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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Women of Faith: IMAGINE - Friday Evening/Saturday

If you missed my recap of the Women of Faith Imagine Pre-Conference, you can see that HERE
The actual Women of Faith weekend began at 7 p.m. on Friday evening.  The hotel where we were staying the night was a bit of distance away from the arena, so by the time we got checked in and had dinner, we were late getting back to the event.  We missed Kenn Kingston (Christian comedian).  Our group wasn't too upset, because we were blessed with wonderful fellowship over dinner.  When we did arrive, the Women of Faith Praise Team was leading in worship.  They are a very talented group of ladies! 

Cecily and I had really good seats for the weekend - floor seats about eight rows from the stage!  Thank you again Thomas Nelson for the complimentary tickets for this event!

After the praise team, a World Vision video was shown.  Please understand what I'm about to say.  I firmly believe helping those in need and yes I am very concerned about families, especially children in other countries that don't have some of the most basic needs like clean water and food.  BUT...the push for sponsoring a child in World Vision at Women of Faith was simply overbearing.  The push to sponsor was constant the entire weekend even with sponsorship packets including pictures of children being left on each seat.  And being told "don't worry they (as if the child themselves were there in person) will be there waiting for you when you return in the morning".  After almost every speaker, something was said or a video shown regarding World Vision.  It was almost as if attendees were being "guilted" into sponsoring a child.  At one point, my daughter (13) was crying as she looked at the packet left in her seat.  She was sad, because she is aware of our family's financial situation and knows that we simply can't afford a $35 a month sponsorship.  We would not have even been at this conference if it had not been for the complimentary tickets from Thomas Nelson.  With that said, there is nothing wrong with mentioning the need for sponsors or showing a couple of videos to give a visual of the need; however, deciding to do something like sponsor a child in another country should be a decision made in one's own heart and not because they have been fed constant guilt to do so.  I have multiple families around me in my neighborhood who are struggling to feed their families and we help them as we can and serve in other ways through our church.  The needs are great right around us.

Imagine resumed on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.  We got there about an hour before the first session, so Cecily and I had time to "shop" a little.  One of the things I had planned to pick up was Angie Smith's book I Will Carry You:  The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy.  I have been following Angie's blog Bring The Rain for some time and have wanted to read this book in which she shares about the devastating loss of their baby girl Audrey Caroline.  Angie's husband sings with the Christian group Selah.  As we were picking up the book, the lady helping us at the product table let me know that Angie was signing and meeting people just down the way on the concourse, so Cecily and I grabbed the book and headed that direction.  We barely made it before Angie's meet and greet was over!  We were the last allowed in the line!
Such an opportunity, and wouldn't you know I'd have my eyes closed!!!  Angie is such a sweet, sweet girl.  She has also written another book, What Women Fear.  You would be blessed by checking out her books and her blog, which can be found at  She is genuine.  She is real.  She is refreshing.

After catching our breath a bit, we headed into the arena and Saturday's event got underway.
After praise and worship, Lisa Harper took the stage.
Lisa talked about looking at Jesus with blurry vision.  We were encouraged to overcome the enemy by telling out stories of healing.  She shared her background of sexual abuse as a child and how bruises on our hearts become areas of bondage for us if not completely given to the Lord.  She ended by quoting Psalm 139 and reminding us that we worship a God Who sees and knows everything about us and loves us anyway.
Sheila Walsh spoke again.  She is such a gifted speaker and I think it is because she is so transparent about her struggles and her utter dependence on the Lord.  Sheila spoke about God's mercy being severe, because He wants to make us like His Son.
"The Shepherd knows where to find you!" 
Walsh shared about her deep seated fear and feeling in her life that she needed to be perfect after her father was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital.  He escaped from the hospital and was found dead at the age of 35.  Sheila went on to share about her clinical depression and subsequent hospitalization for psychiatric care at the age of 35.  She reminded us of how God covers us and spoke about Psalm 91:4, Psalm 143:8 and John 16:33.  She closed her time by singing How Great Thou Art.  Again, we were so blessed by her time.
After lunch, Nicole Johnson spoke.  Her testimony included divorce and remarriage and how she has learned to give her anger to God. 

