Monday, August 15, 2011

Women of Faith Imagine Conference

It was an honor and a privilege to be able to attend the Women of Faith Imagine Conference held in Atlanta, Georgia this past weekend.  Hearing these godly women (and man) speak and sing was truly a blessing.  Next year I hope to go again, and take a lot of friends and family with me!  Next year's theme is Celebrate!  based on Joel 2:21 NCV  "…Be happy and full of joy, because the Lord has done a wonderful thing." 

More than 8,000 women attended the Atlanta event, representing Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Illinois (seriously!) and New York City.  It was incredible hearing these women break into spontaneous song on several occasions, rising in the air as a beautiful sound, praising and worshipping our Lord.  Before I leave them out, let me tell you that Women of Faith has an incredible worship team!  Full of life, energy, joy and praise to our Savior.

I would like to share with you some of my personal high points from this year's conference.  I mentioned previously that the theme was Imagine, taken from Ephesians 3:20 NIV  "now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us..."

Sheila Walsh (one of my personal all-time favorites) was the first speaker and her theme centered around promises.  Did you know that there are over 3,000 promises in the Bible?  And as Ms. Walsh stated, you can stake your life on each one of them!  She touched on two:  No condemnation found in Romans 8:1-4, and No separation found in Romans 8:38 & 39.  As Christians, we are no longer condemned.  And we will never be separated from the love of God! Ms. Walsh emphasized her testimony with a very moving rendition of "Amazing Grace".  Ms. Walsh spoke a couple of more times during the conference ending each session in song, "You Raise Me Up" and "How Great Thou Art".

Steve Arterburn (the founder of Women of Faith in 1996, over 4,000,000 women have attended over the years!) was our second speaker.  He spoke of being cut off by five walls.  Not boundaries, but walls.  We personalize trials, saying God picked those for us to go through, instead of the fact that evil is in the world.  He focused on the walls of  stubborn resistance, the wall of arrogant entitlement, the wall of justifiable resentment, the wall of disconnected isolation, and the wall of blind ignorance. He went on to explain that we could overcome those walls by willingness, acceptance and gratitude.

Laura Story told of her and her husband Martin's trials with his brain tumor, which was recognized a year or so into their marriage, sharing bits of humor as well as tears.  She is an incredible, personable woman!  She wrote the familiar song "Indescribable".  She sang "Mighty to Save" and "Blessings".  Isn't it incredible how a woman who has gone through so much, and who is still going through trials, can sing such great songs, with fervor and meaning?

Angie Smith (wife to Tom Smith, lead singer of the group Selah) shared a heartbreaking story of the loss of her third child, a daughter, shortly after birth.  How upon finding out there was little hope for this new child, she and her family determined to spend as much time as possible with their daughter before and after her birth, making memories to be cherished.  Bring the Rain is her blog site.  Check it out.  Angie's testimony brought back vivid memories to me of the birth and death of my first son seventeen years ago, and I sat there and cried.  Angie shared how when you go through devastating trials, you can either reach back to what you know, or you can reach forward to God.  What a wonderful testimony!  One word I did want to share with you from Angie is the word Kyrios (Greek), meaning Son of God, the One to Whom I belong, my Lord and Master.  What a way to think of Jesus.  Not just our Teacher, but our Lord and Master.

Nicole Johnson, dramatist extraordinaire! She shared her personal story about what do you do about your anger?  Even when you don't think you are angry.  She made a statement that stuck with me, God says I won't get you out of your trials, but I will sit here with you. I will go through them with you.  God in His mercy takes what has been broken and restores it.  He can make something incredibly beautiful out of the broken pieces.  If you allow Him to.  Something more beautiful than can be imagined. 

Of course Luci Swindoll, sister of famous pastor Chuck Swindoll, spoke.  Learn to be happy where you are.  I Timothy 6:6-9, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition."  We were given all things to enjoy.  We should use for God's glory what we have been given.  The Gospel of Salvation was presented, an invitation was given, and hopefully those who were not already believers made the decision to follow Christ, or will do so soon.

Natalie Grant sang with fervor and a good beat.  Songs such as "I Will Not Be Moved", "Your Great Name", and "What it Means to Be Held" (which I really liked!). 

One other speaker who I really enjoyed was Lisa Harper.  She has an awesome sense of humor and is able to present the Bible in today's culture.  Lisa spoke of the amazing, miraculous healing power of God's grace.  How He takes us out of the inner circle of guilt, such as the woman caught in adultery and brought before Jesus to be stoned, and out of the outer rock throwing circle, and loves and accepts us as we are.  The only One Who could condemn the adulteress was the One Who gave her mercy.  Lisa spoke of how we need to accept that mercy for ourselves, and give it as well.

Wow!  Mary Mary really pumped up that crowd! Mary Mary is two sisters, Erica Campbell and Lisa Campbell, wives and mothers, who share their love of God through song.  "Never Wave My Flag" and "Shackles" were a couple of the crowd favorites.  Although this type of music has never been high on my love list, these two women were incredible!  I think I'm going to have to get some of their music!

