Monday, September 01, 2003


One week in July located in Texas at the Joni & Friends Family Retreat

And Friends

Instead, I have called you friends John 15:15

Perhaps you’ve tired of me telling you year after year how amazing the Joni & Friends Family Retreat is. It’s the closest thing to heaven here on earth there is. I’m still as enchanted with it today as I was the first time I went five years ago. Something special happens the week of Family Retreat. From the time the first child arrives and is greeted enthusiastically with hoots, hollers and a menagerie of clowns - until the last goodbye. The Spirit of the God who is love descends. Laughter is loud, joy is deep, tears are shed and shared, and the burden seems lighter and the yoke easier for the time we spend in the company of friends and the watchful care of His angels.

For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands Psalm 91:11-12

Many express the feeling as something akin to a family reunion. A time to catch up with what God has done the past year, and a time to meet new family members! To make them feel welcome, accepted, treasured and dearly loved by the King of all Creation. One family commented on the welcome to their able-bodied son, “If we have to leave today, we have still had the best day of our lives!” It doesn’t get much better than that. To show and shower love is also to stand - under the shower of His love.

"You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it. Isaiah 45:8

Children that have come for years, show newcomers the “ropes” (the horse back rides, the hayless hay ride, the petting zoo). That’s what 6-timer Jennifer Simpson did for her new friend Lauren McMillan. Fearful of riding the horse, Jennifer went first (both girls are quadriplegics on ventilators). When the specially trained “cowboys” were lifting Lauren up on the horse, Jennifer said “It’s okay, it’s fun”. And though tears came first, by the time Lauren rounded the corner back toward her parents, she was wearing a smile no MasterCard could buy!

The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Cor 1:4