Wednesday, February 29, 2012

40 Days of Virtue: A New 'Tude!

"She finds wool and flax and busily spins it."
 ~Proverbs 31:13NLT 

In a former chapter of life, when I was raising my daughter, I started a small business in my home. Well, at least it started out as a small business. In a few short years this small business took over both my home and my life! What began as a seamstress trying to make ends meet as a single mom, eventually developed into a complete line of soft sculpture designer characters for decorating the home. As the designs expanded, so did a following of collectors, as did the hours and space required to produce my product. Needless to say, I had worked myself into a more-than-full-time livelihood which spanned fifteen years of my adult life.

I know full well the meaning of working with your hands. Though the true meaning is not as clear in the New Living Translation, above, this passage is about the work of our hands. Let's take a look at two other versions to pull out the heart behind this verse:
"She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands." New King James Version

"She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands." New International Version

Here we find that she is more actively in pursuit of her materials. She doesn't just "find" it, but she "seeks" or "selects" the fibers that she will spin. For the woman of her generation, this wasn't so much a choice but a necessity. The woman of the home was responsible for running the household. Like it or not, that included spinning wool into yarns and fibers, weaving flax into linen for clothing and bedding and all the things we so readily purchase at our favorite department store. If you are not one who enjoys crafting or sewing, you might really loathe the thought that this is included in the list of virtues of a Godly woman.

However, if we take a step back from the actual task at hand, we see that it's not so much the task to which she is applying herself. It's the attitude with which she is working:  "busily", "willingly", "eager"ly. She is not lying around the house, bemoaning the fact that there is woman's work that needs doing. Or, if she works away from home, she doesn't take on the attitude that she is the only one in the world who has to work. She is up and at it! She's eager to git'er done! To do something "with willing hands" literally means "in the delight of her hands". Her hands are happy when she applies them to her work...and so is her heart!

Isn't this the truth, ladies? When we sit and think about the unending cycle of laundry that's piling up around us or the dishes needing washed or the typical chores of running a household or helping to make a living, it can get pretty depressing. We can really get a nasty negative attitude. But when we survey what needs done and get busy doing it, we feel a whole lot better! And, so does our family.

A New Attitude
We wear so many hats. There are times when we wonder how we will ever get it all done. Are you feeling overwhelmed with the work that's piling up around you? Maybe you're a new mother, with a demanding infant or toddler, wishing you could actually put your hand to the task. Or, whether you work full-time and taxi everyone around and wonder when you're supposed to manage the household affairs. Or, maybe you suffer physically and your heart truly longs to do the things a healthy woman is capable of.  Whatever your life looks like, most of it boils down to the same thing...managing the work of our hands and approaching it positively.

Here's what I have found to work. In your quiet time, make a list of all the things you are trying to juggle. Then, rather than allowing everything to consume your mind at the same time and drain you of your peace, simply do the next thing that needs doing. And, don't be afraid to ask for help! You don't have to do it alone.

Not so busy these days? Look around for a woman you can invest in. Give a helping hand to a new mother by giving her a day out or cleaning her home or doing her laundry. Go grocery shopping for the elderly. Cook a meal for someone who is ill. Get those hands to work and your heart will be singing again!

"Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up."
~Ecclesiastes 4:8-9

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

40 Days of Virtue: Your Maker Is Your Hubby!

"Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life."
Proverbs 31:11-12

After "Taking a Second Look" at this woman of virtue yesterday, let's take a second look at her hubby through that same lens of Isaiah 54:5:
"For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth."
How does this change the interpretation of Proverbs 31:11-12? Should it be any different than if we were speaking of a human companion? Let's break this down...

He has full confidence in her.
He, as in HE! the Lord!! Yes, HIM! He trusts this woman who is Godly and virtuous; this woman who has vowed to love Him with all her heart and soul, mind and strength. He is trusting her with His infiinite and perfect love!
  He trusts that she will keep Him first in her life and not turn her heart to idols.
  He trusts that she will continuously surrender her thoughts and her will to Him.
  He trusts that she will reciprocate this relentless trust that He has placed in her. 

He is asking, "Will you trust Me?  Can I trust you to simply trust Me?" 
"Will you trust me in sickness and in health, in the ups and downs of life? When death and disease engulf you, will you still trust me? When the waves come crashing against your lifeboat, even then will you cling to me and allow me to be your Savior?  Or will you turn away and reach for a human hand instead? When your heart is broken, when you feel alone, will you remember that I have never left you and that I will never forsake you?" 
He is asking, "Do you have full confidence in ME?"

