Tag Archives: women of faith

Women of Faith: Finding My Faith with a Weirdo

11 Sep

The Women of Faith “Imagine” weekend in Philadelphia was not what I expected.  At all.  Instead of an authentic women’s conference, Women of Faith felt more like a fabricated “worship experience” that could be plopped down in any city to be enjoyed by the throngs.  In essence, I suppose that is what a Women of Faith weekend is—something that can be easily created and re-created for women all over the country.  Then again, isn’t that also what a concert tour is?  Yes.  But here’s how my Casting Crowns concert experience differed from Women of Faith—with Casting Crowns, I felt like I was having an authentic experience, but with Women of Faith, I felt like I was just another cog in the ol’ money making machine (which strikes me as funny since I received comp tickets for writing about the event).

The event started with a worship team made up of four female singers, who had excellent vocals.  However, there was no worship band, which meant the praise music was piped into the stadium and the ladies led the audience in a big sing-a-long.  In between songs, the singers shared one-to-two sentence insights, and dived into the next song.  These songs were loud, upbeat, and instead of leading worship, I felt like I was watching a Point of Grace concert.  It was just too perfect.  A live band, who could led worship by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, though it would require more set-up/tear down would have improved the worship immensely.

Sheila Walsh

Next, Sheila Walsh spoke about the woman who was bleeding for years before being healed by Jesus. Walsh was flawless in her presentation, using a combination of personal anecdotes, Scripture, and body language that really drove her message home.  I was very impressed with Walsh, but slightly confused when the lights went down at the end of her talk and she belted out “Amazing Grace.”  Apparently, Walsh is not only an author and a speaker, but a singer as well.  Anyway, she received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Then Women of Faith president, Mary Graham, took the stage to introduce well-known author and speaker Dr. Henry Cloud, who somehow snuck into a Women of Faith event, despite his obvious maleness.  Graham asked the audience if they knew what day it was.  One woman yelled out, “Your birthday?”  No, it was not Graham’s birthday, but it was “Wonderful Weirdos Day.”  Graham said that if anyone knew about weirdos, it was certainly Dr. Cloud (she called him “Henry,” but I feel more comfortable calling him Dr. Cloud or just “Cloud”).

Dr. Henry Cloud

While those around me seemed to think this was both a charming and personal introduction, I tried my best to hide the tears streaming down my face.  See, Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist, the “weirdos” he works with are mentally ill.  As someone who has been in therapy since 2006, I suppose I could count myself among the “weirdos.”  It was then I wondered if I truly belonged at Women of Faith.  I thought about leaving, but I was in the very first row, so I tried in vain to choke back my tears.

Dr. Cloud mentioned a verse here and there, but mentioned his latest book, The Law of Happiness, a lot more.  I mean, if there was a drinking game for each mention of Boundaries or his latest book, the Women of Faith audience would have been rip roarin’ plastered.  Still, I thought Cloud was OK…until his second talk.  This time Cloud casually mentioned “hoarders.”  Instead of treating hoarding as a serious mental issue, Cloud talked lightly about how hoarders don’t get rid of things because they “might need it someday” or because of the emotional attachment to object.  Then Cloud joked that a hoarder probably wouldn’t get rid of her baby’s first poopy diaper because of its sentimental value.  What could have been a very important spiritual lesson about keeping things we don’t need (I do believe that was supposed to be Cloud’s point), the illustration derailed into a joke about hoarders.  Ha-ha, let’s all laugh at the mentally ill people whose gross houses we see on television.  As if seeing a half-hour program on someone’s life truly illustrates the frustrations of obsessive-compulsive disorder!  I assumed that Dr. Cloud, being a trained clinical psychologist would treat mental illness with a soft touch. He came across as brash and uncaring, especially when interchangeably throwing around the words “wacko” and “crazy.”

Pretty doodads hanging from the center of the "Imagine" WoF stage.

