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Entries in Sally Ferguson (3)

Tuesday
Oct232018

Waiting for God's Beautiful Timing

Sally Ferguson, a retreat planner, teaches women how to get away from the craziness of life and wait on the Lord. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she reminds us of a precious principle for intimacy with God.

"I look out the window at my backyard," Sally says, "where reside two apple trees, one Granny Smith and one Red Delicious. My three year old granddaughter persistently reaches for the miniature fruit, hanging on the branches."

"'Not yet,' I tell her. 'The apples need time to grow and get sweeter. Their colors will change when they’re ready.'"

Growing up in the Midwest, I (Dawn) saw many such apple trees. I know exactly what Sally's talking about. It's a beautiful illustration for patience.

Sally continues . . .

I often expect life to be ready, for me, too.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God has made everything beautiful in its time, but I impulsively seize opportunities that aren’t ripe yet, and wonder why they taste bitter and feel tough.

Why is there such mystery around when things happen?

       Four ways to know when God’s timing is ripe.

1. Do you have a skillset needed for the job?

People have a way of volunteering us for their projects.

While we’re being taught to learn to say “no” for our own sanity, there are times we do need to say “yes,” for theirs.

In John chapter 2, Mary asked Jesus to take care of the punch at a family wedding. Jesus said, “It’s not my monkey, not my circus.” (Not His actual wording!)

But He helped anyway. Verse 7 says He knew what to do, and He helped save the family from great embarrassment in front of their community.

There are times when I know what to do, and need to get involved, even if I think it’s lousy timing.

2. Does it require an act of faith?

Occasionally, I get the most bizarre ideas, yet cannot escape their unrelenting nudge.

Is it me, or is it God’s idea?

The best thing I can do is ask the Lord to make it absolutely clear with my next step.

In Matthew chapter 14, the wind was whipping around Peter’s feet. He had stepped out of the boat to walk with Jesus, but the splashing waves redirected his attention.

When fear crept up, he cried out for help.

Jesus asked Peter to trust Him, but He didn’t change the circumstances first.

Verse 32 says the wind died down when they climbed into the boat. Not before. Not after. But at the right time. Obedience has its reward.

3. Will God get the glory for something bigger than what you could have done?

Matthew 14:33 says the people in the boat worshipped Jesus when they saw what happened.

My impatience demands action. But, when God moves, the “wow factor” usually stops me in my tracks.

It’s at that point I know the result is much more than I dreamt and requires a level of trust previously unknown.

Who am I, to rush God?

Isaiah 5:19 proclaims an indictment on me for telling God to hurry up! He promises He will swiftly take care of things when the time is right (Isaiah 60:22); and He will do it for His own glory (Isaiah 48:11).

4. Do you have peace about the outcome?

Even though we can’t see the future and the outcomes of our choices, we can trust the One who does.

My NIV footnotes say about Psalm 27:3, “Confidence gives us patience to wait for God’s timing and not demand immediate response to our petitions.”

Oh, to have that confidence and complete trust in the Lord!

Why does God appear to be silent when we ask Him to answer our prayers? My friend, Mary Corey said, “It’s to keep us close to Him, when He seems to be taking too long.”

Let the waiting draw you closer to the Lord.

When God is moving, nothing can stop the momentum of His work in our lives. It’s exhilarating to be in that tsunami of change.

However, we have to wait for that to happen. Ephesians 1:9-10 says He is waiting for history to reach its full potential.

Here’s a secret: Mark 1:15 declares the time to be ripe, now, for us to submit to the Lordship of Christ. Let’s act on what we know to do, and wait for God to do His thing.

When we surrender our agendas to Him, He’s never too late.

Are you ready to pause? Use your skillset, faith, trust and confidence in God to guide your resting and waiting for Him to move on your behalf. The fruit will all be worth the wait.

How are you growing while you wait for God’s timing?

Sally Ferguson loves planning women’s retreats. Her coloring book, What Will I Be When I Grow Up? (Warner Press) and ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat are both available on Amazon.  Visit her latest retreat release here.  

Graphic adapted, courtesy of mploscar at Pixabay. 