He lacks nothing of value.
HELLO! Do I hear an "Amen!", Sister? 
This Bridegroom lacks NOTHING! He is complete. He is the only one of whom we can accurately breathe that famous sensuous line, "He completes me."  Girlfriend, in this marriage relationship, we bring only our meager nothingness because "He lacks nothing." Isn't it so freeing to know that He lacks nothing because He is EVERYTHING, rather than because we have to fill Him?

He is asking, "Will you receive Me? Will you allow Me to be all that you need? Will you allow Me to fill you with more of ME and less of you? Will you allow ME to COMPLETE YOU?"
He is saying, "I am All that you need."

She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
You might be asking, "How could I do anything to harm God?"
And, now you may end up wishing you hadn't asked that question, after answering these questions...
  • When was the last time you cursed or used His name in vain? (Yes, even an "Oh My ___!")
  • Have you gossipped, lied, cheated, told a dirty joke, said something to hurt someone else, or to elevate yourself?
  • Do you dress provocatively? Is your mind consumed with bringing atttention to yourself?
  • Do you have addictions in your life, things that you love more than God: food, shopping, relationships, substances, pornography, exercise, gambling, television, your emotional wounds, your "stuff"?
  • How do you treat your neighbor? How do you treat those that you don't understand? How do you treat others? Do you follow His command to love?
  • Are you forgiving of others?
  • How do you serve others? Who do you serve? Do you give? Do you tithe?
  • Are you a true reflection of God's unconditional love and grace in this world? Without a political agenda? Without bias? Without any other motive other than to participate in the manifestation of God's glory here on earth?
  • Do you spend time with Him? Is He first in your daily life?
  • Do you do what He asks you to do? Do you listen to His still small voice; are you obedient to His leading? 
  • Are you totally abandoned to God? Will you allow Him to hijack your agenda?
This may seem like a lot to process! In reality, this list is so small in comparison to the millions of ways we bring harm to the One who brings us love. When we claim that our "Maker is our Husband" without choosing His lifestyle, we not only bring harm to Him, but we prevent  those He loves and even those we love from entering into a relationship with Him. The things we say, the way we live, the way we treat others, our work ethic, and our motivations can either lead people to Him or away from Him.

That's what this season of Lent is all about. It's a time set apart for us to bring all of "ME" into the fullness of all of HIM. It's the willingness to look at our ugly, hidden sins and hand them over to the One who "lacks nothing of value".

Will you set apart time this day to STOP and bring your full attention to your Maker...
To LOOK deep within yourself, at your beliefs about Him, your behavior toward others...
And LISTEN to His voice of corrrection and direction.
Journal this process. Renew your covenant with your Maker.

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Then the angel said to me,
“Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”
~Revelation 19:6-9NIV

Monday, February 27, 2012

40 Days of Virtue: Take a Second Look!

Take a Second Look!
by Cindy Stiverson

When we see a beautiful woman, we try not to stare. And yet, there is just something within us that wants to take a second look, to identify that special something that makes her so attractive. That's how I am feeling this morning about this beautiful Woman of Virtue. I feel compelled to take a second look at these opening lines of Proverbs 31 before moving on. 
I especially love the King James Version of the question that begins our search:
"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." Proverbs 31:10KJV
I love the wording of it. It's so lovely and stately and, well, beautiful! It's worth taking a second look at, because just as the subject matter, the words are stunning! They stop you in your tracks when you read them because you know that if a woman like this should come along, she would stop you in your tracks as well. She would command your attention. She would not be your average Walmart shopper!

But there is something else here that I appreciate. King James uses the word woman instead of wife. Most popular versions of the text address her as wife. The Message is a bit more aimed at the Walmart shopper, losing the loveliness with, "a good woman is hard to find".  Sounds a bit rugged for describing someone, as it continues, who is "worth more than diamonds". I guess this good woman in The Message is a diamond in the rough!

Lest I digress, the point I am reaching is that singleness does not exclude us from being a virtuous, valuable, desirable, beautiful woman! So, I don't want our single female friends to check out and think this passage is not for you. Ladies, this is for all of us because, in truth, the King's momma is describing a woman who is already totally at peace within herself before she ever finds a mate. How else would she logically be able to recommend this woman to her son as his bride? She would have to be SINGLE!

