Emptiness Allows Room for God

My mentor, Loretta, texted. “God has this. It’s not all on you.”

I tossed a package of decongestant pills and cough drops into my suitcase. “I hope so because I’m empty.”

I’d been ill for two weeks. My friends prayed I’d be well enough to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. My health improved in the nick of time. Whether I could endure the nonstop, four-day conference remained a mystery.

The first afternoon, I sat outside on a bench with a plate of meatballs and diced cheese. Writers, editors, and agents mingled beneath the budding trees. I scanned the smiling faces. There were people I knew. Others I wanted to meet. However, the thought of small talk exhausted me. I leaned back and stared at a tree adorned with pink blossoms.

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“Lord, I can’t do this.”

And a small voice whispered. “I got this. Go rest.”

If I’d been less empty, I might have argued. “God, I payed a lot of money to come here. I need to get the most from this conference. I have to talk to….”

An empty person doesn’t get far on their own strength. I went to my room and napped.

emptywwordsAt dinner, I went through the buffet line and searched for a place to sit. I had no agenda. My energy remained low. That’s when I saw an editor I wanted to meet. He sat at a table in the corner of the room. I asked to join him. We talked for an hour and he prayed for me.

I went to sleep that night, assured God had my back. It wasn’t all on me.

That’s how the weekend unfolded. I never plotted or panicked. I’d walk into the crowded dining room and notice an empty chair and clean placemat at one of the tables as if the Lord had reserved that one spot for me.

During coffee break, I’d turn around and find someone I wanted to meet or thank.

It’s difficult for a control freak to stay empty. However, emptiness kept me from being full of myself. Oh, that I’d be empty more often!

Emptiness allowed room for God to fill me and lead the way. I experienced…

“God’s grace that is sufficient when we’re weak.”
“The joy of the Lord is my strength” when someone prayed for my renewed energy.

Then God surprised me beyond my imagination. I met Francine Rivers.

She’s written many books including one of my favorite, Redeeming Love. Her book made a huge impact on me. And I’ve given Redeeming Love to many women especially when I served as a jail chaplain for female prisoners.

Meeting Francine Rivers blessed me. She’s a genuine lady. But the opportunity to talk with her felt like another God moment. My empty jar overflowed with love for Him. I wanted to stand on my chair and sing the Hallelujah Chorus.

Lord knows that would have emptied the room!

 

http://francinerivers.com/books/redeeming-love/

http://writers.mounthermon.org

Jar photograph: http://jennywredephotography.com

 

Is There Any Excuse?

Being ill with the crud is like having an uninvited houseguest who refuses to leave—quite the pain. For over a week, I’ve lived as a couch potato. My allies are a box of tissues, hot tea, Vics cough drops, and my Downton Abbey DVDs.

I try reading my Bible, but my foggy brain doesn’t comprehend much. And my nasal, hoarse prayers seem to fall flat. Thank God for His grace that covers everything—even my congested head. I wasn’t always so merciful towards myself.

Years ago, whenever I’d get derailed from seeking the Lord due to life’s circumstances, or spiritual sloth, I’d wallow in guilt or justify myself with pithy excuses.

What I failed to see was that my frothy view of God kept me from pursuing Him for the sheer joy of being with Him. Still, I kept waiting for that perfect season when life would be perfect or slow down so I could spend quality time with my Lord. 

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Then I met Loretta who told me, “To the degree we want God, we’ll seek Him.”

Her words banished my excuses.  I asked myself, “To what degree am I seeking God with all my heart, soul, and mind? Either my relationship with Him is a priority…or not.”

Granted there are times of illness and grief when we can barely lift our heads. God meets us there and His grace is sufficient. But making time for the Lord is a necessary discipline if we’re to fully experience God’s presence and hear His voice.

If we’re not intentional about our relationship with the Lord, it isn’t going to magically happen.

We make time for the things we truly want to do.

