Friday night began with praise and worship music. There were 13,900 women in that coliseum from 30 different states and Canada and Puerto Rico. Can you just imagine how songs sound sung by that many women? Let me just tell you . . .amazing! Kay Arthur was the speaker on Friday night. She told us that a large portion of our country "claims" to be Christian . . .but if so, why are we in the mess we are in. The deep south has the highest percentage of folks who claim to be Christians (does that surprise anyone?). I think the highest was Shreveport, LA and 98% of those folks are Christians. Birmingham was next with 96%. I think it is cool to live in a place where one of the first questions we ask folks is "Where do you go to church?" Anyway, I thought Kay had some great points. There were a few things she said through the course of the weekend that I'm not sure I totally agree with . . .in my head, I was thinking that I have become a hard-core Methodist over the years. Don't ask me about what I disagreed with . . .because the only thing I can remember is that she said that the pastor of a church should only be a man. (If you agree with her, you have a right to your opinion just as much as I have a right to mine). Anyway, we finished up and piled back into my trusty SUV - Sylvia the Silver Explorer (yes, we name our cars). I had looked at a map of the civic center and plotted our parking plan. Since we had two older ladies with us, I wanted to make sure that they didn't have to climb 100 steps. We were able to pay just $8.00 and park directly across a flat street. I said to our group that if I didn't do anything else really good for a while, that I had done something really good figuring out our parking situation! After dropping everyone off, I drove home and crashed because we had to get up early on Saturday morning. Little did I know. God was going to meet me in a mighty way.
The doors opened at 7:30 and we were in our seats by about 7:40 (yes, that is a.m.) and we were able to all sit together on Saturday. We tried to save seats for some of our other friends but after turning away a good many people, we decided that we couldn't hold them any longer. I'm so glad that they all walked over to see us later. The morning opened with a devotion by Kelly Minter (I think that is her name) and it was good. We had more praise and worship music which was incredible. Then Priscilla Shirer got up to speak. Oh my goodness. In my metho-baptist vocabulary, I don't even have the right words to describe what went on. She was anointed by the Holy Spirit - she was a beacon of light - she was God's messenger. She is cute and funny and insightful and she seems so wise to be so young. God is using her in a mighty way. As a matter of fact, I always say that I'm not a "crier" but I was wiping tears off the bottom of my face for almost the entire hour and a half that she spoke. I am going to order one of her studies for the church and maybe we can offer it next year sometime. She put on a quiver with five arrows in it and she talked about how we have a tendency to lay three down and say, "look God - I gave you THREE WHOLE arrows (our arrows are whatever we need to lay down). But in reality, we should be laying down all five arrows - we should be the Sisterhood of the Empty Quiver. I love that thought. We should totally empty ourselves out - not hold back with God. He will keep filling up our quiver. She also talked about being the friend who is the encourager - about standing in the gap and praying for our friends and encouraging them along the way. Good stuff - really good stuff.
We had pre-ordered box lunches and the pick up was right outside our seats so that was easy. Alice and I tried to go to the "bookstore" area during the lunch break to see if we could purchase a Travis Cottrell CD . . .but I think all 13,900 women were in the bookstore area at the same time. I think they all tried to go to the bathroom at the same time also! They had turned all the men's restrooms (except one) into women's restrooms and there were still really long lines.
After lunch, Beth Moore spoke to us about Luke 2. She talked about our "treasures" in life. It was wonderful. As a matter of fact, I was scheduled to be the speaker for one of the women's circles on Monday. I had purchased a Christmas book to read to them . . .but God had other plans. He kept nudging and kept nudging and finally, I wrote a Circle program on Monday morning using Beth Moore's notes (yes, I gave her lots of credit!!). She is so cute and I can imagine being friends with her!! She has a way of sharing God's message that makes you think she is speaking directly to you and it is evident that she has been speaking with God.
I forgot to tell you about how they opened the afternoon session. They had these glass panels out in a hallway (I never actually saw them in the hallway but read about them in the program or on the screen). They asked folks to come and write their thoughts - like what they wanted to get out of the conference. Some people also wrote prayer requests. Some men rolled those giant panels up onto the stage during the lunch break and when the afternoon session opened, this is what we saw. Please excuse the pictures - they were taken with Mark's little hunting camera and I didn't know how to turn off the flash, etc. If you look closely at the top of the panels, you can see writing . . .things that people had written on the glass boards.
There was a young man inside the panels. He had a small paint roller and a white substance like paint. He started rolling over the writing and after the first stroke or two, I could tell he was making a picture. This took quite some time because he did the same exact thing on all four panels. We were singing praise and worship music during this time. When he finished, there was a tree on each panel. You can see that they changed the light color. Not only did they change the color, but thunder sounded and rain started to fall down the panels. Then leaves appeared on the trees and the trees flourished. Then snow started to fall and all the leaves fell off the trees. It was amazing! I wish they had taken the time to explain it better. The tree was the symbol for the conference (deeper still - roots?). I assumed it meant that our roots are in Christ and no matter the season of our life, God is with us through it all.
ok - this has to be my longest blog post ever . . .but just two more pictures - here is the jumbo tron with a picture of Kay Arthur, Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer . . .I was a little bit star struck by them. Their faith is just so incredible.
Also, you can see from these pictures just how many women were in that place. It was an awesome experience to worship with that many women. Beth Moore came down off the stage and was walking around talking to folks. I don't know if you can see it in this tiny picture, but the folks sitting in the chairs on the floor all have their cameras and phones in their hands. They were getting up close and personal pictures of Beth Moore! (I guess I wasn't the only one who was star struck!!)