What makes this woman so beautiful?
It's what is radiating from within, it's the condition of her "inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." I Peter 3:4

But it's so much more than that! This woman is not needy for a man to fill the hole in her heart. She walks with confidence and inner peace because she is already IN a love relationship! 
    The love that shaped her in her mother's womb.
    The love that called out to Israel.
    The love that died for us and cries for us.

This woman is loved by the Creator of the universe, and she knows it in the very innermost part of her being. It is woven into the fiber of her heart and soul. And, because of that, SHE loves! She LoVeS! She LOVES because she knows she is loved. She loves because she has discovered the truth of God's love:

"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them."IJohn 4:16

And because she has fully embraced God's love, she is empowered by the very LOVE that is required to follow the command of Christ:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength...Love your neighbor as yourself."Mark12:30-31

Are you feeling very single? Alone? Unloving? Unloved?
When I found myself feeling very alone, betrayed, and deserted after my husband's suicide, the words of Isaiah 54 brought healing to my heart. Below is a portion, but take some time to read the entire passage.

"For your Maker is your husband—

the LORD Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth."
Isaiah 54:5

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." ~Ephesians 3:14-21

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Woven Women's Weekend 2012: LIVE IN LOVE!

I'm excited to announce this year's Woven Weekend: LIVE IN LOVE, Friday & Saturday, March 23-24, 2012 at beautiful  Cherry Valley Lodge in Newark, Ohio. Ladies, the theme alone should be enough to make your heart go pitter-patter! 

In this third season of Woven, "A Tapestry of Love", God's love has become incredibly real among our Woven groups at Newark Naz. A love so real that it is being expressed in tangible ways. The most recent has been a love offering for a woman in our church who recently lost her health, her husband, her home, in a matter of a few weeks. Our ladies stuffed a glass container full of love notes and over $600 in cash to help a sister in need; a sister that most had never even met!

"Oh Jesus, continue to fill US to overflowing with your love; love without boundaries!" This is our prayer for the LIVE IN LOVE Woven Women's Weekend: that we would truly be ONE according to the prayer of Jesus for all believers in John Chapter 17, and that together we will make a difference in the world. A Love difference. A Jesus difference. 
"I pray also for those who will believe in me...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Marykay Moore
When I put just two words together in the same sentence, love and women, there is one name that comes to mind:  Pastor Marykay Moore. She is a Love Machine! Seriously, you will not believe how much love this woman has for you! Is it any wonder that I have invited her as our guest for the weekend?  She has an incredible story and will be sharing that with us on Saturday as she challenges us with God's Call to step out in love.

Melissa Anderson
Our beautiful Melissa Anderson will again be leading our worship team, and we already know that will be anointed! Our dear friend Kim Dent, Women's Ministry Director from Canton, Ohio,  has promised to once again join our hearts through interpretive dance. And, I look forward to bringing home the message, as we unwrap this gift of God's love: The Command, The Call, and The Commission. I pray your heart is pounding in your chest at the thought of it! I know mine is. Don't wait too long! Deadline is March 11th.

40 Days of Virtue: A New "To-Do"!

“She comforts, encourages, and does him only good,
as long as there is life within her”
Proverbs 31:12

A New "To-Do"!
Woven Leader Kelly Tenney

When I think about the desire to be a virtuous woman, I reflect on the characteristics I want to model for my children. There are two things I want them to hold dear to their hearts.
   One is that Christ is the center of my heart.
   The other is that Christ is the center of my marriage.

In this fast paced, instant gratification, self-empowering society, it's easy to forget that we are one with our spouses. It's easy to just move through life quickly checking off our to-do list. And, when we get caught up in the busy-ness of life, we leave little time for each other, which actually hurts us as much as it hurts our spouse. It hurts our marriage.
   When we bottle our thoughts, our emotions.
   When we nit-pick about things we want changed.
   When we take out our anger and frustration on our spouse.
   When we speak negatively, negativity is what we get in return.
   When we inflict pain on our spouse, we literally inflict pain on ourselves, because we are one.

Think of three things you've done that brought harm to your husband. It can be as trivial as being snippy, speaking poorly of him to your friends, or disregarding his opinion.
Stop for a moment and write these down.

