This weekend, I was in Long Beach for what was most likely my 50,000th Renovare Regional Conference, but quite possibly my last. Renovare is only doing a few more of these this year and next, and even the format of those remaining events will be changing. I am glad that they're open to evolution of their medium. They've just appointed a new president - trust me, HE'S AWESOME!!! - and so he'll bring some change in the next few years that I know will be beneficial to an already wonderful organization in which I truly believe and know is doing great things in the Church.
Usually, when I go to these things, I'm there to work, which was again the case this weekend, and that's what I did. It was a great time, the host church staff and the conference volunteers and attendees were amazing. One exception was a very rude woman who interrupted me to (ironically) ask me where the book on Humility was - I pointed them out and told her she could have 10. Other than that, all lovely people. The staff was so accommodating had such great attitudes. They were a dream to work with. The volunteers I had at the bookstore - delightful! The bookstore folk were primarily students from Talbot Seminary - very conservative, but very nice.
I am a total hypocrite when it comes to the whole "community" thing. I had a seminary professor who said that the real test of our Christian unity is how well we walk in dis-unity with those with whom we disagree. I suck at that. I have strong reactions to very conservative people because of my upbringing and my own prejudices and I am capable of crippling condescension. But that's another post.
Side note - and this is why I love these events and these people - One of the speakers was Jim Smith (James Bryan Smith on his book covers). He's a professor at Friends University, teaching Spiritual Formation, World Religions, etc. He's about mid-40's and every time he sees me he says, "Hey - I don't think we're alone now!" He's a total 80's pop culture fiend and when Monty, the tech guy, was outfitting him with his headset microphone, a friend of Jim's said he looked like Janet Jackson. Without missing a beat, Jim turned to his friend and said, "Miss Jackson, if you're nasty." Classic.
So there I was, at this conference and for the first time in a long time, I sat and listened to material I've heard, jokes I've heard, anecdotes I've heard. It was really clear to me how jaded I've become. The material being presented was fresh to pretty much everyone there. They were moved and challenged and I was too, but not in the same way. The thing I took away from this conference is that I need to re-connect with God. I am looking at the last few months and I am seeing myself as one of the 9 lepers who was healed by Jesus, but didn't return to express gratitude. Not in a malicious way, just completely thoughtless. It's a lack of consistent practice because I've let life and the business of ministry take over once again.
Tomorrow it's back to work, back to the gym, and back to my training.