I have been wanting to post something about my trip to see my friend in Illinois, and life just seems to fly by so fast. That whole trip went by TOO fast. I already want to plan the next one, but I don't think it will happen until after we move. : (
On the way home from the conference (we had a 6 hour drive), my friend asked me what was the one thing I took away from the conference. Ya know, I can say the conference was absolutely awesome and we had a great time, but not one thing that was said really stuck out to me. That is not usual for me. Some really great things were said, and I took lots of notes, but typically I will have at least one thing I feel challenged about, and I really didn't.
I had several convictions during the conference but really none were about what the speakers said. As I sat there to think about my friends question, the answer came to me about what I was going to take home with me. I will have to backtrack though.....
When we arrived at the conference center in Nashville, it was exactly 7:00pm, the time the conference started so we were hurrying to get in. On our way in, we saw a homeless man with a white Styrofoam cup asking for money. We stopped and my friend put some money in his cup (she always has the cash) : ) We talked to him for a couple of minutes and then he asked us if we would pray for him. We asked him his name and said of course we would. He said, "No, will you pray for me right now?" So we bowed and prayed for him right there. During the prayer, he kept saying "Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus." We shared a few more words and then went inside. As we entered the building, I just felt like a hypocrite. Here we are going into this "Christian" conference and ignoring this man on the street. We didn't even ask him if he knew Jesus. My friend asked if I wanted to go back out and I said yes. So we went and found Bill. My friend did ask Bill if he knew Jesus and he said, "Yes, I walked faithfully with the Lord for 6 years." When we asked him what happened he just responded, "I made some bad choices." This man sat and quoted scripture to us, AND encouraged US. We got to encourage him as well, and he felt so blessed and thanked us for taking the time to stop and listen.
Another thing that happened during the conference was at lunch time. After walking the streets of Nashville for 30 minutes trying to find a place to eat lunch (with 20,000 other women), we decided to just back to the conference center to eat there. We ended up waiting on line for an hour and a half! It wasn't the waiting that got me frustrated, it was the lady behind me that was complaining about others cutting the line while she continued to push her way in front of us; And it was the man behind the counter who obviously didn't have any respect for OUR time as he took HIS time taking TEN minutes to get ONE dish of nachos! Granted, this frustration was all inside, and people would not have known it.
The last incident I will mention, is a couple of hours later I received a very discouraging phone call that really got me down. We have received some opposition about being in ministry, but this one person in particular has just hit me hard. It bothered me that my joy was robbed, and I had to refocus myself.
Now there really is something in common with these three scenarios. I didn't really think of it until my friend asked me what I was going to take home from the conference. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned this recurring theme of events that continues to happen in my life lately and that God is definitely up to teaching me something. Well, these situations just add to it. The bottom line is that God is refining my heart. I cannot tell you how many times I think I am justified by my actions and God asks me about the attitude of my heart.
In a nutshell this is what I told my friend. "I don't think God wants to fill me with any more knowledge of Him until I can live out the knowledge I already have. I am challenged to LIVE church not just play church. I think in essence that is what we are doing when we pass a homeless guy on the street and walk proudly into a women's conference, raise your hands in worship to the Lord, and then quickly get aggravated with a girl because she is trying to cut the line. And I allowed Satan to steal my joy with a phone call, because I care too much about myself and not about bringing glory to God."
Ultimately I DO want to bring glory to God, and I am thankful that God is teaching me how prideful I am. Over the past few months, He continues to whisper in my ear, "You are so prideful." I argue a little, because I am trying to understand why I do not have ANY rights to be upset over these situations, especially the one regarding the phone call. This is a particularly difficult area for me NOT to hold onto my rights because it is SO hurtful. I feel God has humbled me so much already and one day I just heard Him say, "You are are on your knees, but I want you on your face." I just sat and cried, because I knew exactly what He meant and I saw how I was trying to hold onto those rights, and He only wants me to be free to worship and trust Him, regardless of those hurts. But the difficulty in all this for me, is that I am not just required to overlook this offense, but God is calling me to love. This relationship will not go away, and every time a dagger is thrown, I have to hold up my shield of faith, deflect it, and turn around and love! If I am honest, I will say this is not easy. But I DO see the blessing of being free to love those who hurt you. My friend asked me how we choose to be broken. My answer in my limited knowledge is we don't. We learn to be broken. God chooses the circumstances to break us. We can then choose to recognize the area of sin and repent, or we can ignore it.
As I have been on this process of sowing to the Spirit and keeping short accounts with God, I have felt the Spirit flow through my life like never before. A friend asked me the other night how I define joy. Again, in my limited knowledge, it is being able to have hope in God because you know He is in control. Even in the midst of hardship and tears flowing, joy is being able to lift my hands in worship because of who HE is, not because of what my circumstance is. I am experiencing joy in that way like I never have before. It is because God is refining my heart~to look like His. And His heart is so perfect, so it is a painful process to be called on so many accounts. I am just in awe of how determined He is to make my heart look like His. And He has always wanted that for me, I was just not willing to fully surrender ALL my rights to Him. It is so not worth sacrificing the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, so I can get to a conference on time, or be sure I keep my place in line, or to be determined to not let myself be hurt by another.
So that is what I take home from the conference. No matter where I am, I am required to LIVE the Christian life, not just play it or talk about it. I am challenged to take what I know and LIVE it! To take God's Word more seriously; To love the unlovely; to overlook the offense; to forgive whether someone deserves to be forgiven or not; to give grace!
I will close with this song that is running through my mind: Change my heart O God, make it ever true; Change my heart O God, may I be like you...