They say it takes three positives to negate a single negative.
Now think of nine things you can do to positively build the esteem of your spouse. This can range from giving him affirmation, doing something thoughtful, setting aside quality time, or just letting him know why you love and appreciate him. Take a moment to list them as well.

Pray. Ask God to forgive you for being careless with your marriage relationship; for not honoring your husband as He has instructed us to do. Pray that you will seize opportunities to encourage your hubby, to speak positivity into his life. If there is competition between you, pray that it will cease. If there is anger, pray that God will diffuse it. Pray that God will heal your marriage of the hurts, or wounds, or whatever may be separating you; that you may be truly One.

Follow through by carrying out the items on your new to-do list!

I love to think about how much I love and adore my husband. It blows my mind that Christ loves me so much more than that, more than my heart can even comprehend. He loves us in spite of our weaknesses. He praises our strengths. He even gave us this bond of marriage to bring balance to our lives, to affirm His love for us. His love is loyal, uplifting, affirming, sacrificial, and faithful. He is the perfect example of how a husband and a wife should love one another. This is His command to us:

"Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  John 13:34-35

 Kelly Tenney is a stay at home mom of two. She runs a small business from her home and keeps busy serving at The Firehouse, a campus of Newark Church of the Nazarene. She enjoys flip flops, coffee, and leading worship with her husband.

She is a WOVEN Woman: a woman of virtue!

Friday, February 24, 2012

40 Days of Virtue: A Change of Priorities

Woven Leader Cheryl Simpson

"Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life."
Proverbs 31:11NLT
“How are you enjoying your retirement?”
Having retired in June of 2011, hardly a week goes by that I am not asked this question. With my heart bursting, and a lilt in my voice, my reply goes something like this,
“This is beyond what I thought the Lord had in store for me.”
My cup is truly running over! Although my days still begin as early as they did when I was working, I now have time for early morning workouts, caring for my granddaughters, and the luxury of spending quality time with the Lord.
Perhaps the greatest change is not so much the freedom of being off the “treadmill”. Instead, it is the change in my relationship with my husband Ken. In our thirty-six years of marriage, I began to realize that I had kept him at arm’s length, feeling as though there were not enough hours to fit him into my schedule. Throughout those years, many of which I was working two jobs, Ken remained loyal. He was the loving, kind and faithful husband that I had married and for which I am most grateful.

God really began to impress upon me the importance of prioritizing this relationship. While my activities were indeed noble all those years, Ken had truly taken a backseat. I am grateful to say that a new chapter in our marriage has begun. Today I am very conscientious of what an incredible husband God has given me. I am cautious of not being gone as many evenings in the week; careful to get the rest I need so that I can truly listen as he recaps his day, to really hear his heart. And, this leads my heart to spend more quality time in prayer for him.

Proverbs 31:11 speaks that the husband of the virtuous woman has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value or importance. To shorten this verse up, the writer is saying that her husband trusts her.
   He trusts her eyes. 
     What am I looking at today?
   He trusts her ears.  
     What am I listening to on the television, radio, gossip, etc.
   He trusts her heart! 
     Do I seek ways to express my love and devotion to him?

Martin Luther wrote about the virtues of a godly woman, sharing that she loves (fears) God and loves his house. Martin Luther also shared that the husband could be confident in her in all areas of living. I praise the Lord that my husband was long-suffering with me, so very patient just as our Heavenly Father is patient with us.
Friend, is it time for you to reorder your relationships?  To get your life into proper perspective relationally? This is what that should look like:  God first, your spouse second, your children third, then others. Pray that God will reveal the relationships in your life that are in disarray . Respect your husband. This is his greatest need from you. It will help your marriage move above and beyond your issues.
Cheryl is the grateful wife of 36 years to Ken. They have two children and five granddaughters. Previously a public school teacher, she now spends a good part of her week doing pastoral care for her church, Newark Church of the Nazarene.
She is a Woven Woman: a Woman of Virtue!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

40 Days of Virtue: A Voice in the Wilderness

"Mirage in the Desert" original watercolor
copyright Cynthia K. Stiverson
A Voice In The Wilderness
by Cindy Stiverson

Picture yourself in a desert. The land stretches in every direction further than your eyes can see. The sun is blistering hot, beating down on your head and shoulders.  You are sweaty, tired and distinctly aware of how very alone you are.

