This past weekend I attended a two day event called the IF:Gathering at Life Point church here in Lake Stevens. Have you heard of it? If not, I think I'll just post the words of Jennie Allen, the founder of IF:Gathering.
She says, Our 2-day gathering each year brings together women from all over the world to humbly seek God and to equip them to better live out their callings. We seek to model, resource, & empower women so that they create fresh, honest spaces in their local contexts to wrestle with essential questions of faith like: IF God is real… THEN what? We call them IF:Locals. The makeup and mechanics of each IF:Local is unique. There are monthly and annual opportunities to gather with women for prayer, for convening at dinner tables, for processing of Scripture, and for dreaming about what God can do through the laying down of our lives in obedience.
A couple friends of mine attend the church that was holding the conference and invited me to come, and bring friends Not really sure what to expect, we turned up on Friday night and were treated to tables, wonderfully and creatively decorated with vintage items, filled with appetizers, catered by the Living Room coffee house in Marysville.
After a warm welcome and some singing, the program began with a video story of mother named April Smith who lost her two sons in a tornado in Arkansas....so moving. Her lack of bitterness and still strong sense of God's goodness in the midst of such grievous loss was amazing. The evening continued with video messages from Jennie Allen (founder of IF), and shorter talks by Angie Smith, Jo Saxton, and Rebekah Lyons (co founder of Q Ideas). These women used the story of the 12 spies sent by Moses to scope out the Promised Land (Numbers 13), along with parts of their life stories and humor to communicate a message about how we allow obstacles in our path to blur and sometimes obscure our God given gifts and dreams for our future.
Saturday morning we returned to be treated to simple, yet delicious and varied, breakfast options...along with coffee, of course! Part of the fun of the conference was sharing and visiting with the women at our tables (most I knew, but not all) with guided questions between the video messages. There was also something wonderful about being in a sanctuary with women from a variety of area churches, all learning and growing together. Perhaps this is a little taste of what we will experience in heaven!
The speakers that morning included some heavy hitters, like Jen Hatmaker, Christine Cain, and Shauna Niequist with her mother, Lynn Hybels. I took notes fast and furiously, but I won't lay all that on you. Much of the teaching was based on the story of Joshua, as he takes over from Moses and leads the Israelites into the land God had promised them. One of the common questions was, What keeps us from really believing? We struggle with believing that God is capable and can do what He says He will do. We live in fear, we lose vision, we doubt when we don't see change, and we lose heart when God doesn't seem to answer our prayers. Christine Cain, who heads up an organization that rescues girls from trafficking, stressed that the call of God, what He asks us to do, is often inconvenient and hard, and yet "service is the key to our destiny."
Following a good lunch, the final session was led by Bianca Olthoff who spoke about Joshua at the battle of Jericho. Her encouragement was to follow God's lead and promises and WALK IT OUT! She said, "Results are God's responsibility, response is ours." Jennie Allen then came back on, encouraging us to Mark This Day, so we would remember that we had met with God here. We were asked to think of one word, to write on a rock, as a visual reminder of what God had called us to over the weekend. At our table, the words all varied, such as a renewed call to Pray, to Obey, to Serve, to be Light, be Still, and mine...to be Faithful....as in full of faith, not anxiety or fear.
I have to admit this recap of the IF:Gathering feels very inadequate! Can I just encourage you to attend, if you have an opportunity? You will leave with fresh faith, a desire to live out your own calling...from our God who loves us more than we can imagine and is for us.