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Older Adult Spiritual Retreat: Seniors take life to the next level

By Jessica Connor

MYRTLE BEACH—Fusing a little beach time among friends with the chance to gain new inspiration from leading United Methodist speaker Dr. John Ed Mathison, hundreds of seniors headed to the South Carolina coast Feb. 5-7 for the annual Older Adult Spiritual Life Retreat.

In a time that featured sing-a-longs, fitness breaks, line dancing, a talent show and plenty of preaching from the nationally renowned keynoter, attendees took to heart their theme of Living Life at the Next Level. 

A lot of times when people become older adults, they feel ˜I don t have anything to give,  said Betty Shuler, chair of the retreat committee. As long as you have breath, you can serve God. 

Shuler and other retreat organizers planned the event as a time of revitalization. For the past two decades the conference retreat has drawn older adults from all corners of the state to the beach for the time of renewal and fun.

We need to not feel we re through,  she said, noting the retreat is one of the best-kept secrets in the conference “ and they are trying to spread the word any way they can so more and more seniors can join in the festivities.

˜Greatest resource in the UMC

Mathison preached four times throughout the retreat, addressing topics like redefining the possible and principles for a more productive life, while peppering remarks with plenty of self-deprecating humor. As he began his talk the morning of day two, he pulled out his iPad and mentioned he tries to stay up to date.

I ve got my iPad right here,  he deadpanned. I don t now how to cut it on, but I ve got it! 

Mathison encouraged older adults to embrace the aging process “ after all, he said, it s better to be an older adult than a former older adult.

The greatest resource The United Methodist Church has is older adults,  he said, pointing out that as the number of people claiming to be spiritual-but-non-religious grow, the denomination can benefit from seniors contributions. We ve got more experience, more time, more energy, more talent. Why don t we just harness that for the church? 

Drawing from Matthew 22 s parable of the wedding feast in his talk Dressed Properly for the Occasion,  Mathison noted that it is important that seniors serve God with the right garments “ not their clothes, but their spirit.

He said there are four things people must wear  to be all they can be for the Lord: 1) We must wear a garment of personal experience with Jesus Christ that is current and true to heart; 2) wear a garment of prayer life where we ask God for huge, seemingly impossible things “ things we cannot do for ourselves; 3) wear the electrifying, connectional power of God s Holy Spirit, which is an essential in moving the church forward; and 4) wear real, relational, personal witness about Jesus.

People bring people to Christ in the church,  he said, noting personal invitations are more effective than signage, music, anything. It s like throwing a stone in a smooth lake; you never know how far the ripples will flow out. 

Offer them Christ

In another talk, Mathison brought a message on having a more fruitful life for Christ. We can spin wheels all day long, but when it comes right down to it, we need to keep Jesus at the center of all we do, he noted. He said we should heed Methodism founder John Wesley s most simple and significant directive: Offer them Christ.

Christ is the cure for everything, Mathison said, and He is always there for us. If we can just point people to Him, make that introduction, the impossible can become possible.

Jesus is in charge ¦a bridge from this life to eternal life,  Mathison said. Only Jesus can help you wink at death. 

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