“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” Colossians 2:6-7
On the first eve of a writing conference God revealed He had lessons (gifts) for me not mentioned on the conference syllabus. He informed me that long before I planned to attend, He planned for me to download A Thousand Gifts on my Kindle. He appointed the book along with fellow conferees to serve as both curriculum and teachers delivering perfectly timed messages. During breaks in the conference and at night, He drew me repeatedly back to the book. I realized He intended to give me more than “my money’s worth,” as both His daughter and steward of His story!! To my surprise, His agenda didn’t include dynamic and inspiring speeches on nonfiction writing, rather whispered messages on gratitude – the entry point into joy and the abundant life. In the face of my dashed expectations and ingratitude, the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift spoke and on this evening captured my attention.
I spent most of the day assessing, evaluating, critiquing, and comparing writing conference A to writing conference B. Mind you, I have only attended two writing conferences! My eye roved about the facilities, flitting from dated décor, to persons in attendance, to an overstocked book store dominating the room. I smelled the world – dank carpet, subtle greed, dust collected on messages drawn from an elementary book on writing delivered in monotone. I replayed in my mind the amount spent on this conference and for a time got stuck! On entering sleep deprived this tired hotel, a battle with disappointment ensued. My focus on getting what I paid for, what my friend paid for, threatened to prevent my receiving anything from this conference.
By the grace of God, my traveling companion was on a different page and wavelength. This helped me to begin to hear – to tune in to the voice of God, which on occasion rose from the floor where lay a woman with a spinal cord injury, humbly receiving, teachable, and delighted to be present. As the day wore on, God continued to sober me directing me to engage in people watching with an open mind. This provided fodder for the lessons taught later that evening. I looked long at the professor and his wife seated at the table beside us, at the creases deepening again and again in the corners of their eyes as they smiled. Both relished being taught in the company of people who shared their interest. Retired and now exploring a new outlet for the expression of their lives, these model students often glanced back at my friend and I and beamed as if to say, “Life is so good!” Behind us sat a woman who had attended multiple events put on by this organization. She had nothing but praise for the hosts. Each conferee spoke of their passion behind writing and contributed food for thought, rounding out the speaker’s shallow address.
God began identifying attitudes and lies impeding me from receiving His best at this conference. First He pointed out that I felt I had been “ripped off,” “taken advantage of.” Underlying this feeling an equally unpleasant feeling (lie): that due to my naivety, gullibility, and stupidity I had wasted money and time in coming for the weekend. Beneath this, doubt that I had indeed heard and followed God in registering for this conference (in seeking further training as a writer). Satan approaches from every angle to undermine God’s promise that as His sheep I hear His voice. In addition, feeling God must be frustrated/disappointed with me for grappling with and expressing these feelings (complaining). Finally, regret over inviting my friend to join me in attending such a costly event given the sacrifice on her part. On agreeing with God, He encouraged me to open my hand and let go of all the aforementioned feelings. Then He said, “I brought you here to hear from me – not from speakers. I have secrets to share with you out of this experience, gifts to give, and fellowship for you to enjoy with your friend! Shift gears and listen, sweet daughter of Mine. I love You!!”
|My Sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me|
With renewed enthusiasm I set out to listen and to mentally compile my own gratitude list for God’s gifts on the trip! Frequently, I confessed my desire to humbly hear, to walk freed from a critical prideful spirit, to discern truth and righteousness. The following is an abbreviated gratitude list for all God gave me:
* Forgiveness for complaining
* Holy Spirit counsel, repeated attitude adjustments, His love, patience, mercy, viewpoint
* Delicious dinner at Bruno’s Italian Restaurant overlooking the canal in the company of
my dear friend
* A luscious late night piece of chocolate cake
* Visits until after midnight with my friend
* Perspective on things happening in our world (Japan, Libya, Waco…)
* An understanding of how feelings and lies beneath them hinder hearing God’s voice
* An understanding of how quickly God can remove obstacles to hearing if asked
* What I need to know about writing summed up in three words: Hear Him, Write!!
* A friend who points me to Jesus, who suggests, “Let’s be thermostats.”
* Time away to rest
* A soft pillow and comfortable mattress (our prayer beforehand)
* Late check out, discounted room, a kind housekeeper who opened the door for us
* Encouragement to always reward the reader – represent God well by giving readers
valuable inspiration/insight for their time (and if applicable money)
* Lots to think about regarding travel and devotional writing
* Next steps in the journey I’m taking with God as a writer
* A change of heart – opportunity to practice heart tending (SOZO) with my friend
* Opportunity to share our dreams/vision for parenting adult children and for
* A room full of passionate students with a message from God glowing in their hearts
* Two Hershey kisses in the candy dish on our table
* So, so, so much more (including a reminder not to use too many adjectives!!)
And once home, late afternoon bird song outside my window, children’s laughter making merry in my ears, my active imagination that follows sounds until they are well out of earshot, and time to finish reading the book He put in my hands…. Thank You Lord for a fresh and priceless lesson on gratitude which opens wide the heart to receive and hear from You!!
Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and
mighty things, which you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3
Heart tending in His Shadow,
Visit Spiritual Sundays (http://bloggerspirit.blogspot.com) for more spiritual refreshment.