Sunday, February 19, 2012

taste and see...

some experiences are hard to put into words…even for a word-lover like me.  i have something i’d love so desperately to share with you but i haven’t had the slightest inkling where to start.  in situations like these there’s only one thing to do…start writing.  
here goes…
over the past week I’ve been asking myself – ‘why?’.  when sentences and paragraphs so often fill my brain with ease - why can’t I even begin to wrap my mind around how to tell this story? i think i may know the answer...   

a lot of life happens in a predictable way…just as expected.  we anticipate how a day at work will likely play out.  we meet a friend for coffee and have a good idea of how the hour will be spent.  we grab a grocery cart and walk the aisles knowing where to find the food and what we’ll do with it once we’ve made our selections.  sure…our days hold surprises {lots of them if we take the time to notice}…but it’s rare that you experience an entire weekend that not only exceeds your expectations but completely erases them and leaves you with something better than you could have ever imagined.

the truth is…i knew it was a divine appointment from the moment the ‘planning’ began.  one month ago I sent an email to a handful of girls who expressed an interest {at one time or another} in a girls weekend retreat…something intimate…something to renew our hearts.  the response…oh my…

i intended for this to just be a preliminary email to get the ball rolling and i had expected to open the opportunity up to others once the conversation was started.  within days i had 12 commitments…a completely full trip.  let me emphasize the importance of this.  12 women…with children, jobs, busy husbands, lives that are moving at a fairly rapid pace suddenly had their schedules cleared, their childcare lined up, and their responsibilities covered so that they could leave town for 3 days {on less than a month’s notice!}.  i’m sorry but this is nothing short of a miracle…and that was just the beginning…

during the weeks leading up to our retreat on the river i consistently felt moved to pray and to encourage the girls to be led by the Spirit as our departure day grew closer.  note that I did NOT feel moved to micro-manage, schedule pre-retreat meetings for the speakers, put together a detailed agenda, assemble reading materials…i did NONE of that…and it was hard.  it was so much harder for me to NOT prepare for that weekend because i have such a tendency to plan and control all of the details of events.  in my pride i want to work hard to make sure everything goes perfectly.  something pressed into my busy, over-planning spirit and told me that i didn’t need to take charge of this one…someone else was making the plans…and so they unfolded…
a picture perfect setting so generously offered...
a scripture breathed into the heart of a friend became our focus…
specific people nudged to lead our sessions…the flow of their messages appearing seamless without any group meetings or discussions ahead of time...
specific songs of praise brought along by two sweet singing, guitar-playing friends led our hearts to worship perfectly...
and i haven't even mentioned the best part...the connections...
i know the weekend was truly about the connections.
the connections that link us to one another and to the God we love and serve.  
but oh the serving...the constant pouring out that each of us was created for...that each of us lives for...it sometimes leaves our own souls dry and empty.  but the river washed over us {not literally...i mean, come on...it was 13 degrees and snowing}...but it did wash over us.  it seeped down into every crevice of our being.  the chill of it brought dead places back to life.  the clarity of it washed the dirty spots clean.  
and as that river flowed so did our tears {would you expect anything less from a group full of girls?}.  and they didn't taste salty but sweet...the sweet liquid that pours from a heart that is heard, a heart that is surrounded by kindred spirits, a heart that is reconnected to the source of it's constant beating.

and so for 3 days we followed David's simple instructions.  the ones he likely gave in response to God's deliverance during one of the most trying times in his life...
we tasted...
and we saw...
that our Lord is good.

we shared story after story of how we have each found refuge in him...
through the loss of children
and adoptions
and marriages
and divorce
and betrayal
and shattered dreams
and resurrected dreams
we accepted the bitter and the sweet of the life we've been given because we all believe it is held delicately in the hands of a God who is good.

it's been exactly a week since i left the river...but its waters haven't left me.  
despite all the 'thank yous' i received from my friends...the magic of that weekend didn't happen because of me.  it happened because 12 girls said 'yes' to a divine invitation...

what is God inviting you to right now?
i will praise the Lord at all times.
i will constantly speak his praises.
i will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are helpless take heart.
come, let us tell of the Lord's greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

i prayed to the Lord and he answered me.
he freed me from all my fears.
those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
in my desperation i prayed and the Lord listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
for the angel of the Lord is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

taste and see that the Lord is good.
oh the joys of those who take refuge in him!
psalm 34:1-8