Friday, September 30, 2011

I Imagined Myself There

Enjoyable!  Refreshing!  Fun!

Those are the first words that come to my head when I think about the Women of Faith conference that I got to attend last weekend.  Let me set the stage for you.

The Bobcats Arena in Charlotte is full of thousands of women (and about 3 guys) all singing, praising and listening as a panel of speakers tell us what God has done in their lives.

Let's back up a little bit now.  Earlier in the summer, I applied through Booksneeze to get 2 free tickets to the Women of Faith conference in Charlotte.  I got accepted.  Yay, me!  I picked Charlotte for the tickets because my brother and sister-in-law live there.  So, naturally, I invited my sis-in-law, Desha, to join me for the conference.  (And I had a free place to stay and some wonderful home-cooked dinners- wahoo!)

Desha could not make it to the first session on Friday, so I braved the drive downtown all by myself.  I do have to admit that I was pretty proud of making it down there with no wrong turns (although I did get honked at once on the interstate - oops).  I am NOT a city driver.  Rush hour in my town means 10 cars are at the traffic light, but I digress....

Friday's day sessions were very laid back and casual.  That session (and all sessions) started with worship music from the Women of Faith praise team - 4 great women singers.  Then we heard from Dr. Henry Cloud and from Sheila Walsh.  The theme for the weekend was "Imagine" and I have to admit, Dr. Cloud did the best job of incorporating the theme into his talk.  He had us imagine a life of happiness and he talked about the necessary endings that must take place in our lives to achieve that goal.  As Christians we talk a lot about "joy" but not that much about "happiness," so I like that he chose that for his talk. 

The praise team

A box lunch was provided both days with our tickets.  The food was simple but very good.  It was nice to know that you didn't have to go find food somewhere else.  My only complaint was that if I wanted my daily lunchtime caffeine I had to pay the exorbitant arena concession prices for it, or sneak it in (you weren't supposed to bring in outside food or drink).  I won't tell you which I chose to do.

Friday evening brought with it all the bells and whistles.  The panelists all wore their best black and silver outfits complete with bling.  There were theater lights, entrance music and all that jazz.  We heard from Christian comedian Ken Davis that night.  He was HIL-AR-I-OUS!!!!!!  We were laughing so hard we cried.  His humor was definitely one the best parts of the weekend. 

But the absolutely best part of weekend?  Natalie Grant's concert on Friday night.  It was SO good!  That girl can hold a note out for 10 minutes!  My favorite was her singing "Your Great Name."  Besides the great music, she was so real with us, telling us about her struggles with infertility and motherhood.  That concert just really made my weekend.

 Natalie on stage

After getting some rest on Friday night, were back bright and early on Saturday morning.  We heard from Lisa Harper, Sheila Walsh (who is Scottish and has a wonderful accent), Nichole Johnson and Karen Kingsbury.  All of the speakers were engaging, but I was very excited about hearing author, Karen Kingsbury.  I have enjoyed her books for years now.  I tried to get her autograph but her line filled up quickly and was closed by the time I got out there.  Karen is not a regular Women of Faith speaker but only attends a few of the conferences.  So we were lucky to get to hear her.

Karen Kingsbury on stage
This is as close as I came to getting her autograph.

Saturday afternoon brought us another concert.  This time by Gospel Hip Hop singers, Mary Mary.  They are sisters but neither one of their names are Mary - go figure.  They got us up and moving.  I don't know about you, but I love to dance during lively concerts.  So my hips were shaking a little - even if I am Baptist.  After Mary, Mary, we heard from Luci Swindoll.  She is definitely an interesting character.  She's 79, never been married and very into doing her own thing.  She spoke from experience about how we need to enjoy life more, to step out and do something different with our lives. 

Mary Mary

All in all, it was a good conference and I enjoyed it.  Previous conferences that I had been to were very centered on Bible teaching, where you focus on one section of Scripture and unpack it to see the truths in it.  This was not like that.  This conference was more about the testimonies of the individual speakers and how God has worked through their lives.  In fact, after the first session, I didn't even bring my Bible.  I don't think that's a bad thing.  I just don't want someone to go to a Women of Faith conference thinking that it's an in-depth Bible study, because it's not. 

Since this is a review, I do have to mention both the ups and the downs.  So... I do have a few critiques of the conference, if that's what you want to call them that.  One is that the women who spoke all came from broken homes and had very broken childhoods.  Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that.  God healed them and used them.  But since I didn't have a broken home and I had a great childhood, it made it kind of hard to relate.  I think Karen Kingsbury and Luci Swindoll were the only two who didn't have something bad happen to them at age 5.  While I enjoyed hearing their stories and hearing how God has made something wonderful of their lives, I sometimes found it hard to apply any of that to me.

My second critique would be that the praise team felt a little over-polished to me.  Everything they did was very choreographed and very perfect.  I like that they were practiced and prepared, but it felt a little fake at times.  I hate to critique them that way because they sounded good, but it sounded like we were listening to a CD the whole time not to a live group of singers.

My last critique is of the lady taking pictures at the autograph table.  We were assured that a volunteer who was "great at taking pictures" would get a picture of us while Mary, Mary signed our programs.  Look at this picture.

Do you see me in there?  I'm not photoshopped.  That really is half of my head poking in there.  And Desha is there too, right next to me but completely out of the picture.  The "expert" was, apparently, not very good at taking pictures.  So I was a little disappointed in that.

Thank you, Booksneeze for the tickets and thank you Matt and Desha for the free place to stay and the good food.  I had a wonderful weekend.

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