I am especially grateful for all the dear people I met along the way. After all these years, I still never tire of the experience of walking into a room for a message or meeting (knowing almost no one) and after spending some time together, leave knowing I have made some great new friends.
This was especially the case after this weekend, where I was with a great group of women who had invited me to speak for their women's retreat. As I started putting together my four messages, I realized I could string all my points together using words that started with F. Yep -- that's cheesy, maybe even gimicky. But honestly, I think it worked out, in that it helped each of us to better remember the things we talked about:
- How did the disciples Follow Jesus?
- What does this look like for me as a Female?
- How am I held back by my Fear of Failure?
- What does it mean to be a Friend of God?
- As we build our friendship with God, we receive the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, out of which ministry flows.
- When we discover this way of life, we are truly set Free to live life the way it was intended.
Admittedly, I had some fun with them as we kept talking about these "F words"! But it was also a great privilege to speak and then lead discussions with the entire group as we listened and learned from one another. I was blessed by everyone's authenticity and earnest desire to grow, and even more, by their willingness to be pushed hard in our last meeting, where I left them with the simple question: "What is keeping you from this freedom?"
Though not initially in the schedule, I felt it imperative that we follow up this poignant question with some prayer ministry, where individual women could share their response to this question with someone whom they trusted, who would then in turn pray over them. I cannot deny that my heart ached as I heard struggles and tears reverberate through the room. We had just spent time in the whole chapter of Galatians 5, and I kept thinking of verse 1 over and over as I heard women whisper words of prayer, pain and fear:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
We ended up our time with an absolutely lovely time of prayer and consecration, where women could come forward for a blessing and anointing, each receiving a large and colorful pashmina, symbolizing the "mantle of leadership" being passed on to them. The lead pastor blessed each woman with these words: "May you follow Christ as a female, without fear of failure, instead pursuing friendship with God, out of which fruit will come as you freely lead."
Earlier in the day, the director of the women's ministry reminded us of the quote I have posted on this blog, which was entirely appropriate to our time together: "What a long time it can take to become the person one has always been!" The longer I live, the more I hear of personal and corporate suffering, and I am so grieved. So many are abused, oppressed, wounded, addicted, misled. Thankfully, I rejoice in the healing power of the gospel, as described by the Apostle Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. (vss 8-10)
How grateful I am for these opportunities to serve and lead others into true freedom. Sure, I am tired after all of these travels, but I am also so Fulfilled.