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!