The view from the registration table, by Joan K. O’Connell

A joyful thing, recognizing people as they wrestle their way through the red metal door of the Chalet at FaHoLo conference and retreat center, gaze around the room and ‘check in’. Some I saw only last week at a prayer meeting. Others self-identify that they “haven’t been around much lately,” which isn’t to say they have abandoned Kingdom territory or put down their spiritual weapons. In addition to a gently-aging population, there were children and babies, young families, a few people we got to meet perhaps for the first time, and two venerable seniors, Winslow Fox and Bren Quilter. What about the people whose names I never checked off? Well, I missed them. And, I missed the people who weren’t on the pre-registration list. It was a very full weekend of wonderful things to do; some of us were doing other things. I trust you had a good time wherever you were, but you were missed. I especially missed our friends Terry Johnson, Mary Quilter, and Elizabeth Fox who were with us in recent years, are now gone to their eternal home, God rest their souls.

While the children scurried off to various-aged childcare settings, Billy Kangas ably led us through a “what’s it all about?” construct, encouraging us see the bigger Kingdom picture: it is not about me -- Oh, my! As we enter into our part in God’s Story, Billy helped us see how to combine Divine Initiative and Human Effort with Holy Spirit empowering and our unique gifting. We get off-story when we emphasize these in wrong combinations, but when all are at work in our lives, we have the exhilaration of flowing with the movement of God’s Kingdom Story.

How to pursue the Lord’s priorities for us? Billy made some practical suggestions in the afternoon. Make a list on paper what you love to do. What stirs your heart? Keep adding to it. In addition to giving us opportunities to work out areas of challenge or growth, it is out of these heart-rooted joys, that we might perceive the Lord preparing and nudging us into our places in Kingdom service. “I have a heart for….” we say. Is it preparing the way for prisoners to meet the Lord, or to deepen their walk with him? Is it creating a hospitable environment for dinner guests? Former inmates? People with disabilities? Is it teaching children or adults to read? Taking photographs? Caring for the sick? Working out? Writing or illustrating short stories? Running a business? Walking? Talking over tea? Making quilts? Building things? Build in rhythms to our lives which bring us back to the things the Lord has made a priority for us.

Rob and Mary Carpenter and Bob Roleke told us about “Our Father’s House.” Carol Magill described “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” At some future time maybe we will also hear about “Emmanuel House”. Among other things it appears that the Lord is allowing some of us to help Him prepare a place where others may lay their heads in peace, in hope, in expectation of love. To hear Rob describe the basis for setting up one of these homes, one could say that we have resident among us some measure of wisdom and experience gained from living Kingdom life together in households and Christian Living Situations. How awesome is God’s economy! What a privilege to share what we know.

The Saturday afternoon sessions were participatory. We gathered in smallish groups by interest areas and shared ideas, inspiration, perspectives on living Kingdom life in our neighborhoods, in offering hospitality, in the business world, in education, in health care settings. The evening ‘entertainment’ was ‘do it ourselves / community style’ too! Barb Brown led us in a round-the-room series of three games played by teams or 6-8 people each. It was engaging and as competitive as you wanted to be –sometimes perhaps more than you wanted—affording me opportunities for apologies and forgiveness as the teams faced off. Politely coming and going to prayer gatherings, where else would we encounter a chance to test our love under the fire of competition? Barb prepared a time of community entertainment for the kids, too, getting the older to help them younger in a special ‘fishing’ expedition for them where they hooked prizes and other games.

The facility was familiar. Some of the staff even recognized us by now. FaHoLo outdid themselves, once again, with their clean, well-run facility and good food. Speaking of food, Patrick O’Connell, back by popular demand, served a pancake breakfast (with an egg, upon request) to about 30 people Saturday morning before the sessions began.

By the afternoon on Saturday, just in time for the recreation period, the weather was Michigan Fall-cool-and-windy and the sun was out! I believe Billy gave us some things to think about over the coming months: a way to look at what we’re doing with our lives, and a way to balance Divine initiative, the Holy Spirit, the sweat of our brows, and our individual giftings. You can listen to a recording online at our web site