When Mary Graham took the stage again to announce that Sheila Walsh was going to talk about “their little monkeys” at World Vision, I just got up and left.  I didn’t even look back to see if my friend who accompanied me was following me out.  I ran right smack into a crowd of women gathered around the Women of Faith merchandise table.  “How much is this bag?” a well-dressed middle-aged woman asked a volunteer.

“Oh, you can’t buy that bag,” said the volunteer.  “It comes as part of a set.”  Apparently, it was a set-up to generate more income because in order to get a tote bag, a woman had to purchase either a $50 set (bag, mug, and some other stuff) or an $85 set (bag, two books, two albums, and a special treat). I could get a nicer bag at the Fossil outlet for the same amount of cash.  But I guess it wouldn’t have the Women of Faith logo on it!

However, I did leave my mark at Women of Faith, just after eating the subpar lunch provided for attendees, I decided to fill out a card for the Q&A session with Sheila Walsh and Dr. Henry Cloud.  I wrote, “Dr. Cloud, as a mental health professional do you think it’s appropriate to refer to the mentally ill as ‘weirdos’ and ‘wackos’?”

Then I turned the card over and wrote, “I have an M.A. in counseling.  I am mentally ill.  And, yes, my feelings were hurt.”  I doubt my question was chosen for the Q&A.  I guess I will never know.

"Wheat Field in Rain" or simply "Rain" by Vincent Van Gogh

I hoped my Women of Faith weekend in Philadelphia would be a time to reconnect my hardened heart with a living God—and it was.  However, that didn’t happen at the Women of Faith weekend; it occurred at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  There was something magnificent about glimpsing at Vincent Van Gogh’sStill Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers” painting for the first time—the real painting—not a print.  To discover the dimensions in his blobs of paint, to have tangible proof that my favorite painter lived and died, to be reminded that he was a madman (a “weirdo” or a “wacko”) and not recognized as a genius in his time.  I’m not calling myself a genius or believe that my “art,” my writing, will outlive my life.  I suppose I just felt more at home with a fellow weirdo’s priceless painting.

I was most affected by, “Wheat Field in Rain”, his depiction of beauty beyond the window of his asylum. Despite being interned at a mental hospital, Van Gogh still saw value in the world and still painted.  Sixteen dollars to get into the Philadelphia Museum of Art versus 100 bucks for a pre-fabricated “worship” experience at Women of Faith?  Next time, I’m going to skip the conference and head straight for the art museum.

*In exchange for a fair and honest evaluation of the Women of Faith weekend, I was given two complimentary tickets by Thomas Nelson.  Clearly, I was not required to write a positive review, only a fair review, and that is what I feel I did.  Other views may differ, and I truly hope that others did have a good time to connect with God and others at Women of Faith weekends and other events.*

Imagine… A Women of Faith Weekend

8 Sep

On Friday morning, BFF Sarah and I will be heading to Philadelphia to attend the two-day Women of Faith weekend (WoF).  Thanks to BookSneeze, I received two free passes in exchange for telling y’all about my experience.  Sounds good to me!  Ah, the perks of being a blogger.

I’ve never been to a Women of Faith weekend, so I don’t really know what to expect.  According to the WoF website, outside food and drinks will be confiscated—does that mean I can’t shove a pack of Mentos into my purse?  Will I be forced to pay $4 for a small soda?  I know that Jesus is the living water, but will He be handing out Deer Park at the event?  Keeping us dehydrated could cut down on those infamously long lines at the women’s restroom I suppose.

Anyway, the theme of the weekend is “Imagine,” and I will, “be refreshed, encouraged and inspired. Because the God who loves you can do far more than you can ever Imagine.”  (Refreshed = free water, I’m sure of it.) Lately, I’ve been feeling parched, discouraged, and vacant.

I’m so thirsty for something more.  (More of God?  Definitely more than just slogging through the day.)

I don’t feel like I can make it through another minute.  My strength is failing me.  Not only do I need courage, but I need to be encouraged.

I have so many thoughts running through my head.  I want to do this and that, but I get so tired—I’m too tired to start, too depressed to even try. I ache for inspiration (and motivation).

