Monday, February 11, 2008

A New Experience

It is Sunday night. Tonight I am returning from another road trip. This time it was Michigan. North Michigan. Not the Upper Penisula; but far enough north. We drove 4 hours from Detroit to get there.

It was tremenous experience. First, it was a time to interact with “Michiganders,” as one man at the conference called them. This was a men’s conference and I was surrounded by some of the finest men I have been around. They were humble men. Some came from hard and fast lives. They were once crackheads, hustlers, and drunks. But they met Jesus, who can change anyone at anytime. Others looked like lumberjacks. One man was so large and tall, I was sure that Paul Bunyan's offspring had walked into the room. Those were the ones who had driven 7 hours from the upper peninsula, right on the Canadian Border, to be with us. Then there were the former auto workers. I say “former” because they don’t actually make autos in the tri-motor city area anymore.

We enjoyed the presence of several South Carolinians, too. Ironically for me, they were from the Charleston area. I was reared there. I learned a lot about life there. I met the Lord there. It will always hold a very special place in my heart.

My purpose was to mingle with these men and also to share about what God is doing Somewhere in South America. That was fun. We laughed together. We also cried together. It was a great meeting.

Our drive from Detroit wound through a winter wonderland. It was like looking at a scene that would be used for a puzzle. There sat houses in the middle of fields, blanketed in snow for as far as one could see. The scene shifted from open spaces to woods. The variety of trees that contrasted with the snow was worthy of a painting. The deer foraging for grass added to the backdrop.

Shortly after arriving at the retreat center I took a walk. The snow fell slowly and gently around me. There is little that compares with the soft whisper of falling snow. I walked deliberately, taking in the sights and sounds around me. I almost forgot my purpose for being there.

On Saturday I had the opportunity to take another walk. This time it included the lake. It was the first time I have ever walked on water. It was frozen, of course; Jesus has yet to ask me to walk on any other kind. But I eased out on that lake to see what such a thing was like. Because of the heavy snow, one would not have even recognized there was a lake beneath his feet. It was important information to know. We have all seen those movies where someone walked out on a snow-covered clearing, only to find himself on weakened ice. None of us there had the courage or senselessness to walk out very far. We preferred to allow someone else to be the professional ice tester.

That, by the way, is what the Holy Spirit does for Christ’s followers. He tests the thickness of the ice for us. He warns us when we are approaching thin ice. He uses a lot of sources to do that. Sometimes it’s a word to our heart. Sometimes it’s a Bible verse. Sometimes it is through a person. My parents told me more than once I was on thin ice; it had something to do with my hard-headed response to their admonitions.

One of the most interesting experiences for me came this morning. I went outside and it was 8 degrees, according to the thermometer. That was at 8 AM. By 10, it was down to 5. By 1:30, when we left, it was down to 2. Then there was the wind. With the wind chill, we were looking at -18. Now that is cold, guys. It’s bitter cold. I thanked the Lord for my fleece-lined long johns. They did their job.

But I had a most unique experience for me. My nose suddenly felt stopped up. Then I realized what was happening. In the 30 seconds I was outside, my nose hairs had frozen. Now that was a new feeling to my senses. The jovial and godly men I was with got a real laugh out of this true southerner, as I explained what I felt. It was a great moment.

Everyone ought to visit this place at least once. Me? I hope to go a second time.

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