Reflections from Stratford

I’m on an extended weekend away to spend some time with my family. Daughter Julie and granddaughter Aimee are with Sara and me at my folk’s place up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Central California. My son and son-in-law will join us for the weekend and we have a few friends dropping by. So it should be a wild weekend!

I was going to share a bit about Sara and my weekend in Stratford, Ontario a couple of weeks ago, but instead I’ll let the folks there do it for me. The photo at left captures a conversation out by the barbecue that I had with Brad, a brother who joined us for the weekend. A couple of days ago I received wonderful surprise in my email—a document where a lot of the folks who gathered with us had shared their reflections of the weekend. There’s some cool stuff in here about God’s working among us, in their own words. It’s amazing how many different things he can do over the same weekend with so many different people in the exact same locale. If you want to hear my thoughts on the weekend, you can check out today’s podcast, which covers a bit of it.

Here are excerpts of their reflections. I’ve left off names, because they didn’t write these for publication and some are wonderfully personal and I didn’t want to take advantage of that. Thanks to all who contributed their comments. Sara and I were deeply, deeply touched.

You served as a ‘flagpole’ providing an opportunity to allow us all to come together and make contact. It was neat to hear of such similar journeys. The Lord is calling us closer and closer to Himself and that means that we are bypassing all the things that made up ‘our life’. It’s the Lord who takes it from here. We love your part in this.

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Our weekend together was a special blessing to us to reconnect with a few old friends we haven’t seen in years and to hear some of what the Lord has been doing in their hearts. Then to meet quite a number of others face to face with whom we have communicated by email in the past but never met in person was also a thrill. And then on top of all that, to meet so many others for the very first time who are also on the same journey was such an encouragement to our hearts. We were truly blessed and encouraged by you all! “Thank you” Wayne and Sara, and “Thank you” to everyone else who shared a bit of yourselves with us in Stratford last weekend!!!

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I guess for me it would be that God is bigger than I had anticipated. He’s bigger than my lack. He’s bigger than my mind can fathom. He’s bigger than my doubts and fears. He’s bigger than my failures and He’s bigger than my “triumphs”. This past weekend with Wayne & Sara just made me want Him all the more. The desperation/angst/longing resides in me. How He’ll answer that is yet to be seen. But He’s bigger than that isn’t He?

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A thought came to my mind as I observed Wayne and Sara… a long way from California…and family… on hard chairs all afternoon… with people they do not know… sharing a message that is hard to both grasp and live out because of our propensity to (performance) … this is a couple that has certainly given up a lot in their journey with Father… in order to (be with) us. I feel humbled, honoured touched and thankful.

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The short time I was with everyone was a nice relaxing time of yakking with others. God continued to impress upon me the privilege of listening to Him and making decisions to step out on what I believe is from Him.”

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Meeting Wayne and Sara was a delight…. I was able to catch a glimpse of what body life just might be like while we were gathered together over that weekend. The rippling effects of so many hearts being connected is a treasure that continues to enrich my journey with Him.

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The most powerful message that I heard throughout the weekend with Wayne was that we really can trust God with our life, with the lives of those in our circle of influence and in the lives of the people we will meet in the days to come. He is more than enough for all of us.

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For me (besides the joy of getting to spend time with Wayne and Sara), the most delightful aspect of the weekend was interacting with others. Reconnecting with people we knew from our past life in the institution and meeting new folk on journeys similar to our own was exhilarating and eye opening. Despite the diversity of our backgrounds, I was struck by how much we had in common in our desire to know the Lord as life – and not as a dead religion. I also realized how much I need to learn to relax, but that’s another story!

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It was great to be able to meet with many new people spread about South-western Ontario. I enjoyed the conversations and just “being” together with others on similar and unique journeys. Wayne and Sara, you are wonderful members of this great family of Christ and I am enriched by knowing you a little more than (just) through the books and podcasts. You are a great encouragement to me and to so many others that I know.

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I have been overwhelmed by what the Lord did in my heart last weekend! Something was broken that had held me in bondage for far too long. You may find this hard to believe, but not only did I enjoy a wonderful stress-free workweek. I was even able to joke with a troublesome male co-worker—and he joked back! I was so unlike my former self. Instead of focusing on my troubles as you suggested, I began to ask the Lord expectantly, “What do you have in store for me today?” and He certainly has not disappointed—quite the opposite, in fact. The most wonderful thing that happened has to do with my relationship with my adult daughter. It has often been strained. Yesterday, we went shopping and had the best time we’d had in many years! We laughed, had fun and talked meaningfully about things that were bothering her. I believe she sensed my new ability to relax and accept her for who she is, and that made all the difference. I honestly haven’t felt this free in years!

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It was a delight to meet with other believers and share in their journeys as we find greater and lasting intimacy with our Father apart from the framework of religious obligation and legalism. Wayne, I love how you avoid becoming “entangled once again” even in these newfound liberties. I am loath to trade institutionalism for ‘out-of-the-box-ism’. Somehow it strokes pride in me to think that I’m on the ‘cutting edge’ and I know I don’t want to go there again! In this regard, I’m glad you did not encourage any of those attitudes but rather exposed that thinking for what they are; arrogant and divisive.

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We just had the most fun today! (One of the couples) we had never met prior to the weekend (visited our home. They arrived at 2 PM and we talked non-stop about the Lord for over three hours. Then they treated us to dinner at your favorite restaurant and we fellowshipped for another two hours! What a joy it was to hear their stories and to gain two new friends in the process. It’s as if we’d known them for years! In August, we’re planning to visit some of the people we met on the weekend who live two to four hours away. For most of us, leaving the institution meant embarking on a very lonely and isolated journey, but as a direct result of our weekend together we’ve discovered a gold mine of wonderful, like-minded brothers and sisters we never knew existed. How cool is THAT?

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