As you all know, this past weekend I was on our church’s women’s retreat. We arrived Friday evening, had an intensive Saturday studying Haggai, and left Sunday morning in time to get back to church in the city.
The location was a beach resort about 90 minutes outside of Chicago, almost right on the Illinois/Wisconsin line, and next to chilly and beautiful lake Michigan. I loved looking out the window and seeing no buildings in sight. Just the lake, some trees, the sky.
During the free time Saturday afternoon, I sat in a sunny spot in the lobby area of the hotel, armed with a Bible, a journal, and a guitar. I started writing a new song, I meditated. I talked and cried with my friend Carrie, and ended up with racoon-like mascara circles shadowing my eyes. I love a friend that I can cry with.
We took a walk on the beach and she tried to teach me how to skip stones.
Carrie’s tehnique was smooth, effective, and photogenic.
I, on the other hand . . .
. . . failed.
I think I’ll leave all sport-like endeavors to her after this.
What to say about this weekend? I feel like God was speaking to me quietly. Not with flashes of insight, zapping across my mental sky, illuminating everything with a jolt–but instead, with small rays, glowing briefly, that shone into the corners of my life, pointing to this, or that. And these little lessons came from the stories of other women.
Through Shandra’s testimony Saturday morning, I was reminded to pray, pray, pray. About everything, with anyone and everyone, and at any time. Through Traci’s insight into motherhood, I heard the same voice saying: pray without ceasing. I want days spent in constant, sweet dialogue with God. I put this into practice Friday, when Carrie, Shandra, Sarah and I were setting up the sound system and getting ready to lead the worship music that evening; the sound system started malfunctioning. As soon as all of us were singing, Carrie’s mic and guitar and my mic would cut out. We checked connections, changed the guitar cable–but to no avail. We had no idea how to resolve this, so we prayed. “Lord, you know we’re here to worship you. We’re not sure how to fix this problem, but we ask you to take care of it so that there are no distractions during this weekend that might draw our attention away from praising you.” We had no further technical difficulties.
From Colleen, who was our speaker for the weekend, I was reminded that our purpose on earth is to build a temple for God. Not a physical structure, but one made of living stones. Out of people–we are the living stones. We are God’s temple, and that is our life’s work. I had to ask myself–am I giving over all aspects of my life to this purpose? Am I actively giving over my job, my marriage, my blogging, my creativity, as tools for God to use?
From Haggai, though this man lived over 2,000 years ago, I was reminded that when I live life for myself, I’m investing in a purse with holes. Haggai 7:5-6 says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” If my goal in life is my own happiness, my own prosperity, my own comfort, my own house, and I conserve what I have to build my own little corner of the world, not only will the return be smaller than what I may hope for, but it will be wasted. From an eternal perpsective, I gain nothing: I’m throwing my resources into something fleeting. A purse with holes. It’s when I invest in God and his calling to love and serve people that my return is multiplied. When I invest my ‘riches’ in this world into God and people, when I give generously of my money and time and energy and self–then the return is richer than I could have imagined.
From Hannah, I was reminded that we either live by fear or by faith. That when we have the faith to surrender to God and live according to his plan, he blesses us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. That moment of releasing our plans and praying the prayer that never fails–“Thy will be done”–it’s scary. But so worth it.
From Jessica, I was reminded how important it is to be vulnerable, to be real with other women–and especially with my sisters in Christ, who are my family. The vulnerability and openness of one woman can be enough to create a safe place for others to share–but someone has to take that first step.
There were plenty of lighthearted moments–we laughed, talked, watched “Flight of the Concords,” drank glasses of wine in our PJ’s, ate chocolate and pretzels from a huge assortment of snack food, and had a shortlived campfire–but my favorite times were the moments of learning, of listening, of feeling the wisdom of other women sink into the ground of my heart and take root.