Who doesn't love Christmas morning?
Though the theme of the LifeWay Women's Leadership Forum was Steadfast, the word permanently sown deep into my heart is ABUNDANCE — ample quantity; relative degree of plentifulness.
If Christmas morning were 3 days long, Forum would be it.
When going for an 11-course meal, one expects to be eased in with something on the lighter side — perhaps appetizers or soup. Not so at Forum. Every one of the 11 sessions (general and breakout alike) was a spiritual feast in the Word, with the Word.
In addition to feasting on the Word with some incredibly gifted Bible teachers, there was a donut wall (a literal wall with donuts hanging on it), Chick Fil-A, endless snacks, worship that saturated you in the Spirit, endless coffee (extremely important when conversations go late into the night), presents and more presents, plus who was speaking at which general session was a surprise, and many opportunities for rich dialogue. Like I said, Christmas.
My people... I hope you'll consider attending YouLead Calgary June 21-22, 2018.
It's a smaller, regional and tailored version of Forum but in our own backyard. God has so often marked and sparked my life through these intensive times, and then fuelled the fire as I continue in the Word with Him.
Here's a snapshot of the spiritual feasts that I took in:
Breakout #1: How to Abide in Christ — Resting and Producing in a Frenetic Culture (Kelly Minter)
From John 15, Kelly reminded us that it is essential to abide in Him because everything eternal is at stake. I laughed when she said, "I know y'all were lookin' for somethin' new, but it's the same stuff. You gotta be with Jesus. Prayer and Bible study."
"Do your priorities support that really believe — apart from me you can do nothing?"
The Holy Spirit was challenging me by way of asking, if you really believed that, how much more time would you spend praying? Jesus, change me. Prayer first. The Word next. Everything else after.
"They don't need someone who's just busy; they need someone who's been with Jesus."
After the 3rd day there, I caught myself wantin' to say, "y'all," "Giiiirl," "You gots to get you some..." and a few other things that don't sound natural rolling off my Canadian tongue. The truth is, I start to sound like who I've been spending time with. I'm preaching a reminder to myself and to you. We start to sound like Who we've been spending time with.
"Jesus is the dividing line. Never hold back Jesus. He is everything we hinge our lives on. He's our hope."
She shared how the world is getting blurry. Truth isn't blurry. And we must be bold with Jesus. There's no other name by which they'll be saved.
Lastly, (you maybe had to be there but) she talked about how we may have grown hearing about joy like it was the thing we had when we weren't smiling and we weren't happy. I cannot do it justice with typing, but oh my we laughed and laughed and laughed some more when she said with the most serious and stern expression, "We aren't happy and we aren't smiling, but goodness gracious we have.... joy." From now on Kelly, all we need to do is say "I have joy," the way you did and we erupt.. like so hard we cry. Thank you.
General Session #1: Lysa Terkheurst
The woman got a standing ovation before she started speaking. Within seconds, I found out that she couldn't not not come because God gave her a Word, even though she had a double mastectomy scheduled the next morning. I got my pen ready and scooted to the edge of my seat. She wasted no time and delivered with great passion, clarity and brevity, the Word.
"Stay in the Word. Only this will change your heart."
"If you aren't being changed by the Word, you're being rearranged by the world."
"God is good, He's good at being God and He's good to me."
"If you have a misunderstanding of God, you'll have a wrong understanding of your circumstances."
When a woman, who in her own words, "has licked the floor of hell," with life threatening health issues, family challenges, a devastating blindside in her marriage and a breast cancer diagnosis, says that, while she's still IN the thing, you hear it fresh.
"The enemy wants you to think the Word is too hard to understand and to difficult to follow."
How many more times will we fall for this one? We have the mind of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, we have the Word and we literally have endless resources at our fingertips.
"Eve was the mother of FOMO. Lest I be tempted to judge Eve, I looked down to see sitting on my bed an iPhone, an Apple TV remote and and iPad. All three had a bite out of an apple."
It took me a minute. I'll let that one sit...
Breakout #2: How to Amplify Mission Among Those You Lead (Kathy Litton & Lori McDaniel)
"Shepherd's go in pursuit of a lost sheep."
A challenge for those of us who want to just wait for them to come to us. Jesus went and He's told us to go. The priority of prayer will help us know where to "stare.". As Lysa says, "We steer where we stare."
"We are often least concerned with what matters most, and most concerned with what matters least."