Thursday
Jul122018

The Pulse of Prayer in Grief

Sally Ferguson writes with clarity and sensitivity, and this post is no exception. In this Grief UPGRADE, she shares how prayer is the lifeline for believers who grapple with the devastation of grief.

"I curled up next to my 95 year old grandmother, as we contemplated how our lives had turned upside down," Sally says. "Her only child, my mom, had died suddenly of heart failure."

I (Dawn) think every loved one's passing bring's grief, but the sudden loss is especially hard. I remember my prayers when my daddy passed unexpectedly into eternity. I felt like I mumbled prayers only the Spirit of God could understand; I was in so much pain. Sally understands this and has a good word of encouragement for us here.

Sally continues . . .

Facing the loss of his business partner and wife of 54 years, my dad entered no-man’s land of mental collapse.

I felt like I had not only lost one parent, but two.

The ensuing months of doctor visits with Dad, hospital stays and tests brought a diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s. His ability to function was enhanced by a multitude of drugs, and his subsequent move into my home was brightened by the presence of my toddling granddaughter.

In the worst of times, I saw my grandmother and my father rely on the Lord. That night cradled next to my Gra’ma, I glimpsed a window into heaven when I heard the most intimate prayer of a child relying on her heavenly Father for her needs.

In days when Dad was not able to express much else, he could respond with prayer that made more sense than a lot of the words I’ve uttered.

What is it about a lifestyle of prayer that ingrains a habit so deeply in the heart and enables one to call out to God, even in the midst of the unthinkable?

On my friend’s deathbed, her practice of prayer was still a priority. But it was for others, not herself.

At 54, her body was ravaged by cancer, but her mind still held on to the promises of God found in Christ. As different ones visited in her hospital room, Jodie bowed her head and lifted an earnest request for each one gathered around her bed.

Her pleas for their protection and guidance were fueled by the urgency of her own mortality.

I met with my 91-year-old writer friend, Bea, the second week in December. By the third day of January, she was gone.

Bea and I had prayed over many manuscripts and life needs, and each time she prayed, I knew she was talking to a Friend.

Memories are sacred treasures we hold in our hearts.

I walked through the deaths of four prayer warriors in a little over four years.

Mom, Gra’ma, Jodie and Bea left an indescribable void.

I am still observing my dad’s reverent conversations with the Lord and the miracle of his mental health being restored.

Is God still there? Does God still care? Absolutely!

As a young adult, I heard my pastor say, based on Matthew 6:8, “He knows and He cares.” I have continued to see that truth play out in my life as the Lord has walked me through suffering.

Living in the shadow of death, it helped to know God worked in the lives of others who were familiar with pain, and He would be there for me, too.

The trauma of grief is one each one of us faces in life, yet the pulse of prayer runs through our veins with hope in the Resurrection of Christ.

From foxhole to hospice care, we all return to prayer in our greatest need.

Our Creator installed that default mode, so we would know how to call out to Him.

Indeed, Ecclesiastes 3:11 says He has placed eternity in our hearts. The link of prayer may be more noticeable in crisis, but it is available every day of our lives.

When we pray, hard times cannot crush us, because we know Who to lean on.

I have not yet reached the other side of my crisis, as we continue to grapple with my dad’s health. But I am stronger for the journey.

Faith in God was modeled for me and proved true as He held on to me through the devastation of loss. On the days when grief covered me with a blanket of despair, my heart still knew to call out to God, my Safe Tower.

Suffering also earns you the right to be heard.

People listen, because there is respect for one who suffers.

Grief hurts. But compassion for others rises out of vulnerability.

What would I want others to learn from my journey with grief?

  • Life is precious.
  • We have a legacy to leave to those who come behind us, and the mantle of responsibility for that heritage has been passed on to us.
  • When loss is devastating, my heart’s desire is to let others know God is always there and He always cares.

We find Him in the pulse of prayer.

How have you modeled prayer for your family?

Sally Ferguson loves organizing retreats and seeing relationships blossom in time away from the daily routine. Her coloring book, What Will I Be When I Grow Up? (Warner Press) and ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat are both available on Amazon.  Stop in for a chat at www.sallyferguson.net

Thursday
May102018

Six Must-have Elements for a Successful Retreat

Freelance writer Sally Ferguson has written devotionals and for magazines, but her specialty is supplying tools to equip women. In this Ministry UPGRADE, she shares how to plan a successful women's retreat.

