Palacios Senior Retreat
"For He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways" (Psalm 91:11).
On October 18, 2004, my sister Cora and I were driving to Palacios, Texas for a "Seaside Senior Retreat." Why? For a refreshing time of fellowship with God; four God-centered days of getting closer to Him; for Bible studies, inspirational music, and Christian fellowship.
I picked up Cora at her home in Katy, Texas. She said, "I've marked my map for our journey." "O.K." I replied. "You can be my co-pilot."
We left Katy on Road No. 1463 which should lead us to Hwy 59 and into El Campo. Road 1463 became No. 359; then 723 into Rosenberg where I was facing a junction of THREE
roads. "Which way, Cora?" She was trying to find us on the map, and I had to make a decision. I was on a four-lane street -- two lanes going and two lanes coming. I took the road to my right which became a divided highway. When we came to a marker, it was unfamiliar to me. I made a turn at a crossover and drove back.
I made a U-Turn onto the middle road of the three. It seemed to be cut out of the side of a hill because there was a cliff on my left. I was driving around it. Cora was scared speechless. I couldn't grasp what she was trying to say: "Over! Over here! HERE! Doesn't that double stripe mean two-way traffic?"
Now I was scared! Quickly glancing at my side and rear mirrors revealing no cars around, I turned onto the lane to my right. I thought I was on the double lane road again. The blinding curve on which I was driving around this cliff set us up for a head-on collision! I can't find words to describe my feelings. We could have been killed. People in an on-coming auto could have been killed with us. It was an eerie feeling expecting a sudden violent crash which never happened. We drove several miles before we saw another vehicle. My mind kept flashing pictures of highway accidents. Cause unknown. I felt drained; empty; hollow. God saved us! To Him be the glory and praise that we were alive. He gave His angels charge over us. Life is precious. It can be changed in a moment. The daily headlines remind us of the brevity of life.
A road sign listed towns we never heard of. We drove back to Rosenberg, asked directions to Hwy 59; and soon arrived at Texas Baptist Encampment. We had reservations at the Seascape Motel which was next door to the Thibodeaux Conference Center where most of the activities would take place -- a blessing for me to have a room close by when I must rest.
God takes care of me. This was our first time in this place, and we were assigned the best motel.
I was most humble, misty-eyed during the time of singing, worshipping and praising God. Sam Craig, evangelist and camp leader, asked, "How long has it been since you spent time with God? Really felt His presence? Our aim is to get closer to Him; to know Him better." WOW! I talk to Him throughout my days; but it's been a while since I was as close as today!
One of the speakers was talking to us about Heaven -- how especially wonderful it is; and yet no one seems in a hurry to get there. He said this man was driving up a winding road around the mountain. He got too close to the edge and plunged down the side. The driver in a passing car stopped, walked over to the edge and yelled down to the man, "Are you alright?" He answered, "Yes. I'm o.k. It's only by the grace of God that I'm not in Heaven right now!"
I know exactly what he meant!!!
In my bed that night, I spent an hour in prayer thanking God for His love, His guidance
for good happenings, and His many blessings. I felt peace and tranquility; truly His child. He is with me daily, moment by moment, forever. How wonderful it will be to spend eternity with Him…whenever my assignment on earth is finished.
Retreats are always very enjoyable and uplifting. The preaching and Bible studies were insightful and the entertainment was superb. Roxie Andrus is 80 years old. She played beautiful music on her saxophone, accompanied at the piano by her daughter. We could never get enough of the Calvary Singers (Jerry and Janice Oliver and Lynette Johnson). They were more than gospel singers: they were dedicated to a gospel message that shares Jesus Christ. Jerry was one of the most talented piano players I ever heard. He loved his music, singing, and telling good stories about God touching people. Lynette not only thrilled us with her songs, but was the funniest of comedians. I had to have some of their tapes to share with my family when we met for Christmas. This was an inspirational get-away; and the food was very, very good. The camp leaders, Sam and Sharilyn Craig were perfectly organized, making everything run smoothly.
A second miracle happened to me Tuesday night when we had a "Sing-a-Long." Singing had been a prominent and important part of my life. My family sang with friends and neighbors every Saturday night, accompanied by guitars, banjo, French harp, violins and piano. I began singing in the church choir when a teenager. Group singing around a piano was a favorite time at church socials. Unforgettable was my singing in the Hallelujah Chorus at the Music Hall accompanied by the Houston Symphony Orchestra. About 30 years ago, we joined a church that did not need any more choir members. I quit singing. Over time, something happened to the muscles in my throat preventing me from singing at all. Sounds became horrible! I refused surgery to correct. Sometimes I can sing softly through one song, and then I am out of breath.
At the camp Sing-a-Long, the enthusiasm and happiness of shouting praises in songs to God and longing for Heaven caused me to join in. I couldn't resist. To my unbelievable surprise, I sang! I harmonized in the alto range for thirty minutes. I never wanted to stop…it was so much fun. I sang again after all those years. Thank you Lord for this wonderful time!
Another year has passed. It's good to be alive! I had no idea I'd live this long! I just read an article in Readers Digest that said, "People who go to church live longer!" I look back at 2004 and ask, "How much time did I spend with the Lord? I promise to be with Him in prayer and Bible reading more in 2005." I can testify that the best life is the one spent living in God's will. That is finding out what He wants you to do as a witness for Him. Charles Kingsley says it best in Decision Magazine:
"One good man who does not put on his religion once a week with his Sunday coat, but wears it for his working dress, and lets the thought of God grow into him…that man is worth a thousand sermons--he is a living Gospel….Men see his good works, and admire them in spite of themselves…and see that God's grace is no dream, but that the Holy Spirit is still among men….
So they get a glimpse of God again in His saints and glorify their Father who is in heaven."
Encouraging words from Jill Lemming in her poem, "My Heavenly Friend:"
Lord, I couldn't live a single day without You in my heart.
I couldn't face this troubled world or have the will to start.
But You, Oh Lord, have given me the courage to endure.
When life gets harder, You are there, with footsteps, strong and sure.
When life seems cold, Your breath is warm upon my troubled brow.
I know Your hand is holding mine and You are with me now.
Yes, life was harder yesterday before I let You in.
But now You live inside my heart…I'm safe with You, my Friend.
May the gift of faith, blessing of hope, and peace of His love be yours throughout the new year.
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