, and I was happy to sing it again.

Around about the 2nd verse, I started getting very emotional and tearing up.  Around about the 3rd verse, I started to get a picture in my head – one that I can’t claim came from me.

The picture showed something of a timeline.  Over on the left side, there was a dark black line that represented my religious involvement of the past – from about age 13 to age 19.  On the right side, there was another shorter dark black line that represented my religious involvement of the past few years.  There was a big blank space in between.  As we sang, I saw the picture of a jumper wire (almost like a car’s jumper cable, but more like something used in electronics work) connecting the two lines.  I have been considering my religious life of the past to be different from the present.  I believe that the message here is that they are part of a single whole and remain connected.

So I was standing there, singing, tears in my eyes, and a picture in my head that I didn’t put there.

In my mind, this was a full-on Religious Experience.  Maybe even a Vision.  I mean … if there had been a shaft of sunlight and Baptist dancers flying through the air I’d be a Blues Brother now.  It was a really weird experience.

I’ve been skeptical of those who claim to have visions or have other divinely-inspired events in their lives.  Not anymore.  I think I get it now.  A later discussion with a family member produced that person’s story of a similar experience.

At the time that this happened, I had no idea what it meant.  I’m still not sure that I do.

The first thing that I did was ask my youth director to join me at The Huck for some ice cream so that I could talk about this (and another youth joined us for “Introvert Time”).  On the way we met Jorge Gonzales who was doing music for the week and I got a chance to thank him.

Later in the week I might have gotten some idea of the meaning behind this.

All youth and adults participating in small groups were assigned to a Small Group of about 30 people.  Those groups were broken down into smaller “Threshold” groups of about 6.  I got an opportunity to talk about this experience with my Threshold Group, but due to time constraints I barely got through the story before we had to move onto something else.

The theme for the week was “Throw Open the Doors”.  There were door metaphors tossed around during all activities.  On Friday (the last day of the conference), our Small Group leader asked “what doors have opened for you this week?”  I had a few ideas in my head, and the one that I chose was:  Don’t let the experiences of the past (meaning negative ones) color your view of your experiences of the present.  When I said that the Small Group said things like, “Dude.  That’s not just a door – that’s like a big gate or something.”

Later that evening we had the closing worship.  The preacher was Michelle Thomas-Bush (who I met through this blog).  She told a story about her 20th high school reunion.  At the reunion she met a man who had been in school with her.  He explained that he couldn’t remember anything about his high school experience at all.  He was being abused by his parents at the time, and all of his memories of that period are one big black mess.  He came to the reunion in order to rediscover his high school memories.  He was the life of the party, talked to everybody, and learned a few things.  At the end of the evening he talked to Michelle again.  She asked him if he’d learned anything.  He reported a few memories of good times and stupid high school tricks, but his main message was that this night was his New High School Memory.

Sound familiar?  Yeah, I thought so too.

I’m still working on how to apply these revelations to my life, though the implications for my church life are pretty obvious.  Back in December, I wrote this about how those once hurt by the church may keep looking over their shoulder for trouble to come again.  I think that part of the message is clear – stop looking over your shoulder.  We’ll see.  Being a Christian is hard.

As for the rest, that is not quite apparent yet.  More in the next post on the conference.


5 Comments on Montreat Youth Conference, part 1

  1. Montreat Youth Conference, part 2 : Mark Time on Wed, 21st Jan 2009 10:53 am
  2. […] this post for the most strange and wonderful part of the week for […]

    […] – let me get one thing out of the way.  Unlike last year, God did not choose to speak directly to me (ironic, considering that we covered the Burning Bush […]

  3. Manifestation of God : Mark Time on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 10:47 am
  4. […] where I am hard pressed to explain something without God’s involvement.  In one case I had a vision during a worship service at a youth conference.  In another case I had a dream with a strong […]

    […] but for those who don’t, here’s a brief summary.  On August 12, 2008 – a few days after the mountaintop experience on the youth trip to Montreat – I was laid off from my job … suddenly and […]

    […] ways as extraordinary as an experience that I had during a worship service that I can only call a vision.  It was made clear to me that week that while I had been considering my past church experiences […]

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