Resplendent is the only word sufficient for describing the Speak Up Conference I experienced last week in Grand Rapids, MI. (You don't just "attend" Speak Up. It truly is an experience!)
The team planners and faculty were on pointe even before the first person arrived. Emails flew back and forth letting us know what to expect; how to be prepared; where to go and what to do.
Two weeks out, I received an email asking about any personal requests I might have for the prayer team. They were already lifting each participant, by name, to the Father!
Lavish preparation, indeed!
Of course, there was an added layer of excitement for me in this story which bordered on the side of possible fiasco. My connecting flight out of Chicago was seriously delayed and my first appointment at the conference was set for 2:00.
But I didn't panic because I had picked up an hour by flying into the Central Time Zone.
Were you aware that although Chicago is on central time, Grand Rapids, Michigan is NOT?
Yeah, neither was I until I arrived there. I kept looking at the clocks in the Grand Rapids airport thinking, "Why didn't they already change those? The time change was weeks ago!"
While walking to the baggage claim, my little brain finally caught it......"You just lost that hour you thought you had gained!"
Time to panic a bit! (Depending on your music preferences I would like to suggest Flight of the Bumble Bee or the theme song for The Lone Ranger as the background music at this point.)
It was still in Orlando with the sky cap I had tipped so handsomely at 5:45 AM!!
I'll spare you all the details and emotions that swirled once I finally connected with the shuttle driver I had also missed. (A fine young man named Matthew starting his senior year at Calvin College. Oh, right. No details)
Matthew and I made it to the Prince Center at 1:55. I went running into the room where my first speaking critique was to begin at 2:00. I tried my best to pant quietly and to not focus on how wild my hair must surely look.
"Smile, Sheri," I instructed myself. "Just eat that mint, open your notes and smile!"
By 3:00, the critique was finished. I had reported it all to Frank; found my room and taken a deep cleansing breath. Never mind that I would wear the same outfit for fifteen hours. I had successfully jumped over the hurdle of frustration and the reward was amazing.
For the next three days I was immersed in the most generous, openhanded sharing of information I've ever experienced.
Writers and speakers from 29 states and 2 Canadian provinces had all gathered with the same objective, "How can I do this better for the Kingdom of God?"
Carol Kent and her team drew the best trainers available today. They clearly communicated the end goal, "Build this team of people. Let's teach them exactly what we do and how they can do it, too."
Why would you intentionally train others to step into the market place alongside you and become your competition? It makes no sense!
But speaker Cindy Bultema articulated the end goal beautifully in one of our devotion times. "We're all ONE team," she declared. "And it's all about making Jesus famous."
Because of this conference, I met new friends. I was challenged and cheered. I pushed past some wrong perspectives I've been holding and I set some clear goals for myself.
2 Corinthians 6 has been a focus passage for me this summer. But one verse in particular is resonating with me since the Speak Up Conference. "Please don't squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us." (Message)
Thanks to those who made this wonderful experience possible, I'm moving forward; not squandering one minute!
I'd love to hear about your summer adventures. Stop by the comment section, won't you?