Debra and I have just returned from a very good trip to Florida. I purposely left my computer behind, which turned out to be a good move since both places we visited had wireless access. I needed to disconnect for a few days.
The main reason we went to Florida was so I could attend a Pastor’s Retreat that was sponsored by Cooperative Baptist Fellowship National and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida. Since the retreat was to begin at noon on Monday, we knew that we would have to drive down over the weekend. So, my good wife said, “Since your birthday is that Monday” (by which she meant September 24—Happy Birthday to me!) “why don’t we go to Daytona Beach for the weekend before you go to the retreat?” I of course said “Yes.”
We first stayed at Perry’s Ocean Edge Hotel in South Daytona Beach nineteen years ago this month. It was September 1988. I had been pastor of the First Baptist Church of Adel, Georgia for two years. Our son Joshua was four and a half years old and our daughter Sara was one and a half. Debra and I were—well, we were nineteen years younger than we are now. Some members of our church liked to vacation at Perry’s and they told us about it. We have spent several vacations there over the years and have always enjoyed it. The hotel underwent a renovation following some hurricane damage a few years ago and they did a very nice job. We always eat at Aunt Catfish’s on the River at Port Orange and we did so again on this trip. We had a nice weekend there.
We did take the time to watch the Georgia-Alabama game on Saturday night. Before the season I predicted that Georgia would win 14-10. I almost got the spread right as the Dawgs prevailed 26-23 in an overtime thriller when Matthew Stafford hit Mikey Henderson with a 25-yard touchdown pass. For what it’s worth, had Georgia kicked the extra point, which was unnecessary, I would have nailed the spread.
On Monday morning we drove from Daytona to Fruitland Park, Florida, in the Leesburg area. The retreat was held at the Life Enrichment Center which is a United Methodist camp on the shores of Lake Griffin. Debra stayed with her sister and niece who both live just a few minutes from the camp. It all worked out real well.
The retreat was a very helpful experience for me. The leaders—Gary Furr, pastor of Vestavia Hills Baptist in Birmingham and Rick Bennett and Bo Prosser, both of whom work in Congregational Life with CBF National—did an outstanding job. Our group was small with eleven participants in addition to the leaders. It was good to renew some acquaintances and to make some new friends.
The focus of the retreat was spiritual formation, which has been defined as “the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” I have come to believe that I should be more intentional about my own spiritual formation and that I should lead the people whom I serve as pastor to be more intentional about theirs. I hope to apply to my own life and to the life of our church such practices as praying the Scriptures, engaging in silence for the purpose of listening to God, and developing more openness to the presence of Christ in our lives.
I am grateful for every experience that I had on this trip. I think it made a difference.