Last weekend, I did not attend a traditional church. My husband and I were given an opportunity to attend a marriage retreat, and the retreat schedule and location did not allow for any kind of service attendance. Since the retreat was being facilitated by an Army chaplain's assistant, and the materials provided to us were written and created by a minister, I was on the fence about whether this would "count" towards my 52 weeks of this project.
For anyone who gets the chance, I highly recommend Mark Gungor's "Laugh Your Way to a Happy Marriage" seminars and book. He is refreshingly funny, yet also earnest in his desire to help couples truly understand each other. When the retreat class had a long break, we talked quite a lot about the ideas he'd put forth, and even though we've been married "forever," like one other couple at the retreat said, the information was extremely helpful.
We were also given the opportunity to watch some of his "Flag Page" discussions with couples, and given the book but not the code to use the online assessment. I am hopeful we'll be able to get the code and do the assessment, because the information this shows about personality goes way beyond the personality "colors" that we did at a previous retreat.
Mark Gungor talks about what is right about a person, versus what is wrong with them. He talked about how God made men to be, and how He made women to be-- but acknowledging that we are individuals and may be different. We both laughed, and we both enjoyed the videos and the discussion we had with the facilitators.
My favorite verse was Proverbs 14:4-- "Without oxen, a stable (manger) stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest." Marriage is messy, but the results are worth it! He joked that there should be a good "positive to pooh" ratio in every marriage.
So-- was this church?
Well, we can't go back to this congregation, obviously. This was a once-in-a-lifetime group of people and even if we went on another retreat with Mark Gungor's videos and books, it wouldn't be the same nor even close to the same. So, no, this was not church.
Yet, there was (brief) prayer. There was the Bible in a totally approachable way. There was learning and there was love.
But why do I write about it here?
The last day of our meeting, the chaplain's assistant asked us to pray with him before we traveled home. He spoke of hope, and faith, and safe travels. During our stay, my husband and I had talked about one or two couples who were truly at risk, and others who appeared strong and healthy and happy together. There was much love, there was some healing, and there was a great deal of hope.
I don't count this as a church visit, per se, but I truly do believe that when we gather together and we ask God's blessing-- He is here. Whether it's in a church, or a hotel conference room, or in a coffee shop when two friends meet.