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Monday, October 31, 2011

Women of Faith: IMAGINE - Preconference on Friday

Several months ago, I connected with Thomas Nelson for the amazing opportunity to attend the Women of Faith event in Ft. Lauderdale Florida.  They sent me two complimentary tickets with the understanding that after I attended the event, I would blog about my experience here for you!  Thank you Thomas Nelson for making this past weekend possible!
The theme for the weekend was "Imagine" based on Ephesians 3:20 - "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..."  As you'll be able to see through the pictures I share, the setting/stage area was beautifully done.  The event was held in Ft. Lauderdale Florida at the Bank Atlantic Center.
The best part of attending this event is that I got to spend it with my 13 year old daughter, Cecily.
Cecily and I traveled to Ft. Lauderdale with a group of ladies that I share Bible study with every Thursday morning.
Cecily, Me, Cassie, Patti, Ann, Carrie, Debbie

"Imagine" began on Friday morning at 10 a.m. with the pre-conference, which included speakers Sheila Walsh and Dr. Henry Cloud.
Sheila Walsh was up first.  I have to say that she was my favorite "Imagine" speaker (my daughter agrees with me) of the entire weekend!  She began her talk on Friday by sharing her favorite verse in the Psalms which is chapter 143 verse 8,
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you."
Sheila shared a prayer that she voices every morning, which is "Wherever You are going today Lord, I'm coming with You!  She went on to encourage attendees to focus their thoughts on what is always true and then shared that God's promises as found in Scripture are always true.  She went on to share from Romans 8, which is a chapter she says "begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation" and then stated, "God has picked up your tab.  Your debt of sin is paid in full."  Walsh ended her talk by singing "Amazing Grace".

Sheila Walsh's talk was so well-rounded.  She shared truth unashamedly from Scripture.  She was funny.  And she absolutely sang the roof off the arena!  I felt the Holy Spirit most at work whenever she was taking part in the weekend, whether it was when she was speaking or sharing in song.
Dr. Henry Cloud took the stage next.  While he shared some helpful observations about faith and happiness (I really didn't like that he used the term "happiness" as opposed to "joy".), his points were based more on psychological studies than Scripture.  He asked attendees to look at using their imaginations in the realm of faith in three areas:
  1. Clinical - the parts that hurt
  2. Relationships
  3. Dreams/Goals - specific gifts and talents
Cloud went on to share that the American Psychological Association's study that sought to answer the question of what makes people happy, revealed that only 10% of happiness comes from anything circumstantial.  The remaining percentage of where happiness comes from is derived from spiritual practices lived out.  He shared three areas in which this phenomenon can be observed:
  1. Giving/generosity
  2. Being connected - Our needs are transformational (where we grow new wiring) and trans mutational (where change takes place).  It is in this discussion that Dr. Cloud shares his one and only reference to Scripture which was 1 Peter 4:10, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."  
  3. Purpose of set goals
Cloud was easy to follow and was good at interjecting humor, while maintaining a depth to what he was sharing.

After Dr. Cloud, there was a break for lunch. 
Cecily and I sat outside in front of the arena and ate our lunch.  I have attended Women of Faith events in the past and getting lunch then was always complete and utter chaos.  At the event this past weekend, lunch time went really smooth.  Mind you, we are talking about getting a couple of thousand ladies served!  The Women of Faith organization has definitely made improvement in this area!

Like I mentioned earlier in this post, the staging was really beautiful!  After lunch, there was more from Dr. Henry Cloud.  This second talk centered around the idea that the next season of our lives will require some necessary endings.  
Next on the schedule was a Q and A with Dr. Cloud and Sheila Walsh.  Prior to this time attendees had the opportunity to write down questions for them.  A few were presented to Cloud and Walsh during the Q and A in which they both shared sound advice both from personal experience and Scripture (Walsh).  Dr. Cloud's advice came more from his experience in his previous psychiatric practice, but was good nonetheless.  Some overarching principles that I wrote down from the Q and A were these:
  • Townsend on setting boundaries - Be hard on the issue and soft on the person.  Seek and pray for a softness of heart.
  • Sheila - Learn to "be still" before the Lord.  She shared that "be still" in the Hebrew language means to "let go".  Her encouragement was to give our worries, cares, anxieties to the Lord in complete trust.  
After the Q and A time, Sheila came back and closed out the pre-conference.  I appreciated that she shared with strong conviction that "God's word is more reliable than my feelings".  We as women need to be reminded of that truth and she shared it boldly.  Walsh read from John 14:27,
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
Walsh stated in relation to that Scripture, "Peace is not the absence of trouble but the presence of Christ".  She shared more Scripture from Mark 4:35-41 and Mark 5.  She concluded her talk with this:
"There is peace in one place - at the feet of Jesus".
And then she sang "You Raise Me Up".  And again the Spirit moved mightily.

*This video isn't from the conference, but is Sheila singing You Raise Me Up on LifeToday.   I'll share about Friday night and Saturday at Women of Faith - Imagine tomorrow as well as summarize my impression of the event as a whole.