At the beginning of August our family went to Virginia for a few days.  Our purpose for going was to attend the Family Encouragement Weekend.  I will say more about that later.  While we were there we had the opportunity to also see some of God’s most amazing handiwork.  We visited Luray Caverns and were stunned by the majestic beauty of simple rock.  For those who have known me, you know I love caving and have been on and led dozens of caving trips over the years.  I enjoy the physical challenge of caves, the other worldliness of caves, and the chance to explore a part of God’s creation few ever get to see.  I had never been in a commercial cave until this visit.  I was amazed!

We were blessed to see pillars of dripstone 60 feet high.  We saw walls that looked like they were melting because they are covered with flowstone.  There was also an organ connected to mechanical hammers that would tap a stalagmite to produce the sound.  All of the sound from the organ came from the cave itself. It was amazing, and the cave is plays host to many weddings each year.Bell mechanism for the organ July and August 2010 022

But maybe the most amazing thing that struck Jill and me was a shallow lake.  This lake was only 18 inches at it’s deepest point.  The water is so still that the reflection of the ceiling above it is nearly perfect.  Jill and I had the same thought as we stood, gazing into this pool; “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1Cor. 13:12)  As perfect as the image was, it was not the original.  As well as we might be able to know God now, we will never know Him fully this side of glory.  I look forward to the day when I will see Him face to face and know Him fully, even as I am fully known.

 Sarah goofing around Joel enjoying the commentary on the headset Sophie, Josiah and Jacob by the reflecting pool Lake reflecting the ceiling

The actual purpose of our trip to Virginia was the Family Encouragement Weekend.  This is an event we attended last year for the first time and are committed to making it a part of our August as long as it is offered.  Three families work together to make this weekend all that it is.  They are the Wilkes family, the Neely family and the Staddon family.  If you would like to see pictures from the weekend or read other testimonies of God’s work, click on the underlined names to go to their websites.  We are incredibly grateful to all of these families for making this weekend encouraging, challenging and edifying for us as well as all of the other families that attended.

The weekend is structured rather simply.  There were speakers who shared truths from the Scriptures with practical applications, as well as real life confirming testimonies from their own families.  There were times for families to gather with other families for prayer.  There were games for the kids while the dads got together to ask questions and pray.  This is a weekend focused on encouraging families to carry on in the struggle to raise up godly children in this world.  We were incredibly encouraged and challenged to do just that.

The most remarkable thing to me again this year is who the speakers are.  These men would not be given a stage or a hearing in any leadership conference.  They do not come with worldly credentials that would make anyone say, “Wow, I need to listen to this guy.”  What they bring is a testimony of a family living for God, children who love God, and generations following after them who are giving their lives to build the kingdom of God.  When I think of these men I think of Paul, writing to the Corinthians, and challenging their views of credentials:

“Do we begin again to commend ourselves?  Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you?  You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men: clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” –2Corinthians 3:1-3

What I am saying is that these men have the greatest credentials any man can have.  The Spirit of the living God has written epistles on the hearts of their children, and their children are writing their own epistles on the hearts of others, all to the glory of God.  I do not say this to embarrass them, though I am sure they will be.  I say this to encourage all of us to look beyond the surface, look beyond the degrees, look beyond the job.  Look at the heart and look at the fruit of a man’s life.  I am honored to sit under the teaching of men like these.  Thank you.

If you would like to listen to the mp3’s from the Virginia FEW weekend, as well as the FEW weekend held in North Carolina in March, just click here.