Monday, April 18, 2011

My Experiences at the Women of Joy Conference --Standing in the Gap

Wow. I haven't written in a long time. I've been going through a dry patch. Nothing like some major life decisions and a ladies conference to stir things up.

My mom, sister, and I attended the Women of Joy Conference in OKC this past weekend. There were about 9000 women in attendance. It was a wonderful trip and a great bonding time for us.

Friday night we heard from Sarah Palin. I was pleasantly pleased with her. She talked about how her faith in Jesus Christ has carried her through many trials over the past few years. She discussed knowing God's purpose for each of our lives and keeping faith in the midst of adversity on the way to our dreams and goals. Saturday morning we heard from the gifted comedian Anita Renfro. She was hilarious. Then we heard from Kay Arthur whose knowledge of the Bible is amazing, inpiring, and encouraging. She exhorted us to be women who will "stand in the gap" for the Lord, especially in the times we are in. I left feeling compelled to stand in the gap through prayer for my children and for our nation. Saturday night was the Michael W. Smith concert, which was beautiful, patriotic, and worshipful. And Saturday morning we heard from the prolific author Karen Kingsbury who encouraged us to love deeply and laugh often. She also made us ponder the "lasts" we experience with our children. There was not a dry eye in the place.

On a personal note, it was a time of deep sorrow, bonding, and healing for my mom, sister, and I. When my brother and dad died in my dad's private plane 22 years ago, I was 17 and a senior in high school. My sister was in college, and Jason, my brother, was 13 and in jr. high. Michael W. Smith's famous song, Friends, was very popular at the time. The day after they died, Luis Rey, my brother's friend, announced on the loudspeaker of the jr. high about my dad and brother's death. And then the song, Friends, was played over the loudspeaker. The song was also dedicated to Jason on the local radio station. So when Michael W. Smith finally sang the song Saturday night, it was an especially powerful moment for 3 of us in that auditorium. Too bad we couldn't have a moment of Mr. Smith's time to tell him what that song means for us. Then on Saturday morning, when Ms. Kingsbury read her children's book to us about the "lasts" we experience with our children, it was another emotionally wrenching time. After she read the book she asked all the mothers who have lost a child prematurely to stand. My mother rose to her feet, and my sister and I rose with her as those around us reached out to pray for her and others who have suffered the loss of a child.

The weekend was an opportunity for us to remember the sorrow and grief of our loss. It was a reminder of my mother's great peace in the midst of such loss because of a deep and profound faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose ways are perfect. As we heard other stories of faith in loss from Michael W. Smith, Karen Kingsbury, and the police officer's partner and mother, we were reminded of God's sovreignty and His enabling each of us to rise from the ashes with strength and dignity.

After the conference we visited the OKC National Memorial. Every American should visit this memorial. It is a moving tribute to those who died, survived, and helped rescue on April 19, 1995. The following information comes from the brochure there. The Memorial encompasses the now-sacred soil where The Alfred P. Murrah Building once stood, capturing and preserving forever the place and events that changed the world. The Gates of Time there frame the moment of destruction-9:02 a.m. The Reflecting Pool occupies what was once 5th Street. It is a shallow depth of gently flowing water to help soothe wounds, with calming sounds providing a peaceful setting for quiet thoughts. The Field of Empty Chairs has 168 empty chairs symbolizing the lives that were lost, with smaller chairs representing the 19 children that were killed. The Survivor Tree is a 90+ year old tree which bears witness to the violence of April 19 and now stands as a profound symbol of human resilience. The message to the visitor reads: The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deep rooted faith sustains us. The Survivor's Wall is the only remaining wall from the Murrah Building with 600 names of survivors inscribed on salvaged pieces of granite from the Murrah Building. The Fence holds tokens of love, hope, and remembrance for those who were lost. The Children's Area allows children to share their feelings about the loss in chalk. And The Rescuers' Orchard honors those who helped in the days following the tragedy. Across the street from the Memorial is the Old St. Joseph Cathedral, which was one of many surrounding buildings that were damaged from the blast. There stands a statue of Jesus with his face buried in his hand inscribed with the words, "And Jesus Wept." His back is facing the destruction of the Murrah Building. His body is facing the church and divets in the church's wall with pieces of granite from the Murrah Building representing those who lost their lives.

In the light of this and the great tragedies of today's news--Japan's destruction, a precious 10-year old boy surviving the intentional drowning of his disturbed mother and 3 siblings, the horrific beating and resulting paralysis of a police officer who was just trying to help someone out while off-duty, the demise of our economy and a nation as we once knew it; we are called to love deeply--not just our own, but the people of our nation and our world. We are called to stand in the gap in prayer. We are reminded to be an agent of change in our world, which starts within us--in each of our hearts. And this comes from knowing God through His word. If I allow God's heart-change in me, it will affect my family, my church, my community, my nation, my world. These are the things I am going to pursue: I will stand in the gap through prayer. I will love deeply and laugh often. I will persevere in the midst of adversity toward my God-given purpose. By God's Sovreign power I will rise with others from the ashes of life with strength and dignity.

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