Go and make disciples. Everything, always goes through this screen — is this helping teach people to obey everything He has commanded them? Is this making disciples? Disciples will make other disciples. Will this help them be fruitful and multiply?
"Leaders must create experiences that equip them for the front lines."
This is a great question to ask before planning the ministry calendar: will this equip women (directly or indirectly) for the front lines of the kingdom of God?
"We aren't called to raise compliant do-gooders but commissioned to raise contaminators who will go into the world with the Truth."
General Session #2: Lisa-Jo Baker
When she shared an example of the tension we all feel between anointing and actual life, with "Yeah but I'm Lisa-Jo. I like Netflix," the room erupted because everyone has been there. Actual life is a real thing. But so is anointed.
"You are qualified because of WHO has called you."
I LOVE this because it's true. We get a little self-helpy with "you can do it," and "believe in yourself," but that's not calling. You are equipped for your calling because of WHO has called you.
"What we surround our new heart with determines if it will live or die. "
Our new hearts need a new story. Sparks can start fires, but they can't sustain them. Our hearts need continuous truth or they begin to wither.
General Session #3: The Accomplished Work of Christ (Beth Moore)
"He [Jesus] is who will carry you. Trust Him today. Everyday, one day at a time."
This messes with our tendency to want to "take it from here." It's Him we follow, need and surrender to, everyday, one day at a time. All in with Jesus is everyday, one day at a time. She shared some "equipment" with us.
We have everything we need for life and godliness through Christ Jesus incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended and seated. "For this I have Jesus," and "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand," and "In Christ Alone," have new meaning.
Breakout #3: Social Media for the Glory of God (Gretchen Saffles)
"If you're not posting out of your overflow, you'll be caught in the undertow."
We're all been caught in the undertow — the one that leads to discontentment, doubt and discouragement.
"Your substance will come from your secret moments with Jesus."
"You have to look at the mirror of the word before the mirror of the world."
"Post to make much of Jesus."
General Session #4: How to Implode (Eric Geiger)
"If your gifting outpaces your character, you will implode."
"If you're bored, you're not looking at Jesus; Jesus is never boring."
"Sin demands to have a man by himself."
Breakout #5: Theology for Every Woman (Dr. Terri Stovall, Dr. Rhonda Kelley, Dr. Alicia Wong)
"Experiences are deceiving. What is your source? Where did you learn that? Who taught you?"
I've realized in my adult years that some of what I believe isn't in the Bible. It's a result of experiences I've interpreted. Like, "Do your best and God will do the rest." There are lots of things we say and believe that simply are not true of God.
"Study the Bible, not Bible studies."
As someone who loves to write Bible study, I found this challenging in the best way. And it caused me to ponder, "How do I give them cutlery instead of cut up food?" From this day forward, my goal as a Bible study teacher and leader will be to teach and lead myself out of a job.
General Session #6: Angela Thomas-Pharr
I told her after, I can't imagine having to be last at this kind of conference. But Jesus knew what He was doing. He sent her in like a boss. She was His closer. She warned us, when you have been in the presence of God, there is a target on your back. She gave us a thorough sampling of examples of where and in whom He might show up with... many of which we cried laughing at cause we know. I have not laughed so hard in a last session. "But we had some fun, now didn't we?" Angela, if He determines you must go crazy, I'm believing for crazy sweet with you.
"People want church like they want their Starbucks but sometimes we just need some straight up black coffee."
"Be strong on the inside. Be courageous on the outside."
"Take Him at His Word. Continually study it so you know you're not deviating."
"We need Jesus and we just keep proving it."
1) If you're a woman with influence or in leadership and you have an opportunity to go to Christmas... I mean Forum, please GO. And bring stretchy pants for your soul. You'll need them.
2) If you can get to Calgary in June, sign yourself and your girlfriends up for YouLead Calgary June 21-22, 2018. You will be marked and sparked to use whatever influence you have for the kingdom.
2) If you went to Forum, what were your highlights?
3) Thank you LifeWay Women and team: Kelly, Mary Margaret, Savannah and the oodles of willing servants that worked tirelessly to pull this thing off. It takes serious dependence on Jesus and attention to detail to plan this much Christmas morning. Thousands of seeds were sown. We'll have heaven to celebrate the fruitfulness and productivity He brought about for the kingdom because of this event.
I left with with a tangible expression of this truth: