Sunday, April 26, 2015

This is not a joke.

What's not a joke is 6" of snow in mid-April. Darn Montana is full of surprises. This is me last week, the day before I left for a women's retreat in San Diego. It was in the 70's the whole time I was in CA, and I wondered if three partial days in the sun could replenish 6 months of probable Vitamin D deficiency.

But I didn't have much time to soak up the rays because I was actually the retreat speaker. The only speaker. For the whole weekend. It feels strange for me to type that out and read those words.

I never asked for the job. I wasn't at all pursuing anything of the sort. In fact, when someone hinted a year ago that I may be invited, I wished they'd forget or find someone "who does this." Months later, I found out they didn't forget or find someone else.

I don't see myself as a women's retreat speaker. Just like how a few years ago, I didn't see myself as a MOPS speaker, or any kind of speaker. And how a few years before that I didn't see myself as a blogger. And before that, I didn't see that I had a voice or a story at all. You get the idea.

I remember that the first time I was ever invited to hold a position of leadership in a ministry was during my first year in college. I was asked to manage the slide show for our on-campus Christian club. The SLIDE SHOW. Yes. It involved actual slides that I had to get developed at a specialty photo lab from actual film. (I mean, it was the 1900's, as my kids say. Do you young ones even know what I'm speaking of, here? We put like 150 slides of our beach trip into a slide projector and timed the sequence to some peppy Steven Curtis Chapman song. I pressed the "next" button on rhythm, obviously.) My initial reply was, "OH no no no, I couldn't be in charge of THAT. It's far too important." The leader who asked me - a guy named Jamey - basically said "You're doing it."

Apparently, my dubious ideas about whether or not I was a women's retreat speaker meant nothing to God. He basically said, "You're doing it."

The preparation was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Not so much in difficulty. But in personal expense. I felt so far out of my comfort zone that I was regularly throwing myself at God's mercy to give me what I needed. I'm sure that was the point, to make me wholly dependent on Him and His resources to write and listen and practice and pray over all of it. I would be exhausted after each night of writing because it was taking my whole heart. And through most of the process, I was horribly attacked by the enemy. I can think of only one other short season of my life when it was as bad. And I can't say which was worse. Both times were equally horrible; I want to say I was barely holding my head above water, but that is a gross simplification. It felt like torment which left me emotionally fragile, fuzzy-headed, and regularly telling God, "You've got the wrong girl!"

But last Sunday, as I walked out of the hotel pulling my suitcase, I was literally speechless. I still can't wrap my head around the ways in which God worked. Now, I've been to countless women's retreats, myself. I've been to probably hundreds of women's events in churches my whole life. And I can confidently say I've NEVER seen God work like He did last weekend.

I'm not certain why, but it wasn't the usual flavor of "Jesus comes to comfort and encourage his girls". Of course, there was some of that. But a better description was this: Jesus came like a warrior. Jesus came to slash the throats of the evil forces choking the life out of his daughters. Jesus came with a FIERCENESS I've never seen. And I was speechless. We were all speechless. It was so powerful that none of us in charge could reasonably take ANY credit for what was taking place. It was so far beyond human ability or planning or anticipating.      

The thing we kept saying until it became funny was "This is not a joke." Because it so wasn't. Lives permanently changed, prisons opened, and women rescued wasn't funny at all. It was humbling and worth crying over, with our faces to the ground in worship.

Friends. We are in the last days; these are hard times. And I have no doubt that God is looking for His lost lambs. He is searching for those who have faithful, believing hearts for Him, and He is reaching down with fury and justice to snatch them out of the hands of the enemy. He is purifying for Himself a flock that will stand firm. A flock that isn't afraid to speak the truth.

If you read Ephesians 6, the part about putting on the full armor of God, notice that it doesn't say the armor is so we can fight. Look at this. Verse 13: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then..."

Three times. All we have to do is stand. And we won't be able to, if we're not equipped as He instructs. (Go review it. Refresh your memory on this passage. Even teach it to your kids to help you memorize it, maybe.)  

I'm going to be posting the content of my talks from last weekend, in case His words might encourage you to stand firm too. As much I love to laugh with my friends over coffee and a little Bible study, I'd rather cry and pray and watch freedom flood our lives. Because the power of God is not a joke, and witnessing it is actually quite addicting.