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As some of you may know, every year, my Mother plans and hosts a Christmas Banquet in November, especially for the high-society (unsaved) ladies in our town. There are high-society ladies here who will not set foot in a church, but attend this banquet every year and hear the Gospel preached to them.
Please be much in prayer for our banquet, which this year will be on November 18, at 4:00 p.m.
The following post was written by my lovely mother, Mrs. Billie (Ashcraft) Sloan, last year, just before our Christmas Banquet.
THE HEARTBEAT OF A BANQUET
On Friday afternoon, November 19, just two weeks from today, Lord willing, I’ll walk into the lovely Banquet room of probably the most prestigious hotel in our little town. As always, I will arrive about an hour before 4:00 in order to arrange my personal things…my folder containing programs customized for everyone who will take part in our annual Ladies’ Christmas Banquet, and my own program, which will basically play the part of my brain for the evening, telling me exactly what I should be doing, when, and where; my Bible, handkerchief, water, pens, music, etc. Don’t worry…all those items are on a list in a pretty pink notebook I’ve chosen for my notes this year.
I also want to be relaxed and organized so I will be able to greet each lady at the door.
But I think the most important reason I arrive an hour early is because I want to take in the beauty, and the atmosphere before anyone else arrives.
My daughters and several ladies from the church will arrive about 10:00 that morning to finish the final touches of the decorations.But by 3:00, my girls will be in their rooms at the hotel, which are reserved several months before the Banquet. I did this last year, and my children said that was one of the most wonderful parts of the Banquet…being able to leisurely dress for the banquet, and step out of their rooms and into the Banquet room. And then after the banquet, not to have to take babies and belongings out to vans and carry sleeping babies into the house late at night. By the end of the banquet, babies will be in their jammies, and tucked into bed by their “nannies for the evening.”
So if I get there an hour before the Banquet, no one is there. I just walk among the tables, taking in the atmosphere of what will soon be filled with the chatter of lady friends, some who have saved all year long in order to buy their $20 dollar ticket. Some will be wearing designer dresses, some dresses will be homemade, and some will be from last year’s Banquet. This represents the different walks of life these women come from.
But what will take place here on that night will also represent hundreds and hundreds of hours of work, planning, preparation, and prayer put into this event so dear to my heart.
Thousands of dollars miraculously raised by friends, children, churches across the USA, our church here, and the hard work of my Sunday school ladies are required to fund this gala evening.
As I walk in my imagination among the tables, which will be so beautifully decorated this year with fresh flowers, my mind goes back fifty years…
…1960. I was only 16 years old that November 15th afternoon, as my parents, my three little brothers and I drove across the border, and along the two-lane highway that led me away from my country, my beloved church, school, and friends into this strange land called México. Everything uncommon looks strange in the eyes of a teenage girl: the people, their customs, their food, and their language.I was blessed enough to have a teenage brother who was my very best friend and constant companion. We even enrolled in school together, and for the next three years, which would conclude our high school years, we sat in the same classrooms, and shared the same friends. We went on “dates,” and we clowned around. We even enjoyed staying in the same bedroom in twin beds while we soaked in all the attention required for two teenagers with hepatitis.
How do a different people become yours? What makes a strange country become home? Why is it sometimes easier to express yourself in a second language than in your first language?
Billie Jean Ashcraft ( about 1965)It happens by just being there, and letting it happen. It isn’t learned, and it isn’t forced on you. It happens to you like a sweet aroma happens to you when you walk through a garden, or a forest.
Never in my wildest teenage dreams would I ever imagine loving a land, a country, a city, a people like I love my home, and the place where God has called me.
I believe when God gives a call, He also gives a love. It’s like a magnet drawing you to it, whether it is to care for your children, to care for the sick, to pastor a church, or to minister to prisoners. The surrender to God’s call brings peace.
We’re talking heartbeats here.
My girls and the ladies in our church make up the core of the production of this event. They’re considerably younger than I am, and the part they play in this annual affair requires lots and lots of hard physical work…work with their hands, as they spend hours designing invitations, creating the lovely corsages for each special lady, making centerpieces.
Their tired feet walk and run from sun up until sundown, chasing toddlers, running errands, shopping, reserving, and ordering.
Their voices make phone calls, and rehearse songs, and invite friends.
Fingers work almost non stop at their computers, typing out programs, songs and menus; or punching in phone numbers as they call to make sure reservations are confirmed.
But the part of my anatomy that will be working most throughout the months and now days before the Banquet will be my mind. My mind works although I lie down for an afternoon nap. In my mind I can picture how I want everything to be that evening. I see the platform; I see the tables reserved for special guests; I hear the songs.
I go over and over in my mind the essay I will be reading that evening…something I’ve done ever since our first Banquet years ago…a speech that goes with the theme for the Banquet.
And you can’t involve the mind without getting the heart in on the act. My heart is stirred at times while I’m alone in the early hours of the morning with the Lord. As I open my Bible and read, my emotions are active as I realize the theme of this year’s banquet: “Celebrating Fifty Years of God’s Goodness.”
For some of the ladies attending that evening, this is probably one of many invitations that they will receive. Because of their position in life, events like this abound. Why do they choose this particular one year after year after year? Because the heartbeat of our Banquet, the purpose of this annual event is reaching hearts, and stirring emotions. And year after year these ladies tell me before they leave, “Thank you for this evening. It’s the highlight of my year, and of this season. My heart feels so full.”
Mom with two ladies at a ladies' meeting (August, 2011)
If my heart isn’t prepared for that evening, their hearts won’t be touched.
As I grow older, my mind works a lot more than my hands or my feet do. My mind works now in fact, more than my hands or feet ever worked when I was a young mother. Only when I sleep does it also rest.
But my body gets tired and weary, so I must, especially during this time, make sure I eat the right food, and get enough rest…even more than I normally would. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I’ve noticed when I’m physically exhausted, my spirit is weary, also, and I’m not as aware of His presence.
I desire an alert sound mind, which is required of me as I write, speak, and teach.
I pray this prayer every night before I go to bed, for my children and for their mother: “Help me/us to wake up in the morning refreshed and encouraged about the challenge of a new day.”
If you read this, and if you are praying for this Banquet, will you also pray for the Lord to give this 66 year-old mind alertness required for the days ahead, and especially for the evening of November 19? Pray for my heart to be soft and not hard as I face the challenges and demands of each day.
And pray for the Holy Spirit to touch and change the hearts of the ladies who attend, so when they walk out that evening, they’ll be forever different than when they walked in.
To see photos of last year's banquet, go here
WOULD YOU LET ME KNOW THAT YOU WILL BE PRAYING?