Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

Part 12 of series: Why Move? Stewardship, Wineskins, and the Enigmatic Will of God
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To read this series, Why Move? Stewardship, Wineskins, and the Enigmatic Will of God, from the beginning, click here.

With this post I want to begin to explain why I believed (and still do believe!) that God was calling me to Laity Lodge. From here on I’m planning to provide, not a chronological description of my discernment process, but a rationale. I want to lay out some of the reasons for this move.
In my last post I mentioned that Laity Lodge was an exciting opportunity for me and my family. Yes, my family would experience the sadness of leaving friends and family behind. And they would not have the immediate benefits I would experience as I began to work for Laity Lodge. But I believed that there were good things for my family if we were to make this move, especially for my wife, Linda.
For one thing, I was convinced that Laity Lodge would be an ideal place, not only for me to use my gifts for God’s kingdom, but also for my wife, Linda, to do the same. This was a crucial part of my decision-making process, as well as in Linda’s. In California, she had many opportunities both for professional fulfillment as a Marriage and Family Therapist and for doing various kinds of ministry (retreat speaking, spiritual direction, mentoring, integration of faith and art, etc.). If I was going to make a move, my new situation had to be right for Linda as well. For me, this was a matter of our stewardship of our gifts, not just mine of mine.
Ever since our first visit to Laity Lodge, Linda had loved that ministry. Its sense of peace, prayerfulness, beauty, and freedom touched her heart. In fact, Linda attended a women’s retreat at Laity Lodge in 2005, where she had a transformational experience of God’s grace. In particular, the speaker for that retreat, Marjory Bankson, helped Linda feel confident in her calling as a minister of Christ. (In a sweet bit of divine providence, next summer Linda will speak at a Laity Lodge women’s retreat, along with Marjory.)
Laity Lodge also offered Linda an unusual opportunity to develop her unusual combination of gifts and interests. She is, as I already mentioned, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has worked for years on the integration of faith and psychology. Laity Lodge has a long history of drawing together evangelical faith and an openness to insights from psychology. In fact, in many of the first retreats at Laity Lodge, Bible teachers were teamed up with Christian psychologists to provide a broad perspective on Christian wholeness.
Laity Lodge provides a safe place for people to share their spiritual journeys without having to pretend that they’re perfect Christians. The willingness of key leaders of Laity Lodge, most of all its founder, Howard Butt Jr., to share their struggles has given permission to others to do the same. The result has been authentic growth in faith and in personal and relational wholeness. Linda, more than anybody I know, is willing to be open and honest about what’s real in her life, even as she encourages others to do the same. Thus she fits Laity Lodge to a ‘T.’
My wife is also an artist, with a special love for watercolor painting. (If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember Linda’s marvelous paintings of the Stations of the Cross.) She has also used art in her teaching in churches and retreats. Experiencing art, she believes, can help people grow in their relationship with God.
cody-center-laity-lodgeSo then there’s Laity Lodge, which, more than any similar ministry I’ve ever known, values art and its relationship to faith. For years Laity Lodge retreats have included fine artists who both share their work and help retreatants to venture into new artistic expressions. These experiences have often been transformational  for people as they discover new areas of giftedness and grace. Several years ago Laity Lodge built the Cody Center in honor of one of its beloved former directors, Bill Cody. The Cody Center includes a fantastic building for concerts and art shows, as well as two studios where retreat goers can try their hand at a variety of artistic efforts. (The picture to the right shows part of the Cody Center through the trees. In the background you can see the roof of the main building. To the right is one of the art studios.)
I could keep on going here, since Laity Lodge also provides a venue for Linda to teach, to co-host retreats, to meet with individuals as they seek God’s direction for their lives, and so on. You can surely see why I came to believe that a move to Laity Lodge offered wonderful possibilities, not only for me, but also for Linda.
In my next post I’ll explain further why I’m convinced that Laity Lodge provides an opportune context for me to be an effective steward of the gifts God has given me.

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