And I think, I can’t go to Women of Faith this weekend.  I’m too weak, too depressed, too me.  My anxiety is kicking up at the thought of being closed into a stadium with thousands of women.  The thought of being touched or hugged by a stranger gives me knots in my stomach.  O, God, please don’t make me go.

His response? “I love you far more than you can ever imagine.”

I won’t let my fear control me.  I will bask in refreshment, encouragement, and inspiration.  I will let it fill me up and surround me like a warm bubble bath, and seep into my dry soul like aloe vera. 

Just let go of the fear and imagine…

(The video makes the Women of Faith weekend look pretty fun!)

Have you been to a Women of Faith weekend?  What was it like?  Think my Mentos are contraband?  Are you going to Philly this weekend for WoF or another stop on the Imagine tour?

Book Review:: Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones

1 Mar

Jenny B. Jones’ novel, Just Between You and Me, has all the elements of a good book—quirky, realistic characters, an interesting plot with many twists and turns, colorful dialogue, and deep, dark family secrets that keep the reader moving forward for answers.  At any point, Just Between You and Me could turn into just another chick lit book.  Instead, Jones’ infusion of humor and wit place her among a growing number of writers who can weave together a good tale without turning their novels into a thinly veiled evangelistic tract.

Jones’ main character, Maggie Montgomery, is a former “mean girl” all grown up.  The successful cinematographer left her small hometown of Ivy, Texas behind as she made a new life for herself in Chicago.  A sudden family emergency causes Maggie to come face to face with an entire town she’s wronged (but doesn’t remember wronging) with the antics of her youth.  And, boy, do these people hold a grudge!  And it seems like her 10 year-old niece, Riley, is following right in her aunt’s footsteps.

Refusing to shy away from issues like mental illness (schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder), drug addiction, and dysfunctional families, Just Between You and Me has depth and dimension.  The characters are quirky and full of life.  The dialogue is sharp and amusing, especially between Maggie and her love interest, Ivy veterinarian Dr. Connor Blake.  In fact, it is Maggie’s internal thoughts that move the narrative forward as she offers thoughts on junk food (SweeTarts are a fave), her interactions with Dr. Hottie, and her prayers to God.  Plus, unlike other chick lit heroines, Maggie isn’t a shopaholic, drunk, or skank.

Jones expertly infuses Maggie’s Christianity into Just Between You and Me.  Instead of offering overtones to make this passable Christian fiction or a full-on battle for the reader’s soul, Maggie lives a very normal Christian life—doing daily devotions, going to church, and praying to God.  Jones doesn’t sugarcoat the Christian life, nor does she water it down.  In fact, it’s a near-perfect example of a woman wrestling with God’s Will while trying to figure out how to help her family, especially her emotionally distant father and drug addicted sister.

Just Between You and Me is refreshing contemporary fiction with a strong moral backbone—one that doesn’t dissolve into “Little House on the Prairie” type romanticism. Excellent writing, hilarious dialogue, and a good plot, Jenny B. Jones’ books are just as good as her blog (read it!).  And that’s saying a lot.

*A review copy of this book was provided to me by Jenny B. Jones because she’s cool like that.*

Inside Out With Cadia

8 May

By Amy Sondova Cadia’s Tori Smith and Courtney Myers are on a mission encouraging middle through college-aged girls to establish an identity firmly planted in God. The female pop/rock duo released their self-titled debut (Fervent) in Feburary. Before the album dropped, “Inside Out” was selected as the official theme song (and music video) for Women of Faith’s “Revolve Tour.”

The longtime friends formed the band’s name from the ancient Greek word “Arcadia” which means “place of peace”. Both under the age of 21, Tori and Courtney sing about issues close to the heart of women of all ages, even doing a cover of Martina McBride’s “This One’s For the Girls.” Bouncing from pop to rock to folk, Cadia’s debut is fun, relevant, and full of great melodies reminiscent of BarlowGirl and indie band, Alathea.