Next to Sheila Walsh, my favorite speaker of the day was Angie Smith.  She spoke after Nicole Johnson and although I knew her story from reading and following her blog, it was a blessing to hear Angie share in person.
In the midst of sharing about the loss of her sweet baby girl Audrey Caroline, who only lived a little over two hours after birth, Angie shared about Peter walking on the water.  She pointed out that the word for Lord in Matthew 14:29 that Peter used when he cried "Lord save me" after beginning to drown is the Greek word Kyrios and means "Son of God, the one to Whom I belong". 
Angie's challenge was this:  When you think you are about to sink, you can call out to the Son of God, the One to Whom You belong. 
Next on the schedule was the gospel duo Mary Mary (sisters Tina and Erica Campbell).  Cecily and I were really excited about seeing them.  We both love the song Shackles, which was on Mary Mary's debut album.  I am sad to say, they were a huge disappointment.  There was very little if anything that was worshipful about their "performance".  There was so much frenetic energy in the arena as they sang.  It just didn't feel right.  Their dialogue between songs was silly and any reference to God or worship seemed forced and less than genuine.
The thing that completely blew me away was when Tina (on the left) not once, not twice, but three times took the Lord's name in vain on stage in front of over 6,000 women.  Yes, you heard me right!  She threw around the name of Christ so flippantly that I just knew I didn't hear right the first time, but then she did it again two more times.  To say I was shocked is a huge understatement.  There was a heaviness in my chest that wouldn't let up after that.

I have emailed Mary Graham, president of Women of Faith about this.  I did so because it seemed as if this whole experience was glossed over by those in charge at the event.  Mary Mary was asked back on stage to close out the event.  As of this posting, I have not gotten a response back from Ms Graham.  As soon as I do, I will add an update with her response in full to this post; so check back in the next few days.

The last speaker of the day was Lucy Swindoll.  I'm not sure if it was because I felt the Holy Spirit was so grieved after Mary Mary's performance and that the Lord's blessing had left the arena, but Swindoll's talk was just very generic.  She spoke about "enjoying the moment you are in" and "taking care of your souls", but shared not one instructive word from Scripture about how to do this in a way that honors the Lord.  It was just very general and nothing specific or with substance. 

At the end there was a quick recap or "take-away" from each speaker:
  • Lisa Harper - Addictions are disorders of worship.
  • Angie Smith - Remember "kyrios" - the Son of God, the One to Whom You Belong
  • Nicole Johnson - Fairy tales are a glimpse of the gospel, because they let us see ourselves as we really are.  (Not quite sure exactly what she was trying to say here??)
  • Lucy Swindoll - Don't fully now.  (Here she gave a very vague reference to a passage in 1 Corinthians.  She said, "In 1 Corinthians, oh you know somewhere there on the right side of the page"...and then gave a very loose paraphrase of whatever scripture she was refering to.)
  • Sheila Walsh - The Shepherd knows where to find you.  The Shepherd's job is to get you all the way home.
Stongest things about the weekend:

  • Sheila Walsh was the strongest speaker by far!  Next in line would be Angie Smith and Lisa Harper.
  • The event was kept on schedule and flowed nicely.
  • Getting lunch to that number of women went smoothly.
Weakest things about the weekend:
  • Performance by Mary Mary - such a disappointment.
  • Constant World Vision push
  • I didn't even need my Bible, because there was very little Scripture shared over the course of the weekend with the exception of Sheila Walsh's talks.  Testimonies are good and very much needed; however, when 6,000 women are gathered together they need to hear clearly a presentation of the gospel - that didn't happen.  References to Scripture were vague at best.
Will I go to another Women of Faith event?  Maybe.  While I had a good time in fellowship with the group of ladies I was with and enjoyed spending the weekend with my daughter, I'm looking for something with a little more depth.

And if the truth be told, women who are lost and dying without a Savior are too.



jodi said...

When I first started reading this I was so glad that you got to spend a WOF weekend with Cecily! But I'm so sorry that it took so many disappointing turns. Shelia Walsh is one of my favorite speakers too (and so is Patsy Clairmont) when I've been in the past. I heard Angie Smith for the first time at dot.Mom in Birmingham. She was SO good! I hope you and Cecily take the positive points from it and just find relief in the fact that the tickets were FREE! Cuz think how much more disappointing if you had actually PAID to see it. LOL! :)