Now, imagine in this setting, hearing the cry of a voice; a voice you may even recognize. It is the King's momma, ringing loud and clear across that dry ground, as she begins this description of the woman her son should seek as his bride:
"Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies." ~Proverbs 31:10NLT
How would you respond to her words? Would you cry out in confidence, "Here I am!" Or would you resonate with her question, wishing you could find that one precious, trustworthy gal-pal that would breathe life into your desert of relationships? Or maybe you would wonder, "What planet did she come from?"

The King obviously had his choice of women. He could summon them with a wink of the eye or a snap of his fingers. And, we all know how tempting it might be to respond with dreams of living happily ever after as his bride. In fact, many of us have been there, done that, only to be disillusioned and deserted.

We can be sure the life of this mother and son was that of luxury, position, fame. And yet, this motherly advice comes as a warning for all of us to heed. In spite of their privileged lives, this mother had taken a trip around the block. She was well versed in the sexual promiscuity that had invaded the kingdom. In fact, the problem of immorality is addressed throughout the book of Proverbs.

What I love about this mother?  She knows the immense value of a woman who seeks the Lord. She also knows how very precious is our sexual purity. If we give it away prematurely or to the wrong person, it cuts to the depth of our womanhood.

This is a prophetic woman. Her words echo into the future in preparation for the coming of Christ...
"He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!’ This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven." Mark 1:3-4NLT
This mother. This preacher. What do they have in common? They have gone ahead of us: clearing the path and paving the way for our freedom. They remind us what is important to God. They reveal our need for a Savior.
"When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Romans 5:6-8NLT
Friend, are you wandering around in the wilderness?
Feeling alone, desperate to hear a voice of direction? Are you thinking it is too late for you; or that you're not good enough for God? Are you feeling "utterly helpless" today?  If so, you are in the perfect position to receive the forgiveness and love of Jesus Christ. Whatever your situation, will you please take as long as is necessary to talk to Him, give all your problems to Him, and allow Him to cleanse you of all the muck of your life?

Try this:  Journal the thoughts, admit the hurts and shame, that surfaced as you read this devotional. Present your words to the Lord. Listen. Hear. Respond by asking forgiveness and by celebrating God's great love for you.

Holy Father,
I pray for my sister today. I pray you would bring her to the end of herself, so she can see Jesus. Lord, as we prepare anew for your coming, reveal to us the depravity of our hearts, the places that have been lying in ruin within us. Heal our hurts. Transform us from the inside out.

For those who are wandering in the desert, may You be the voice they hear. For those in the land of plenty, open their eyes to their inner poverty and the poverty that surrounds them. For those in need of a friend, lead them to a woman of virtue. Lord, may our hearts be woven together in Your love!
In Jesus Name,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

40 Days 0f Virtue: Day One

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
   ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
   and see that they get justice.
~Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT

In all my years spent in Proverbs 31, I don't recall ever noticing these verses which precede the poem of The Virtuous Woman. This advice to the king, written by his mother, reveal the heart of Christ long before Christ was born. Her words imitate the words of Jesus, as he stood in the temple and pronounced his call to ministry,
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19NLT) 
Discovering these verses has given me a fresh appreciation for this mother whose words were included in the book of Proverbs. She challenges us to take a deeper look at our motives, our actions, at the advice we give to others. How many of us seriously share this mother's concerns? She causes us to ask ourselves, "What type of legacy am I leaving for my children, my grandchildren? Am I making an eternal difference in this world?" 

Today is Ash Wednesday. The first of our 40 day journey to Easter. A somber day of reflection amd introspection; self-examination. A time to deeply address the indictment of Isaiah 64:6, 

"We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags."
Isn't it true? We often try to work our way into heaven. We serve. We perform religious deeds. We put on a good show for others. Some of us even believe the falacy that "If I am a good person, I will go to heaven." And yet, while we are busy with our juggling routine, we have lost sight of the very heart of Christ. It certainly was not to impress religious leaders. It was not for the sake of making friends in high places. And, all "good" people do not go to heaven. We've missed the meat of his message.

