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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

But God! (after Oct 2019 Walking Stick Retreat)

But God!

(this post was begun a week after Retreat....and it took until now to finish)

But God. Two words, equal letters, indescribable punch. I believe they are the two most powerful words in the Bible.

Last week I was participating in the annual Walking Stick Retreat in Mill Run, PA. It has quickly become an annual priority – one where I put in for vacation in January. There are those in our ‘tribe’ who count down the weeks as it gets closer. There are others who cook out dinner for the early arrival gang on Thursday night. And every year, there are new folks. We WANT new folks. We get excited over the new folks. And the best part, the fear of being ‘new’ fades within hours.

I have barely scratched the surface in processing the things I learned at Retreat. It always takes at least a week before I can even find some words that are some semblance of coherent thought. But I wrote something in my journal this week that get the juices flowing. I’d like to share it here.

“But God! I believe those are the two most powerful words in the Bible.

But. A conjunction. An interruption, a change of direction.

Life can only be summarized by “But God.” God, the Creator of the Universe, stoops down to put His touch on things.

BUT GOD shows love, attention, focus, dedication, purpose. BUT GOD demonstrates care.

Where would I be without a BUT GOD moment in life! I am human and set my own sail, give into sin and temptation, and try though I may, put other things on the altar ahead of Him – the altar of myself. BUT GOD loves me too much – SO much – that He won’t let that happen. BUT GOD connotes how...a diving into a situation to recreate it, to reconstruct what has been torn down, to rebuild what He is creating. BUT GOD is a holy interruption in an unholy place. BUT GOD is God having the final say, the final everything. BUT GOD is not only an ending, but also a beginning. BUT GOD...”

While on Retreat, I saw BUT GOD in motion. Someone who was fighting aggressive cancer along with severe heart disease was back this year, with ‘no evidence of cancer.’ BUT GOD. New people were challenged to remove their masks and take their first brave steps toward being real. BUT GOD. Returners were challenged to dig deeper and let go even more than we thought we had. BUT GOD. We talked about our 'one thing' – what it is for each of us, what gets in the way, and what we want it to be.

My 'BUT GOD' moment caught me off guard. It was a whisper...almost inaudible to the heart...BUT GOD made sure I heard it.

It was the second day of Retreat. Kathy Sprinkle, the session speaker, played a video by Steve Taylor, a early Contemporary Christian musician, one of the first in 'alternative' Christian music. Kathy had been talking about running our race using the verse Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”. There was something very uncanny in her using that verse. It started the night before.

The Friday evening session, led by David Mullins, talked about choices and what things are tempting to be my one thing? “Do I have it or does it have me?” was the question we were pondering. I was struck in my heart by some things and needed to write before enjoying the evening's free time activities. I went off to a corner of the room, pulled out my journal and wrote:

“What is my one thing? Is it just lip service? What has gotten in the way? What do I need to throw off? What sin so easily entangles?

I don't want something that looks like Jesus, or sounds like Jesus...I WANT JESUS! (we had ended the session with prayer and I found myself praying those words and it just cut to my core which led to the journaling)

I lost you somewhere God. I moved. Yes, life has changed, and maybe I'm still trying to hold on to something that needs to change – let go and pick up. Am I holding on to what was and not walking in what is?

Nothing matters without you, Lord. YOU are my one thing, but my actions don't line up with my heart.

Pierce my heart God. Throw off everything that hinders – it is a choice, a forceful pulling off things clinging to my back – and freeing myself. What still has me? Show me, Lord.”

That entire visual of 'everything that hinders' and peeling things off my back came to mind when Kathy started her session. As soon as I heard her use the same verse that had come to my mind the night before (with no foreknowledge of what her session would be on), I knew God had something for me. I just quietly prayed 'Okay God. This is it. Let me hear what you have to say to me. Don't let me miss it.”

As Kathy spoke my mind was stirring. But it wasn't until she played the video that God whispered His 'BUT GOD' message.

The video Kathy showed was called The Finish Line. There is a line in the song that simply says “He whispered up the prayer he'd kept hid inside.” No sooner did those words pierce my heart than one word came to mind. It was a word I don't use much. It certainly wasn't one I would use to describe myself. And it wasn't one that I would use to reveal the condition of my heart. But it did all those. And more. It was simply 'inadequacy.” I quickly put pen to paper in my journal and simply jotted “Inadequacy. That is what hinders. Fear of being inadequate.” And the tears began. My quest was fulfilled already. What I was searching for through retreat had a spotlight shined on it. And I wrote some more.

“I try so hard to do everything right and keep it under control – all because I fear being inadequate – letting God down in taking care of Mom or what He has called me to so doing I lost Him. HE has qualified me. Not anything I do. I didn't realize my Martha was wrapped up in feeling inadequate – like I could fail or let God down. That's a wrong view of how God sees me. Comes back to identity. Whose I am.”

I was struck with the harsh reality that I serve out of obligation, trying to 'prove' myself or 'earn' love and acceptance and show I am in control. And it's all rooted in feeling inferior. I realized right away this was a lie of the enemy, and it was the 'one thing' that still lingered, that still pulled at me and weighed on me. And I had a choice to make.

I have spent the last month since Retreat processing this revelation and walking in my choices. I let the 'to do' list become priority over the 'to be' list. All those former things I thought I had dealt with were still there, just cleverly cloaked so they took longer to expose. Now that they've been exposed, my responsibility is to correct the issue. While feeling inferior comes back to trusting who God says I am, my actions which feed the lie are changeable. And those changes are what I have been focusing on. I am making the daily - sometimes hourly - choice to believe God loves me for WHO I am, not what I do.

That is my recent BUT GOD moment. God interrupted my actions and changed my direction. He put His touch on things, recreating something, making something wrong right.

What about you? What in your life needs a BUT GOD moment? I still struggle with words to capture all this. I'm still processing it and don't have it all sorted out yet. In essence, I'm dealing with some identity issues, and if done right, those aren't resolved quickly when it gets to deep seeded stuff like what God exposed, But it's exciting at the same time. It means God still has more for me to accomplish during my time on Earth. To quote from my book “This Much I Know...The Space Between”:

“BUT GOD breaks chains the world tells us we can't overcome. BUT GOD redeems life from death of vision and purpose due to trauma. BUT GOD gives hopes during unbearable pain and heartache. BUT GOD brings freedom which cannot be broken!” (p 88).

** “This Much I Know...The Space Between” is now available on Amazon and Kindle

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