A little late, but it's still Monday! I didn't exactly realize how much I was going to have to say on this topic but it turns out I had a lot to say about such an awesome experience!
This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Salt Company Spring Conference in Des Moines. Over 1,500 students attended this conference from across the Salt Network including plants at the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Drake, and more! This event was described as being a family reunion for a family who is on a mission and whose mission is inspired by the gospel. This fueled the whole conference. During the four days there were 4 main sessions where Christian writer and speaker Jared Wilson spoke on Micah 6:8. We also got to choose two breakout sessions from a large selection to attend, three small group times where we got to meet other brothers and sisters in Christ, and fun free time!
We lucked out and were able to stay at my roommate's house only 15 minutes away from the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines. Having a sleepover with some of my best friends for two nights in a row brought me back to middle school! The first night we came home to a beautiful arrangement of snacks that Kaitlynn's mom had created and laid out for us. We ended the night watching Finding Dory together. Even just driving to and from the venue was full of fun and laughs.
I learned so much from this conference and I genuinely hope that it will continue to impact my life for a very very long time. I am still so positively blown away by how blessed I am to be a part of an environment where 1,500 college students are willing to pay to spend a weekend worshiping and learning about God. Saturday night there was a "Night of Worship" which was something I will never forget. The sound of so many college students' voices joined together to worship the same God was beautiful. It is my hope and prayer that I won't consider this weekend to have been a spiritual high but rather a turning point in my faith.
Micah 6:8 has always been one of my favorite verses but hearing four separate sessions each breaking down this one short verse helped me understand it in a new way and showed me new elements that I believe can greatly impact my faith. During some of our down time I lettered this verse into my conference journal and I love the picture that my friend Avery took of it.
Main Session 1- "Focus on Goodness"
This session really made me think about how goodness plays a role in and affects my life. The main themes were that goodness is real and it is revealed, goodness is good and it is required, and goodness is needed and it is provided. One large concept stuck out to me. Jared described that so often our culture depicts goodness (especially relating to Christianity) as being stupid or different. Often the world just doesn't know what to do with goodness despite the fact that they like it. I have experienced this in multiple settings. More than once I have felt as if I am seen differently for believing what I believe and acting in accordance to my values. In particular circumstances I have felt left out or almost pressured to be someone I am not in an effort to fit in instead of live out goodness. But, although knowledge of goodness does make me vulnerable and subject to being targeted, goodness is still required. The amazing thing is that I don't have to attempt this alone. While I have an inner deficit of goodness, the Gospel pronounces me, an extremely sinful and prideful person, as good and righteous. God is gracious and gives exactly what he demands. This is my inheritance.
Main Session 2- "Do Justice"
Justice has sometimes been a difficult topic for me to understand. When I hear the word justice, my mind immediately jumps to the law and the government. But justice in regards to the kingdom of God is both different and similar. The main themes from this session were that justice accounts for the fall, justice advances the kingdom, and justice magnifies the cross. One of the things that Jared emphasized was that God has a plan of restoration for ALL places and that the deadest, most dry places are actually the places most ready for the revival in store. This made me think of how wrongly I see my heart sometimes. Sometimes I see my heart as a place so affected by sin and wrongdoing that God couldn't possibly have a plan or way to use me. But in fact, God has more in store for me than I could ever possibly comprehend or imagine. Another part of the discussion on justice was the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12). One of the most powerful statements was that the gospel is only for those who recognize that they have no social, logical, ethical, monetary currency to give to God. The gospel/kingdom is intended for the marginally oppressed and God cherished these people. Justice magnifies the cross because when I bring my NOTHING to him, he gives me EVERYTHING. This is grace and this is the hope that I get to live with, that despite my sin, there is nothing I could do that would ever make God love me less.
Main Session 3- "Love Kindness"
The main themes from this session were love kindness by advocating for others instead of accusing them, love kindness by serving your community instead of using it, and love kindness by cherishing grace instead of just presuming upon it. One of my favorite take-aways from this session was "a message of grace will attract but a culture of grace will keep them." Jared expressed that we should reckon ourselves dead already and instead SERVE others. So often I catch myself getting so caught up in what I need or how I'm doing when instead I should be asking those very questions of others. This requires a constant perspective change. Just as Jesus didn't just tolerate us but lavished his grace upon us, I should treat others the same way. I should be continuously positive and caring towards the people around me no matter who they are. I should go the extra mile to truly love on others. The kindness of God should motivate me to repent because I definitely don't deserve anything that he could give me.
Main Session 4- "Walk Humbly with Your God"
This part of the verse confronts our fundamental sin- pride. Instead of being prideful we are called to walk humbly because God is God, God is just, and God is love (the three main themes). Truthfully, God doesn't need us, he lacks for absolutely nothing. This realization completely changes one's perspective on life. Jared described that God's sovereignty may require you to give up on a dream and the question will be, are you willing to give it up to pursue God? This thought honestly scared me. The world teaches everyone to dream of the future and plan for the days ahead. I have dreams in my head of what I think I would enjoy, what I think I would be good at, what I think would be meaningful, but when it comes down to it, I insult God with my small imagination. Nothing I could dream up would ever be as good as what he has in store for me. I need to walk humbly and trust fully in the Lord and his plan for my life. This means that even when I grow nervous or doubt myself because I am not in a relationship I need to turn around and focus myself on him instead. Additionally, I must commit to the GLORY of God and in suffering see God's use of my life in such a way as a blessing. Something that Jared said really stuck in my head: the love of God is more precious than life and thus, when you breath your last breath, God will still be there. What an enlivening idea!
One of the breakout sessions I attended was an information session regarding the Salt Network's plans to plant a church in Madison, Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Fall 2018. In this session one of the big things they hit on was that if you were a current student, to think about transferring to UW to assist. This immediately sent my mind into a frenzy. I have had an amazing first semester at ISU and I truly feel like it is the place where I am supposed to be, but what if that isn't God's plan for me? While I still don't feel as if God is calling me to this specifically, this experience opened my eyes to my need to pray often that God reveal's his plan for my life. I may not know what it is, but I do know that I definitely want to follow it.
So many elements of this amazing weekend made me think. I pray that every day I work towards living out Micah 6:8 but also that I dwell in the glory of God's grace. One last fun/random thing- over the weekend I was talking with a friend and they mentioned that they read my blog! It was so fun to hear that someone here reads my blogs and enjoys them! Thanks to all the rest of you who have been nothing but supportive of me on this journey.
Thank you Salt Company for the amazing weekend and all of the wonderful memories!