"We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved?" (Isaiah 64:5)
The answers are repetitive throughout scripture:
   By becoming weak, poor, helpless, and silent before our Maker.
   By allowing God to crush us into the dust that we are until we truly see our blind spots.
   By confessing that we are sinners.
   By asking Him to cleanse us from our sin and re-create us into His image.
   By proclaiming our need for deliverance.
   By truly believing that Jesus died for our sins.
   By asking Him to save us.
   By accepting His forgiveness.

God longs for us to leave a lasting mark on this world. If our lives have truly been transformed by Christ, our hearts will be broken for the least of the least, with no expectation of earthly reward except that of leading others to their heavenly home. We will find ourselves following the advice of the King's momma; and following the call of our Heavenly Papa.

Pray the words of the Psalmist today as you listen; LISTEN for the Lord to speak to your heart...
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you."  (Ps. 139:23-24; Ps. 51:11-12)
Journal what you hear.

For more reading on this subject: The Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5

Monday, February 13, 2012

Creating Quiet Spaces: ReCAP!

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
~2 Corinthians 12:9NLT

The first thought that comes to mind in describing our Quiet Retreat in January is Paul's exclamation in 2 Corinthians 12:9: "So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me."  But I also have to admit that at the time, I was not so boastful about the "thorn in my flesh" that attacked throughout the week prior, as I sat down to write the material, and continued through to the end of our retreat. I was right there with Paul, wrestling and begging God to take it away! Instead, we were left with the visual of me, head in hands with the sickest migraine I can ever remember. And, them, packing my things and me into my car and driving me home, a two hour round trip! (Thank you ladies for your Christlike compassion and care for me!) 

Today, I marvel at the incredible work that was taking place in the spiritual realm. He was releasing the oppressed, setting captives free, exchanging ashes for beauty right there in our midst.

What can God accomplish among eight women in twenty-four hours? Following are the responses to that question from women who attended:     
"inspired me to look at the positive in life instead of dwelling on the past"..."gave me peace"..."gave me an appreciation for silence"..."showed me I don't have to 'do it all'"..."made me take a good look at myself"..."helped me to connect with others"... "gave me rest"..."helped me to relax"..."allowed silent reflection through study"..."allowed me to look at the darkness of my childhood"..."helped me to trust God to guide my life"... "reminded me that there IS a time for everything"..."gave me hope"
"Hope for Tomorrow, Grace for Today" was the theme for our weekend. I put together five stations for directed study and reflection through scripture and prayer. The meat of these stations began at Station One, "Your Life Line":  creating a timeline divided into the decades of life. The following stations, then, helped to process the ups and downs of life; to see evidences of God's grace in the past, to renew our hope for the future. The women pointed to these stations as a highlight of their time with the Lord. One commented,
"It gave me time to really look deep into my soul. To learn to look to God for guidance. To put my trust in Him instead of myself and others."
Another said,
"It renewed my faith in knowing that God is always there. He knows my plan. I just need to be quiet and God will speak to me! I need to listen!"
When asked what they would say to YOU in recommending the Quiet Retreat, these were their responses:
"I was looking for a deeper relationship with Christ and this retreat definitely gave me what I was looking for! It is very inspirational. Every woman needs to do this!"
"It is a powerful and meaningful experience--just you and God!"
"Come as you are. Plan to relax and spend time with the Lord."
"I so want to be where women are longing to grow. That's what this weekend was about!"
Several of these ladies did not realize that a "Quiet Retreat" meant "no talking"! This really humored me...and it surprised them, to discover this after they arrived!  But, in the end, the real surprise was that they loved the silence and were craving more. My prayer is that this retreat has created an appetite for silence and seeking in their daily walk with Jesus.

As for me, the weekend changed my appetite in the physical realm. I see God's grace in the midst of my weakness. I see my sickness as an answer to countless prayers for regaining balance in my life. It is so rare for me to vomit, and, not to gross you out, but this was some violent purging that took place in my body. In retrospect, it truly was a purging on quite another level. It has given me a fresh start; to physically begin a new path in this new year. I have purged old habits of unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. God is renewing my strength. His grace truly is enough for me!

Following are photos from our weekend...

Station Two:  The Hope Within, A look at the Inner Self

Station Three: The Face of Grace.  A look at the Outer Self.

Another view of Station Three
Station Four: Hope for Tomorrow. Seeking God's plans/dreams for the future. 

Station Five: Grace for Today. A time of personal communion with the Lord.

The Chapel at Sts. Peter & Paul Retreat Center