Connecting: Sharing at a Women’s Retreat

I was asked to speak at the women’s retreat that our church had this past weekend.  It was the first time in a while that I sat down to write something that long and in depth.  I realized that I missed it.

I have been posting on Facebook, but I have not been here much.

I am hoping to turn over a new leaf and lay my thoughts and prayers- my testimonies out here once again.  Hope to chat with you soon.  :)

Tired Tree
Precious Savior, we glorify your Name. Thank you for this time of slowing. Thank you for this time of connection and fellowship. Lord, please guide my lips and their forming of words. You know these women. Each one, deep to their heart and the longings of their soul. You know their pain, their longings, their hurts. Help me to speak words that uplift and encourage them. Help me speak words that draw them nearer to you. Let your words spill over my lips- oh precious Savior- take over and make this a sacred space where we all might meet with you and be transformed. Set a fire in our hearts and a burning in our souls to be fully yours. To go where you send us; to obey whatever you might be calling us to do. In the sweet Name of Jesus our Savior, Amen.
Connection- what does it mean?
What is at the heart of our desire to be connected? What needs does connection satisfy?
God made us for relationship, which He perfectly models in His own mysterious union as the Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Connectivity reminds us that we are not alone. It helps us process life experiences. We have ample evidence in Scripture of our need for comfort in affliction, prayer in seasons of suffering and strife, the need to share joys and answers to prayer to affirm and celebrate how God is working in our lives.
There is only one connection, however, that is NECESSARY. Life sustaining. The one necessary thing. One of the definitions of connect that I found online said, a “link to a power or water supply.” Living water. In John 6 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
That we might be filled with all the fullness of God.
Those who feed on the LORD Jesus Christ will never hunger or thirst again…
What does this mean for my life and for your life?
That when I truly surrender myself to the LORD I will no longer need to eat or drink to sustain my physical body?
No, I have come to believe there is something much deeper here, connected with the call of Christ when he said, those who wish to follow me must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.
I am speaking of something else- this emptiness inside me that longs for fulfillment, that my life might have meaning, that I would be part of something greater than myself. This need for meaningful connection with others- that can’t be found in myself alone.
I know that I do not have, nor can I find in the temporal world, something that adequately fills this longing. Most of the things I tried to fit in there never truly satisfy…in the moment that feeling might be numbed, or I might be distracted for a time by this or that, but once that time has passed, the reality remains.
Milton Vincent says it well in A Gospel Primer:
“On my most basic of levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to this basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fullness will be mine if I give in to their demands….What happens to my appetites for sin when I am filled with the fullness of God in Christ?…Indeed, as I perpetually feast on Christ and all of His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust simply lose their appeal. Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free. Eyes do not rove, nor do fleshly lusts rule, when the heart is fat with the love of Jesus!”
I want to be full.
I have found that only God satisfies this longing. Feeding on his Word, fellowship with other believers- most of all- earnest, heart-felt prayer with others seeking after the LORD. I have literally left those times of fellowship feeling “spiritually fat and filled.”
This Scripture came to mind on one of those occasions, and now it continues to come to me:
Psalm 63:5 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast…
There is a way fellowship with God truly slows me, calms me, fills me, and gives me rest that stops this churning inside of me. His truth settles me.
There is no replacement for this “God-shaped hole” except simply, God himself. That was his beautiful design, and I have found that only in surrender to this do I begin to find fullness and lasting peace. All other things fade in their beauty, the longer I linger in God’s presence.

Ruth Ann Barton warns us of the dangers of seeking community without this time with the Lord:
“Without solitude we are dangerous in the human community and in the Christian community, because we are at the mercy of our compulsions, compelled by our inner emptiness into a self-oriented, anxious search for fullness in the next round of activities, accomplishments or relationships. When we are not finding ourselves loved by God in solitude, in the company of others we are always on the prowl for ways they can fill our emptiness. We enter life in community trying to grab and grasp from others what only God can give.”

I remember very well the first time I read that quote and felt the truth of that reality for me. I struggle with it still. In my relationships, I crave validation- please tell me I’m ok, that what I do is meaningful and makes a difference, and I crave acceptance- please tell me that you like me and want to be around me.
When we are filled with God, we also rest in who He made us to be. Our validation comes through our identity in Him, and we are not seeking others for reassurance that only God can provide.
So, how does this look when we come together in community? How do we connect? We come together after refreshing ourselves at the feet of Jesus. Now what?
Hear the precious guidance God gives us through His Word in 1 Corinthians 12:
God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
wise counsel
clear understanding
simple trust
healing the sick
miraculous acts
proclamation
distinguishing between spirits
tongues
interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.
12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.
14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
27-31 You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything.
Look to your left. Look to your right. See the women around you. We are the body of Christ. We are each a necessary part to the working whole. Our God is intentional. He made you for a purpose- and you have something to offer in service to our Lord and Savior. The body needs each part. We need you. This is the essence of community. All of us, working together in unity, seeking to glorify and serve our Lord.
But how do we respond? What do I change? How can I leave this weekend and go back home and make this part of my life? What next?
1. Accountability– find someone you trust and share with them about your desire for change. PRAY. Wait. Ask God to show you how to simplify your life and make room for Him. Look for opportunities to serve that use your unique gifts. Take time to pray before accepting any new commitments. REMEMBER: God never wants us to be too busy to be with Him- even if we feel we are doing things FOR Him- we are only effective if we are filled, not running on empty.
2. Dive into the Word daily. Ask God to speak to you. Read one Psalm every day. Read on Proverb every day. Start small. Remember that God cares about the condition of our hearts. If you heart feels cold toward Him, and you don’t feel the desire to open your Bible, ask God to change your heart. Ask for Him to light that fire within you and draw you to Himself. He is faithful.
3. Simplify. Busy is the mantra of our day. Eugene Peterson said that “Hurry is a form of violence practiced on time.” What do you need to change to say yes to what’s truly important and let go of some of those other things?

Let us Pray:
O Lord, I pray that we might we touch the lives of others as we seek to love and serve you, our Savior. That your love would pour out and spill over in our lives- saturating everyone around us. We need you Lord, as we fight the urgings of our flesh and the pressures of this world- we feel a tug of war going in inside of us. Give us strength to obey- when we long in our hearts to please and trust you. When we fail Lord, help us not to hide but to come to you, humbly seeking forgiveness and accepting your discipline. How can we grasp the heights or depths of your love for us, or your longing for us to be all that you have made us to be? To run unhampered by the burden of sin and see forward to eternity- O God our hearts hope for it- and our spirit prays for a deeper walk with you. That our roots would be held fast in you- trusting you for fruit in your righteous and perfect time. We lay this year at your feet- all other things may fail- but please O gracious and loving God, let your name be glorified through our lives- however you choose that to be- whatever may come- Be glorified over all the earth. In Jesus precious name, Amen.

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4 Responses to Connecting: Sharing at a Women’s Retreat

  1. sarah says:

    I want you to know that even though you might not feel fulfilled, there are other ways God is using you. For me, I am always trying to figure out what God’s plan is for mylife. Why is it taking so long for him to show me? Why in the world does he not just tell me so I can begin doing it? LOL As I am getting older I am finding that this is it………….The path I am on right now…this is his plan. I love you and I enjoy so much the posts you put up and YOU are an inspiration to me when looking for the path God wants me to take. I know we have our tiffs but you are an amazing woman and touch me in ways you never know just by being Rachel. :)

  2. Gabrielle Grooters says:

    Beautiful Rachel

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