Attendees of Women’s Day Out at Stony Brook Church in Omaha, Nebraska, placed a small bag of wool in front of them, next to strands of grass, a container of water, a collection of rocks, a small piece of wood and a sample of oil.
While listening to the words of Psalm 23, the women touched each item, providing a tangible reminder of God’s loving care as shepherd.
The exercise was just one activity among a series of five interactive and experiential “Renew, Restore, Refresh” sessions designed to invite women to a life of renewal, refreshment and restoration by experiencing Scripture in new and creative ways.
The three R’s
The idea for the free, five-session series was a collaborative effort between Tricia Croushorn, Susie English, Elaine Stoner and Melissa Hanna.
According to Hanna, the intent was to structure each session less as a one-day retreat and more as an invitation to a life of renewal in Christ. An overarching goal is for women to recognize God as the ultimate source of renewal, refreshment and restoration and to be the hands and feet of Jesus to serve others. Supporting verses include Ephesians 4:23, Psalm 51:10-12, Titus 3:5 and Lamentations 3:22-23.
“As one of the RRR session series team members, my hope is to accomplish an atmosphere for women to experience Scripture in new and creative ways that can create a renewal in desire to be in the Word, a freshness of the Word and a restoration in women’s hearts as they become in closer relationship to God through his Word,” Hanna says.
The quarterly series began in September 2019 and will continue through September 2020.
With five interactive elements and a guest speaker, Session 1 encouraged the 67 attendees to experience Scripture through their senses and included activities like touching items representing Psalm 23; tasting food mentioned in Scripture; watching an artist create images and words on canvas, glass and chalkboard; listening to Scripture-related sounds and songs and smelling oils mentioned in Scripture.
Guest speaker Rachel McCowan spoke about the journey to Christlikeness using the image of renovating a house.
“It was an amazing hour that left people wanting more,” Hanna says. “(Rachel) used the image of HGTV renovating and compared it to us as woman and our journey as becoming more Christ-like; being renewed, restored and refreshed through him.”
A time to pause
Meanwhile, Session 2, held Dec. 14, 2019, and titled, “A Holiday Experience in Scripture,” encouraged women to “Savor the Scriptures.” The session included a variety of food and activities, including appetizers, dessert and conversation; Christmas music; giving to others and planting seeds.
Women were invited to pause in the midst of a hectic Christmas season and savor God’s blessings, especially the blessing of Jesus. Attendees perused a buffet of appetizers and Christmas desserts, then listened to Scripture and a selection of five Christmas songs.
The women were encouraged to remember the surprising love and grace God showed that first Christmas and served others by wrapping more than $1,500 worth of food, hygiene supplies, warm weather items, cleaning supplies, diapers and more donated by Stony Brook Church families for Release Ministries foster care families.
Later in the day, the women presented gifts to two foster care families. To savor God’s grace, women planted White-leaved Savory Mint seeds in a small pot as their first item in a keepsake “Remembrance Garden.” The plant, an item used in biblical times whose silver leaves are good for teas and flavoring food, was intended to serve as a reminder to share around the table with friends and family, Hanna says.
The session concluded with a closing blessing offering the day as a reminder to stop, look, listen, remember and savor the grace of Jesus during Christmas and beyond. Each attendee also received an Advent devotional in the mail prior to the session.
Love notes from God
Session 3, “A Love Experience in Scripture,” held Feb. 8, 2020, centered on experiencing and sharing God’s love. Using the theme verse of Jeremiah 31:3, women were assured of God’s everlasting love and in turn encouraged to serve others and show that same selfless love.
Women received a number of visual reminders of God’s love, including a stationery set with Isaiah 43:1 on it, and on which they were encouraged to write reminders of God’s love and presence to place throughout the house.
Women also received a manicure kit, a reminder to not only take moments to be with God and listen for what he may be saying, but also to allow God to trim brokenness, cleanse sin, polish with grace and take care of needs.
A keepsake heart served as a reminder of what faith in Christ brings, according to Revelation 19:6-8, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 and Hosea 2:19-20, and attendees received a flipbook containing love notes from God from Scripture.
Evidence of impact
Even as the series continues, Hanna shares a few stories illustrating the impact.
For one attendee, enjoying Scripture was a new concept. She said: “I want to keep looking for ways that I can make Scripture fun for me.”
One foster care family expressed gratefulness for the gifts that came during a difficult time.
“They had just received another foster care child, and financial support from the State of Nebraska does not come until 30 days after the placement,” Hanna says. “Funds were very tight, so the food, cleaning supplies, paper products and board games that were donated came at a most perfect time for the family.”
Plans for two more sessions are being made. Session 4, “An Outdoor Experience in Scripture,” slated for May 9, will be based on Psalm 104:24-25, while Session 5, “A Balance Experience in Scripture,” coming in September, will focus on Matthew 6:33 as it pertains to God, family, work and health.
“The RRR team has used many different resources and people to bring together the RRR sessions,” Hanna says. “(We believe) being flexible to ideas, different resources and various people allows the Holy Spirit to lead the direction we go in.”
Janae Rempel is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Rempel is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Rempel graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She attends Hillsboro MB Church.