I was with two different groups of women today. Both groups are comprised of awesome, godly women it is my privilege to know. I deeply love and admire every single one of them, and I treasure how God made them.
The morning group is doing a weekly abbreviated "Celebrate Recovery" version of the program over the summer. I have the distinct honor of facilitating the group, but the goal is to help with a ministry one of the women in the group is starting. The name is, "Hope Restored," and it is designed to be a house where women who are trying to get their lives put back together after prison, drug abuse, etc., can come to heal, let go of shame, learn practical life skills and be restored to a place of dignity in society. Lives will be changes and that's awesome!
One of the requirements for acceptance in the house is that they be actively involved in "Celebrate Recovery," a Christ centered 12-step program.
I told the woman starting "Hope Restored," that it didn't seem fair to ask the women who would be coming into the house to do something the women who would be working with, and hoping to minister to them, hadn't done. Not only was I concerned that we wouldn't be speaking the same "language," I was afraid there would be not a real point of contact. A lot of the women who have volunteered to help have the appearance of having all the blessings and none of the heartaches of life. It's not true, though. We are finding out first-hand, as we are open and honest and candid with one another, that we all have, "Hurts, habits and hang-ups," that God needs and wants to address in each of us. He is graciously doing a work in us so that we can aid Him in doing a work in the women He brings to the house. I think we have all been surprised, sometimes painfully, sometimes pleasantly, by all He is doing in us so he can work through us.
The second group of women were my "core group" in the weekly Bible study I attend. Every year the groups are mixed up again with no more than 15 in each group. But for some reason, that year, God did something unexpected and marvelous. We bonded to such a degree that we didn't want to stop meeting. So we didn't!
We met all through that first summer, throughout this past year and now into the second summer. We call ourselves the "Yadas" and not after the book. We are a prayer group and supposedly Yada means something spiritual. I've forgotten what, so until I remember, just take my word for it.
At first I thought the name was really corny, but I have come to love it. We meet once a month. and we can't wait to be with each other! It's one of the biggest highest highlights of our collective month. We talk and share and laugh and eat, of course, but we also pray.
In both of these groups, we are open and honest and real. Warts and all. Because we all have warts so there's no sense pretending we don't.
Pretense always breeds isolation because you think you can't afford to let anyone really know you. These women are the antithesis of what is all too common in our churches these days and I love them for it almost as much as I need them.
I also have a small prayer group of four women that meet in my home to pray for our families every other Tuesday, as well as my almost weekly meetings with my favorite 30-somethings, Tara and Kristen.
Then there is the other group of three women who are determined to see, "The Rhyme and Reason Series" published.
My gosh! As I type this, I realize how incredibly blessed I am! God has given me not one, not two, but an entire bevy of solid, get-to-the-point committed Christian friends who love and pray for each other. I feel rich beyond measure in the things that matter most. I don't wear a diamond on my finger. Mainly because I don't have one. Instead, the Lord has sprinkled sparkling diamonds of greater and eternal value all around me. And I cherish them with more passion than I could ever value compacted coal.
My heart is overflowing with gratitude, but here is my point: Twice in Scripture (and I know I've said this many times before because it's one of my favorite themes...) God tells us He has named all the stars!
We all know that if God says something once, He means it. If He says it twice, He's making a point of making a point.
Isaiah 40:25-26 says, "To whom will you liken Me that I should be his equal? says the Holy One. Lift your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing." Wow. That should be enough right there. But Psalm 147:4 confirms this incredible statement: "He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to them all."
I personally don't think this is hyperbole. I think He said exactly what He meant. With the same care and thought with which we name our children, God has named the incalculable stars in the incalculable galaxies of which we can't even find the end.
And if it's true that the universe is ever-expanding, that means He is giving birth and naming star babies all the time.
And yet. Oh! And yet! We are His priority! He loves us with an everlasting love! I am convinced the stars are just a hobby. It's us He adores! It's us! What a worship inspiring thought!
And if we love and serve a God who can name more stars than we have a number to count, doesn't it make sense that the "hurts, habits and hang-ups" that seem so monumental and confusing and trying to us are nothing at all to Him? Nothing! Besides, He promises that, "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."
I'm afraid in my case even that won't be long enough, but what a marvelous, comforting, hopeful thought!
Not only that, He's grace-gifted me with all of these women I can just be myself with, whom I know will pray for me as I pray for them. And I do.