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> Monday, August 30th, 2010 > Opinion > Faith Meets Life: Late summer weekend
Faith Meets Life: Late summer weekend
Click here to read more Interrobang articles written by Michael Veenema
Published: Monday, August 30th, 2010
I spent last weekend on the shores of a lake with a group of college and senior high school students. Well, not just students. There were a few parents and younger siblings.
One of the students has a learning disability requiring that someone read his textbooks to him. At least one was in recovery from being bullied. Several are addicted to nicotine and were often seen emerging from the trees (or going into them) with a cigarette in hand.
One student is a survivor of her parents’ divorce. Her sister has struggled through a lot of plastic surgery and also has had to come to terms with becoming a single parent.
Throw into the mix a recently married couple – he’s 38 and she’s 50 - and a social worker who has spent the past eight years coaching a mute 35-year-old as he has gone into business. And succeeded. Round off the group with a middle-aged man who sort-of survived his divorce but may or may not survive his battle with alcohol. Oh, and a dog who had a bad habit barking the rest of us into attention around three o’clock each morning.
A strange group, you might say. Staying at the Girl Guide Camp we rented. On retreat. And we had come not only to relax, but to talk, at least a little, about God and if a life lived with him is doable. I think God did show up when we talked about him. But I think he showed up a lot of other times too.
I saw a little sliver of God’s goodness on the fireplace mantle. Someone had mounted a framed tribute to an enthusiastic Girl Guide leader of the 1950s. The tribute told the story of her having a degenerative disease (not identified) and yet constantly being positive and encouraging to the people around her until she lost all her strength.
Then there’s B. (I’m using random initials to describe people, not their real initials.) B tells me he is half aboriginal and that he has done a lot of drugs. I lost track of him about a year ago and it was great to see him again. I tell him so every chance I get and I watch him reconnect with a few friends, chatting away with them in his sleeping bag from 10 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon.
T is 47 and has lived most of his life either in rehab or in long-term care. He wasn’t looking forward to returning to the care facility after the weekend. But he is also a great guitar player. Lucky for me since I like to play too. We played together for a few hours and it was thrilling to hear him take the lead at times and, at other moments, play some very sweet chording while I tried to add to it.
On Saturday night, God showed up again. J and I took a canoe onto the lake about 40 minutes before sunset. It’s a nice lake, about five kilometers long. The water was calm and the sky full of colour.
J is a student of biology and horticulture. He told me about all the signs that this was a healthy lake. An almost total absence of human dwellings. Three or four different types of shore with plenty of water plants visible along those shores. The presence of little schools of fish at the swimming beach and a lake bottom where plenty of weedy things are growing. Various currents and lots of diversity in the trees that come to the water’s edge.
We looked up and saw a brilliant moon. As the night came on, the lunar light seemed brighter and brighter. And while we returned to shore, listening to the long echoes of our voices over the water, the group lit a campfire overlooking the lake.
On Sunday morning we met for a simple worship time. We talked about how we had experienced God or church in the past. We talked about what God would want us to do together in the coming months. Mostly, we figured, it was some version of helping our neighbours because that’s what Jesus had taught and because we are trying to put his teachings into action.
God spoke to us on Sunday morning. But even before that, I think, I heard his voice, so to speak. Experienced his presence. It was a great weekend.
Michael Veenema was a chaplain at the college till 2004. He continues to write from his current home in Nova Scotia and is wondering if “Faith Meets Life” is the best title for his column.