My spirit settles as I back out of the driveway. I have tied up loose ends, filled the pantry with food for the husband and kids, and settled in the car after a very noisy afternoon. I have way more books and warm socks than I will ever use in one weekend. But my son is a boy scout and I have learned to be prepared! I am driving to Ignatius House where I will dwell in silence from Friday evening til noon on Sunday. I anticipate the possibility that God might want to tell me something while he has my undivided attention. I am in for a gift as that possibility is about to become a much needed reality.
Every September I set aside a weekend to take a silent retreat. These times away are the highlight of my spiritual journey. I am amazed at all God wants to pour over me if I will listen. I am sharing this experience in hopes that you will be compelled to find a silent place to listen. If you do this once, I bet you will be hooked.
As I am approaching the serene 28 acres of woods and trails along the Chattahoochee, my friend K.N. calls with a prophetic word. I am going to tell you what that was because it blows me away to see how God can work through a good friend and a listening heart. K.N. said she had been thinking of Danny and me all day and would be texting some scriptures to me. Then she said, "I am supposed to tell you that there is a pattern in your life that you need to stop. You need to figure out where are you getting off track. I believe God wants to free you from something."
Have you ever met someone who just seems to have a hotline from God? These are the friends you want to listen to; the ones you hope have a word for you now and again. My first thought was, "I know it was an act of obedience for her to even say these things to me. So I am going to find out why God told her that." So the first evening of my retreat was ushered in with a quiet whisper as I stepped out of my car: "God! From what do you want to free me?" But there had been a quickening in my spirit the moment K.N. had spoken those words. And I had a glimmer of what was coming.
Before she even texted me the verses she was praying for us, I read the previous day's Streams in the Desert selection from Charles Spurgeon. That glimmer got a little brighter as I read...
"Dear believer, can you find any reason why you are so often mourning instead of rejoicing? Why do you allow your mind to dwell on gloomy thoughts? Who told you that night will never turn in day?...Have hope...Hope forever, for God will not fail you." As I read this, God said to me, "It's time to stop being ruled by your emotions. You say you trust me, and I have told you I am working this desert experience for your good. So stop letting financial circumstances dictate how you will feel day by day." Wow! There was my pattern. The next day I would receive K.N.'s text with Isaiah 30:15 for me. "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. But you would have none of it." What a confirmation that God was trying to show me that legitimate trust frees me from being ruled by my feelings.
The current day's Streams in the Desert was based on 2 Corinthians 5:7. It further confirmed what God was trying to tell me: God never wants us to live by our feelings he wants us to face the facts of who he is. What really stood out in this passage was a line that read: "...He wants us to trust him apart from our feelings resting solely on His Word and His faithfulness to his promise." God could not have been more clear. This is a time of testing. Our circumstances have been orchestrated by Him for us. God is trying to teach me something that I cannot fully grasp if I am going to continue to be tossed up and down emotionally. That burns alot of energy and gives me headaches. It also distracts me from those two things up there in bold letters. I find it very interesting that he has worked up to this. God did not demand we enter this desert place with a stiff upper lip. He has met our needs, been silent at times, and allowed us to feel what we had to feel. But it is as if He is saying, "OK we've got some work to do and it's time to climb the next rung."
The next morning, I saw the scriptures that K.N. had texted. They built on everything God and I had discussed Friday night. Over the course of the weekend God wove those scriptures together with others He had previously led me to. Themes began to surface and God gently reminded me that he is working something far greater in our lives than we currently see. For instance, God had been impressing upon Danny the importance of praise in the dry places. Both of the passages she was praying for Danny (Isaiah 41:18-20 and 43:18-21) were about praise and God sustaining his people in/and transforming the desert places.
There was the theme of hope that God had reminded me of in Zechariah 9:12. Which led to Zephaniah 3:17-20 and the theme of an appointed time that God has been weaving into us for 9 months. One theme I am especially fond of is the announcing. I felt God's kindness in these verses, as if he were saying, "I know you are weary so I am going to announce to you, I'm going to tell you now that I am at work, this is not random." My friend gave us Isaiah 42:5-9, which has sustained us for years. When I opened to this page I saw the notes written around these verses from 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004 and now 2008. God speaks to me again here with "...This is what the Lord says...I will...I will...I will...." Ending with before it happens, I announce it to you.
I will share just one more theme. As Danny and I have sought God's direction together, we are certain that He will be glorified. It has never been about us, even on the days with lots of drama. In Isaiah 41:20, the word says "so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this..." And in Zephaniah 3:17 we are reminded that the sorrows of the appointed time he will remove, he will rescue, he will gather, he will give, etc. The restoration will be an obvious work of the Lord.
Ten years ago when we were struggling with infertility God led us to the above mentioned passage in Isaiah 42. What I wrote in the margin next to "I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols." was that no doctor could take the credit for the baby God would give us. Little did I know He had a baby in China for us. But here we are a decade later with four kids! And I would say that is an obvious work of the Lord!
We trusted Him then. We can trust him now!