Sunday, October 30, 2011

Finding Refreshment

We felt like we had missed the summer -- after spending half of it in hospitals and doctors' offices -- but it's amazing how the Lord has been refreshing us ever since Ted went off oxygen at the end of August.

It began with sailing on the bay with some good friends. Then, we had bonfires, we camped -- in a tent -- on a gorgeous weekend; we went canoeing -- not just once, but a few times! We took a road trip, driving 1500 miles (round trip) to the AACC conference, which totally rejuvenated us. On top of all that, our October was made up of the most beautiful, mild and colorful autumn days, allowing us to do some light hiking in the U.P., a little gardening, woodcutting, raking and other projects together.

On Friday, we once again held a Bible study with some treasured friends in our home. For each one of these things, I rejoice that the Lord has "given us our lives back." These are all things we hadn't been able to do earlier -- and for a time, I thought we'd never be able to do them together again! Ted is truly a walking miracle and I can never look at him the same. I can never thank God enough for what He has done in our lives.

When I spoke at a women's conference in February, little did I know that their theme verse for the weekend would become a lifeline for me through the seasons to follow:
The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. ( Isaiah 58:11 NIV)
What a great reminder it has been that the Lord is the Source of our true refreshing! Abiding and staying connected to Him is the only way we can be refreshed to the core of our beings. When the going got tough, I had to send down deeper roots. But He is always there, ready to refresh. All I have to do is reach for Him.

Gracious God, thank you for the deep refreshing that only you can give. You know all our needs. You continue to give as we continue to stretch our hands out to the Source. Dear Lord, please help everyone who reads this find true and full refreshing in you. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pausing to Listen

Don't we all long to hear God and know that we are following where He leads?

I attended a wonderful workshop at the AACC conference recently on Learning to Hear God: You Can't Give Well What You Don't Do Well. Presenter Sharon Tilley, PhD, shared her hunger for God and how, with much study, prayer and practice, she has learned to better hear His voice. She says (and I wholeheartedly agree):
"I have found Him to be always speaking, and that I can hear what He is saying to me more and more as I am willing and able to tune in to what HE would like to say, following HIS lead rather than asking Him to follow mine." 
How wonderful it is that we have a God who seeks relationship with us and expresses His love each day in so many ways, if only we would see it. Taking time to still ourselves and look to Him is more important than anything else we could do with our day, but why is it we so often rush and cram all we can into a single day?

This point was illustrated to me so effectively, and in a humorous way. Several times as I was waiting in the long lines for the restroom at the conference, I would see women at the sink trying to get soap out of the automatic dispenser. I'd watch as one would swish her hand quickly under the dispenser and remove it before the dispenser had a chance to dispense. She'd move to the next sink and swish quickly -- and even the next sink -- and still no soap! Then she'd express her frustration at why these things never work for her. I was amused as I watched this happen again and again, each and every time I visited the restroom. 

When I had my turn at the sink, I'd hold my hand under the dispenser and deliberately pause -- longer than I may have wanted to. Sploosh! The soap would land in my hand. I smiled each time and thought how impatient of a culture we have become. We are conditioned to want immediate, instant and automatic!

Unfortunately, I think we often approach God the same way. If He doesn't answer instantly when we pray, we think He isn't answering. We may even rush on ahead of Him, picking the answer we think is best.

With this goofy illustration in mind, I have challenged myself to remember to carefully PAUSE at regular intervals and listen for God's voice throughout my day.

I would like to challenge you, too! Each time you wash your hands, may you remember that God speaks freely when we pause long enough to listen.

Lord, I love the way you lead me. Forgive my impatience and my sometimes hurried ways. Quiet me and still me so that I may receive your wisdom and direction throughout my day and for all my days. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bursting with Joy

We were filled-to-overflowing on our way back from the AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors) conference in Nashville the last week of September. Ted and I have been attending the world conference, held every two years, and it is always so amazing.

There's so much passion and power, wisdom and godliness. Many of the speakers were well-known authors – Ortberg, Strobel, Crabb, McDowell, and many more. (I have added many book titles to my to-read list!)

Before and after the speakers, we'd sing together the most beautiful worship music, led by Christian artists. Imagine nearly 7,000 voices raised together...("We bless you Lord, God of the ages; highest of all, we magnify you, your name will be exalted, exalted...").

After the sessions, we'd leave the large conference rooms and spill out into the atrium streaming with natural light. The Opryland Hotel is the perfect location, with its rich and tropical atrium – palm trees towering, fountains flowing, fragrant orchids blooming, and walkways meandering through a lush and green paradise.

It is an experience that involves all the senses. It feels as if we were allowed to visit heaven for a few days and now need to come back to earth to finish some work.

I realized I've had the opportunity of abiding – for days. It was like sitting at the feet of Jesus for teaching, soaking up His love, feeling the joys of the beautiful things He loves and yet feeling the pain of the injustices that hurt the heart of God. It was a beautiful time of recharging and refocusing on what's important.

Now we are bursting at the seams with more love and joy than we can contain – nor were we meant to keep it all for ourselves.

Lord, "You make known to me the path of life, you fill me with joy in Your presence..." (Psalm 16:11 NIV). And now, dear God, help us spread your love to all, to help a hurting world.