Last August, I was asked to pray about becoming a part of the leadership team for the women's ministry at church. I did so, and it wasn't long before the team was formed and we began to pray about our kick-off event for 2014, not to mention all these other things!
In our first meeting, we watched a video by Timothy Keller, called "The Prodigal God". It is about the Biblical parable The Prodigal Son, and it challenged its viewers to look at this story through a couple different perspectives. A life group in our church had studied this before, and when my sister-in-law viewed it, it resonated in her life. She brought it to us, and when we viewed it, we also were challenged by it. We knew that this was to be the topic of our kick-off event and first Bible study of the year. We began to plan and prepare, and this past weekend, we had the event.
(If you have 45 minutes and want to see this video, click here. )
My sister-in-law, Becky, taught the material for the study. She did such a wonderful job in presenting it. She's a teacher, so lesson planning usually comes easy for her. This time though, that didn't happen. She wrestled and wrestled with it. She spent a lot of time writing and re-writing. I know that at least 3 times she ended up having to scrap what she planned and start over. All the while, God was still using this Biblical story in her life. The material causes you to confront the idols in your life, whether they be your children, desire for children, spouses, desire for spouses, careers, possessions, etc. It helps you to realize whether or not you want the Father for Him or just for His things (peace, blessings, etc). She helped us ask ourselves if we love God's sovereignty.
She challenged us to lay down our idols, rid ourselves of the "things" we want more than God and there was a moving response. We had prayed for months about this, so it was a beautiful sight to see these women make these responses. One woman said later that, at first, she took the slip of paper that she was to write down her idol on, and put it in her purse because she was not ready to let go of it! It wasn't long before she confessed that and let go.
Over the past few months I have spent a lot of time praying for the women in our church. The past two weeks there were times in the middle of the night where it seemed as though God was telling me to pray for them. I already wake up 3-6 times a night with my infant and 3 year old, so this was a little crazy! I just couldn't ignore His prompting though as nice as that would've been. The closer we got to the event, the more it seemed as though we were facing opposition. I could tell numerous stories about this, however, I just want to rejoice in the fact that God is victorious and no plan of the enemy succeeded. The event went just as God intended, I believe, and it was remarkable. I love this picture below, because at this point, we had probably heard from at least 75% of the women and their words were ..... I can't even think of how to describe their words. As is typical, women usually are known for their crying ways! We sit together and sing Kumbaya, and cry over the silliest things and granted that is usually right. This time though, the crying was not your typical "cry because the sun is shining" but rather, at times, the weeping was full of sorrow and brokenness. Transparency and humility. Hope and restoration. Here we were, just little girls again. Little girls whose idols had caused them to be ashamed and secretive. We'd come face to face with the realization that the One Who is to be our first love really isn't.
God revealed to our pastoral staff that our Church's spiritual emphasis for 2014 is to be about JOY.
(Listen here.) I was thinking about this in light of the women's conference. What better way to start the recovery of our joy than getting rid of our idols?! Good grief!
I'm excited to begin the 8 week study where we will explore this material even more. I'm so thankful for our living God about whose sovereignty I still have a lot to learn.
To finish up this post though, there are a few more pictures to share. We ended the conference with a banquet dinner. The women were surprised and loved it! We loved hearing them talk amongst themselves. A few men from our church served our food. The whole event was just great!