It's a great joy to welcome Margaret Kemp once more to our Monday Musings blog as a guest writer. Today, Margaret shares some reflections that the Lord gave her after the fall Restore Retreat. The opportunity to pull away and spend time in God's beauty with extended time in the Word, worship, prayer and fellowship is such a blessing in our busy lives. Unfortunately, reentering into the "real" world can sometimes overwhelm and frustrate us. What I love about Margaret is she is always seeking to hear the Father speak truth into her life wherever she is. The lessons learned and time invested in a weekend away can help to restore and carry us through the difficult days we often face in our everyday lives.
We hope that her beautiful writing and photographs in this week's blog will encourage you to pull away and join us for the Restore Spring Retreat, March 10-11, "Awaken to the Pursuit of the Bridegroom." There are many beautiful photos throughout the blog including a slideshow of the gorgeous grounds of Solomon Episcopal Conference Center. Photos were taken by Margaret Kemp and Jennifer Leigh Spiers at our Fall Retreat. You will be able to view them better on your phone if you click to the website. Our Spring Retreat will be in the same location and we encourage you to come with another woman in your life such as a mother/daughter or daughter in law, aunt/niece, someone you mentor, or perhaps invite someone who has invested in your life. Registration is now open. We hope you will join us!
Photos below of the grounds, Bridal theme decor and teaching sessions taken by Margaret on the "Awaken" Retreat.
It was a surreal experience—still, quiet, peaceful. The woodsy setting made me stop and appreciate creation: the rustling of leaves, the still, glassy water that mirrored the lush greenery, the sunlight playing hide and seek among the trees. The indoor setting was equally as serene as our eyes feasted on beautiful artwork, lovely table settings, and exquisitely arranged altars. The fellowship was sweet at the Restore Retreat, and the teaching was inspiring. We are the bride of Christ—chosen, redeemed, washed clean. I was ready to “walk in a manner worthy of my calling,” holy and blameless.
That was Saturday and Sunday.
Then came Monday and Tuesday, delivering pain and aggravation. Earaches. Demands of the job. Difficult children. People who complained and criticized me, despite my best efforts to accommodate them and to show them the love of Christ. The entire month of October was characterized by frustration and illness.
My “Holy, Holy, Holy” changed to “Help Me, Help Me, Help Me!”
I left the retreat with beautiful wedding images, “White lace and promises, a kiss for luck and we’re on our way (as in the Carpenters’ song, “We’ve Only Just Begun”). But suddenly my theme song became, “It’s a Hard Knock Life.”
I know I’m not the only one who felt this way. I talked to other ladies returning from the retreat, and they, too, were met at the door with trials and difficulties.
Was the honeymoon over?
Then I remembered: the wedding has not yet taken place. I was thinking in terms of our culture where a couple becomes engaged, the wedding ceremony takes place, and then off they go to live hopefully happily ever after.
But the ancient Jewish wedding tradition was a little different. The prospective groom makes a marriage contract with the bride-to-be. He offers the girl a cup of wine. I imagine, if she is a willing bride, she’s dressed in her finest clothes and jewelry, batting her eyelashes and smiling coquettishly as she accepts the cup. Her acceptance of the cup signifies an acceptance of his proposal, and for legal purposes, the couple is married.
But then the groom goes away to prepare a place for his bride. And the girl remains in her parents’ home. She puts on her work clothes and performs the same mundane chores as always. Maybe the housework is dull. Maybe her siblings are difficult, or she finds her parents overbearing. But she endures all this, all the while preparing for the day when her groom will come to get her.
The preparation is sometimes a difficult process. Sanctification is a difficult process. I know that I have been chosen by God. I am redeemed from the slave market of sin—bought and paid for by the precious blood of Christ. He’s cleaned me up, washed my sins away, and now I am forever His. Somehow, I expect to be instantly transformed into this beautiful creature carrying the fruit of the Spirit in a basket and strewing gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control wherever I go.
But it doesn’t work like that. It’s a process. God is sculpting me, molding me into the image of Christ.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you
will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
God isn’t finished with me yet. He will continue working on His church, His bride, until the Bridegroom returns.
So- what can we do in the meantime, while we’re waiting?
Here are a few things that will lighten our load:
1. Let go of trying to live up to expectations of others. It’s impossible to please everyone anyway, so we might as well drop that ball and chain. We’re working for the Lord. We’re eager to please our Bridegroom.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Colossians 3:23
2. Let go of comparisons. It’s counterproductive to compare ourselves to others we see as Superheroes and Heroines of Faith or to compare ourselves against the elusive standard of The Ideal Christian Woman, that Barbie doll of faith who possesses qualities we think we should have but can never seem to attain.
3. Let go of expectations we have for ourselves. Each day is a new day. We do what we can in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we mess up, we confess our sin, think of what we can do differently to prevent future mess-ups, and move forward.
“If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I John 1:9
“This I recall to my mind; therefore, I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning.
Great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23
God chose us while we were still a stinking, dirty mess---while we were yet sinners. He cleans us up, and He will do it again and again until He returns for His church and we are truly holy and blameless, clothed in His righteousness.
Our Bridegroom is a Man of His Word; He will not nullify the contract because our behavior.
God will never desert me,
Never “defriend” me,
Never divorce me,
Always defend me.
Never deny me,
Never dismiss me,
Never discard me,
Always assist me.
Scripture substantiates all these truths. (Hebrews 13:5, Jeremiah 31:13, I Thessalonians 5:24, Isaiah 41:10 Joshua 1:9, II Thessalonians 3:3, II Timothy 2:13, Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 94:14, Hebrews 13:6)
Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus and enjoy the gifts He gives: a day flooded with sunshine and cooler weather, dear friends and family who encourage us and surround us with laughter, a cozy bed, a hot meal, a comfortable home...Our Bridegroom is good—all the time! And His grace is sufficient for us.
The honeymoon is not over. It hasn’t even begun. Let’s enjoy this time of waiting and preparation, accepting the trials as part of our sanctification process and embracing the ever-present joys that are ours as the Bride of Christ.
Lord Jesus, we look to You. Our hearts are bursting with gratitude for what you’ve done for us.
Help us to look up to You and to trust Your faithfulness, Your goodness, and Your sufficiency.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul,
and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” I Thessalonians 5:23-24
His Beloved Bride,
Take a moment to enjoy these beautiful photos taken by Jennifer Leigh Spiers of the exquisite grounds at Solomon Episcopal Conference Center in Loranger, LA. We hope that you will prayerfully consider joining us in March. Come experience God's beauty in creation and the Word. You are His Beloved. Your Bridegroom longs to meet you there and speak into your heart and life!
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