Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Preparing, Planning and Praise

It has been so long since I have written on this post. I spent most of the time away from here, preparing for my first One Day Women's Retreat. For the past few years my church has held a weekend Women's Retreat in either March or April at our Methodist Camp in Okoboji Iowa. It goes from Friday evening thru Sunday noon. It is a wonderful weekend filled with fellowship, rest, scripture, teaching, food and renewal. For the past 2 years I have been privileged to be part of the team that plans and leads the retreat. Since our last retreat in April I have felt God calling me to put on a few one day retreats throughout the year. So in August after God kept nudging me I picked up the calendar and filled in the days that I would lead the retreats. Last Saturday was the first. I'm doing this all on my own without a team to help. At least that's how the first one went. It was a great time. Although I had wished that many women would come, God blessed me with 7 wonderful women. 5 had been on the retreats before and 2 hadn't attended any. One of those two was my oldest daughter Ashley. It was a blessed day to have her there and sharing in it with me. She has come such a long way and I am so proud of her. She was welcomed by all the women (these are women who have been praying for her and our family and mean so much to me) and even felt comfortable enough to share her thoughts and feelings throughout the day. At one point as she was sharing, I looked at her and realized that she is an adult. A young woman about to turn 24! It brought tears to my eyes and my heart felt full. At that moment I thanked God once again for this journey that we have been on and for delivering us out of the storm that pounded down on us for such a long time.

The theme of the retreat was "Seeking Growth". We went over the 5 holy habits that we need to help us grow spiritually: Scripture, prayer, self-control, silence/solitude & service. It was a day of self-reflection, journaling, scripture surfing, song and fellowship. I felt God's presence the entire day, as I heard women share there thoughts and feelings. One quote that was read was from Freya Stark, "There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do." How true that is. If I am living my life differently from what I truly believe in, I will be living an unbalanced life. If I strive to keep up with everyone else while losing my true self, how can I be the person God wants me to be? If I give in to the demands of others, while jeopardizing my integrity, how can I look myself in the mirror and be happy? Everyday we need to be re-evaluating who we are, who God wants us to be and where God wants us to go.

We are all called to be servants of God. Whether it be in how we behave towards others or helping out in our churches, communities and world. We need to remember that as we live our lives, people are watching us. Do we want them to see Jesus when they see us? or do we want them to see someone who is in it just for themselves?

"Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your heart." - Matthew 6:4-6


Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

I'm sitting here watching "Remembering 9/11" on the History Channel. The same pain, sadness and despair floods over me once again. The video accounts from various people in Manhattan, from being right below the Towers, a block east of the towers and as far as New Jersey bring it all back again. It's the firefighters that bring me to tears. Watching them running towards the burning buildings and wondering as I watch those faces, did any of them make it out?

The sadness of that day will remain with me forever, as it should with all of us. We should never forget. Because if we do, then all of those who died in the planes, who were in the buildings trying to get out and help others to get out and all those rescue workers who perished, will have died in vain. Those who caused this to happen will then have won.

Through the tragedy we have learned that we are a resilient country. We are a country who in a time of hopelessness turned to prayer. We pulled together and prayed for those we never met. We sent messages of love wrapped in care packages and quilts made by people from all over this country.

9/11 is not just a day of tragic loss but a day that we as Americans may look back on with hope and strength knowing that we faced evil in the face and we did not let it break us.

May God bless the families, friends and co-workers whose lives were taken so suddenly and horrifically from them. May God bless all of us as we continue to heal from the tragedy of that day.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Taking a Time Out!

I enjoy watching Bible teacher Beth Moore on James and Betty Robinson's show, "Life Today" on Wednesday's. The past few weeks her theme of her message has been, "Refuge in the Storm". I just recently saw session number 4, where Beth was speaking about having a hiding place. A "Time Out". A "Hiding Place" so that we may have time away from all of the chaos and trouble that surrounds our lives. Even time away from our loved ones.

This has really been tugging at my mind the last few days. I know that I need a place to hide sometimes. When I have been pulled in so many directions or I have tried to be there for so many people that I forget to take time for myself. I work in a church and am currently answering the call to ministry, but there are days I feel like I have not connected with God. I get so busy that I'm not even sure that I have felt God's presence in my life that day.

God gave us a day of rest. Even Jesus went to the garden to be alone with his Father. Why do we find it so hard to have a "Time Out". We tend to feel that if we don't get the work done, no one will do it. Or they won't do it the "right" way. Why do we do this to ourselves? Is it really crucial that every bit of our work gets done? Will our lives fall a part if the house doesn't get cleaned, the laundry waits one more day? When a project is due at work, why do we rush to get it done before it is even due? Are we afraid that people are going to frown at us? That our family will get mad at us? That we won't "look good" to everyone?

We get so wrapped up in the little things that we forget the One who created us, gave us life. We go through our days lifting prayers for others, asking God to help us but we don't give God the quality time that we need to help us be able to help others. Beth said, "How can I give a drink of water, when I need a drink of living water?" "How can I be a refuge for someone else, when I am in need of refuge?"

