We have all been there, girls. It's Conference Time! It's the God-encounters we experience outside our normal life routines. Those glorious get-a-ways allowing us to have a glimpse of heaven on earth as we lay aside our mundane to be radically changed in the presence of God with those we love around us!
But have you ever noticed the process that comes before, during, and after these events? Having attended somewhere around 200 or more conference-like events in the past 16 years, I have noticed a pattern.
First of all, there is what I like to call the "Pre-Conference Chaos". It starts small with the basic decision on whether or not to go. You see the conference marketed 8 times before you start truly looking into it. Your brain is bustling with money questions. Schedule questions. Relationship questions. All these are just to get to the point of decision. It's mind-boggling. So many questions. "How much will this really cost me after the ticket, eating, a boutique gift, gas money, missing work, childcare..." "Can little Jimmy survive if I miss his football game Friday night?" "Will my husband or mom help with the kids?" "Oh wait, mom wants to attend with me...and hubby has to work, well, now what?" "If conference is Thursday then I better get my hair done Tuesday but I can't because of little Susie's school field trip and I am not attending if my hair isn't done...well, I should be more mature than that and not base it on my hair..." "Should I attend all of the event or just some...well I paid full-price so I am going to all of it. I think."
Once those mental obstacles are overcome, there is more pre-conference chaos the week of the event. You know what I mean. It's the time when you threaten the kids that they are not allowed to be sick this week and if they are you are still going to the conference. You scrub the house, buy groceries, and mow the lawn because you won't be home Saturday. You call, visit and bake meals for your aging parents as you communicate your non-existence for the next 48 hours. You fill the car with gas and hand out money to your teens for food. You finish all you can of your college homework while deciding to stay up all night for the rest of it once the conference is over. You dig out your cool clothes while wondering if you could skip the flashy jewelry and heels to just attend in your house clothes because then that would really be a retreat for you. Then you pack the ultimate diaper bag for the still-nursing baby that will totally be fed in the auditorium publicly so you don't miss a single word of the speaker. And finally, you are ready. The pizza is ordered for the rest of the family and you are on your way.
This is the next phase that I call "Mid-Conference Motivation". Relieved you have simply made it there physically, you arrive to all the decor, music and excitement but your emotions are still in transition. During worship you enjoy the music but also check your texts to make sure everyone is still surviving. However, by the end of the last song, you are lost in worship and exchange the texts for prayers in faith that everyone is doing well while you begin to rest in God's presence. Once the speaker steps up on the platform, you evaluate her from head to toe including whether or not you like her voice then decide as you work through personal issues with this woman you have never met, "I need to accept everyone" and "even though I already cannot relate to this person, I can learn from anyone as long as the Word is preached." The notebook is opened and you begin to take notes as you listen intentionally for all God has for you. WHAM. His presence hits. It's God. And He is talking to you.
This is big. God is moving. He is addressing issues in your heart from your past, in your present, and for your future. He is breaking down walls of bitterness and unforgiveness. He is drawing you near to Him more than ever. He is cleansing you. He is setting you free. He is renewing you. He is placing hope in your heart. He is calling you to be with Him and out of that He is calling you to do something for the Kingdom that is more than you have ever done before. You are challenged. You are enlightened. You are encouraged. You are motivated!
It's the spirit of God moving through you and others not only at the conference you are attending but at conferences, retreats, Bible Studies, men's breakfasts, camps, schools, and homes all across the world. God is mighty and at work in you! You are a world-changer and it's time to act.
All that you have experienced from the Lord from the event you attended was preparation to launch you into a new journey of action. As we see in John 13:17 "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." Every detail of what you have been a part of is a love gift from the Lord meant to be shared with the world around you and I bet you are feeling the "I AM WOMAN AND GOD IS WITH ME" electric charge that comes from girl-time in God's presence!
Now what? You have now entered the last phase, that I lovingly call the "Post-Conference Plan". As you adequately pause in awe and embrace all God did in your heart, it is time to gather all the momentum and adreneline in order to thrust forward for what is next. There is a connection from what took place in the walls off an event to the every day life you now must go live. Mighty world-changer, here is a post-conference plan:
1. Since you are on a Jesus-high, make sure you look before before you leave. Gather all belongings from the conference such as free gifts, purchases, sermon notes, treats, your back pillow, and especially the nursing baby.
2. Play worship music in your car or listen to the 8-discs CD set you bought. This will be your first step outside the event building walls that is God-honoring and speaking life to your spirit. No more lyrics 80's music about old romances, rapping about hardships, and country tunes about addictions. This is a new you. God will be with you and you will be with Him in the car, in the home, in social media, at work, shopping ... everywhere.
3. Tell yourself all the way home that your children, husband, aging parents, and co-workers will not understand what has happened to you. AND THAT IS OKAY. Galations 1:10 "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." Remember those words. Don't quote it to everyone when you walk in the door, but do remember them when faced with all the people who won't understand what took place in your heart. Trust me, this will happen.
4. Write in your journal, voice memo, call a friend, or have coffee to chat about what has happened in your heart from the Lord. This will reiterate the work done and build faith in you for what is to come. God wants us to share with others so that all glory is given to Him.
5. And my personal favorite step in this plan, start with the basics. Before you go change the outside world, start with the inside world you already have. Make sure the basics are covered. Start in your own heart towards God, then with your respect of your husband, your leadership and love of your children, the atmosphere and attitude in your home continuing on to move out to the your local church body and anywhere beyond that the Lord would call you to be. Changing the world starts right now right where you are. God will lead you to increase as you are "faithful in the little things then He will make sure ruler over many things." Luke 16:10
Now that you know the pre-conference chaos, the mid-conference motivation, and the post-conference plan, you have graduated from 101 and can share your expertise with your friends and be completely ready for the next event! But first, go take a nap.