All of the speakers at Women of Faith Imagine were engaging, humorous and spell binding.  I sat on the edge of my seat with my notebook and pen, scribbling in the dark because I didn't want to miss anything (now I have to decipher my handwriting!).  The singers were upbeat, but also knew how to bring an aura of worship, preparing us for the words of the speakers.  I laughed, I cried, I learned and I was lifted up. 

Thank you, Women of Faith.  Thank you, Father!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Women of Faith Imagine Conference -- What a Blessing!

I arrived at the Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta, Georgia this morning, without a ticket to the event I intended to attend -- the Women of Faith Imagine conference.  As a blogger and as a member of Booksneeze and sponsored by Thomas Nelson Publishers (which is the organization that produces Women of Faith), I was invited to attend the conference and blog about my experience.  Since I had been to a Women of Faith conference about ten years ago, I was more than happy to attend.

The tickets were supposed to be mailed one to two weeks prior to the conference, but they never showed up!  I kept checking my mailbox, and the closer it got to the date of the conference the more anxious I got.  Finally, yesterday afternoon I could stand it no more.  I e-mailed my contact from Thomas Nelson Live Events and was graciously assured there was a place for me at the conference, and that I could pick up my tickets at the Will Call office at the arena.  I was excited, but also had a little bit of trepidation when I heard this news!  You'll have to understand that I was beginning to think that maybe Women of Faith decided my blog wasn't what they were looking for to represent them, and therefore they would cancel their offer.  That's some stinking thinking, though!

A little after 5:00 this morning I was on the road!  From Prattville, Alabama, Atlanta is approximately a three hour drive, not including the hour you lose when you get to Georgia.  Since the conference started at 10:00 and the ticket windows opened at 9:00, I was determined to be on my way early, even though I am not an early riser.  Armed with my e-mail from Thomas Nelson, I approached the Will Call ticket window for my tickets.  Of course they weren't under my name!  With women lined up behind me, I stood patiently as the ticket agent took my e-mail and returned saying they would be right up.  A couple of minutes later another ticket agent brought the ticket (I only needed one) and wished me a good time.  Yea!  I was in!  Sounds almost like I was SNEAKING in, doesn't it?  However, I had given the matter over to the Lord and was trusting Him to work it out. 

Speaking of giving matters over to the Lord, my a/c broke down this past weekend -- the capacitor went out, and the tech said that if it wasn't caught soon enough, it could tear up the motor, and that I should pray that hadn't happened.  Although he was using the term "pray" loosely, I wasn't!  I was praying!  I had intended to take my sons and go to my parents that day, but instead chose to work in the yard.  When I went into the house it seemed a little warm, and then I smelled something burning (NOT a good sign), yelled at my guys to get out of the house and ran to turn off the breaker to the house.  That's probably what saved us, because the blower, as of last night, was still working.  Actually, what saved us was God's grace and mercy.  You know He is concerned about the little (or not so little) things in our lives.

Sometimes Satan gets in there and tries to discourage us.  Even though he cannot touch us and is not omniscient (all knowing), he does know human nature and will throw things out there, baiting the trap, to see how we will react (this was mentioned by one of the speakers today, don't you like the way they put it?).  I could have let the a/c problem and the "problem" with the tickets, plus my own self doubt over my blog, get me down.  However, I chose to turn the problems over to the Lord.  Doesn't Satan try to get to us, especially when a great blessing is coming up?  And coming full circle, that is exactly what this Women of Faith Imagine conference has been for me so far -- a great blessing.  Thank you Women of Faith, Booksneeze and Thomas Nelson!

Wish you were here!


Women of Faith Imagine Conference, Atlanta, Georgia

This year's Atlanta conference theme centers around the word "imagine" taken from Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)  "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

I cannot begin to tell you how much I have been blessed so far at the Women of Faith Imagine Conference here in Atlanta, Georgia.  Let me just say that so far I have laughed and cried and been instructed by the first two speakers, Sheila Walsh and Stever Arterburn.  Mrs. Walsh finished off her morning and afternoon sessions by singing "Amazing Grace" and "You Raise Me Up".

I'll post more later tonight or tomorrow.  There is another session this evening from 7:00 until 10:00, and then an all day session tomorrow. 

Like I have said before, if you ever get a chance to go to a Women of Faith Conference -- GO!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Women of Faith Imagine Conference, Atlanta, Georgia

Just a few more days until the Women of Faith Imagine Conference in Atlanta!  If you live nearby and get a chance to go, GO!  You will not be sorry.  You will be truly blessed.

