Divine Appointments

Reflections from Renewal

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Children, Divine Appointments, God Speaks, Humility, Words | 16 comments

with Wess Stafford 4

 

Last weekend will go down in my personal history book with a dog-eared marker and more memories than 72hrs should be allowed to carry.

I attended and participated in a conference with hundreds of early educators who love and serve children.

Worship leader Peter Neumann watered our parched souls. Inspirational speakers reignited our passion to press forward in doing what we know we’re called to do – serve our littlest with grace and humility. And nothing drove that truth home for me better than our keynote speaker Dr Wess Stafford, from Compassion International.

Wess Stafford understands service. He also understands humility and the upside-down economy of the Kingdom of God.

Children matter to Wess Stafford and people who invest in the lives to children do too.

I was mesmerized by his keynote address Sat morning – but it was observing his life behind the scenes that drove stakes of influence deep into my soul. I watched Dr Stafford attentively listen to each person who approached him. One by one they came up to him to share their personal stories.

His eyes sparkled and narrowed as he listened and tenderly conveyed to them, “I’m honored to be in your presence”.

When a camera surfaced for a photo, he would grab his new friend close like a proud dad – tilt his head into them, and with a gentle smile of familiarity thank them by name for the privilege of the meeting.

He listened. He invested. He expressed value through understanding and authenticity. He became Christ in the moment.

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I had the privilege of speaking at the Fri evening service. I was told Dr Stafford might arrive early enough to attend. Of course I knew he wouldn’t – he’s WAY too important to be bothered. And his commitment began the next day.

The service was held in a dimly lit room which was beautifully decorated with dozens of candles. The sea of faces blurred into the overpowering soft glow of candlelight.

Minutes after we started it became apparent there would be no eye contact with the audience which actually aligned nicely with the direction I felt God wanted the service to go. It was also a good solution for my concern about the possibility of speaking in front of a big name celebrity.

God met each of us in the candlelit room – he listened. He valued and affirmed us.

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The next day Wess Stafford came up to thank me for the previous evening service. I couldn’t believe it. He came and we both survived.

As I looked into his eyes, I understood. Yes, he’s a brilliant leader, advocate, author, and is known around the world – but he truly gets who he is. He’s just another one of God’s equally valued children – we all are. When he says children matter, he means it. I mattered. I will never forget the minutes he gave me and how it affected me.

I plan to reread my copies of Too Small to Ignore and Just a Minute.

After all, someone from my playground wrote them – and he’s my new hero and friend!!

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What I learned:

  • It only takes a minute to make a lasting deposit in someone’s heart
  • God’s presence dispels our false ideas of what makes us grand
  • Affirmation without humility only affirms the person giving it
  • And – God loves us, truly loves us – because we are his

 

Linking up with #TellHisStory today.

 

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Summoned to Retreat

Posted by on Jan 18, 2014 in Divine Appointments, Wonder | 17 comments

Amy with address

 

For some people, the thought of attending a church retreat is out of the question. Many women think they’re downright scary. Past experiences might dredge up memories of too many tears spilled and excessive vulnerability. Men’s retreats would probably have different variables but often end with the same result – “Glad I went, but probably won’t go again next year”.

I remember the first women’s retreat I attended. I think I knew ten women out of the three hundred there. The program was well planned and perfectly thematic. Even though the theme was meant to teach me life isn’t perfect, everything I saw suggested otherwise – from the welcome note on my bed to the extravagant centerpieces. The women leading the event were also pretty perfect – at least they seemed so to me. Even their stories, which were tactically peppered with confessions of personal imperfections, left me feeling “less than” and envious. It seemed the only participants who really benefited from the event were the party planners themselves.

In fairness, I’ve also attended some very deep and meaningful retreats which were well planned and thematic. But, whether they are polished, planned or spontaneous – I believe spiritual retreats are necessary for the health of the human soul.

Retreat is a separation from and a leaning into. It’s a summons of sorts, a drawing to a place where we can meet with God.

Feelings of restlessness, dissatisfaction, agitation – even overeating or cynicism can be indicators for me that it’s time to remove myself from my path of ordinary and visit his extraordinary – time for retreat.

I realize not everyone has the luxury of planning lengthy getaways or even taking a weekend off for that matter – but everyone can benefit from seeking out a personal place for spiritual refreshment.

