Yesterday, I read in a book “the Psalms are a jewel, consisting of the gold of doctrine, the pearl of comfort and the gem of prayer.” Last week Keith and I attended a three day conference held at St Helen’s Bishopsgate for Pastors (and ring-ins such as me) and those who work full time in ministry. There were 800 attending and somehow, we all crammed into the building which has not been designed to seat this number.
One of the speakers Christopher Ash spoke from a different Psalm each morning and we tasted the rich truth of this saying from his words. He was speaking to Pastors, but his words were equally relevant to any Christian in need of encouragement – all of us really.
Christopher Ash has written wisely about marriage and another book of meditations on Psalm 119 called Bible Delight which has had a profound impact upon me, so it was a sheer delight to listen to him speak on Psalm 55 – a prayer reminding us that God is unshakeable, Psalm 90 – a prayer for those feeling disillusioned and Psalm 145 – how to praise. God has blessed this man with an amazing gift of communicating the grace of God. He is honest, clear and succinct. Every word counts. I thought “I could listen to this man speak all day” which is a rare occurence – let me tell you.
The second main speaker Paul Tripp has also written wisely about marriage and two books of meditiations on Psalms – one on Psalm 27 and on Psalm 51 – again both books have had a huge impact on me and I look forward to his next one on Psalm 73. His talks were titled Dangerous Calling. God has also gifted this man – he gets the problem of sin in people’s lives and he also gets grace and communicates both powerfully.
I was struck by how both men saw the importance of our hearts and importance of the key relationships in our lives – with our husbands and wives and our children – these matter to God. Both men were saying “if you want a good marriage, work on your own relationship with the Lord, deal with your own stuff or sin before the Lord and if you want to have a ministry that is pleasing to the Lord, work on your marriage – how you behave with your spouse matters.
Both these men have had an incredibly impact upon me with their writings, so it was an amazing privilege to hear both of them speak and meet them in the flesh. I am thankful to God for the way He has used them to feed my soul and teach me much from the word of God.
Each day started at 10.30 and ended at 4.30 with four sessions. We also heard from David Cook and Michael Reeves – who shared about the Puritans – we met him one evening and he and Keith had a great conversation sharing their thoughts about the Puritans. Both their talks were excellent.
I had a nasty cold and felt decidedly below par for these three days, so I am thankful to God that I was able to take in what I did – I have much to think about and ponder. We both felt privileged to be able to attend and were fed and nourished by the word of God. The singing was amazing. I have never sung to an organ accompanied by a live band – but it worked. What I enjoyed most was the musicians never dominated. At times they stopped playing and all we could hear was our voices which were rich, passionate and melodic.
I was impressed by the team of people involved behind the scenes to make the conference happen. Morning and afternoon tea were organised and served with military precision and efficiency. Having just been to the Oasis conference at Collaroy the weekend before where most of us stood in a queue for the entire duration of the break, I was extremely impressed and grateful to their hard work and loving kindness – many of the helpers were women of mature years who simply served graciously.
One thing that both Keith and I enjoyed was meeting up with ex College students who are working somewhere other than Australia and there were quite a number. It was encouraging to hear their stories. However we were mostly completely unknown and anonymous – and for introverts this was a blessing.
Each morning we travelled by bus – often sitting upstairs at the very front — a great place to watch the world go by. The best way of telling anyone how to find St Helen’s is to say “find the Gherkin” – it is a significant landmark that is right next door. We also discovered that the workers in this part of London walk fast. Keith walks fast, but they were overtaking him. It was easy to feel quite swamped by the pace of life flowing by.
One highlight for me was meeting my friend Julie for lunch. She and her husband have just come to England to work at a church with their three little girls. Susannah used to mind them occasionally, and they were rather concerned about Susannah being left at home on her own. They said “But what about Susannah, who will look after her?” It was a relief to have a bit of female company, I must confess, and I enjoyed simply chatting. Men and women talk very differently.
We spent our evenings walking along the Thames – the skies were clear and balmy, it was warm and light until 10pm. Here is the Tower Bridge all ready for the Olympics: