Thursday, September 22, 2011

Women of Faith Recap

With Hurricane Irene bearing down on us, there was the potential for huge distraction at the Women of Faith "Imagine" conference in DC August 26 and 27. But inside that arena, God reigned and moved in the midst of those gathered, turning a sports arena into a house of worship for two sweet days.
 The Friday sessions with Sheila Walsh and Dr. Henry Cloud spoke straight to me as if tailor-made. Sheila spoke about God's 3,000+ promises in the Bible and encouraged the women in the arena by telling us "you have not lived an unloved moment in your life." How encouraging is that to hear! She used to story of the woman with the issue of blood to show how God wants to give us a bigger miracle than we even imagine when we come to Him. "When the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change, you will change." Dr. Cloud talked about our happiness and how God has wired our physiology to change when we walk in His ways. From his current book, "The Law of Happiness", Cloud discussed how happy people are givers and connected people. He challenged us that the life we imagine for ourselves has to be big enough to scare us, otherwise it's not worth it (but not so big it would kill you). Hearing this was both challenging and comforting at the same time, since there are definitely times where the life I imagine DOES scare me a little. Next, he talked about "necessary endings" and how pruning can benefit our lives, whether it's getting rid of the good to leave more room for the best in our lives or getting rid of patterns and behaviors that are destructive. He pointed out how hard this can be because on some level we are all hoarders. We don't believe that God will supply what we need for tomorrow so we hold on to the little we have and I so needed to hear some of this! Like Dr. Cloud mentioned, trying to hold on to a part of my former life prevents me from being present today and I need to release it by grieving it and moving on. I don't want to prevent God from working out His plan in my life so some pruning is definitely in order! :) Some quotes/points from the Q&A Sheila and Henry did together include:
"The bigger the trouble, the faster you run home." ~Sheila
The inability to forgive is crippling.
We were never intended/designed to judge ourselves.

To close out the morning session, Sheila spoke about God's promise of peace that Jesus gives before his crucifixion in John 14:27. She reminded us that peace is not the absence of trouble, since Christ promised we would have troubles in this life, but it is the presence of Christ and that peace is found at the feet of Jesus.

Friday evening began the main portion of the conference and we all were given a good ab workout when comedian Ken Davis took the stage, encouraging us to lighten up and live life with all the joy God intended. "Humor is a gentle way to acknowledge human frailty." Some of his stories had us in stitches as he talked about being in the clueless stage of life and doing the "airport macarena". Sheila came back up to speak on more of God's promises, specifically the promise in John 16:33 that Christ will overcome the world despite the troubles we'll have but she posed the question "what if the trouble is in me, not the world?" Well, the answer to that is that yes, the trouble is in me, but so is God. We're not just in the world, we're in Christ as well.

Lisa Harper, author of "Stumbling Into Grace" (the book I'm working on reviewing), kicked off Saturday morning and talked about God's gut-level compassion for us as demonstrated in the healing of the leper at the end of Mark 1. She also reminded us that all addiction is ultimately a disorder of worship. For the first time, Nicole Johnson took the stage, not to perform a drama, but to share her own story with us. She shared God's desire for us to have abundant, "fresh-brewed" life and how life's greatest value is often found in its broken pieces. She talked about how anger is hard to deal with for women but that we need to realize it is an emotion that just is. When we put our suffering inside Christ's suffering we begin to find peace and healing. Luci Swindoll took the stage as the final speaker, encouraging us to "live the life out of every day." She challenged us, asking when was the last time you did something for your soul. She pointed out how God gave us "all things to enjoy" (1 Tim 6:7) and that "if you enjoy the world, you will improve it." We have to step outside ourselves and be adventurous to live life fully and one way to do this is to tell ourselves "No one told me I couldn't." How much more satisfying and fulfilling would life be if we didn't hold ourselves back this way!

The worship was heartfelt and moving, both with the worship team and the musical guests that shared their talents with us (MaryMary and Natalie Grant). Each speaker laid their hearts open for us, sharing not only what God is teaching them but how he is working in their own lives. There were laughs and there were tears. I was so glad I was able to share the conference with a friend who was coming for the first time. It's always neat to experience something you love through the eyes of one seeing it with fresh eyes. It was like experiencing it anew. Truly, I expected nothing less and got so much more!
 At the very end, each speaker took the stage one more time to give us a figurative gift to take home to remember the weekend by. Lisa Harper gave coins, a connection to a story she had told about a woman who sold her father's coin collection, as a reminder that God has compassion for you. Natalie Grant brought a mirror to remind us that we are beautiful and created in God's image. Sheila had a little stuffed lamb, reminding us that the Shepherd knows where to find us, referencing the parable of the lost sheep and God's promises to us. Nicole brought an unique angle ornament made from stained glass that was broken in the church across the street from the Federal building in the OKC bombing, reminding us that God wants our pieces and wants to make something beautiful from them. Luci bounced a basketball on the stage, bringing to mind her story of meeting Austin, the young man that founded Hoops for Hope, and reminding the arena to not wait and live life fully because who said you couldn't?! :)

If you are interested in joining us next year, I highly encourage it! :) Next year's format will actually do away with the Friday morning portion of the conference (previously the pre-conference), focusing instead on the main portion and giving attendees more flexibility. Next year's theme is "Celebrate!" and will be in the DC area August 17-18, 2012.

I live-blogged the conference (as much as I could with my small phone and limited space) so if you would like to read more you can check out the following group of posts:

Soli Deo Gloria,

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