September 09, 2006

Grace at Cameron 2006 - Keeping an Appointment

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I received an e-commentary from Soo-Inn our recent retreat speaker. In many ways his opening paragraphs describes my own feelings before a lot of speaking engagements (not all the time) - and very often before an agreed upon appointment for a retreat, a meeting, a worship service, a LiFE Group meeting, a "whatever" - you name it - only later to go through and come out the other side somehow blessed in some way I didn't imagine would happen.

But this email encouraged me deeply because there are times I wonder what is God doing in our midst. It's easy to become over critical and cynical if we are not careful ... Someone asked me how come I sound so "elated" after the retreat. I think Soo-Inn captures it well in these words
"when you have been in ministry for awhile, you tend to
see only the negatives.
So when something good happens you just want to celebrate."

Thanks for celebrating with us through your writings Soo-Inn :-)

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I had to take a church retreat. I was reluctant to go.
I had just come back from ministry gigs in Singapore. And
before that I had made a trip to Penang on family matters.
I was tired.
And I hate the long winding drive up to Cameron Highlands
where the retreat was to be held.

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But I had given my word. And this was a church community
that was very dear to me. And the pastor and his wife are
very dear friends.
And we are people who keep our word.
At least we struggle to do so.
So I kept my appointment.

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The retreat was four days and three nights.
It was the best camp experience of my life to date.
And I have had my share of church retreats/camps.
Here was a rare church that took community with God and
community with man seriously.

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There was a lot of laughter throughout the camp. It was a
fun time. And why shouldn't God's people be characterized by
laughter? I mean, if the God of the universe really is our
Father?

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The times of worship, teaching, group time and personal
conversations, however, revealed a people also serious about
life and serious about God.

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Many of them were top notch musicians. But when they led in
worship one sensed that they were not aiming for technical
perfection. They didn't take themselves that seriously.
But they took their God seriously.
They were serious about their awe.
And their joy and celebration.

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The fellowship was inclusive.
There were a number of non-Christian friends.
There were folks from all sorts of places in their personal
pilgrimages.

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And there were the children.
All were welcomed. All were made to feel at home.
Hey, they even accepted me.

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You can't have a programme to promote inclusiveness.
But inclusiveness happens if the Waiting Father of Luke 15
is allowed to have His way (Luke 15:11-32).

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One way we demonstrate inclusiveness is when everyone is
given a chance to tell their stories and everyone's story is
taken seriously.
And there was a lot of that happening formally and
informally.

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There was also a healthy inclusiveness on the matters
discussed. Topics ranged from stories about grace, to
biblical views on sexuality and work, to the Christian
implications of the Lord of the Rings, to the inner workings
of magic shows, to the best ways to kill mosquitoes and
flies, to politics, to…. well you get the idea.

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We talked about life.

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The pastor emailed me some of the feedback from the campers.
More magic.
So many were touched by the Lord at the retreat, many in
ways that we couldn't have predicted.
Is this God or is this God?
My heart overflows with joy.

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But I feel physically and emotionally drained. I was
sustained by the Spirit, and adrenaline, during the camp.
It's down time.
Everything has a cost.
But I wouldn't have missed this retreat for the world.

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The best things in life are win-win.
Yes it was a significant time of ministry for me. But I also
caught a fresh glimpse of what church can and should be.
Somehow I feel that this is very significant for me at this
juncture of my life.

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The retreat confirmed my conviction that the church is first
and foremost family. And grace is the DNA of healthy families.
Healthy families also understand the destructive power of sin.
Which is why we leave the porch light on so that prodigals
can find their way home.

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But when prodigals do come home we party like its 1999.
Because deep down we know we are all prodigals. Even the
ones who never went away. But the crazy love of God welcomes
us with open arms.
When we come home to Him.

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Am I exhibiting post camp euphoria?
Maybe.
But when you have been in ministry for awhile, you tend to
see only the negatives.
So when something good happens you just want to celebrate.

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So thanks guys.
I may have been preaching about grace during the retreat.
But you guys were doing grace.

I am glad I kept my appointment.

Your brother,
Soo-Inn Tan


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Posted by sivinkit at September 9, 2006 02:44 AM
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