"In the midst of busy ministry tasks, Jesus called the disciples to time away with Him," Sally says. "Why would the CEO of a budding company take His associates away at their most crucial season? It all had to do with what’s called the bottom line."

Having planned retreats, I (Dawn) know the tremendous time and effort required, but I love Sally's biblical approach to the whole process.

Sally continues . . .

Look at Mark 6:30-46 for six essentials for a getaway.

1. The Invitation - Mark 6:31

The apostles were frazzled. They traveled, taught and tended to the needy. Jesus invited them to step away from the tyranny of the urgent and regroup.

How about the women in your sphere of influence? Are they carpooling moms, trying to make ends meet, or a part of the sandwich generation caring for aging parents and young children?

How would they respond to a weekend of R&R? How about a chance to recharge their batteries!

Invite them on facebook. Ask them in person.

Print flyers and posters. Get the word out that you are planning something special with each one in mind. Advertizing your event in multiple venues, repeatedly, spreads the message.

2. The Challenge - Mark 6:37

Jesus issued a challenge to His followers to be the vessel through which God could display His glory.

Could you cast a vision for a getaway, too?

Casting a vision helps a leadership team to plan and implement your retreat. It also refers to the challenge you set before attendees.

Will you call them to discipleship or dedication to unity? Will you challenge them to a deeper prayer life or a broader scope of servanthood?

The vision of the retreat provides a foundation on which all else can be built.

3. Organization - Mark 6:38-40

This passage illustrates that God is a God of order! (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40)

First, Jesus sent the disciples on a fact-finding mission (vs. 38). Planning women’s retreats is no different…

  • How many rooms will we need?
  • How many can the location handle?
  • What amenities are available?
  • What will it cost?
  • How much time do we want to schedule away?

Second, Jesus organized the massive group (vs. 39-40). What will you need to organize?

Food for thought, food for the body and food for festivities are all important elements to a retreat.

Break down each task into smaller chunks.

  • Who will be in charge of meal planning?
  • Who will plan activities?
  • Who will arrange transportation?
  • Who will handle registration?
  • Who will bring the chocolate? (Yes!)

Take it a step further.

How will you foster a sense of belonging?

Groups of seven to nine people add intimacy to a retreat; a place where everyone learns your name. It’s a place to listen to what others think about faith and to be heard in the questioning places of our hearts.

Small groups meet several times during the retreat to cultivate relationships and to pray for one another.

4. Gratitude - Mark 6:41

Jesus gave thanks for what had been given.

What happens when we show gratitude? Not only does an attitude adjustment happen, but it shifts the focus to the One who wants us to “come away” with Him.

  • Include opportunities for worship in your retreat.
  • Schedule outings to experience the wonderful world He created.
  • Affirm each woman for the contributions she makes to your small group.
  • And recognize ways others have made the experience better for all.

5. The Meat - Mark 6:41-44

After Jesus had given thanks, He broke the loaves and fed the crowd abundantly.

How will you break the Bread of Life for your women? Will it be through video, speakers or study material?

When women tell their stories, camaraderie is developed through shared struggles.

Did you notice that Jesus didn’t distribute the loaves and fish to the people? He let His disciples experience the joy of the miracle.

When you spread out responsibilities to your leadership team, more people take ownership of the event, and more people receive the blessing!

6. Prayer - Mark 6:46

And so, we come full circle and end at prayer. From the invitation to the benediction, Jesus modeled a lifestyle of prayer.

He knew it all came back to the bottom line... relying on the One who would supply all their needs.

Bathe your retreat in prayer. From conception to birth, let it be the Lord’s baby. He will show you how to nurture and raise it up to be an event that takes on a life of its own and brings praise to Him! 

Could a retreat enhance the way your group connects?

Sally Ferguson loves planning women’s retreats. Her coloring book, What Will I Be When I Grow Up? (Warner Press) and ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat are both available on Amazon. Visit her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of StockSnap at Pixabay.