The dates of the conferene are August 12 - 13, 2011.  Here's the link


Friday, August 5, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Thunder Dog

Thunder Dog
The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog & the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero
By:  Michael Hingson with Susy Flory
Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers
Copyright 2011

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and so I anxiously awaited the book Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson / Susy Flory, the story of a dog who rescued not only her handler, but many others that fateful day of September 11, 2001 by her calm courage and performance of her duty.  I mistakenly thought the book was about the dog Roselle, but it is more about her handler, Mr. Hingson and his reactions to the tragedy and his life experiences.  I have a friend who is blind, so reading this book opened my eyes to some of the situations my friend faces every day. 
Thunder Dog not only tells the story of what happened to Mr. Hingson and his dog Roselle on September 11, but takes a lot of time explaining how Mr. Hingson's life prior to September 11 influenced his outcome that day. Sometimes the book was hard to follow because of jumping from past to present.  However, if you can overlook this you will find a wealth of information.  Mr. Hingson also shares his faith and trust in God throughout the book. 

Located in the back of the book is a timeline of events for Mr. Hingson and Roselle for September 11, 2001, Courtesy Rules for Blindness, a dissertation by Kenneth Jernigan, resources for blindness, notes and a glossary of terms.

Even though I was disappointed in what I thought the book would be discussing, I did find it a good, easy, informative read.  I will loan this book out to friends and family, and also recommend it to others.

In order to comply with new Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of Booksneeze.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Camping and Canoe Trip

Have you ever been outside at night where sources of light are scarce, and looked up at the sky?  What a vast profusion of stars can be seen on a clear night!  It is completely amazing! 

This past Friday night several of us from my Sunday school class drove from Prattville, Alabama to Milton, Florida for a night of camping and then canoeing on Saturday.  We arrived at the State park after dark, setting up our tents by flashlight (I was glad the one I borrowed from my co-worker was a pop-up tent!).  Tall pines towered above us and between the pines you could see the night sky.  It seemed to me that every space available in the sky was covered with stars!  I couldn't stop looking, putting myself in danger of a serious crick in my neck. 

Me in tent, Travis in background

We went to bed, but I couldn't sleep.  Whether it was the excitement of the coming day or sleeping on the ground, I don't know. But around one in the morning I woke from a light sleep feeling that I couldn't breathe.  I noticed a lot of condensation on the roof and walls of my tent (hold your comments about me being full of hot air, I already knew that!).  I unzipped my tent flap and moved my head close to the opening, listening to the songs of the crickets and frogs, and once again couldn't take my eyes off the stars.  As I was praising God and remembering King David's words in Psalm 19:1-3 ("The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard."), I was rewarded by seeing a star streak across the sky, vanishing in an instant.  I wish I had the proper camera equipment to have captured that night sky!

Travis, me and Amy, getting ready to paddle!

Saturday morning we awoke to a beautiful day!  The sun was up before 6 in the morning, and so was I.  I was ready to get the day started.    We arrived at Black Water Canoe Rental early -- we were scheduled to be on the river at 9:00.  We didn't want to miss our slot and have to wait until 10:00!  We drove to the site where we were to be picked up, then loaded onto the back of a pickup truck that was outfitted with bench seats down the sides and front, and rails that reminded me of cattle truck rails along the sides.  Off we went to the river! 

Once at the river, we loaded our canoes down with our supplies for the day, donned our life jackets (I can't swim!), and climbed in.  I was with Amy, and we had one other canoe which was manned by our Sunday school teacher and one of the guys from our class, who happens to be blind.  Amy and I promised each other we would do our best not to tip our canoe.  I was most insistent, since I wanted to go back to work and brag to my co-worker that we didn't tip, which he had previously assured me we would -- we didn't! 

Rope swing hanging over the river.

The Black Water River is one of only a few sandy bottomed rivers in the United States.  As the river winds through the forest, you see many sandy white beaches in the bends of the river just inviting you to stop and rest for a while, which we did several times.  It was wonderful to sit down in the river and let the water flow over me.  Of course you have to wave and talk to all the other canoers and kayakers.  One beach we stopped at had a rope swing hanging over a probably 3 - 4 foot deep area. It was fun to sit in the river and watch adventurous guys show off for their girlfriends by swinging out over the river and plunging in! 

Travis, Amy and Bro. Joe

Towards the end of our canoe trip we started getting into some heavy traffic (canoes, kayaks, inner tubes and swimmers).  Amy likened it to driving down Interstate 65 near Montgomery, Alabama.  I told her it was a good thing we had practiced all morning weaving in and out of fallen trees, trying to avoid getting hung up on snags (which we did once) so we could get around all the people in inner tubes and swimming!  It was fun though, seeing how well we could maneuver and not run over anyone!  A couple of little guys swimming looked up and said, "hey, look how fast those girls are going!"  Two things I was tickled by -- they called us "girls" and they thought we were going fast!  Good thing there's no speed limit on the Black Water...

If you ever get a chance to canoe, kayak or inner tube on the Black Water River, I would highly recommend it.  I personally want to go again!

Psalm 118:25
"This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

NOTE:  Even though the photos are date stamped April 2010, they were actually taken July 2011.  I used my old camera and did not realize the date stamp was on and incorrect.