Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Creating Quiet Spaces: A Directed Spiritual Retreat

I am excited to embark on a Holy Spirit journey this weekend with a small group of my Newark Naz women. This will be a time of sharing our personal walk with God, but mostly a time of getting in position to hear Him speak. Without realizing it, much of the time we approach God with minds that are filled to the max with our agenda, our struggles, our past and present pains, our longings for change and for direction. If God were to speak, how would we even hear Him through all this rubble?

God is calling us to come away with Him, to empty ourselves and allow Him to fill us. We come with expectations of renewed passion, a God-perspective on life, a fresh start. The impact of this 24-hour block of time set apart for Him will have a resounding effect for years to come.

Intimidated by silence? You are not alone in that fear. After all, the God and Creator of the universe should be a bit intimidating! But, the flip side is this: the Father-God who created me wants to spend time? alone? with Me?! Ummm...let me check my calendar: I think I can pencil Him in!!

It's not too late for you to "pencil Him in" too!
Details: Fri, 6pm-Sat. 5pm, Jan, 20-21 Sts Peter & Paul Retreat Center, Newark, OH, $83 for overnight lodging and 3 full meals. (Or, to schedule your own Directed Spiritual Retreat) contact me: cstiverson@hotmail.com.

THE PHOTO ABOVE WAS TAKEN WHEN I DID A SILENT RETREAT RECENTLY AT STS. PETER & PAUL RETREAT CENTER. I JUST NOW NOTICED THE CROSS PATTERN IN THE SKY! WOW GOD!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

WovenWomen in Oregon!

I'd like to introduce you to my friend and Woven Group Leader DenaRae Carlock. We first connected at the Christian Writer's Guild Conference in Colorado. DenaRae is a wife, a mother of boys, and grandmother of more boys! She is also a gifted, aspiring writer and Women's Ministry Leader. Last September, DenaRae started a Woven group with her gal-pals at the River of Life Assembly of God in Hood River, Oregon.

Her group is weaving together the lives of fifteen women with the Woven: A Monthly Oasis for Women introductory workbook. This was her report after their first session: 
"WHEW! I really feel like the Lord has some awesome stuff for us. We will probably do two outreach projects. One for the victims assistance/women's shelter for the county, and then for the pregnancy resource center too. You were right:  there was a sweet sense of the Holy Spirit as we closed in prayer. We were comfortable enough with each other that women were able to pray.

And, I was blessed to get an update this week from her:
"We are still really enjoying the Bible Study. This past week the lesson entitled, 'Who Does She Think She Is?!' was great. What an encouragement it was for all of us. We had fun with the game at the beginning too."
 
Let's give a shout to DenaRae and her group at River of Life in Hood River, Oregon! We are "Woven into a tapestry of love"!
 
READ DENARAE CARLOCK'S ARTICLE "Dealing With Pet Peeves In Your Marriage" published on CBN.COM by following this link: http://www.cbn.com/family/marriage/pet-peeves-for-couples-carlock.aspx

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Perfect Gift

     I really struggled over what to give my Woven leaders for Christmas this year. My inner voice was saying, "I want it to be something special, something meaningful." I thought the thought was my thought, but it turned out to be a "God-thought": a thought bigger than I thought
     As I went about my shopping and as the clock kept ticking, my thought was becoming a cry of desperation...to God...for a gift...for my gals. On a date that seemed too late, I awoke in the middle of the night with the answer: a sterling silver bracelet engraved with two hearts and the word "Sisters". Not thinking outside the box when I shopped, I had totally missed the possibility that "This was IT!" I admit, I turned this answer into a question.
     "Really? You want me to give them a "Sisters" bracelet? Isn't that a bit gimmicky or assuming?" And that's when God unveiled the real revelation. He cut past the over-use of our BFF lingo to the real heart of the matter:  We are ETERNAL Sisters!
     More than girlfriends in this life, more than another pseudo-feminine relationship, we are FOREVER in the fullest sense of that term WOVEN as only God can weave us INTO A SISTERHOOD with the blood OF our Savior Jesus CHRIST!
   This blew my mind! And, I admit, I thought it was going to blow my wallet as well. When I trekked back to buy them, the sale price had changed, and not in my favor. Besides that, there was only one left; I needed fourteen! I shared my dilemma with the clerk. It was amazing! A week later, the bracelets arrived at my doorstep after paying a lower-than-sale-price and no shipping charges.
     And the timing? Well, it was too late for Christmas, but just in time for our January 3rd leader gathering. The scripture for this month's session? The famous story of two sisters: Mary and Martha.
       I don't know about you, but when I think of all the incredible women God has placed in my life, and how there is never enough time to enjoy them, it thrills me to think that I will spend eternity with my sisters in Christ! I bask in the thought of it!
     The Perfect Gift? It's really not the bracelet at all! The perfect gift is the gift of eternal life.
 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 NLT

