A much anticipated and worked-for weekend finally arrived last Friday. A year ago, my sweet friend, Karla, invited me to join her in participating in Beth Moore's Scripture Memory Challenge. The goal was to hide the Word in our hearts by memorizing 24 Bible verses over the course of the year. The accountability was having to enter your verse in the comments of Beth's blog post on the 1st and 15th of each month. Anyone who did this 20 out of 24 times was eligible for this very special conference at no charge. All you had to do was get yourself to Houston, show your memory spiral upon entry to First Baptist Church, and be prepared to say at least 10 of your verses to another woman at some point during the conference
Friday evening and Saturday morning were filled with the wonderful worship music of Travis Cottrell and Beth's passionate teaching, not to mention a free tote bag, a notebook and pen, cookies and hot chocolate, and the opportunity to be around a lot of beautiful women who love the Lord and His Word, who came from 48 of 50 states, Canada. and the UK! As you can see, Beth is quite animated and NEVER without great excitement about her Lord and Savior. Her enthusiasm might be off-putting to those who don't realize that she has great integrity. Really. She is never NOT animated and excited. She is also never without a humble, yet vitally fresh teaching from God's Word. This time she spoke on 2 John. She had memorized its 13 verses, and "spoke" the book to us twice. She then exhorted us through its words with this acrostic:
W ~ We're all starved for some "face-to-face."
(We need each other in real time and real community)
A ~ All we've worked for can be lost.
(Not our salvation, though, because that's not "worked for")
L ~ Listen with the ears of a chosen lady.
(Eklekte Kuria = "The Chosen Lady" = the Church and me!)
K ~ Keep the pace of true abiding.
(Not running ahead with "innovation", and not sitting still either)
I ~ Invest your whole life into love.
(The whole Law summed up. Not a new commandment!)
N ~ Never forget the ploy to infiltrate.
("Many deceivers will go forth...")
G ~ Go out into the world walking in what you know.
(Walking, abiding in Truth, loving God and others)
Go read 2 John if you want to find out what all of this means! I found her personal testimony of losing and then choosing to "take back ground" she felt she had lost in recent years especially meaningful. She encouraged us to take some dirt home from Houston, TX to remind ourselves that we're taking back ground the enemy may have stolen or deceived us into letting go of.
On Saturday during a break, we were to get with a partner and recite our 24 verses ~ special prizes for those who could do all 24. Grace was abounding in all of this, of course. It was a beautiful sight to see pairs of women all over the sanctuary and in the hallways speaking their Scriptures from memory, and oh what a privilege to be with women who treasure His Word so deeply ~ kindred spirits all around!
(I memorized Hebrews 11:24 - 12:3 & Psalm 71:5-6 & 17-19. Karla memorized all of Romans 6)
Kindred fashion spirits, too, evidently...
Yes, imagine my surprise to see this top that I ordered from Ruche, an online catalog company, last year for my birthday, come walking down the hall toward me on another sweet, Scripture-loving sister. What else could we do but laugh and take a photo together?!? So funny...
As we entered First Baptist Church each day, we walked through a really amazing missions display. It was like a missions museum with creative presentations of the many missions the church is involved with ranging from building water wells in third world countries, to volunteer work with Crisis Pregnancy Centers, to human trafficking rescue missions across the globe as well as right there in Houston, which, unfortunately, is a major hub for human trafficking in the U.S.A.
I was also so excited to see their involvement in reaching the "unreached people group" of New England through the North American Mission Board's church planting efforts. The North American Mission Board is the organization we were sent by to New England 13 years ago, and who continues to support our newer church plants in Massachusetts.
I'm just kicking myself for not getting a picture of the three of us ladies who were sitting at this vantage point on Saturday night after the conference! Laura W., who was my first Bible study leader through Campus Crusade at the University of Texas hosted Karla and me for the weekend. She took us out to City Centre for some delicious gluten free and gourmet pizza, and we all enjoyed sitting outside listening to music, watching the fires and lights and the kids playing. We didn't come to any earth shattering conclusions, but discussed the future of Israel, replacement theology, dispensationalism, and other weighty topics like our hopes and goals for the new year as well as our love for butternut squash. Then we took in the new movie, Iron Lady, about Margaret Thatcher, which was excellently performed, but a bit unsettling. I have lots of questions now!
Before I left Robert was reminding me of Henri Nouwen's writing about guests and hospitality ~ that guests have a gift to give, and that we as hosts do also. He challenged me to look for the gifts from the weekend, and I'm so thankful for his reminder. The gift that stood out to me the most was that I have a life FULL of people ~ and really special people at that. Not only is Karla's friendship a gift, but I kept being amazed over and over again at the people I was able to share with her from my own family, to Laura, to a dear college friend, Yvette, to "Miss Riggs" my middle school Spanish teacher, to my 87 year-old grandmother, to my 73 year old dad. So, there were many gifts from a weekend of conferencing and hosting, as you can see, but the realization (again) that the Lord has filled my life to the brim ~ overflowing, really ~ with loving people, encouraging people, joyful people, faithful people, people who've surrendered their whole lives to Him was the best gift of all.
Truly, I am blessed.