Retreat can be Brief

Don’t you love reading stories of persecuted followers who found connection with God in the most precarious places? I do. Their retreat took place on the floor of a prison cell or concentration camp. Certainly we can find time within our busy day to retreat. Sometimes just a few moments away from the noise of life, the workplace, even family, can usher us right into his open arms. He promises us that in Duet 4:29, Pro 8:17, James 4:8 to name a few.

Retreat Can Take Place Alone

Some of my most meaningful retreats have occurred alone while in transit on my way to attend an event – either on a plane or in my ‘holy car’. They were planned. Days prior I prayed for my retreat – I knew I was leaving my usual routine and would be carving out uninterrupted space for my Savior to join me. Anticipation was heightened like a child on Christmas Eve. Scripture supports this principle in Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Psalms 46:10 and many other places.

Retreat Can be Shared

Soul care comes in many packages. The benefit of doing a corporate retreat has its own unique advantages. Obviously sharing the experience brings personality, diverse perspectives – and hopefully fun to a retreat. Play is as essential to the health of our soul as challenging our set theologies. Corporate retreats stretch me to get outside myself – to lighten up, which I have to admit isn’t all that easy for me. Eccl. 5:18, Pro. 17:22, I Tim 6:17

Retreat Can be Spontaneous

The control freak in me hates spontaneity – maybe that’s why God continually calls me to it. Retreats can erupt within an unplanned event. As I write this post a well loved speaker/missionary/pastor known to our community is sitting in prison in the Philippines on false charges. He is having an encounter with God while sharing space with other men who are also locked up. No doubt his retreat is spontaneous but he had to choose to participate. He also has chosen to make it a shared experience. The lasting fruit of nearness to God and new believers is in direct proportion to his answer to the call of spontaneity. I’m personally envious.

How do you respond to his summon to retreat? Please share your thoughts with the rest of us here.

 

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Unclaimed Treasures left at the Beach

Posted by on Jan 11, 2014 in Divine Appointments, Extraordinary Everyday People | 6 comments

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A few nights ago my husband and I headed to the beach with a blanket and beach chairs hoping for a front row seat to watch the sunset. The unseasonably warm January weather drew many ocean lovers out that night. It was a special night, the kind you don’t want to end.

We intentionally parked ourselves close to the water so our view would be unobstructed. Seagull and sandpiper joined us for the show as stunning ribbons of pinks, purples and golden light began to dance on the horizon before us.

Just as the sun was turning into a vibrant ball of fire, my husband was drafted to join the beach photo shoot. I don’t know if it was where we were sitting, our age, or what – but it was picture time and he was asked to accommodate. One couple wanted a romantic shot with the sun as their backdrop. A set of teenage girls wanted the sun to rest between the heart sign they made with their hand, while another guy next to him was trying to get the sun to appear to be balancing on his knee. I couldn’t believe it.

As my attention shifted from the sunset to the photo-op/comedy show next to me, another man came along. He walked up to the shoreline in jeans and collared shirt with rolled up sleeves. He was alone. He looked pensive, and in deep thought. His eyes were fixed on the horizon. He seemed to be standing at attention with his head slightly tipped upward giving him an unapproachable look.

I was close enough to see his facial expressions. The very slight twitches in his brow, around his eyes and lips were the only physical movement he made in the fifteen minutes he stood watching the sunset. He never repositioned his feet or took his hands from his pockets. I wanted to know what he was thinking so badly. Was he praying? Did he come to watch the sunset every night? Was he deeply troubled or was he filled with deep peace? Who was he?

It was clear he was not to be interrupted. I couldn’t just intrude on him like the other photo hungry folks did with us. Or could I?

I believe I missed a moment custom made for me, a potential treasure hunt sent from God. That young man had a story – I’m pretty sure of that. Whether I had something to give him or him to me, is irrelevant. I knew as we walked away, the opportunity would fade into a memory like the sun into the ocean.

We are incomplete without each other, people need one another. God set it up that way. Fulfillment comes when we risk an encounter and allow our lives to intersect. At any given time we are surrounded by the embodiment of thousands of divergent stories milling around us. I don’t want to feel uninvited, intimidated or powerless to engage with the silent status quo I call my neighbors or my community.

I’m glad I have the young man’s picture to serve as a reminder and a challenge. People are worth the risk of discovery. Everyone has a story, they just need to be asked to share it.

How about you? When’s the last time you risked going on a sacred treasure hunt set up for you by God?

“See to it no one misses the Grace of God” Hebrew 12:15

 

 

 

 

 

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