Encounter

ATO RetreatHOT SULPHUR SPRINGS – Colorado. In the summer of 2011, Robby Thompson and I represented the Theta Eta of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity in Colorado for an inaugural “ATO Retreat.” There were already several national functions to choose from, but nothing like this… The objective of this retreat was to leave it up to God. We are the only fraternity based on Christian principles, and ATO desires to keep our foundation strong. We embarked to Colorado with uncertainty but left with a glass FULL OF GRACE! We peaked at 15,000ft at “The Ranch”. ATO partnered with Toth Ministries and JWAR (Jesus was a Rebel) to deliver God’s Word. I saw a different side of Jesus. When I left, I went from having this fear of God to walking alongside my Daddy. I made myself vulnerable, but knew more about myself than ever before. It proved to be a spiritual encounter that all of us would remember forever. We came to the party, drank from the cup and were filled with His presence. For once in my life, I was enamored by the Spirit.

Six months later, the same brothers met up with Wynn Smiley, ATO National’s CEO. He graciously welcomed us into his house in Indianapolis, but he wanted to talk business. Wynn had an unanswered question, How do we keep this thing going? We debriefed the weekend from back at the Ranch. This weekend was still filled with worship and lecture, but we wanted to discuss the future of this ATO Retreat. We met at ATO National Headquarters, and it resulted in a name change, Encounter. It seemed to be a reoccurring theme with all the people who attended. Everyone had an encounter with Christ! From hearing angels to feeling their Daddy press his mighty hand on their chest… there were encounters by the Holy Spirit. The ATO Retreat would forever be called, Encounter. We agreed to recruit brothers to replace ourselves and take Encounter back to our respective chapters.

With a combined effort from the ATO National Staff, alumni, Toth Ministries and JWAR, we are able to host multiple Encounter retreats to active brothers who want to further their walk with Christ, our foundation. When we began to stop worrying about the temporal and focus on the eternal, we saw growth. In under three years, we have seen more than 100 brothers impacted through this new ATO National Event, Encounter.

One more thing, accountability was a huge priority for us. We wanted to stay connected and not be diagnosed with kid’s camp syndrome. If someone from The Ranch asked, “Will, what’s your life look like on a Tuesday when you are back in Alabama?” It shouldn’t look any differently because I live with my promises in front of me! To keep us accountable, anyone who has gone to an Encounter is invited to “Re-retreat” in Indianapolis. This is designed to keep brothers in Christ connected.

This weekend marks two and a half years after the inaugural ATO Retreat. We are now at the Columbia Club for another Encounter Re-Retreat because we have slightly outgrown Wynn’s living room:

God planted new seeds in our hearts. Now, it’s time to give what we have been given!

Riley Blogging Off

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I was making my way out of the Georgia woods a few weeks after visiting one of best friends from college. The drive was a few hours long, so there was plenty of time devoted to singing my heart my out. After the granuloma settled on my vocal cords, I took a break and sat in silence —  not common for a 90%+ tested extrovert. I needed time to think and pray.  I have been experiencing spiritual aridity yet again, so I prayed God would give me an encounter in my dreams. He has given my visions before through metaphors and even revealed futuristic moments. There are no limits for the Great I Am.

Snake

Arrived to condo around midnight… Eh, that sounds too pretentious, right? Well ,that’s what the sign says… Let’s start over. Arrived to my apartment around midnight, and fell right to sleep. From my recollection, I was washing clothes in my utility room, and I had thrown a pair of black gym shorts in my clothes basket. I continued washing the load, but I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. The gym shorts started moving. I immediately backed up but couldn’t keep my eyes off of what was happening. Underneath the gym shorts laid a python. I would have never expected a snake in my clothes basket. It was a white and yellow striped Basilisk too but without the horcrux.  Some of my spiritual mentors always said color is crucial in encounters from our heavenly Daddy. Before the snake acted, I woke up.

I thought nothing of this dream and was rather disappointed because I prayed such a sincere prayer. For all I know, it was the  VMAs afterparty, Britney Spears style. It made no sense to me at all.

Monday morning rolls around. We are having our FireSeeds team meeting, and I talked about my dream. Cord, CEO/President, comments and said that the color of that snake was the portrayal of Satan in Passion of the Christ. Cue the 1980’s Hollywood thunder. I had a blank stare and said, “forgot about that one.” We quickly moved on and now I am thinking about how I was possessed or something. Not a good spot to be in.

I held on to this dream, and called up a few of my dream analysts (you know who you are). I told them of my dream, and then I had my “AH-HAH” moment. God wanted to tell me that Satan will come in the dark of night — as symbolized by the black gym shorts. He will appear unexpectedly — as symbolized as a snake in a clothes basket.

YES! I figured it out, but wait… Satan is going to attack me when I least expect it? That’s nothing new. But for God to reveal it in such a way, this seems it could potentially be a big bite.

My advice: dream big. You may not like the end result when you ask God for help, but he makes himself very clear in John 14:13 “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father my be glorified in the Son.”

Riley Blogging Out