Walking in the Light: UMMen gather at beach for light-filled spiritual retreat

By Jessica Connor

MYRTLE BEACH—From Lite-Brite pegs to light-themed sermons to the giveaway flashlights tucked inside every participant's retreat bucket, this year's United Methodist Men's spiritual retreat made sure every attendee understood: it's all about walking in the light of the Lord.

About 150 men headed to Springmaid Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach Feb. 22-24 for the annual event, which featured workshops, worship and plenty of fellowship all centered on light “ how to approach it, shine it and share it with others.

Our hope is as we go through the weekend ¦ you will truly be bathed and walking in the light of God, said Herman Lightsey, conference UMM president, welcoming the crowd to the annual spiritual retreat. Once you come off this mountain experience, you ll go back to the valley, take this bucket we gave you and little light and pass it onto someone else and take that bucket and out a flame and fan that flame for Pentecost so we have a renewed spirit not only in United Methodist Men but in this state.

The retreat featured four keynote speakers; Bishop Jonathan Holston, the Rev. Michael Turner, the Rev. James Friday and the Rev. Will Malambri, each preaching and teaching on various aspects of walking in God s light.

More than anything, Lightsey said, men should take what they learn at the retreat and follow in Christ s footsteps, spreading the word about the light in every way they can.

We do not take our light and tuck it into our pocket ¦ but go back and witness to others and fan this flame so we can have Pentecost, Lightsey said.

˜Get your shine on

Turner preached opening worship Friday night, bringing a message on shining the light of God in the world. He recounted how when he was a young boy, he had to go outside one night in the pitch dark to get his dog, and even though it was his own backyard, he got disoriented and fell.

Even when you know the territory, it is dangerous to walk in the dark, Turner said. We re children of the light, called to walk in the light of God.

That s our goal as disciples of Jesus, Turner said, reminding men that constantly turning to the word of God is one surefire way to stay in the light.

But once we re glowing like Moses as we bask in God s light, we cannot just stay on the mountaintop, Turner said.

God s light is contagious, and we have to share it “ share and shine, Turner said.

Over time, as we mature as Christians, we often lose our missionary zeal and turn inward, he noted, but we need to fight that. It is not our job just to be the light to our people; we have to share the light to the world, all the nations, carry His light to the ends of the earth.

Turner told a story about a pastor in North Alabama who would go to a bar a few nights a week to evangelize. He would order his Diet Coke, sit there and wait, and strike up a conversation. Because of his effort to bring light into the darkness, his church ended up baptizing four new souls in just a few months that came directly from that bar.

Then Turner posed the question: What would your community miss if you locked the door of your church this weekend and took down the sign? Would they notice? What about if you shut down your UMM group “ would anybody but the UMM notice?

I ve been a part of groups where all they did was eat and meet and have a devotion. God says, ˜Uh uh, that s too small a thing to just meet and get our bellies full. We are called to get our shine on, Turner said.

Bringing his message to a close, Turner showed the crowd his young daughter s Lite-Brite toy, holding up a tiny peg for emphasis. The pegs don t have light on their own but are the conduits of light, so when the light is turned on, they shine.

That s us, Turner said. We don t necessarily have a light source, but we can be conduits of light “ channel, reflect, radiate, share and shine God s light to the world.

At close, as the crowd sang Sanctuary, Turner invited people forward to take a tiny Lite -Brite peg and keep it with them and to remind how they, too, can be a light conduits.

˜God-sized visions

Holston brought both a Saturday morning workshop and the Saturday evening sermon, preaching on sharing God s light and looking beyond what we can see.

Drawing from John 3:1-17, Holston told the packed room of men and some women that sometimes we get too caught up in what we see and miss out on the possibilities.

But we should see God-sized
things, Holston said, noting there are often too many priorities in our life, too much stuff tripping us up, too many excuses.

He s Inviting you and me to go ¦to the deep waters in our faith, but sometimes before we go into the deep waters we want to put a toe in, Holston said. What God s presence is telling us is we ve got to change our mindset.

Paul said it best, Holston said: There s nothing that s impossible with God. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

So what are we afraid of? he asked.

Holston asked people to do two things: 1) Move from their comfort zone to their courage zone. Get out of your easy chair, he said. If you want to be what God needs you to be means you need to do what God needs you to do. 2) Accept God s invitation of grace and then get up and do something. You re not holding up a place, he added. You re here because God is using your witness to speak to someone who needs to be spoken to.

He closed urging United Methodist Men to dream big and think God-sized visions.

Approaching and leading in the light

Beyond shining and sharing the light, men also learned key ways to approaching and leading in the light of God.

The Rev. Will Malambri brought a word on key spiritual disciplines to help men approach the light in order to continue walking in the light, including embracing silence, prayer and prayerful reading.

The Rev. James Friday taught on leading a family in the light of God, urging men to become stronger leaders for their family.

Lightsey said if men can take back home what they learned all weekend, and fan that flame by sharing it with others, then we are truly doing our part for the Kingdom. He urged men to rise up with renewed spirit for the sake of the church as a whole.

If we can disciple men back into this church, then most of our problems will disappear, Lightsey said.

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