wider, longer, higher, deeper

It has been two weeks now since ROOTED-The Gathering 2014 Women’s Retreat. There are millions of thoughts that run through my mind,  but I figured if I didn’t get some of them out soon, I might not ever! 

When I first got up on stage with our associate Pastor Linda Gastreich, and was about to ask everyone to “dance like nobody was watching”, I was pretty nervous. I was expecting that I would have to ask a few times to warm people up, that they might not jump in at first, and I thought I would have to dance by myself a bit.

But the women of The Gathering can get down. Seriously. I was so thrown off, because the first time I asked, they DUH-ANCED. And apparently my “go to” move when I’m nervous becomes some sort of awkward “twerk” that looks more like a turkey/rooster hybrid trying to mate than anything you might see Beyonce do. . .it just kinda happened.

Sorry for that ladies, because YOU WERE WATCHING.

I was nervous because I guess that was the moment for me that would indicate if this whole event was going to be a fantastic success, or a fantastic flop. And if everyone’s hard work would pay off.

I would know if everyone danced.

Not only did we dance, but we sang, and we prayed fervently. We worshiped with abandon and glorified God. We wept healing tears filled with intense sorrow, intense mourning, and intense joy.

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All photos courtesy of Kristi Foster. Check her out here

I know in my heart that God looked down and smiled and said “It is good.”.

It was about Saturday night late that I realized I might get through this entire event process without any major setback or trauma. I was flying high and free!

Then Sunday morning, I remembered. . .God had made it pretty clear there was something else I was supposed to do before the retreat was over.

Earlier in the week I had learned that our church The Gathering UMC was going to allow the fiscal offering from our Sunday morning worship service to go straight to the scholarship fund for the retreat. As soon as I knew that, I knew I was going to have to be transparent with the attendees when it came time for Sunday’s offering. Sunday morning I was getting cold feet. I was texting my husband back and forth, fighting with God, saying, “but. . . .” a lot. I did NOT want to go through with what I had promised God, and myself, and Nate I was going to do. Nate helped keep me accountable the best he could via text. The Sunday morning service began, Pastor Linda preached a wonderful sermon on accountability, the communion liturgy was finished. It was time to share what I had been called to, and so with a heart full of trepidation, I stood and read these words:

This weekend has been nothing short of amazing, life altering, and awe inspiring.
We have an opportunity now to branch out in different ways, to hold ourselves accountable to
moving forward in our relationship with Christ, and how we allow that to propel us to impact the
world around us in tangible ways.
 
One area we have the opportunity to do this in is in regards to the Women’s Retreat Scholarship
Fund. This mornings fiscal offering has been designated to go exclusively toward next years
 fund. I have heard from many women how impressed they were that we had scholarships available,
and that we were going to make sure that financial issues were not going to keep anyone from
 experiencing and participating in this weekend. In fact we have had $1,365 given to 17 women
who requested full or partial scholarships.
That $1,365 came from women who are in this room right now, and was in turn, given to women
who otherwise would not be in this room right now.
There are two types of women it takes for this to happen:
 
The first woman is the woman in need of a scholarship. The woman willing to humble herself and
ask for help when she needs it. To put aside pride, fear of embarrassment, and impending
thoughts of “what will others think of me” in order to take time away to restore and renew
herself in Christ. A woman able to come to the realization that an opportunity to deepen her
relationship with Christ and her Christian community is more important than all these things.
 
The second woman is the woman willing to look at her experience and her means and
say “This is about more than me”. The woman willing to give extravagantly above and beyond
what has been asked of her, so that others might have the same experience as her. Knowing full well
that others experiencing Christ and a deeper sense of community is far more valuable than
earthly treasure.
 
It is when these two women come together that a collision takes place. Because it is then that
we get to viscerally see and feel the Kingdom of God on earth. It creates a place of equality that
can only found in living out identity in Christ.
And then the hard part came. My voice started trembling and I fought with all my might to keep back the tears.
 
I am the first woman. I drug my feet asking for a scholarship. I hemmed and hawed and thought
it was worth putting financial strain on my single income family in order to “look good”.
 It wasn’t until I heard another Mother say “It was embarrassing to ask, but I knew I needed this, and I
knew my family needed me to have it. That was worth the embarrassment”.
 
I think transparency like this changes the world, and I think generosity like this changes the world. 
Together they shout loudly to a world that has seemingly lost all hope: 
 
Christ Has Died, Christ Has Risen, Christ will come again, 
and that is why we live the way we live, 
and give the way we give.
I walked off the stage and 148 women started to take part in Holy Communion.
I found a quiet dark spot in the back of the room, fell to my knees, and wept tears of great thankfulness that I serve a God who so desperately loves me, that He will not allow me to stay comfortable, to stay safe, or to stay quiet about what HE is doing in my heart. A God who loves each of us so much, that he constantly reconstructs and restructures our hearts to become more and more like his.
Of course I hope at the next women’s retreat that we dance turkey/rooster twerk and all. I hope that we have extreme laughter, and extreme joy.

But most of all, I pray a precedent has been set where we support our sisters, that it is truly a place where everyone can be transparent with where we are at, with what we are struggling with, with the season of life we are in, and that we can do so without shame.

I think that’s what happens when we begin to live the Kingdom here on earth.

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Because once we are ROOTED in that wide, long, high, deep love, then and only then can we confidently pray these words and know that we are proponents and active participants of the Lord’s will being done, and the coming of the Kingdom.

Thy Kingdom come,

Thy will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

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3 thoughts on “wider, longer, higher, deeper

  1. Beautiful, Mere! You and your words. I’m so blessed to know you and call you friend. You did an amazing job with the retreat. Your hard work and love for God showed in each moment. It was a beautiful experience. Especially experiential worship. Thank you for your vision and focus. I love you, Krissi

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