So this past weekend my church held something called “Encounter” and simply put, it’s a way to Encounter God on a personal level. It’s a weekend event, essentially 24 hours beginning on Friday evening and then all of the day on Saturday. While listening to those talk about the experience from having attended before, something in my soul said, “Sign-up” and so I did.
For me, to dedicate an entire weekend to something is very hard. I’m always on the go. I’m a mom and a wife and also self-employed. I feel like I work 24/7 always trying to keep my good clients happy. And then of course being a mom, you are always “on duty”. I’m one who finds it hard to quiet myself. Where I used to enjoy sitting down to draw or paint, I sometimes wonder if I’ve developed Attention Deficit Disorder, because if I try to do something like that now, my brain begins to act like a pinball machine bouncing from idea to idea of all the things on my “to-do” list that I “could” be doing if I weren’t sitting quietly. I’ve often wished I didn’t have to sleep, just so that I could accomplish more stuff.
But God calls us to rest. He modeled that example during creation. He made everything in 6 days and on the 7th day He RESTED. So, setting aside a CHUNK of time for Encounter was a real commitment for me. And as always, when God has something planned for you, the enemy is there to try to thwart those plans. I needed to plan for childcare. It rained. Places were flooding. But remember, God will make a way. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19
My husband watched the kids. Childcare taken care of – check. It rained. Again, the hubs was home, and he is more than capable of keeping an eye on things such as the possibility of a leaking basement and flooded driveway. I did not need to worry, he had it covered. When I awoke Saturday morning, early to attend, I really just wanted to roll over in bed and go back to sleep. Rainy days are often good days to just nap if you can. I remember getting in the car and while turning the ignition Saturday morning, literally saying, “I so don’t want to go to this this morning.” But God had called me to go a few weeks ago and I was being obedient to Him not knowing what He may have in store for me.
During the course of the morning, I found that I could soak in the goodness of the speakers. I related so well to Joy’s talk of “names” the enemy gives you. I fight this all the time. Each time I’m wounded by something someone does or says against me, the enemy uses that as an opportunity to attack; and all the ugly names come one right after another and begin digging a hole for me into a dark depression. Thankfully, my God is there and quickly reminds me that I need to listen to Him and He will call me Worthy, Beloved, Cherished and His daughter. He is my life-line to keep from falling in the pit of depression. Sometimes I have to cling extra tightly to that line as the enemy tries extra hard to sink me.
I was able to journal lots over the course of the weekend and for that I’m grateful. Writing is something I enjoy and is therapy for the soul. Part of Encounter is just letting God speak to you and reveal areas of your life to work on. Everything is between you and the Almighty. The leaders and facilitators are only there to help guide you. Think of them as the bridge that helps you over your own roadblocks to connect with God. He revealed some things to me that He’d already been warning me about for a little while. I need to get rid of that baggage. As I listened to testimonies on Sunday morning, there were a lot who said the same, they were shown the baggage in their lives that needed to be tossed.
In the women’s morning discussion at church on Sunday, one woman stated how blessed she was by the testimony and conversation that morning as she hadn’t even been able to attend Encounter. Another expressed how blessed she was to be able to connect with others to know she was not alone and that others struggled with some of the same things she struggled with.
During breaks between sessions, my mind still could not always quiet as it wanted to worry about the potential flooding going on at home and what were the hubby and the kids doing. I had to remind myself, my hubby has “got this”.
Having served in MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) ministry for so long, the “You Are Not Alone” has been a theme and a statement that has been almost an anthem in my heart. Hearing that Sunday morning, just reminded me of the groundwork that God has already laid in my life about never being alone. We have community – common unity when you get a group of Christians together who don’t hide behind the mask of perfection. When you let down that mask and allow others to see “the mess”, there is authenticity there that aids in connection. Like sheep, whose self defense is to group themselves together in community, we are like sheep to our Shepherd. While He watches over us, we can be together in community and help protect each other from the enemy as we connect with others through our testimonies and stories and help each other along the way in healing. God made us to be a people who need community. Thank you MOPS for teaching me that and letting that be a foundation for me and thank you Encounter as I got to watch others experience that this weekend.
Community. Unity. Coming together. This is a another theme that has resonated in my life since 1991 when I first experienced Creation Festival. It was the first time I experienced everyone coming together no matter what denomination they were to worship and experience Christ. It was an experience like no other. An experience I shared with my best friend who was saved at Creation. An experience she and I took others to which down the road started a ministry called Replenish Ministries where I have also served and continue to do so. The idea is for churches to come together to worship in freedom. Over this most recent weekend of Encounter, we had leaders to come from a sister church in Salem who were also doing an Encounter weekend at their church. Isn’t it awesome when churches reach out and connect with each other? I recently attended a community worship service at theBridge church in Christiansburg held by Replenish Ministries. I don’t know how many different churches were represented there, but it was awesome to hear all the different names of each person’s home church shouted out. When I think about heaven, I think about us all being there together in community worship. I don’t think about anyone being segregated out by a denomination. So in once sense, I think of things like Replenish Festival, Creation Festival, community worship services, and MOMcon providing a little taste of heaven on earth… people from all over of all denominations, of all color and race… all the things the world wants to see us DIVIDED by… COME TOGETHER to WORSHIP.
So as I think back on the weekend, things that I’ve been shown by God and learned (like not being alone and community worship) were re-emphasized and I watched as others got to experience it. He revealed to me my own baggage that needs to be thrown out and I will be working on that, too. While there was freedom experienced, there were also connections made. I feel more connected to my church now because of hearing the stories of individuals. Everyone has a story and this time set aside allowed us to listen to their story and again allowed God to use that to connect us in community and ultimately connected us on a deeper level with Him.
I’m thankful that I took time for Him. And I look forward to carving out some more time for Him soon.
“For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:6-7