Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Going Backward to Stretch Forward

"So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands." ~ Psalm 78:7, NLT

I just had the great blessing of spending four days at a fabulous women's retreat in the North woods of Wisconsin.  The theme, which was walking in the Spirit, didn't especially trigger any anticipation in me prior to the event, but it certainly transformed me once I was there.  I had attended this retreat for the first time last year, and merely sought to once again experience the refreshment I had recalled receiving there.

Prior to my departure, there had been many demands on my life.  I had just finished working on writing two grants.  We were in full swing of preparing the kick-off event at our collaborative pediatric facility development.  I was in the throws of leading a committee as they develop a curriculum for parent mentors.  I was one week late in submitting my video presentation for a virtual conference.  Children were needing assistance with various special needs issues including a bleed incurred in a foolish phy ed accident, and a truth telling issue at school.  Things had really come to a head when I had to call an ambulance for my elderly mother when I found her unable to get out of bed when I arrived at her home.

It has been a rough but productive year.  And the battle scars of walking through life trying just to do the next right thing have left me feeling hard pressed on every side.  Restoration was not just a desire, but a requirement at this point.

As He so faithfully does, God met me right in my messiness at that retreat.  Escorted right into the presence of our Creator by worship leader, David Kaap, I came to the end of myself.  My focus changed, and I gained a deep desire to leave that place completely transformed in comparison to the way I had arrived.  More of You, Lord, and less of me, was the prayer of my heart.   I gained many new insights to walking in the Spirit through my sweet friend and speaker, Margo Fieseler.  But much of what I heard, read and learned were things that I had encountered before, yet God was bringing them afresh to my weary soul.

This retreat so emphatically convicted me to share with you that often we need to reflect backward on the eternal truths our Maker lovingly grants us in order to strain forward toward the prize He is holding out for us.  For instance, we may require some time to be alone with God and recall that He tells us that there is nothing that is too difficult for Him. (See Jeremiah 32:27)  Remembering those words, we can also remember times where the Lord got us out of an extremely sticky situation or a seemingly impossible circumstance.  This equips us to go forward in trust and confidence of His capable care.

Perhaps we face that ocean of medical bills that never seem to relent in a family living with special needs.  But as we quietly sit with our Bibles open, He bathes us in promises of His provision, faithfulness and care.  We read the stories of how God delivered people in the past and see that He still delivers today.  In those times, he brings to mind all those times he provided an unexpected rebate in the mail, an anonymous aid or a tax refund just in time.  And He refills us, equipping us to go forward in strength and assurance like we've never known before.

Our challenge is to keep walking in that knowledge of who He is.  Walking in humility, purity, contentment, faith, trust, truth, love, patience and wisdom, like sweet Margo taught, keeps us plugged in, close to His side so we can intimately hear Him whispering His blessed assurance to us as we stretch forward.  We're enabled to live a life filled with good works, light and the remarkable "something different" that draws others to the Savior we adore.  But we have to be deliberate in carving out that time to spiritually refill and recollect.

If we allow the insanity, pain and demands of this life to continually drown out what God stoops down to lovingly bless us with, how will we ever enjoy peace in the storms?  It is humanly impossible to experience joy amidst life's most severe trials.  But by the power of His Spirit, we can be filled to overflowing in spite of our circumstances.  May we make that time to reflect backward so we can go forward in the power of all He wants to lavish upon us!

Pray:  God, most days I'm just carried about by the whirlwinds of life's latest demands or crises.  My vision of you becomes blurred, and I'm left feeling desperate.  Oh, Holy Spirit, bring to my mind today all those truths you have taught me before, so I might be strengthened for today!  Apart from You, I can do nothing.

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