A Story behind the Story:  My very first ladies group experience was in the Grace Brethren Church where I came to believe in Jesus Christ and accepted God's gift of eternal life at the age of eight. When I was twelve or so, I joined S.M.M., a group for teen and pre-teen girls. The acronym stands for Sisters of Mary & Martha...and we ARE! (won't it be fun to meet them in heaven?!)



Wednesday, January 5, 2011

God? Bless? You?

     "God bless you!" We mouth these three simple words to people in passing, on greeting cards, and even when someone sneezes! We've said it~heard it so often that often we really don't even mean it. It's become just another hollow expression we toss back and forth, limiting it's power to "Have a nice day!" But let me tell you, this is no trite cliche'!
      Chew on these "blessings" from God. But be careful! Don't expect to swallow them in one big gulp! They are quite a mouthful! After all, they are the words of Jesus!
  •  "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
  • You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
  • You're blessed when you're content with just who you are--no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
  • You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
  • You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full', you will find yourselves cared for.
  • You're blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and heart--put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
  • You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
  • You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom. Not only that--count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens--give a cheer, even!--for though they don't like it, I do!" (Matthew 5, The Message).
This is really too much food for one meal! But before you push away this platter of blessings, I hope you will digest each one, a day at a time, and ponder your blessed position.
      Has God? Blessed? You? He's certainly blessed me! Life has been a topsy-turvy journey, but every hardship has served to birth the babe of Christ in me. He whittled away at my self-coping mechanisms, left me with a glorious God-dependence, and signed my emancipation proclamation to be the real me: the 'me' He created me to 'be'!
      I have to confess that this 'God-me' is a bit more than I can handle at times. She's constantly stepping outside her comfort zone. She's a woman of God: shameless, fearless, and intimidating (yes, even to me)! She's called to do "greater things than these." She's more than I can tame (LOL)!  She's seriously "blessed" and dangerous! But, what did we expect, anyway? When we put God's label on something~ anything~ it's bound to shake up our cozy little world!
      GOD BLESS YOU! I am speaking this greeting over you today with all the power that these three humongous words dictate, and with a prayer that you will become all that God intended you to be!

~As we enter the New Year, my heart is especially burdened for those who are suffering the pain and loss of the past year: loss of employment, loss of loved ones, loss of health or mobility, loss of the freedom to choose. I pray that the Lord will lift His countenance to you, that you will find peace in His presence, and that every hardship and loss will result in knowing Him more fully, and loving Him more sincerely. May the Lord our God truly bless you with the full measure of Himself, birthed on Christmas and being birthed in you! In Jesus Name, Amen!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1.1.11 A New Year, A New Perspective

A few months ago, I came across a turn of the century Ann Landers column that I had clipped from The Columbus Dispatch. A reader, "Kay C. in the Midwest" shared her list of New Year's resolutions for the new millenium. These resolutions are totally in keeping with the theme of spiritual hospitality from the second Woven Workbook, Entertaining Angels

So, I offer this list to all readers, but especially to the Woven Women at Newark Naz, as we are in the midst of this conversation. Read them. Rewrite them. Journal them. Adapt them. Add to them. Make them your own! Then, share them and make them a part of your life! 
  • I will remember to say something kind to the cashier who is harried and tired.
  • I will stop for a moment to get items from the top shelf for the woman who is in a wheelchair.
  • I will pause in the aisle at the grocery store, and wait until the elderly lady moves her cart past mine. I will do it with a smile on my face.
  • I will continue to call my mother to ask how her day is going and tell her about mine, not because she needs to know, but because it is important to tell her how much I love her while I still can.
  • I will email my friend who is feeling down to remind her what a talented, special person she is.
  • I will tell my husband how much I love and appreciate him for being a kind person, a good father and a wonderful husband.
  • I will tell my daughter I love her and think she's a cool kid when I drop her off at school.
Today, 1-1-11, is a day of "firsts"! I pray God will give you a new outlook, a fresh start, and provide many opportunities to receive and offer His unending, unconditional love and hospitality. I would love to hear YOUR New Year's Resolutions! Feel free to share in the comment section following this post.

Happy New Year with love,
~Cindy