So the second annual IF: Gathering took place last weekend in Austin, TX, and our church (Heartland Sun Prairie) participated via simulcast. This conference took my breath away. It wrenched me and jolted me, and filled me with that exhilarating sense of Something Big. I loved that the organizers stood onstage at the beginning and talked about their vision, their expectations, their hopes for the conference, and that none of it was about impressing people or gaining a following for themselves, and all of it was making God and His goodness known. I loved that April Smith was so bold and so faithful that she trusted the Father who allowed her sons to be taken, and that Jessica Sowards was so humble and so wise that she recognized the freedom in such faith, and she wrote about it. And her writing about it meant others read about it, and others reading about it meant others heard about it, and hearts were encouraged and hearts were changed. I loved that Jennie Allen was pumped up - PUMPED! UP! - and that she held up her college journal and urged us to kill the old story and live a new story, one that doesn't ask whether I am enough, whether I am safe, or how much it's going to cost (Numbers 13:27). I loved Angie Smith and her sardonic, hilarious self, speaking up for all those who never made the team and reminding us that even Not-On-The-Team is a role, and no small one at that. I loved the questions that prompted honest discussion at our IF: Local table, and forced me to consider things that sometimes just simmer beneath the surface. I loved getting to know the women at my church better, hearing how God is stirring their hearts and paving the way to lives that wholly reflect Him and minds that reverberate with His Word. I loved feisty, animated Jo Saxton and her impassioned reminder that OUR REDEEMER LIVES, so we can live like it. I loved Rebekah Lyons' exhortation to "stay and pray with the people who are hurting because this is a PRIVILEGE. Pray until your heart is bled dry, and then pray for another measure of anointing so you can pray some more." I loved - loved to the point that I came home on Friday night and listened to it on the IF livestream for two hours straight, over and over and over - the song "Sovereign Over Us": You're the Lifter of the lowly, Compassionate and kind... Even what the enemy means for evil, You turn it for our good, You turn it for our good and for your glory. Even in the valley You are faithful. You're working for our good, You're working for our good and for Your glory. (Oh my holy Lord, thank You for this truth! Thank You for Aaron Keyes, who wrote this song that captures the fullness of You so meaningfully and beautifully. Thank You for that beautiful curly-haired woman whose name I don't know who sang this song so powerfully and reminded me why I love music and its ability to show how marvelous and imaginative and emotional a Creator You are.) I loved Jen Hatmaker's personable and quirky message, and Christine Caine's fiery - oh, that woman is FIERY! and I love it! - exhortation to move into what is Now and stop holding onto what was Then, and that this is not just about me, it's about His Church. I loved her challenge that "performance is not what prepares you; SERVICE is", and that "the call of God IS inconvenient - you WILL be interrupted."
I am determined to live out my purpose for Him: to write regularly, to pray constantly, to serve tirelessly, to love selflessly, to see those who are in front of me, and not to shy away from the uncomfortable or the inconvenient. And Lord, since all this is for You, I pray that You will help me extend my soul and that You will guide me continually (Isaiah 58:10-11).