Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Retreat! Retreat!" (Part Three)

I stepped out of the women's retreat.  The sun had appeared and the day had warmed to seventy degrees or so.  To me, the owner of a black SUV, that means my salad with Feta and raspberry vinaigrette had warmed to a balmy sixty degrees.  Mmmm.  Glancing around as I crossed the parking lot, I hadn't noticed any other "brown baggers," so I ate in my truck.  Besides, I cranked up my new CD's and had a praise and worship party of my own.  Somewhere around Track 3, a forkful of salad wound up partially in my lap and partially between the driver's seat and center console.  I grumbled; I did.  The lunch thing was back, but I needed God to take it away.  As I picked sunflower seeds off the carpet, wiped the slimy dressing from the seat, and tossed a radish out the window, I prayed, again.  "I don't understand why this keeps coming back, Lord.  It's like bad tuna.  It is ruining my weekend!  Please help me."

Despite a scallion that will continue to petrify under my seat with the passage of time, everything was pretty well cleaned up.  I grabbed my apple and decided to take a walk.  The air was perfect for flopping my jacket over my arm and letting the sun warm the shoulders of the light sweater I'd worn.  Beautiful.  Sounds of occasional traffic and laughter floated by.  I was alone with my true friend Jesus and we were walking side-by-side; He was letting me figure things out, but reassuring me He was always there.

As I neared the building again I could hear some of the conversations that had moved out to the patio after lunch.  Silly conversations -- and I'm not meaning to judge, really I'm not.  But, suddenly I was glad I was alone, at least for lunch anyway.  The last speaker had been so powerful, the worship so intense, it would have somehow distracted me from the message if I'd spent lunch discussing Clorox wipes vs. Lysol bleach wipes.

I checked out some of the activities and a display on the second floor, but at that point, I really was just ready to leave.  I thought of finding a quiet place to sit outside and meditate on some of the things I'd thought, written, experienced; to meditate on the material and listen for God's words to me.  I had some great worship music.  I was hungry for God to speak to me, challenge me, direct me, maybe even refresh me.  Things are definitely going to begin heating up in writingworld -- I've already committed to putting my talents to better use.  Scott's business is about to go full swing, and as partner, bookkeeper, receptionist, PR person, and Girl Friday, I need God's strength and direction.  I needed quiet, or so I thought.  "God, speak to me; tell me where I need to be right now."

As I watched ladies begin to file in again I thought, "Realistically, where will I go, what will I do if I leave right now?  I will be so tempted to jump right back into whatever is going on at home, or 'stop at the store,' or something totally off-base like that."  I went back inside. 

At my seat, one of the ladies who had miscounted was waiting.  She explained about the miscalculation and the fact the lady had never shown up after all.  I think she'd been sort of embarrassed by her friend's handling of the situation.  (It hadn't really been a polite request at the time.)  She attends the church where the women's weekend was being held, and was truly shocked I did not.  We discussed our histories and what had brought her to the church; the conversation was superficial -- definitely no lasting friendship there -- but something became clear to me.  When I walk through my church and see an unfamiliar face I assume he or she is a guest.  I try to be a good hostess and anticipate their needs or any questions they might have.  This is one of the county's megachurches; when she walks through, she probably assumes nothing.  Having attended a couple of megachurches in my day, I know small groups that meet together through the week, generally sit together on Sunday morning.  It's commonplace to see a multitude of unfamiliar faces in each worship service, because the only folks you really bond with are sitting right there beside you.  They are your church.  The rest are merely folks who work in the same building, but different departments.

 I stayed for one more session, but left at the break.  As I left, my row mate and her friends chirped a genuine, friendly "goodbye."   Walking through the lobby, I made eye contact and spoke to a couple of people on my way out.  Nothing.  Guarded smiles, shifted eyes, "dead" faces.  "Lord, I know I get lost in my thoughts; I know I can glance at a person, and look right through them if I'm distracted.  I s that what this is?  Are they as pensive as I?  They almost appear frightened.  Are they unconvinced?  Totally unswayed by what they have heard.  Lord, help me to understand; remove all judgement from me."

I stopped at Mount Hope Church.  Sitting in my truck, facing the three crosses at the far end of the cemetery, I popped in another CD and opened my Bible to the book we'd been studying.  I finished reading the portion I'd not completed -- Habakkuk Chapter 3.  Habakkuk, after having a discussion with God about the way things had been going with His people, is let in on a revelation -- God's plan for His wicked children -- the Babylonian Captivity.  Habakkuk reconsiders and tries "reasoning" with God about His handling of things.  But God is not offended by Habakkuk's fear; He reassures him He is not asleep at the wheel.  In Chapter 3, Habakkuk worships the Lord, His sovereignty, His providence, His loving care for us as a people, and as individuals.  Habakkuk concludes with: 

   Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
  yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
   I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
 GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
   he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.

I am still learning what my women's weekend was all about.  What a great husband I have, that I could go not only with his blessing, but his active ear and his active support?  That, while things don't go as I would have planned or preferred, God is not asleep at the wheel?  That though I didn't leave the retreat with all I'd hoped, my "retreat coffers" were left wanting, I did not blossom as I'd expected, I can rejoice?  Maybe it was all about prayer, the simple act of leaning on Jesus, learning to rely solely on Him, seeing Him as a true and faithful friend.  Scott believes God wanted to see how serious I was about getting close to Him; what sort of distractions and speed bumps I was willing to endure just to know Him, and how committed I could stay to that quest.  And what about my "issues," my preconceived notions?  I still don't feel like I belong at that church, but it's not important that I ever do.  Jesus loves me, and it's all about Him.    
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