Today’s post is provided by guest-blogger Henry Miersma, who recently attended the “Formed After the Father’s Own Heart” Retreat in Colorado.
During the last weekend of July 2023, I joined twenty-seven other men from across the Unites States at the Highlands Camp and Retreat Center in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Our group ranged in age from teenagers to men in their 80s, but we all came together to learn how to be Formed After the Father’s Own Heart. Tim Spykstra, our host and speaker, taught us not only what that phrase means, but through the use of several psalms he took us through the Biblical process itself.
Highlands Camp & Retreat Center sits in a beautiful valley about 25-minutes south of Estes Park, Colorado. The retreat center’s grounds featured rolling hills covered in pine trees, flowers and grasses in multiple shades of green. Deer and moose have been found roaming the grounds during early morning hours. Our meeting room featured floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows that provided a striking view of Long’s Peak, one of the 14,000 foot tall mountains nearby. In short, it was a beautiful place to spend a weekend.
As for the content of the retreat, pastor Tim drew our attention to the words of seven psalms across multiple session, and we used Psalms Journal: A 21-day Devotional Journal as a tool whereby we could journal our thoughts and responses to questions about them. We immersed ourselves in those psalms for the weekend.
As an example, on Friday night Tim gave us instructions in advance of our first Saturday morning session by asking us to turn our attention to Psalm 139, particularly verse 13: “You have formed my innermost being…”. He asked us to read the psalm and journal about it in Psalms Journal before the session started the next morning.
As we dug into the psalm ourselves–reading, meditating on the Word, and journaling our personal thoughts on what these passages meant to us–we could spend time listening to the Holy Spirit and responding to the the journal’s questions, which includes: What does this psalm say about who God is and what he has done? What does this psalm say about who you are or what you should do? How does this psalm connect with what is going on in your life right now? What can you do today in response to God?
This was the process we repeated throughout the weekend as we dug into the list of psalms and topics:
Formed – Psalm 139
Falling – Psalm 32/51
Forgiveness – Psalm 32
Focus – Psalm 27
Filled – Psalm 46
Fruit – Psalm 1
As you can imagine, the process was very powerful and meaningful. By first spending time as individuals studying and journaling the Psalms, then coming together to share how these scriptures apply to our lives, and finally praying together in response to these psalms and related discussions, we came to understand what it means to be formed after the father’s heart. We also gained a new appreciate for the power and truth found in the psalms.
For me, one of the highlights of the weekend happened after discussing the need for confession and forgiveness as found in Psalm 32. Tim taught us that this part of the process–humbling ourselves and recognizing our need for God and His forgiveness–is key, but it also the hardest thing for men to do who are taught from an early age to be “self-made men.” As we came together in one large circle, many men found the courage to confess specific sins and seek forgiveness, with the session ending with the entire group kneeling together on the floor, crying out to God for the forgiveness only He can provide.
Other highlights included catching-up with old friends, making new ones, spending time in His creation, playing horseshoes and smashball, singing hymns together, and hearing Tim speak powerfully with the spirit’s guidance. But it was God’s Word as found in the psalms that were the real highlight! We learned through the psalms that being formed after God’s own heart involves a process of humility, honesty, hope, healing and wholeness.