During the last days in October, Laura Brown and Eileen May drove with me from The Buckeye State, over the river, through the mountains and into the middle of the night to Matthews, North Carolina where we attended the PCA Committee on Discipleship Ministries’ National Women’s Conference, Transformed, with keynote speaker Nancy Guthrie.
Our schedule was packed. That first day we ate our lunches out of Panera boxes in our laps and found ourselves surrounded by women, who now live all over the country, but we learned all had once lived in the Buckeye State. In God’s gracious plan, we were seated not just next to sisters in Christ but sisters who had once walked streets, not too far from our home church in the northern suburbs of Cincinnati. One woman in particular helped us find the building’s hidden coffee machine and walked over to the classical school on the church’s campus to find a soda for me. The access to caffeine after driving into the middle of the night was like manna from heaven.
Between the sunshine, the seventy-degree weather, the y’alls and the hospitality there was no doubting that we were not in Buckeye Country anymore.
On Friday we spent our time unpacking our story and God’s greater redemption story in a Taste of Parakaleo Workshop led by Tami Resch and Abby Hutto.
Followed directly by an intense and rigorous three hour Women’s Ministry Training which left us back at the hidden coffee machine so we, after driving into the wee hours of the morning the night before, could stay alert enough to soak up all of the biblical teaching on the covenant, God’s sovereignty from eternity past to eternity future, biblical womanhood and biblical mentoring.
We then found ourselves that evening in a two level sanctuary with pew sections that stretched probably ten sections wide at its widest part, stained glass windows behind the pulpit and surrounding us, behind us, before us, to our left and to our right, seven hundred women from all over the country and from decades of different PCA generations worshipping, singing the same song to our same Lord. Among some of these voices were Karen Hodge, Susan Hunt and Nancy Guthrie.
During the first session, Nancy Guthrie richly unpacked God’s Word from Romans 11:33-12:2. For me, words marked on page 2178 of my ESV Study Bible with blue highlighter and notes written in black pen up and down the margins will be permanent reminders of Nancy’s powerful theatrical voice and her passion to teach women to study and apply God’s Word. “Oh the depths” she repeated over and over. That even if you stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, God’s riches, wisdom, knowledge, mercy, grace and kindness would still overflow out of it. We can’t even fathom his deep, deep love and mercy towards us. Oh the depths. Even with images of the deepest places we can imagine. God’s riches, wisdom and knowledge are deeper still.
On Saturday we attended break out sessions where we heard about Biblical Womanhood and a talk on reconciliation where the speaker described reconciliation as two people not just moving on and co-existing, but two people being Velcro-ed back together like The Prodigal Son and his father.
I also attended a break out session called, “The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You.” Dawn Poulter’s words will forever stay with me as she described the healing of the blind man from the parable in Mark 8. How Jesus first healed the man but the men looked like trees so Jesus laid his hands on Him again and restored his sight completely. How Jesus doesn’t want us to live with half-sightedness. Jesus wants us to be whole and how we can only lead others in the transforming power of the gospel as far as we’ve lead ourselves.
She also gave this beautiful image of a photograph she once saw of a man, dressed up, sweeping in front of his shop. She described how she was reminded of God’s Kingdom in this photo. How God has swept us up, cleaned us off and then He says to us “go and sweep around you.” How the kingdom of God is displayed when we simply sweep the floor around our own two feet.
It was the kind of teaching that left me sitting in the pew. Reflecting and praying even as the lunch line was growing outside of the sanctuary.
Nancy closed the conference focusing on the well known verses from Romans 12:1-2.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Nancy talked about the urgency, the begging, the pleading of Paul when he writes about spiritual transformation. She quoted Jerry Bridges and the image of a showerhead. How Bridges says you can go outside and play in the mud, become a filthy mess and when you desire to become clean again there is this thing called a shower inside your home. This shower can be used to clean the filthy mess off of you but unless you place yourself under the nozzle, the showerhead will not be able to do it’s job. How God’s Word and the working of the Holy Spirit are the same. Unless we are willing to step under the nozzle, we will never be transformed.
Nancy went on to talk about how the world wants to push in on you and conform you to its ways. How every day the world is pressing in on us. But transformation comes from the inside out. It’s like a kitchen remodel, ripping out the old and replacing the old with new. She urged and begged and challenged all of the women sitting in those pews, if we aren’t being transformed daily, under the nozzle of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit than we are being conformed to the patterns of this world pressing in on us.
I would drive across states, through the mountains, in the darkness to attend this conference again. It left me changed, challenge and hungry for more of God’s Word. I hope and pray if our Women’s Ministry Team decides to attend a conference like this again next year you will consider going along with us to be reminded with countless others “oh the depths” of our God’s riches, wisdom, knowledge, mercy, grace and kindness towards us.