This past weekend I spent a glorious three days in the woods of Northern Wisconsin. I had the privilege and blessing of being the speaker for a women’s retreat. Sometimes I feel like I need a retreat after I speak for a retreat. Know what I mean? That was not the case this weekend. In fact, I felt like God tucked me on a chair on wheels and we cruised through the weekend with Him in control.
On Friday morning, before I whizzed through school with the kids while simultaneously mentally checking off all the things I still needed to gather, pack, and load before delivering children to two different locations, I spent time (again) talking to God about the weekend ahead. I asked Him to give me a fresh Word specifically for this group of His daughters. Going into retreats or events like this, I am keenly aware of the fact that He knows the hearts of each woman and knows their needs when I do not. I prayed that God would speak clearly and loudly (sometimes I don’t listen well) and that I would be obedient and confident if He asked me to leave the safety of my notes in lieu of His message.
That evening I gave a 10-minute teaser of the weekend ahead and Saturday morning I shared the first message on prayer. I was praising God when it became clear that the message spoke to many hearts. We had a glorious afternoon of free time. I had a ball hanging out with the girls, making 2 no-knit scarves (even a craft challenged chick like me could do it!), enjoying a 10-minute massage (thank you Berean women!), and busting a gut over Anita Renfroe. Then I went to my room for a 15 minute power nap and a chat with Mike on the phone. That’s when I started praying for the next message I was to deliver at 6:30. At 5:30 I was to be in the dining room. Would you believe that God clearly told me to scrap most of my message and end it as I never had done before? I didn’t even have time to question His authority (and sadly, I fear I might have) except that He didn’t lay that on my until 5:00. Seriously, all I had time to do was cross of pages of notes and write in 2 Scripture references that He’d laid on my heart; Hebrews 4 (especially 4:14-16) and 2 Chronicles 20:12. And then I trusted and obeyed.
Listen to Hebrews 4:14-16: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have on who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
At 6:30 the wonderful worship leaders began singing. Before I knew it they were singing “Before the Throne.” That’s when I dropped to my knees and the tears were falling. God was whispering to my heart, “See, sweetie? I’ve got it under control.”
These are the words that were sung: “Before the throne of God above I have a strong, a perfect plea, A great High Priest whose name is “Love,” who ever lives and pleads for me. My name is graven on His hands, My name is written on His heart; I know that while in heav’n He stands no tongue can bid me thence depart, No tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, Upward I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin. Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free; for God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me, to look on Him and pardon me…”
Early in my message I shared the fact that God had really changed my message and we’d all be surprised to see where He was going to take us. After the talk, several women chose to stay and pray, to leave some “stuff” at the foot of the cross, and to renew their relationships with Jesus, while others left for a time of silence and prayer elsewhere. One woman, near the end, came and sat beside me. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she said, “I have to share a praise with you. I wasn’t planning to come to the retreat until a couple of weeks ago. When my husband told me to go, I began praying generically for you. Then two days before the retreat, God impressed it upon my heart to pray that you would have the courage and willingness to set aside your outline and trust Him if He gave you something else to say.” Well, I’m telling you, I too had tears running down my cheeks then.
God is so good and I am honored, humbled, and thankful that He chooses to use me. I only regret the times when I have heard his voice in the past and said, “No, thank you.” If I’m being honest, it probably wasn’t that polite. It probably sounded more like, “Excuse me? You have GOT to be kidding! I don’t think so!” Sigh.
Friends, we can trust that God’s plan will be superior … every time. He is worthy of all our praise and we can rest on His unchanging grace.
(Here’s a little shout out to the precious women from Berean Baptist Church!)