Life is crazy! Often it's tough! Sometimes it seems impossible! Encouragement isn't always as easy to find as it should be! But, you know what, Flourish was like a little oasis in the midst of life! It was so good to get alongside such a wonderful assortment of gifted, enthusiastic, Christ-centred women (and men!). It felt good to have one's soul enriched and to go back home feeling glad to have come, full of ideas, ready to get back into it!
So, what were some of the highlights for me!?
I was so encouraged to be around some godly men in leadership who wanted to be there to encourage women's ministries, to build up not tear down. It's not always obvious but it makes such a difference when women feel supported, heard, and encouraged by male leaders in a teamwork kind of way.To be respected as equals, to be given opportunity, to be valued... is indeed something we long to have more of... we yearn to see the Body of Christ built up... how can we do that better while celebrating unity yet difference in healthy ways?! (And, just in passing, pretty sure I heard something about the Moderator dyeing his hair purple!?)
I was encouraged by the ministry of Letitia Shelton who is heading up a ministry to young girls in Toowoomba. It's so easy to stay comfortable. We may not feel called to that specific ministry but it made me think about where I am willing to give myself to ministry that costs? There was a lovely story she told about a group of women who said they'd like to help by producing a cookbook. She swallowed her reservations and encouraged them to do that... a beautiful cookbook and over $44,000 of money earned for the ministry later... she was prepared to acknowledge that God will use things we often don't see the big picture about! I loved that! How often do we put our blinkers on and decide there's only one way to do ministry... ours!?! I want to make sure ministry has cost in my life... and that it reaches beyond the safety of my church walls!
I found the interview with Karen Thornton got me really thinking about how often the person we sit next to in the pew is struggling with a whole lot of stuff they have heavily guarded behind a wall of protection. Are we going to be willing to sit long enough to be the person who reaches into someone else's hardship and provides encouragement, support, prayer, and practical help. It's easy to be self-focussed... it takes courage to look outside ourselves. Will we be Christ to our neighbour?
I was deeply encouraged to hear Ros Barrett encouraging us from God's Word at the QLD welcome breakfast... when God gifts a woman with teaching we should encourage her to use those gifts in appropriate ways so that we can be built up. When we see women using their gifts let's encourage them to use them... maybe that means we think outside the box a little... it's time we did a little more inviting around... being built up and inspired by what God can do! Get excited!
I shared some things about church conflict that were challenging for me and was deeply encouraged by a fellow christian who shared their struggles and sought to live in a way honouring to God. It made me think about all the times I've been afraid to speak for fear of rejection or more hurt... and yet when we share our struggles in a healthy way God so often uses us to bring healing in the lives of others. I wish we did that more in our churches. Sometimes the Body of Christ feels more like a science lab than a living, beating, unified being. We all hurt... but will we use our hurt to bring healing... or to bring destruction?
I loved the round-table concept... ordinary people sharing from their heart... what a blessing! If we could just learn to learn from each other more! How much richer would our lives be!? Makes me want to go home and interview all the saints around me! In honesty can we be encouraged to strive for greater holiness, knowing that, as David Jones reminded us so aptly, we have been made righteous through Christ... challenging each other to see God's workings in our lives day by day, through the hard stuff especially... and the older women amongst us... what a blessing to have you share so richly...
And the singing... how enriching was that... oh to capture a sense of heaven... pretty sure we need "The Voice" Pressie style... stay tuned!? Rachel I want to hear a whole lot more about some of those songs on this blog soon! Not to mention a little interview with a certain talented writer... just saying!
And finally... I loved the food... the coffee... the buzz of discussion over meals... what a wonderful opportunity to meet people from all over! I got so much encouragement from 2 days that I'm still living on the blessing of it! We need more of this connectedness and unity! We all have so much that God has given us, so many gifts, so many stories to build each other up with... I can't wait for what God is going to do next...
What will it look like in your part of the world?! Love to hear about it on this blog soon!