Oct 20, 2011

Women of Faith Imagine 2011

The magnificent Luci Swindoll summarized the Women of Faith Imagine conference this way:
the Women of Faith Imagine conference is intended for connection and encouragement of women of faith.
That is precisely what I got out of it.

It's a great place to go when your spirit is starting to droop and you need refreshment, encouragement.... sustenance.  It's a great place to go when you feel lonely, all alone in your walk of faith or outnumbered in the secular world.

The Women of Faith conference is the place to go when you're going through a really difficult time and can't imagine how you're going to get through it.  Coincidence that the conference title this year is "Imagine?"  I think not.  You'll hear testimonies of hope, endurance, grace, mercy, forgiveness, healing, restoration... You'll find empathy, direction, advice and community.....

Natalie Grant, pictured above, leading us in amazing worship.

I'd guess 50,000 women were there singing A Capella It is Well.  Boy, if that doesn't pull you out of a spiritual funk, I don't know what will.

The Friday sessions with Sheila Walsh and Dr. Henry Cloud were what I'd call "the meat of the matter."  We dug deep in these sessions.  At my stage in my walk with Christ, I appreciated these sessions more than the Saturday sessions.  The Saturday sessions were mostly testimonies.  The Saturday sessions spoke about renewing your commitment, keeping the faith, and finding peace in difficult times.  I found great encouragement in these sessions for a particularly hard time I am going through.  I felt my spine strengthen & lengthen.  My resolve to continue believing God's promises grew in these sessions.

Sheila started Saturday challenging us to search the scriptures and find the promises that are absolutely true, always -- no matter what -- not the seasonal, contextual promises.  John 16:33 for instance is one of these promises.  Memorize these, she encouraged, and cling to them for life.  They are the basics that will get you through when you hit rock bottom.  Then she shared yet another time that she has hit rock bottom.  That girl has hit rock bottom more than anyone I know. She shares how she always bounces back:  by spending time at the feet of Jesus.

The Women of Faith conference ticket is quite pricey for many people, yet typical fare for a "conference" -- $99. for a two day conference.  It does come with a free box lunch both days.  The conference can be crowded, it's hard to find a place to sit and eat.  Women were sitting on the ground all around the St. Pete Times Forum.  We ended up eating our picnic under the freeway.

The Imagine conference I attended in Tampa, FL was held on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  Words cannot express what it was like as Angie Smith asked women to stand if they had lost a child either before or after birth.  Women all around the arena stood, many sobbing.  What an honor to look around and pray over these women who so often are told to "get over it" or "you can have more children."  Natalie Grant later sang her song "Held" which also spoke to this very issue.  Angie spoke about losing one of her children soon after birth and how this is yet another wound the Master Healer can mend.

After the heaviness of the morning sessions, Luci Swindoll took the floor as only she can and perked us up a bit reminding us to celebrate life, to "live in the now."  "We've forgotten how to be happy," she began, "We always want something else."  Luci challenged us to do something for our souls each and every day.  "In our busy-ness," she said, "We forget to be soul-ish."
Citing I Timothy 6:17, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."

Luci pointed out that this verse doesn't end with "who richly provides us everything for us to achieve" or "for us to acquire"  or "to buy" or even "to correct."  God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

With a big hearty laugh, Luci asked us "What turns your joy crank?  Art? Music? Literature?  Friends?  Family?  Laughter?"    Where does she get this great attitude from?  I loved hearing Luci describe how her grandmother would often say, "Today is wasted if we do not just fall over in a heap laughing."
That sure explains a lot about both Luci and Chuck Swindoll!

Luci ended sounding a bit like Dr. Seuss:
 "You just step out and try it, it is amazing what you can do!  Be you.  Be now.  Do it and you'll have a great time!"
Oh man, I love me some Luci Swindoll.

If you go to a conference (and I strongly recommend you do), wear layers.  They can't control the temp in these arenas and if they could, nobody would agree on what is hot and what is cold.  If you forget this important advice, they do sell blankets and wraps.  I was glad to see the merchandising had lessened since my last Women of Faith conference.  Each speaker and musician sells some product, but it's not much.

I was disappointed in two ways with the Women of Faith Conference.  1.  Mary Mary didn't attend.  They told me personally via twitter (@therealMaryMary) that they had a previous engagement.  It was a nice surprise, however, to see Nicole C. Mullins in their place.  2.  An illusionist performed at one point.  And I thought:  Wha???  Really?  The illusionist bit seemed a little out of place here and I wondered if he stepped in last minute to fill in for a no-show.

Also?  Comedian Ken Davis showed up and absolutely cracked us up.  He was hilarious.  I can't wait for him to come to a city near me, I'll take a whole bunch of friends!

The Women of Faith conference gave me two tickets to this conference in exchange for my review.  I have attended this conference 3-4 times in the past and have always come out stronger in faith.  The corporate worship and female encouragement is well worth the price of the ticket.

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