Women’s Retreat

Pondering Grace: My Retreat — The Truth About Redemption

I’ve decided to continue exploring some of the powerful truths I gleaned from the women’s retreat I had the pleasure of attending recently. I loved all that was introduced there, and I thought you might enjoy walking along the road with me as I spend time with some of the encouraging things that are still leaving an impression on my heart and mind.

Rescue.

When you hear the word rescue, what comes to your mind? For some reason, a slew of movies come to my mind. Everything from The Princess Bride to Disney’s Tangledfrom Saving Private Ryan to Air Force One to Toby Macguire in Spider-Man. The most recent television show seemingly taking the planet by storm with its theme of rescue is an oldie but a goodie, Doctor Who. (I watched that show when it was Tom Baker in the lead role, now we’re nearly half a dozen Doctors from that era.) What I really wanted to say—before I was distracted by “shiny things” in a TARDIS—is who doesn’t love a story with a successful rescue of a weakened character or victory over an impossible situation? While there are Shakespearean tragedies and other genres that intentionally omit this piece, I know I love a happy, mission-accomplished, triumphant ending. Add a little masculine chivalry, and it’s a great storyline with serious appeal for me.

The first story and main theme of the Woven retreat was Rahab. You can read about her in a few places in the Bible, but her story is threaded through the book of Joshua. I’m not going to retell the story, and I’m not offering “retreat spoilers” here. I just loved that the theme of Rahab’s story is one of complete redemption. Facing imminent destruction of all she knows, she acts courageously on behalf of men she doesn’t know for their protection, and places bold faith in the God of Israel.

Rahab’s courage and faith was the whole reason for her rescue!

I can identify with Rahab. Maybe you can, too. Honestly, my city is not slated for destruction and complete takeover by hostile forces, that I’m aware of today. I’m not looking into strangers’ faces desperate for protection from local government so they can return to their people with the fruit of their espionage (the very catalyst of Rahab’s imminent destruction). And a red cord out my window isn’t going to protect me and my family from whatever is going to take place in my city. So, how do I really relate?

I relate to Rahab in ways that I’ve mentioned more than a few times in this blog, and it’s rooted in Romans 6:23. Destruction really is imminent, if we’re honest. There is a time when each of us will face the end of our storyline here. If this Romans verse is true, there is more to the end of the storyline here than we might think, even a second death beyond the one we know about, a spiritual one. (That will take a bit more Bible legwork to make clear to someone unfamiliar with the idea, and I encourage that kind of digging—always!) So, if imperfection means death, and ultimately destruction, then there’s a fork in the road moment ahead.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…  ~ Robert Frost

I love Robert Frost’s poem, but I’m afraid I haven’t painted a realistic picture of the fork in the road with that single line, nor could I with the whole piece. It’s more like this:

 See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity…I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. Deuteronomy 30:15, 19-20a CSB

Moses and the elders of Israel were telling the people about the promises available to them. Whether they actually chose to respond with obedience is a whole other discussion, but the promises were spoken, nonetheless.

I relate to Rahab’s story and this Deuteronomy passage very simply. I am imperfect, and at one time I faced death, imminent destruction, a second death. In my About Jennifer page I told a fairly cursory version of my story. All of that is true, but there are pieces that haven’t been thoroughly fleshed out for various reasons. The truth is I have made choices in my past that have been self destructive and destructive to others. While I have never been a prostitute, like Rahab, I have a past that has more in common with her than I like to admit. In addition, I’ve done short term damage to my own body at times through eating disorder and other poor choices. I was angry and cruel toward other people, and my acts of cruelty knew few boundaries. Some might say the worst you can do to someone is take their life from them. Perhaps there’s a human argument there—until more study reveals God’s standard is set higher than any law ever written.

Jesus taught from the Law and the Prophets, and he continually challenged the religious authorities in that day. Why else would they have plotted against him? His words condemned sin, even at the Pharisaical level. No one was good enough, not one! (See Luke 18:19 CSB.) No one is good enough, period!

Honestly, what have I not done, even if I just evaluated it against the Ten Commandments alone? And, if breaking one law is breaking the whole of it… (Exodus 20)

And so, I needed a rescue. We all do, really.

I needed to be rescued from a shameful past: promiscuity I thought made me “damaged goods,” manipulative behaviors that swept others right into my mess, a vengeful heart set on hurting others and myself, and my blood-stained hands. That’s what I needed to be rescued from—and I was! I most assuredly was! That gently wafting sweet aroma that rose from a cross on a hill two thousand years ago made all the difference.

Did you need a rescue at one time?

Do you still hope for one someday?

Who’s your Rescuer?

I think I’ll wrap up with that. I’m off to begin counting my reasons to be thankful for my Rescuer. Maybe you will do something similar…

~Jennifer

Note: While the retreat was a springboard for this entry, the post itself departs from presented materials. I tend to be one of those creative-thinker-types that way…or perhaps I just can’t “write in a straight line.”  😉

Pondering Grace: My Retreat—The Truth About Redemption

Four of my dear friends have been given the heart, inspiration, and opportunity to form a unique women’s ministry, and I’ve been so blessed to support them from behind the scenes. They partner with churches who have a women’s ministry in place, or want to start one, and offer one of the best teaching conferences I’ve experienced. The ministry is called Woven Truth. (FYI, the Woven gals’ site includes more information about them, plus a lovely little blog you might enjoy.)

One of the sweetest blessings I ever receive is to witness them joyfully doing what they do best: presenting beautiful, solid truth in a gentle, loving way. I really can’t say it any other way, and I know I’m still not doing the description justice. These ladies display radiant grace while telling stories—their personal stories beautifully woven into the bigger story: God’s story. I mentioned that I get to support the team from behind the scenes, so that means I’ve seen much of the material before it is presented. And yet, twice I have been pleasantly surprised by all that takes place in real life when I’ve had the chance to attend. There’s a gentle nudge or a “fresh wind,” that gentle breeze that floats by. I shouldn’t be surprised.

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 CSB

Christianity is rooted firmly in one thing: life! What was dead has been made alive, as in resurrection. Jesus is alive, but was most assuredly dead on the cross. Catch that Hebrews boasts the Word of God is alive. Isn’t that interesting? The 66 canonical books of the Bible we know today written over a remarkable span of time thousands of years ago is considered to be living, effective, penetrating, and able to judge. These aren’t weak descriptive words in the least; each one is active and specific. Thankfully, the grace I find in this is that it is alive! It would be quite a chore to come to things over and over in a lifetime with nothing new to discover.

Thank you, Lord, that you and the Bible contain explorable depths we never quite reach the bottom of!

I don’t think it’s a leap to say good teaching based on the Word and in keeping with it should be reflective of those same active, specific descriptors. Don’t you think? It seems to me there might not be room for “Been there done that, but thanks.” Maybe we can’t even say, “I know what I need to know about __________” (fill in the blank). Maybe, just maybe, we should approach sound, reliable Bible teaching with a fresh, open mind. What do you think?

I’ll be working through some of the things that were turning over in my mind at the retreat this weekend, for sure. I just thought I’d begin with this little gem. I love learning, generally, and I hope I will always keep a teachable attitude the best I can.

Happy Monday to you! And thanks for reading along.

~Jennifer