00-Ladies Conference
29-31 May was the weekend of the GCI/WCG Ladies Conference with a Theme of Acceptance in Christ.  Over 40 ladies enjoyed High Leigh Christian Conference Centre set in lovely grounds.  Although the weather was changeable, many were able to enjoy walks in the gardens.
Collage-High Leigh Gardens

The weekend was filled with opportunities to renew acquaintances and make new friends.  The food was plentiful and delicious.  The updated facilities mean food is served from hot buffet serveries and there were tea/coffee machines always available in the lounge area.
Collage-Tea Breaks

Each evening, morning or afternoon began with half an hour of worship, including several solos, a quartet and even a worship dance performed by Pam Day from the Edinburgh congregation.  Our first evening worship was led by Beth Ann Shelly and Eva Beal from Scandinavia and began with Beth’s beautiful solo, Surely The Presence of the Lord is in This Place.  Barbara Wilkinson led Saturday morning worship and included a solo, You Raise Me Up.  Tina Sullivan led the Saturday afternoon worship and included a quartet singing Fill Your Mind.  Pam Day danced before the Lord during Sunday morning worship led by Nancy Silcox.  Communion ended the Conference with worship led by Jackie Mill and the Communion was led by Jean Dougall.

We heard a variety of speakers young and old, or should I say, ‘mature’?  On Friday evening the opening Message from Jackie Mill reminded us that we are one family, sisters in Christ.  The adoption papers are signed in the blood of our Saviour and no one can take us away.  Therefore we need to be living as daughters of God.  Jackie told two powerful stories, one about orphans who when they were adopted would hide food at mealtimes but we can trust our Heavenly Father to feed and care for us always.  The other story about an ant that kept throwing itself into the swimming pool no matter how many times she rescued it is a lesson for us that no matter how many times we sin, God is always there for us and never tires of rescuing us—he never gives up on us.
Collage-Jackie Mill

Our guest speaker from France, Marie Angelique Picard, is GCI national leader and brought us two powerful messages.  The first on Saturday morning asked ‘Have you ever been put on hold and hung up because you felt you had waited too long’?  Marie Angelique led us through a number of examples in the Bible where God seemed to have put people on hold, including Moses in the wilderness for 40 years, David waiting to become King and even Jesus letting Lazarus die.  If we are on ‘hold’ God has a good reason, and our testing produces patience, endurance and compassion.  A point that struck me was that when we pray for God to help us win, we are in effect asking God to make everyone else lose and that perhaps we should be praying that God will help us do the very best we can!  Then when God puts us on hold we need to keep holding on.  God has his own timeline.  Don’t forget what God has done for you already.  Don’t wait for things to change—change the way you look at things!
Collage-Marie Angelique Picard

Following the morning coffee break, Margaret Rose courageously shared her journey through depression after she developed a condition called PMA and had a reaction to the treatment, in her talk entitled ‘To Hell And Back’.  Encouragement from the pages of God’s Word included Psalm 34:18 which says the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and rescues those whose spirits are crushed.  She ended by saying that a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.  There was a little time for questions and one of the questions was asking for the recipe of her easy chocolate cake, which she gave us!
Collage-Margaret Rose

We went outdoors for a group photograph and then had a few minutes before we heard from Jackie Mill looking at the subject of ‘Being A Helpmeet’.  She showed a video clip that demonstrated how changing your words can change your world.  She then discussed the meaning of helper, citing examples showing that God is our helper, our indispensable companion, and that it does not mean an inferior position.  Remember that up until Genesis 2:18 all that God had created was pronounced good, but then God said it was not good for man to be alone!  Jesus was the helper until Acts 2 when the ‘other helper’ spoken of in John 16:5 came—the Holy Spirit.  Men and women were designed to work together in a strong partnership; complementary, each fulfilling their role as gifted by God.  There was time for questions and comments, which gave us all thoughts for further study.
Collage-Joy Barlow

After lunch we heard from four speakers with complementary yet very different topics.  First was Jeni Ozumba, who contrasted human acceptance with God’s acceptance.  Other peoples’ acceptance depends on whether you are beautiful, wealthy, smart and whether you do what they think you should.  Jeni told the story of Punchinello from a book by Max Lucado about being given stars if people liked you or dots if they didn’t.  The book ends with the ‘Maker’ removing all the dots because we are all stars in his eyes.  A flip chart illustration showed how environment, body, mind and spirit impact who we are and our view of ourselves and others.  John 4 tells the story of the woman at the well and illustrates the definition of Christ’s acceptance.  He broke major social rules by talking to her–a woman, a woman of ill repute, a gentile.  Jesus came to give, and to change us from the inside out.  Apply Christ’s acceptance.
Collage-Jeni Ozumba

Ashley Thompson works as a children and young people’s outreach worker at Shakti Woman’s Aid in Scotland.  She deals with black minority ethnic women, children and young people who have experiences domestic abuse, honour based violence, forced marriage and FGM.  Her talk entitled The Gender Agenda, shared some of the things that she has encountered and made us think carefully about society’s view of the female gender.  Break-out groups gave the ladies an opportunity to discuss how women are viewed in their school, workplace and homes, and the consequences of this perspective.  Although much has been done to change a wrong perspective, culture is still in need of reforming and the norms rewriting to God’s view of the female persona.  Galatians 3:28 says you are all one in Christ Jesus—he sees you as a person, an individual and wants us to see ourselves as He sees us.  Ashley showed several video clips to show how we can make a difference in our world.  One of the video clips showed a mall entrance with two doors—one labelled ‘beautiful’ and one labelled ‘ordinary’—which one would you go through?  We may not always be able to choose what happens to us but we have a choice in how we respond.  Marie Angelique later commented on this video showing that when God looks at us, he sees us all as beautiful—Colossians 3:3 says you died and your life is hidden in Christ—we are in Christ!
Collage-Ashley's Presentation

Linda Halford slouched up to the front in a hoodie with an ipod plugged in.  Is this our view of teenagers?  Her talk, ‘Teenage Matters’ was relevant in both senses, as Linda talked about the dramatic development of the teenage brain.  A new adult is being built and they are trying to make sense out of their world.  We need to act, not react.  God made teenagers, he understands and accepts them.  We looked at several teenagers in the Bible:  David came up with his own idea to deal with the giant; Paul told timothy not to let anyone look down on him because he was young; and Jesus at 12 in the temple asking questions as he grew in wisdom and stature.  We perceive some things as disobedience and rebellion when they are really learning and growing.  Linda gave us four pointers to help in our dealings with teenagers:

  1. Be the adult in the room. Listen, encourage and let them participate in solving their problems.
  2. Be supportive. But let them learn from their own mistakes if appropriate.
  3. Work together. Listen to their ideas and learn from them.
  4. Like them!

Collage-Linda Halford

Our final speaker before dinner was Irene Wilson who told us that The Golden Age Is Before Us Not Behind Us.  We can say with George Burns, “I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life’!  She talked about the difficulties of growing old, but encouraged us to be happy with who you are, that God loves us despite our appearance.  As we face our mortality remember that God gives us each new day for a reason.  He understand and has suffered loss himself.  In John 11:25 Jesus says I am the life and that anyone who believes in me will live even though they die.  As we mature, don’t use age as an excuse not to serve—serve where and how we can.  Irene’s humourous look at aging was very encouraging and she finished by saying “These are not grey hairs—they are my wisdom highlights!”
Collage-Irene Wilson

Saturday evening we gathered in the Willow Hall for an evening of Music and Entertainment led by Beth and Eva.  The songs were punctuated by quiz, skits and jokes and enhanced by the cheese & wine at the back!  Marie Angelique and her friend, Sabine, had brought champagne and chocolates from France to share as well, so it was a ‘bubbly’ evening!
Collage-Saturday Night

Sunday morning Marie Angelique spoke again, this time about God being the Anchor of Your Soul.  When we have a feeling of not being in control, when events are overwhelming us, we need an anchor to master the storms in our lives.  Hebrews 6:17-20 tell us we have a sure anchor and hope in Christ.  Marie Angelique reminded us that when God looks into our hearts, he is not looking for good things to justify giving us salvation.  All have sinned and will sin.  Not a single human heart is deserving of salvation and we fail each day.  The Good News is that Jesus cleans our hearts and give us a new heart which is the dwelling place of Jesus.  Even with this new heart we sin but Romans 8:1 says there is no longer condemnation because 2 Corinthians 5:17 says in Christ we are a new creation.  Colossians 3:3 says we died and our lives are hidden with Christ.  We do not need to give excuses for our failings, just trust in the mercy and grace in Jesus Christ.  Dismiss feelings of guilt.  When you are in love with someone, you don’t see their faults—love is blind!  Like the two houses of the parable in Matthew, both houses looked beautiful but one was built on a rock!  Following Jesus is no guarantee against flood and rain, but it is for collapse!  Look to your sure and steadfast anchor and take hope.

After the tea break Jackie Mill led several songs and then Jean Dougall came forward to introduce the Communion.  Jean read 1 Peter 1:1-2 telling us we were chosen by the fore knowledge of God so as we take the bread and wine we accept his sacrifice and participate in his life.  At the table we join Christ in praising and thanking the Father in recognition of our dependence on him.  We thank God for Christ’s gift for us in this covenant meal. He gave his perfect life for us and said ‘it is finished’.  He has secured our salvation.  As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21 He was made sin for us that we might be made righteousness, and Ephesians 2:6 raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realm.  So in the Communion Table, we participate in his life, death, resurrection and ascension.  Jackie came forward, broke the bread and asked a blessing over the elements before they were passed round to the Ladies and we took them together.  2 Corinthians 23:25-26 says when you take the break and wine you proclaim the Gospel!
Collage-Jean Dougall

In Jackie’s closing remarks she felt there had been amazing things at this conference and hoped that we would all go back to our congregations building up, making strong, supporting one another and working together.  The weekend has changed each of us.  Jackie gave us a moment of quiet reflection and urged us to write down what we would do differently as a result of what we had heard and learned here.
Collage-High Leigh Christian Conference Centre

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