IF Gathering...A Call, A Charge...Let's Change

10:56 AMHeather

This past weekend, I was privileged to attend the IF Gathering in Austin, Texas.  What is IF?  What is this thing you are going to?  I've been asked this a few times.  And, I've been asking myself this since I signed up to attend.  Having been there, I'm still asking.  

What was that?  How do I even begin to wrap my brain, and more importantly, my heart, around this?  Listen, this IF Gathering may have been an event for women.  But, it's a message for everyone.  So lean in, bloggy friends.



What is this?  What is this IF?  Tara Jenkins expressed that it is manna.  It is something good that is cooking and drawing us all together.  Across denominational lines.  Across racial barriers.  Across the globe.  Across gender and age.  It's something good that God is cooking.  That's what it is.  The actual literal translation of the word manna is "what is it?"  Yes.  The content and the message and the words spoken over the two day IF Gathering were indeed "what is it?"  Raining down from heaven, God was and is pouring out provision for a new day.  A fresh insight.  A "what is it" to satisfy our souls and feed our hearts and free us and challenge us to taste and see that the Lord is good. And be moved to action.

What is IF?  What was that?  It was a reminder that every single one us, from a young lady rescued from a life of prostitution within the sex trafficking industry to a "good girl"--we all need a Savior.  No matter our story, we are all broken.  We are all a mess.  And we are all loved to death by a God who sent his Son to pay the price.  

What is IF?  What was that?  It was a passionate plea from Christine Cain to be bold and brave and courageous enough to allow the Lord to cut off every weight, every sin, every distraction that entangles us.  To have the vision to see that we may be delivered from captivity, serving in the church, sitting in a pew.  But, we are wandering in the desert still.  Stuck in the wilderness of habits, and old wounds, and old traditions.  But this is not where we are meant to dwell.  He wants to do a new thing for us.  Through us.  Because God wants to do more than take us out of Egypt.  He wants us to boldly enter freedom and eat the fruits of the Promised Land. "It's time for us to move on. We've been doing laps murmuring and complaining and comparing for forty years."  How about we dare to believe that God can and will take us into the Promised Land and tear down whatever impossible walls I have, just as He did in Jericho?

What is IF?  What was that?  It was a bold proclamation from Ann Voskamp that we, the church, have spent far too long in a transactional business model of faith.  We see God as useful.  We approach Him with a "here's my service, God.  Now you owe me."  We see Jesus as a useful tool, earning his love, performing for Him and others. We see Him as the benefits He has to offer me and vice versa.  We see our faith as an exchange of commodities. We make our faith into consumerism.  Instead of a mutually passionate relationship based on unconditional love.  This transactional approach causes us to use measuring sticks to what He gives and what we offer.  These measuring sticks become weapons with each other.  How does she measure up?  How do I measure up?  Enough.  Enough already.  Let's fall on this truth instead.  "Grace is a one way love that changes the world.  It ends the business model.  As we receive it.  And pour it out."

What is IF?  What was that? It's a call to gather together, regardless of denomination or age or race or socioeconomic status or any other difference among us.  Because we are the Church.  We are the body.  And we can and should get real and genuine and authentic with each other, gathering regularly, in homes and in our community.  To link arms and bear our souls and be a safe place to rest and spur one another on.  And joining our collective resources and gifts and time and talents to make a difference.  To become world changers.

What is IF?  What was that?  It's a rowdy encouragement from Bianca Olthoff to run our race anyway.  No matter how many times we fall.  To stop looking back and to realize that "our past does not pre-determine our present."  To fight the trash of defeating lies and deceit with the truth of God's freeing Word.  To fix our mind on the Word of God and press on.  Because we can't move forward if we are constantly looking back.  So let's pursue our purpose.  

What is IF?  What was that?  It was a gentle and powerful reminder from Kristen Armstrong that love covers a multitude of sins.  Grace poured out on one another comes when we knit blankets of love, one stitch at a time, one moment at a time.  Choosing to act our way into a feeling of grace and love because it's so much easier than feeling our way into an action when we are wronged.  And making the choice to knit these blankets that cover each other in grace is a standard of obedience to a Father who does the same for us.  

What is IF?  What was that?  It is a gentle rebuke from Sarah Bessey that we are losing ourselves in the doing of life.  We are missing the joy and depth and potential of our faith when we let the parable of our lives be about earning and doing and being busy.  We are missing the chance to "walk in the unforced rhythms of grace."  Jesus' very name Emmanuel defines for us the call on our lives.  God with us.  "God doesn't want to use me.  He wants to be with me because He loves me."  He wants me to rest in Him, abide in Him, walk with Him.  He wants everything that I do to be a "natural consequence of being with Him."  Because life is not in the doing, it's in the being.  What I do will grow out of that.

What is IF?  What was that?  It was an articulate challenge from Rebekah Lyons to quit walking with a limp and to run my race instead.  To reclaim my birthright gifts--my natural passions and pursuits that make my heart sing.  To recognize my talents and see what burdens me and realize that where these two collide, my calling is found.  What wrecks me?  Do something about it.  Embrace it.  And know that when I do what I do for my audience of One, then I count.  "Don't compare.  Don't compete.  Don't copy.  But be awake.  Be aware.  And reclaim my birthright gifts."  Ask Him to heal my broken places that cause me to limp.  To make my heart new, as if it were never broken.  So that I know I count and He is enough and I no longer care what response I get from others.  Because He came to set me free.  He wants me to be who I already am in Him.  

What is IF?  What was that?  It was a challenge from Shelley Giglio to remember this important fact.  My choice to say yes to God's prompting hangs in the balance for untold others who will be impacted.  And as a mom, I can build my nest and tend to my home AND be near the altar of God.  I can be saying yes in my common everyday roles and be impacting the world.

What is IF?  What was that?  It was the wisdom of world traveling Esther Havens to invite people into community with us instead of sitting back and waiting for an invitation.  Share a meal.  Be hospital.  Make a difference.  

What is IF?  What was that?  It was the conclusive teaching of Jen Hatmaker to redefine greatness.  To realize that the Word of God defines greatness by service and humility.  And "if we don't get the love of God and that we are completely loved by Him, then everything we do is tainted.  People become a commodity and the church becomes a business."  We are to continually be doing the work of the gospel.  Giving of ourselves even to the point of feeling broken.  Because it should hurt and be uncomfortable to be living out the gospel in our worlds.  We don't have to defend the gospel.  We must break out of our "them" and "us" mode.  We should be treating others as if we are for them not against them.  Because we don't have to defend our God.  Instead, we are to pick up His call to make His gospel real by showing His love to the poor, oppressed, needy and broken.  We should "hold our differences loosely and love each other fiercely."  Because there is a suffering world out there, all around us.  Waiting.  Eagerly.  To know that God's love is real and tangible and it reaches into their suffering.  

What is IF?  What was that?  It was two days of incredible music and speakers and interactive dialogue with strangers and challenges and reminders.  It was a women's event.  Yes.  But it is for all of us.  The actual event is over.  But, the real work is just beginning.  Because IF is about all of us--every single one of us--realizing that His love is greater than any division.  His grace is bigger than any judgment or criticism.  His call is real and tangible and relevant.  He can equip us for things that will blow our mind.  He wants to root us in His truths and remove the fog and the confusion until all we see is His goodness.  And it moves us to action.  To change.  To clarity. That we might be unleashed on the world around us.  And show them that He is safe enough to consider.   

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