please clean filter.

Last weekend, I spent a great/tiring/restoring/stressful/emotional/dancing-full/technical/lady-filled weekend up in Breck, CO for the Women’s Weekend Getaway (If you are around the Ft. Collins-Boulder-Denver area and looking for something to do next October, definitely check it out next year!)

I absolutely love being in the mountains, especially in the fall when they look like this:

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But  going into it, I was honestly kind of dreading the retreat. I have been on this roller-coaster with my faith for what feels like so long now and I just didn’t want to come into a space that was dedicated to dealing with the hard stuff and actually encountering a God who loves me and heals and is my Truth and my hope. It sounds totally silly when I just go right out and say it, because it’s so obviously dumb to not desire that, but after a long day of “Hi, what can I get you today?” and traffic on the way up, I just was not in the mood. As such, I was pretty dang grumpy. I ran sound and slides for the event, which is probably not the best place for a self-diagnosed perfectionist, and for most of the weekend I was too wrapped up in maintaining my emotional walls of critique and eye rolling to really let myself be moved.

Yet over the course of the weekend, I spoke with, created with, laughed with, drank wine with, explored alongside, and simply encountered incredible women -mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters- of faith anywhere from age nineteen to seventy eight who had the name of Jesus completely autographed all over them. It was as if their souls dripped with the ink of His signature. So many moments of absolutely transparent beauty, of women who had laid down any need to compete, any desire to control, or any of the bitterness that just warps a heart.

And while I watched this all happen from behind my little knobs and multitude of cords of a sound board, my heart was still so hard. I could see things changing, see healing happening, and yet remained unaffected, completely crippled by my desire to maintain composure. Soft and delicate hands laid gently across my shoulders as sighs of fervent prayer echoed to the ceilings -and still my stiff neck would not bend.

The retreat speaker, Jonalyn (who has an incredible ministry called Soulation), a spunky, wise and genuine woman, spoke words of truth and challenge, told stories of courage and pain and awkward moments and messy loveliness. She recited pearls of wisdom from her book, Ruby Slippers, and whispered words of Scripture to thirsty and desperate hearts seated throughout a room blooming with sunflowers and glistening eyes. And yet still my stiff neck would not bend.

My dear friend, Marge, and new friend, Christa, played incredible songs that proclaimed the truth of His character, capturing the pounding beat of the Father’s heart for His children in melody and harmony tangled all together like magnificent marbling. Songs that made toes start tapping, palms open wide,  leathery and tired hands to reach up as if they might grasp the fruit upon a branch above them as music danced around swaying bodies like a gentle caress. And yet still my stiff neck would not bend.

Instead, I sat, huddled behind my shield of disbelief and as entangled with lies in my head as the cords snarled at my feet, stiff-necked and proud, pressing the “Next” button on a powerpoint presentation. I watched all this raw beauty come to vibrant life and breathtaking color before my very eyes but yet looked on seeing nothing but grey in a world so very boringly black and white.

Until, after gently pressing the power button on my friend the projector and briefly wincing at the loud and attention-drawing beep it made, this familiar image came up on the screen. And for some reason, my stiff neck finally bent.

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No one else saw it, or probably even noticed if they did, but those three words shook me to my core: Please clean filter. It was like the heavens broke open in a rush of sound and mercy and wind and my neck bent under the weight of the truth resonating down to my very bones. Please clean filter. My eyes welled up and tears of forgetfulness and apology and joy and open-mouthed wonder poured down my cheeks. Please clean filter. So simple – such truth. It was as if Jesus grabbed my chin, tilted my head upwards and said, “Beloved child, change the way you see.”

I don’t know about you, but in times of suffering, I can praise God. In times of abundance, I can praise God. But in times of uncertainty, I tend to curse Him. To forget that He is good and that He is taking care of things and that He is sovereign. It’s easy to hang onto His promise to take care of me when I feel like there is opposition or celebration, but just the mere fact that I have no idea what to do-where I’m going-who I am-what should matter-how to spend my time-what my calling is-how I can follow Him makes me so easily discard the truth that He is my Father and that He loves me dearly. But it’s so simple.

Please clean filter. Change how you see. Take off the glasses of anger and lies and bitterness and fear and see brightness and vibrancy and color and joy and miracles in the everyday. Take off those glasses that make the focus about me and my failures and my doubts and my heartbroken confusion and instead see His faithfulness.

And the humor of it all is that in a weekend filled with so much of His presence, the place that I encounter it isn’t anywhere conventional, but instead in the mundane, minuscule, trite announcement that the projector we were using is in need of a new mechanical part. Go figure. But I know all the more that He was speaking straight to me because of it – in the midst of everything else, the only way I would’ve let my stupid stiff neck bend was from something as quiet and small and simple as that. Please clean filter. Amen.

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