Thursday, August 4, 2011

Northern Pines

I write this having just returned from an exhilarating family conference unlike any other I have ever experienced. Called Northern Pines it brings together families from many states with a mission statement: "A Vacation with a Purpose." But that purpose surprises you!

First, it has a stellar program that enables families to come and not only have their children in programs during the day, but enjoy dedicated support from a host of carers who look after the children in the evenings. One couple said to me, "Before we came to Northern Pines we had never had more than a very occasional snatched evening away from the kids for the previous 20 years! But here we have several free evenings when we can just be together. " So many families told me just how immense the care is. This was clear from the last evening as three generational groups were knit together all over the big hall with members telling us how Northern Pines had ministered to their families over 38 years. Wonderful and moving.

Second, was the amazingly serious serious program (serious for a vacation!) Three main speakers were responsible for a daily Bible study, a family hour teaching session and the evening hour (my task!) When I was first asked to speak, I enquired of the Director what the theme was going to be and he said they always left it to individual speakers to be guided by God in their choices. As you will know from my recent posting I focused on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-10)in my preparation. Imagine my surprise on arrival when the Bible study leader (Dr. Stephen Bramer of Dallas Theological Seminary) told me that he had chosen to teach on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) but decided early on that he would not deal with the Beatitudes at all. Every time we spoke we seemed to complement each other, due entirely to Holy Spirit organization. Dr. Dave Currie of Doing Family Right taught immensely practical sessions on family life and, again, every session provided powerful application of beatitude principles. I marvel! Several people told me that this was God's speciality for Northern Pines - making the speakers complement each other! And, memorably (really!), the dynamic musician Peder Eide, led worship through the week, encouraging highly active participation while provoking thoughtful responses. We listened to his latest CD "Rescue" on the way home. Actually, Carol says one of the songs is so 'embedded' she's singing it all the time.

Carol and I have so appreciated the genuine friendship of a great group of people this past week. And, of course, the outstanding Green Lake Conference Center (with its ice cream) added to enjoyment. We have returned with many new friends and (I was going to write) a packed notebook from the sessions. However, I left my notebook behind and am now hoping they find it in lost property. But, Carol correctly observes: My handwriting is so appalling nobody else will be able to read my notes anyway!

It is very encouraging to be able to reflect so positively. We are very grateful to God for the experience. Go to the Northern Pines web site: for more info. As you can guess, I recommend it thoroughly.


Ben & Kara said...

A most excellent synopsis. You encapture the spirit of the camp and we feel that Northern Pines was lucky to have you come speak. Thank you for bringing Jesus' word and God's mission to us in such an inspiring manner. We hope our paths cross again, and we wish blessings on you and Carol until then.

Jon and Emily said...

Thank you, Michael, for your Bible-saturated teaching this week. My wife and I found it inspiring and helpful. Your observations on Northern Pines capture the experience very well. I started there when I was 5 years old, and over the last 34 years few places have had such a profound impact on my life. God does amazing work there, and this year you and Carol were a key part of it. We hope you can return soon!