I have to admit something right off the bat: I'm not a huge fan of women's conferences. I have nothing against women gathering together to worship, study truth, and challenge their thinking. Unfortunately, there are many women's conferences flying under the banner of the Bible that are more focused on manufacturing emotional highs than on teaching truth. They send us into a tailspin of emotions that ultimately bring us crashing back down with little to show for it. Being away from home and surrounded by women all longing for spiritual fulfillment creates an atmosphere of vulnerability. God calls us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). Part of that responsibility means being extremely picky when it comes to women's conferences.
A Bible conference rooted and saturated in truth is a feast for the heart. I'm happy to say that's exactly what The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference 2016 was - and I was ready to dig in. There was no emotional manipulation, no tickling of ears - just the purest form of encouragement and exhortation that can only come from God's Word. That's the only thing that makes a Bible conference worth going to. Worth the time. Worth the money. Worth my husband texting, "We ate all the frozen waffles. Now what?"
Although Indianapolis is a large city I don't think it was prepared for TGCW26. Over 7,000 women flooded the streets after each session in search of food, shuttles, restrooms - and chocolate.
I got asked on multiple occasions by onlookers, "Can you tell me what's going on?" It got even more confusing toward the end when we had to share our conference center with PopCon 2016.
My mom had to settle for a picture with Iron Man instead instead of John Piper. At least my son will be happy.
My sister said the conference was like a taste of heaven. The women surrounding me on the airplane said it was like drinking from a fire hose. You could definitely say we have all been on an emotional high. But because this conference was rooted in God's Word, we don't have to anticipate a crash. We get to take that truth and actually do something with it.
Are you on a high? There are four questions that will help you land safely and never lose what God did in your heart.
1. What's one way I will change my thinking?
At the end of the conference I had the opportunity to meet Melissa Kruger. We talked about how overwhelming it would be to try to apply the entire conference to our lives all at once. She said, "Just pick one thing."
Finally. Something my mommy brain can handle.
A theme that emerged over and over from our text in 1 Peter was hope. Jen Wilkin reminded us to hope fully, not partially. John Piper encouraged us to live, think, and act in a way that can only be explained through hope. My personal take away was that if hope does not define me, something else will. I am praying that God will help me see everything in my life through the lens of my eternal hope. That's unnatural to me. It's hard to see the pearly gates through the fog of diapers, laundry, and constant discipline. I have to be purposeful about adopting this mindset. Without it I will not respond rightly to the trials God brings me.
2. What is a new habit I can adopt to aid in my spiritual growth?
As a busy mom it's easy to say, "I have no time for new habits. God understands that all I can do right now is fly by the seat of my pants. I'll work on spiritual growth after the kids are grown." It's true that God understands our stage of life. It's also true that our devotional time with the Lord will look different in different seasons of life. But there is room for spiritual discipline in the young mommy years. I loved the simple, practical tip Kathy Keller gave: "Start each day with thanksgiving." Kathy reminded us that our hearts aren't naturally tuned for thankfulness. If we aren't intentional about thankfulness, stress and anxiety are always ready to take it's place. Before your feet even hit the floor give thanksgiving to God. Keep a thankfulness journal by your bed and add one new thing to it each morning. Focus more on God's character than on "stuff" and you'll never run out of ideas. This is one way to keep those "hope glasses" in place all day long.
3. What will I commit to memory?
There is one sure way to imprint what you learned on your heart forever: memorize scripture. Long after the emotions are gone God's Word will last forever. Piper set the bar high when he quoted all of 1 Peter chapter 5 from memory like a boss. I was inspired to choose a slightly smaller portion from the same chapter. It has had such an impact on my heart just within the last two days. I'm looking forward to how God will use it in my life for years to come.
"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:6-11
4. What do I want to share with others?
If you've had the opportunity to attend a conference you've been given a gift that's meant to be shared. You've been entrusted with something. Take time to digest your notes and think about one or two main takeaways you can share with others. Maybe the conference brought to mind someone who needs specific encouragement. Write them a note. Maybe your non-Christian neighbors will ask where you've been. Keep in mind that the intense emotions you felt at the conference are a "you had to be there" situation. Be concise and helpful in what you share rather than spewing out all your favorite Tim Keller quotes at once. Consider your audience. What did you learn that might encourage them in their specific stage or situation in life? I personally can't wait to share with my friends and family how hope in Christ can give them an eternal perspective to our country's upcoming elections. Or I might get distracted and default to bragging about my new BFF Kristyn Getty.
But I should probably stick with sharing about the spiritual lessons. It's for the best, Kristyn.
If you were at TGCW16 I'd love to hear your highlights!