nancy williams

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Archive for July, 2008

Women Risktakers – Women of Faith

I’ve had a book sitting on my shelf for some time, waiting to be read. “Women Risktakers” by Dr. Patricia Bailey. I decided recently to take it to my family’s retreat in the Hill Country, where I would have some relaxed time to curl up in a favorite chair and see what it had to offer. No hurry, no pressure, no obligation, no agenda. Just an opportunity to see what God would have to say to me through stories of some powerful women in the Bible. Women who accomplished some great things.

I’ve been reading about Esther and Abigail, Jochebed and Hagar, Debra and Hannah. Women who listened when God spoke and acted boldly as He used them to fulfill some of His most strategic purposes. They overcame their fears, pressed through obstacles, tuned out the distractions and criticisms of others and took risks to follow where God lead them. Maybe they weren’t so much risk takers as they were women of faith, drawing close to Him, listening for His direction, choosing obedience in the face of fear and uncertainty, trusting Him during seasons of waiting as He prepared the way and prepared them, and then putting that faith into action. They’re great examples of purpose-driven lives.

What began as a desire for some relaxed reading evolved into an ongoing conversation with God about His work in my life. Reflection about times when He has opened doors and prompted me to step out boldly, times when He has closed doors and told me to let go and move on, and times when I’ve just had to wait.

I think those are some of the hardest times for me, those waiting room times of life. Wondering what God is doing. Wondering what I am to do while waiting. Wondering where He is leading. Wondering how long I must wait. All while trying to hold onto hope. Trusting that the One who holds my life in His hands knows just what’s happening, has a plan for me and will guide me through each step if I’ll draw close to Him, listen and let Him lead. Easy to write about here, challenging to put into practice.

I do notice these women were active during those waiting times. Even though the challenges seemed nearly impossible and the outcome uncertain, they held onto hope and trusted God’s timing and His promise to guide their steps. Each one used their season of waiting to prepare themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They were focused, active, determined, patient, full of hope, and willing to obey God’s direction. They believed all things are possible when He is leading. As a result, when God opened the doors, they were able to step out boldly and fulfill His plan for their lives.

So, if we want to be men and women of purpose, vessels God will use to pour out His love and tools He will use to accomplish great things, then we need to take some cues from these women of faith about becoming risktakers, ready to do whatever He asks, whenever He asks.

We need to draw close and listen, to trust, to let go when doors close and to accept His timing rather than leaping out on our own or hesitating when He leads.

We also need to pay attention to the waiting times that come along. I’m in one of those right now. Perhaps you are as well. While we don’t know what is to come, we do have some choices. We can sit idly by and do nothing, we can fill our minds with anxiety about future uncertainties, or we can prepare ourselves so we’ll be ready to step out boldly when He opens the door. Ready to accomplish His unique design for our lives.

Proverbs 3:5-6 in the Bible says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

So, I’m holding onto that promise and holding onto hope, learning more each day about how to wait as my future unfolds. The best part of all this? I know how my life story ends.

Think Before You Hit ‘Send’

I turned the page of my calendar this morning and found this perspective, attributed to Ruth Senter. “A life without contemplation quickly loses depth. It becomes like a field that is all topsoil – one strong wind and it is all blown away. It is of no long-term use to anyone. Thought, reflection, engaging of the mind – these are all what it takes if we are to have something to say…if our ideas are to be clear, concise and well developed.”

I found myself pondering this thought as I quickly turned on my computer and prepared for another busy day. We are living in an age where there seems to be a high demand for speed – in our appliances, our athletes, our work performance, on the highway, and in the responses we expect from others. “Hurry up!” we’re told. “The clock is ticking; there’s no time to wait.” I opened my e-mail, quickly replied to the first note there, hit the ‘send’ button, then found myself questioning, “Maybe I should have said…I wish I would have included…” Too late. My words were out there and I couldn’t take them back.

True confession: that’s not the first time I’ve quickly responded and then had second thoughts about words from my keyboard or my mouth. How ‘bout you? Sometimes a quick reply is appreciated, even enjoyed. A spirited neighbor in her 80s recently told me proudly that she’s known for “shooting from the hip” and speaking her mind, without a second thought. She might get away with it and we might do the same at times; however, there are instances when failure to consider the situation at hand and choose our words and actions with care, ends up in regret and sometimes hurt. We don’t say or do enough. We say or do too much. We miss opportunities to make a positive impact.

Contemplation: it’s a vital ingredient in effective communication and healthy living. It involves thinking about something seriously and at length, especially in order to understand it more fully; or considering something as a possible course of action. It may also refer to thinking about spiritual matters – meditating on them calmly and at length. Deliberation. Reflection.

Life seems to move so quickly. We shift from one focus to the next, often without reflecting on what we’ve experienced or considering how we will incorporate it into our lives as we move ahead. We hear a sermon at church and then quickly shift our focus to lunch. We spend a few moments reading our morning devotional and then grab our to-do lists and jump into the day. We listen to our children, spouses and friends only until we think we know what they’re saying, then give a response and move on to other things. We bow our heads and speak to our Heavenly Father about our needs, then with a quick “amen” we shift our focus, without giving Him opportunity to speak to us. Then we hope we are making good choices about how to live our lives. Hmmm.

Solomon understood the value of contemplation, of taking time to meditate on God’s words and asking Him for understanding and then wisdom to apply them. Consider this passage from the book of Proverbs in the Bible. “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight…then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God…for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”

Our challenge? To be still and quiet our minds, then contemplate God’s love, consider His commands and reflect on His involvement in our lives. To seek understanding and then ask Him to guide us to apply His wisdom as we move through each day. Perhaps then, we’ll speak or hit that ‘send’ button with more confidence and less regret.