That is so true. How can I give someone the time and energy to help them, if I am in need of energy myself? How do you know when you need a "time out"? Beth says, "If you don't enjoy what you are doing anymore, you need a time out".

In the September/October "final" issue of Today's Christian Woman, there is an article by Sandra Byrd titled, "eat, pray, grow". Sandra writes about how God used something unusual to get her attention about her soul: food.

She talks about how she found out she had high blood pressure and high cholesterol at the age of 40 and decided to change her life style. While she was cutting up veggies one day she heard the Holy Spirit murmur, "It takes time and commitment to be healthy, doesn't it?" She knew he wasn't talking about her body. He was talking about her soul. She goes on to say that it is easier to ignore the spiritual issues, God often uses physical symptoms to help take a closer look at what's happening inside.

Developing a pattern of taking on too much and in order to comfort her overly busy self, she ate the wrong things. She finally understood that her overfed but malnourished body was an outward reflection of an overfed but malnourished soul. While she had many activities that looked good on the outside and garnered praise, they ate up time she might have spent deepening her relationship with God. She relegated her prayer life to rushed pleading in the midst of trouble; her relationship with God felt empty and silent, stagnant and struggling. Her body displayed on the outside what was happening on the inside. In the process of healing one, could she heal both?

She goes on to give you valuable information that she learned through going through this process. It is a great article that I suggest you read.

I had a great conversation today with a dear friend on this very subject. She was telling me that her heart just isn't in to going to the Wednesday morning Bible study at our church but she feels guilty if she doesn't go. I told her that if she was feeling that way she shouldn't go. She does her own Bible study every morning, she leads a Bible study at an assisted living home once a week and she meets once a month for a Christian Women's Bible study. I think a lot of us do this. We join every Bible study possible thinking that it will lead us closer to God, but it actually takes us away from those quiet one on one moments that we need with God.

Just like we need to nourish our bodies with good wholesome food and fit in exercise each day, we also need to give our souls a "time out" to be alone with God. Not doing a Bible study, but just one on one, no frills, time with God.

So the next time you are feeling the loss of joy in what you are doing or you are overwhelmed with life, give yourself a "time out". For a child they say that when you give them time out, they are to sit in time out for as many minutes as they are old. So, if you are 30, take 30 minutes, 40, take 40 minutes, 50, take 50 minutes. Take the time to sit in the presence of God and enjoy!!!


Friday, September 4, 2009

Healed By God's Grace

Yesterday ranks right up there within the top 10 days of my life. The day may have been rainy and dreary but the sun was shining down on our family. Our daughter Ashley who has been through so much the last 5 years, moved back to our home town. What started out 5 years ago with excitement of sending our oldest off to college, took a dramatic turn by Christmas of that year. Due to the influence of the wrong people, drugs and alcohol and the work of a very dark force in her life, she was driven away from her family and friends and ran away from our home. Over the course of the past 5 years our family was broken, ripped apart and I truly believed in the beginning of it all that we would never recover. But God did a miraculous thing one day in April of 2006. While I was attending a women's retreat at a church camp, I took a walk down to the lake and told God I was ready to listen to him. I have always prayed, but I have a tendency to be the one doing all the talking and not giving God a chance to get a word in. But that day I opened up my heart and soul to hear him. And he spoke to me. He told me that my daughter would be okay. He told me to trust in him and to be patient. And one funny thing he told me was to write. To write and write and write and that people would read it and hear it. I've written a little. Devotions and sermons, but never knew exactly what God meant. I do today. You see it is all coming very clear to me. When God spoke to me I truly believed that everything would be okay within a few days, maybe even a few weeks or a couple of months. I thought I was supposed to start writing right away, but each time I tried I went blank. I didn't know what to write. You see, I wasn't healed yet. My family wasn't healed and my daughter was far from being healed. But today we are healed.

2 1/2 years after she ran away, and after numerous attempts to have her come back home, God spoke to me again. He told me I needed to let the past go and to reach out to her and tell her and show her that I loved her. I kept waiting for her to come to me, but I needed to go to her. She wasn't strong enough to do it, so I needed to. It was the best advice I have ever gotten. Boy is God wise! That was the first day of the start of the healing process in our family. Over the last 2 1/2 years we have steadily worked to gain back the trust and love of one another. And yesterday it all came together.

She is ready to start a new journey in her life. She has been drug free for over 2 years. She is staying with her grandparents and is surrounded by love and support from her family. She is scared but filled with the excitement of where this journey will take her. Finding a job and saving up money to go back to school is a goal that I know she will achieve. I have told her many times that only by the grace of God did she survive the last 5 years and that God has a plan for her and that she just needs to listen and ask God to guide and direct her. She is a beautiful young woman with a heart and soul filled with love. I am so proud of her! She has been through so much and is stronger and wiser.

God has given our family the strength and endurance to fight the fight. We have persevered through the darkest of days. We have looked evil in the face and won the battle. We didn't back down. Our prayers never stopped. We grew with the knowledge that God would protect us and provide for us and he did.

I lift up my praise and thanksgiving to my God. He is the almighty, wonderful, majestic, healer, comforter, protector of our lives.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" - Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

"But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations"- Psalm 33:11 (NIV)