Honest and open, Courtney (who has a special affinity for cake) and Tori were kind enough to talk about their album via an e-mail Q&A with Backseat Writer.

Courtney and Tori, you’re best friends and best friends always have dreams. You know, one day we’re going to get married and have a double wedding or be famous models or start a band. When you think back, how did you two consider “the dream” together?

Courtney: When the idea of Cadia was first presented to us, we were thrilled. I remember just hugging her in the middle of a church parking lot and screaming when the reality set in. I could not feel more blessed than I do right now in my life. Experiencing it with Tori is icing on the cake!

Vocally, you sing in different ranges—so which one of you is the soprano and who is the alto? Did you learn any new vocal techniques to record this album?

Courtney: I am the alto, and Tori is the soprano. It’s cool; sometimes you may think you’re hearing Tori’s high harmonies and it’s me, and vice versa. We felt incredibly blessed when we were working on our album because our voices were a perfect match. We love singing together!

The album has a lot of impressive co-writers including Ian Eskelin, Rob Hawkins, Cindy Morgan, Joy Williams, Britt Nicole, and Nicole Nordeman? What was it like to have so many talented people working with you? And how did you ladies contribute to the process?

Courtney: We were so thrilled to learn that we had such amazing co-writers on our album. The writers are some of my favorite musicians. Tori and I were very involved in the song selection. The fact that there were such amazing writers made the choices a piece of cake.

Cadia does an excellent cover of Martina McBride’s “The One’s For the Girls”. I love that you included it in your song choices! How did you come to pick this classic?

Courtney: We knew that it was a great song for women of all ages. We absolutely love performing this song. We get the crowd to get up and dance, and always tell the men in the audience not to be ashamed to stand up and celebrate the women in their lives. It gets everybody laughing.

I was surprised to learn that “Safe Place to Fall” almost didn’t make the album—why did you feel that its inclusion in the album was so important?

Courtney: The message in this song is so important for our listeners to hear. I have battled with self-esteem issues, and feeling like I was never going to be good enough and I wanted to share that message.

Courtney, not only are you a singer, but you’re a professional dancer—are you thinking about trying out for a part in “High School Musical 3” (or HSM 4, which will have a whole new cast)?

Courtney: No, I’m content right where I am!

My favorite song on the album is “Trust in Me Now”, which reminds us that God is still in control. What emotions are evoked within you when you perform this song?

Tori: I feel a sense of comfort and I have an “Ah-ha!” moment every time I hear the song. When you hear the first verse and it says, “I know your past, the point of breaking into pieces,” it makes me realize every time that God knows exactly what I am going through. He is the only one that completely understands, because He has been through everything. I also love the chorus, because it is written like God speaking to us. Like He’s saying, “I know it’s hard and I know you’re in pain, but just trust in me!” I just feel a sense of release, like “OK, Lord, I will rest in you.”

You both said that reaching out to girls in their formative years (middle school through college) is important. Why is this demographic so close to your heart?

Tori: Middle school through college is such an important time in everyone’s life. I think those are the times when a lot of important choices are made. And it’s a time that can be really hard, especially middle school. I know that middle school was a really hard time for me, and even high school, in dealing with friends and family issues. We want our music to be an encouragement for those girls and help them when they are going through those hard times.

Tori, I saw that one of your favorite books is Captivating by John and Stasi Elderedge—how has that influenced your idea of female identity in God?

Tori: It helped me remember how beautiful we are in God’s eyes, and that’s all that matters. So whenever I am being down on myself, and feel that I don’t look pretty, I just try to remember how pretty and important I am to God.

What do you think that adults just don’t get about women your age, you know, in that pivotal place between high school and forming an adult identity?

Tori: I think that adults understand most of what women go through during that time, because they were once that age also. But every generation is different. I think that each generation has different issues that they are facing.

Anything else you want to say in closing?

Tori: Our website is www.cadiaonline.com and our myspace is www.myspace.com/cadiaonline. We are very involved with both of those and we love hearing from everyone.

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