By Holly Jo Linzay
PINEVILLE – About 300 women gathered for a two-day conference simply to soak in the presence of the Lord and to dwell in the Word as a respite from the world’s interruptions, organizers told the Baptist Message.
The R.E.A.L. women’s conference, which stands for Relationships, Embrace, Authenticity and Love, took place Feb. 22-23 at First Baptist Church in Pineville. The theme of the event was “Still My Soul” based on the scripture Psalm 46:10.
Janie Wise, women’s mission and ministry strategist for Louisiana Baptists and coordinator for the event, said participants were offered 15 breakout sessions to engage in diverse topics such as spiritual growth, discipleship, personal development, overcoming sexual sins, finding your identity in Christ, worship and making connections in a multicultural world.
They were treated to a number of gifted speakers in these small groups and in the general sessions, she said.
“How’s your soul?” asked Nicki Koziarz. “That is the most important question we can engage you in this weekend. What will it take for it to be ‘well’ with your soul?”
Koziarz, who served as the keynote speaker for R.E.A.L., is a best-selling author and speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries from Charlotte, North Carolina.
In a passionate message blended with humor Koziarz shared a message that paralleled the premises published in her book, “Rachel and Leah: What Two Sisters Teach Us About Combating Comparison.”
“Comparison is a battle whose truth we will align our lives with. The battle of comparison is not a new struggle,” Koziarz said, referencing when the serpent challenged Eve in the Garden of Eden.
With the story of Rachel and Leah, Koziarz talked about how the sisters first were compared by their looks, and then by their fertility in terms of giving their shared husband Jacob sons.
“Comparison can compromise the promises of God,” Koziarz warned, adding, “There’s something that the enemy is trying to compromise in your soul.”
Disappointment in life is inevitable, Koziarz noted.
“We can compromise and compare or do a shift and praise,” she explained.
“Shift from disappointment to praise,” she urged. “Develop a battle plan. I take whatever is trying to compromise my soul and align it with God’s promises.”
The devil will unleash an unending cycle of comparison and name-calling, Koziarz said, but as a child of God, “You need to believe what God says about you.”
The next day, Koziarz pointed out five habits in the book of Ruth that could help women move forward in their faith.
Calling the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, one of the most dramatic events in all of scripture, Koziarz Mann said.
Susie Buchmann, who helps with the women’s ministry at Norwood Baptist Church, said she felt the Holy Spirit touch her soul in the “Everyday Worship” breakout session.
“I need to seek the Lord first thing in the morning, make Him my priority,” Buchmann admitted. “I’ve been discouraged in my women’s ministry, but I got enough hope and encouragement from this conference not to give up.”
Angie Wakefield echoed her sentiments. “The Lord definitely led me to come to R.E.A.L. It was a God-thing because we have been wanting to reinvent our women’s group, and so many of the sessions really touched me. They were so uplifting,” she noted.
Melanie Chandler, who recently moved to Central Louisiana, said the conference was a spiritual encounter she needed in her life.
“I didn’t know my special gift, but this session really helped me. I’ve been struggling with my identity in Christ, but I was so encouraged by being around a large group of women all seeking a deeper walk with Jesus,” Chandler said.
Jessica Johnson told the Baptist Message she is not affiliated with a church but came with a friend and that the breakout session on “Crafting a Blessing” made her think “outside the traditional box.”
“I never even thought of writing out a blessing for someone. The session brought such fresh ideas. Biblical blessings can change people’s lives because they are intercessions that carry us toward future grace.”