I just got back from Memphis this morning at 4 a.m. Yes, and we left around 3:40 p.m. yesterday.
The drive turned out to be pretty exhausting but the worship conference that we attended was wonderful.
About 5 years ago several of our worship team from church went to a similar conference put on by the same group. It was a lot closer to drive to Des Moines, Iowa. Five years ago I really enjoyed the two day event and learned a lot about how to implement new ideas into our church's worship.
But this year. This year was very different. I think the host of the event, Ross Parsley, put it this way--'we are going to draw back the curtain and give you a more intimate look at how we do worship'. It was great.
The four of us left our little Kansas town right after church on Sunday. It was VERY cold, dreary and windy as we left. Our worship team's violinist, tech guy and all around dependable young man Austin, my wonderful daughter Katrina, and a last minute substitution for poor Eric who was sick, one of our pastor's daughters, O, went with me. So, two 16 year olds, a 22 year old and me.
Let's just say that it is a very long way from northeast Kansas to Memphis, TN. We had a lot of fun during the drive but just when I thought we MUST be getting to at least Arkansas soon Austin told me we had well over 350 miles yet to drive.
We got to Memphis area around 11 p.m. and it was raining (although MUCH warmer) and there was some construction. When we finally got to our hotel (with the help of our GPS, Lola) after about 3 attempts to find the correct driveway, we were all very relieved.
The hotel was gorgeous! Kudos to our worship pastor for making the reservations. The staff was very welcoming, even at almost midnight, and our rooms were very luxurious. Honestly, it was of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in and I've traveled around the world a little bit.
The beds were so comfy and you could choose from three different pillow styles. That first night we slept so well after our big day (and after I fell off of the bed out of excitement over the cushiness of it all). I'm sure that the bruises will go away soon.
Then there was the next morning and the conference! They always start out with a time of worship and that was just the ticket to putting us in the right frame of heart and mind. And it doesn't hurt that it was led by Paul Baloche, Brian Doerksen, Carl Albrecht, Ed Kerr, Ben Gowell, and Michael Rossback. The whole experience was so God focused.
Brian, Ross, Kathryn, Paul.
Kathryn Scott. She's under 5 feet tall but full of energy and has the most amazingly powerful voice.
We went to general sessions that included each of the three main speakers (Brian D, Paul B, and Kathryn Scott with her lovely Irish accent) contributing and teaching. But it didn't feel like a class or a session. It was like friends sitting together and chatting about Jesus, worship, and how we all need Him in our brokenness.
Austin went to mostly technical workshops, the girls went to one on visual worship tools and electric guitars in worship, I went to one taught by Kathryn that was just for women the first day, effective worship leading, and putting together your creative team the second day. It was a delight to hear Kathryn's story and get to know her heart. Plus it was just really fun listening to her talk and using her Irish phrases. Again, it felt like friends talking.
Probably the best part of the whole conference for me was on Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. We were invited to come into the sanctuary and just sit
(and they had very comfortable seats).
For an hour we were asked to sit and just close our eyes and listen to what they called: Deeper--a time to rest and soak. During this time, Brian D. played acoustic guitar, Ed K. played mostly pads on the keyboard, and Kathryn and Brian sang songs to us about how much God loves us and cares for us. I felt like I was given a huge gift.
I went to Memphis with a hopeful heart. My soul has been feeling dry and my heart feeling very alone in the world. God used this time of soaking to rain down His love on me and bring a lot of healing to my soul. It was even worth 22 hours of driving! I'm very thankful to Jesus for His love and for what He is teaching me.
That night we again gathered in the sanctuary to listen to Brian, Paul, and Kathryn sing some of their songs and tell the stories behind them. That was so fun. They all are different personalities and God works differently in each of them to create their songs. It was especially neat to hear K talk about how "At The Foot of the Cross" and "I Belong" were written. All three of the singers/songwriters were real, funny and just so honest.
The second day we made the decision to stay an extra hour longer than what we had originally planned in order to get the most out of the conference. I am glad that we did. However, it did mean that we were going to get home VERY late.
It was a long, rainy, drive and Austin drove the whole way back to Sabetha. I took some pictures of stuff along the way.
The girls wanted me to take this. It was while we were leaving Memphis.
The construction, although not easy to see, as we were leaving town.
The Waffle House. Apparently, people in Tennessee eat a lot of waffles. There are signs like this everywhere!
We laughed because we passed a lot of international places like Haiti (Hayti) and Jericho but didn't really visit them!
All in all, by the time we dropped Austin and O had their respective houses, Katrina and I got home around 4 a.m. this morning. I feel extremely tired but really blessed.
I can't wait to go to worship team practice tonight and share what we learned. Austin and I had some great talks about how excited we are to implement what we have learned. Meeting God in worship is something I am very passionate about. We're both hoping that we can pass along the excitement we have to our congregation and will do better at inviting them to the table of God's presence.