I learned that truth when I homeschooled my children. I knew the value of consistent exercise to stay healthy, but I complained I didn’t have time. If only I was a woman of leisure…

And then my husband’s job took us to London for two months and our family lived in a hotel with maid service. Other than caring for my children and having fun, there were no other demands. The hotel had a free gym and I was free to exercise. Excuse me, but I never saw the inside of that gym.

We make time for things we want to do which includes seeking God.

Is the Lord someone we love and long to know? Or a nodding acquaintance we meet on Sunday mornings? Perhaps we only call on Him when we’re in trouble like a 9-1-1 emergency call.

Remember, to the degree we want God we’ll seek Him even in this….

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Photo: www.JennyWredePhotography.com

What are Friends For?

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My friend sniffs, pausing in the middle of her story to get a tissue from her purse.

I wait beside her in the coffee shop.

Mute. Helpless.

Watching huge tears travel down her cheeks like raindrops rolling down a window pane.

She wipes her trail of tears, and I wonder…

Isn’t there a Bible verse about collecting tears in a bottle?

I swallow the knot in my throat. Blink back my own tears.

What can I say to encourage her?

  • Offer to pray with her?
  • Quote a Bible verse?
  • Assure her everything will be alright.

When honestly, I don’t know how things will turn out.

I touch her arm, but hold my tongue. Fearful of being like Job’s friends. Full of platitudes.

Can she feel my empathy? My longing to make things better?

Perhaps it’s enough I’m here to listen.

My friend eventually changes the subject. Mood lightens. Similar to shifting gears on a bicycle after you’ve pedaled on rough terrain and the landscape flattens out.

We hug; agree to pray for one another. Then go our separate ways.

Nothing changed. Nothing solved.

But just the act of sharing—the good, bad, and ugly—lifts our burdens. If only for the moment.

Spirits strengthened. Eyes fixed again on Jesus. We advance into the night….

Trusting a Sovereign God.

Thankful we’re not alone, even if our friends haven’t walked in our shoes or can fully comprehend the pain.

Consider the Virgin Mary who conceived a son and then went in a hurry to visit Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary, she “cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).

Surely those words were exactly what Mary needed to hear.

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Mary didn’t have to grieve alone.

Years later, when Jesus was dying on a cross, He saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby.

“He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’

Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’

From that hour the disciple took her into his own household (John 19:26, 27).

Mary didn’t have to grieve alone.

Mary Magdalene among others was also there beside her.

Isn’t that what friends are for?

Loving the people God places in our lives.

Especially for such a time as this…..

So This is Love?

Flu : A fellow sits on a bed with a very high temperature. Vectorial illustration.My smile was short-lived last week.

Flu invaded my body. Out of nowhere, brutal, microscopic creatures brought me to my knees, had me cry, “Uncle!”

Three days disappeared while I slept, smothered beneath blankets. Trust me. I did NOT look like Sleeping Beauty and nobody dared wake me with a kiss.

By the fifth day, the novelty of being sick was over.  I longed to enter the sunny world outside my bedroom window, but Flu turned into Bronchitis. Life was in a holding pattern while I waited for good health.

But nothing’s wasted.

While I lay comatose watching a steady dose of classic TV Land reruns, there was a jewelry commercial that told men: “Show your love by giving her a diamond.”

I shook my feverish head.

What does a diamond have to do with LOVE?

Does a bigger diamond mean I love you MORE?

Ridiculous!

After thirty three years of marriage, I know how Husband shows love and it doesn’t come in a jewelry box.

Love is action.

Husband shows love when flu makes me look like Road Kill, and yet he brings me a cup of tea, and runs a hot bath to soak my achy body.

Husband shows love when I’m coughing up phlegm and he asks me what I need from the store even though he just worked all day.

Husband shows love when I’m worried about my family and household duties, but he says, “Rest, everything is under control.”

Husband shows love when he gives me 18 pink roses even though I can’t smell them, and I know he’s tired of being Mr. Mom.

Love is revealed in a hundred small acts of service, in sickness and health, multiplied through the years.

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained” C. S. Lewis    

“Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,

It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinth 13:4-8)

 

Funny, that a jewelry commercial should spark my ire.

But last week, I was shown love, and it did NOT look like a diamond.