A few, short weeks ago, I set out for Orlando, Florida, of all places. And for three magical days… it was the land where God and Mickey Mouse collided. I’m just kidding. I was privileged to attend the first ever IF: Local Leaders Gathering and join some breathtaking women for the second annual IF: Pray event.
I was worried that this was going to be a convention full of people worshipping the latest movement and a whole realm of new Christian rockstars. Just like me.
I was afraid I had made the wrong choice to “hang out with the cool kids”, when a few weeks after signing up, I was invited on a trip to Haiti. You know, to help orphans and schools and impoverished people, because I know that God is surely there and in the big ways. I was so afraid I was missing out on God by NOT going to Haiti.
I was such a fool. How quickly I forget.
I forgot that when we set out to host an IF:Relive in 2014 and we had space for 70 women, He sent us 70 women (most of whom had never heard of IF:Gathering). I forgot that, less than five months later, when we had space to host 200 women for IF:NWA 2015, He sent 200 women.
Jesus is in it, all over it, through it, on top of it, to the left, and to the right of it. I couldn’t have missed Him if I had tried. And I want so badly to find the right words to tell you what it was like there, friend. I am not the same person who got on a plane in Arkansas six weeks ago. I am desperate for it to be so.
In the days leading to this event, during our time there, and in the days following, the Father, Son, and Spirit revealed themselves to my tiny tribe in true God fashion. There were dreams, visions, and whisperings. After all of our marching, we came home and the walls came tumbling down. And just when we felt the whirlwind and heartache of the breaking, the Spirit moved so swiftly that no one could doubt the Father’s hand in it.
The first night we arrived we were immediately overwhelmed with the kindness, helpfulness, and generosity of the staff and volunteers. We were given some amazing “swag” with gifts from JOYN, Noonday Collection, Consider the Wldflwrs, May Designs, and others.
We began the evening with worship and some fiery preaching. Lauren Chandler led us in worship and I’m telling you, every time I see her sing, I weep. As we prayed, and were invited to confession I realized how comfortably I was sitting in my chair. I knew that I could either sit there and let the apathy wash over me and waste all my time there or I could hit my knees. So, I went forward (oh, this is so old school!), laid myself out as best I could (it was crowded), and I cannot really tell you what happened next. I was pressed to the floor with such a weight that I did not move and started confessing all of the things.
I realized, over the course of the next three days, that the women there around me were passionate about Jesus, there begging to see Him move mightily, and at war in an invisible battle with the enemy. I’d thought I’d try to share a few points on my takeaway from all of this here.
“He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44, ESV
This is nothing new. Satan has always operated in lies. I got a small glimpse of some of the lies I was believing about myself and the world around me while in Orlando. And it shook me. Because some of the stuff is bold and blatant. You’re a bad mom. And then some of it is as subtle as wind in the leaves. You don’t love God the way these people do. You must not REALLY know him. The lies aren’t unbelievable. You can’t let anyone find out about that. No one will understand. Some of them sound very American, very lawful, righteous, helpful, and loving. But I realized, anything that isn’t born of the Word of God, isn’t truth. Have you ever taken a really deep look at what and why you believe something? Why you say, do, or think that one thing? His best game is subtle and deceptive. If we keep the lies hidden the dark, we cannot find our way out of them and into the light.
When Jennie Allen came out on stage to kick off If:Pray and confessed that she stopped her husband backstage and asked him to remind her why prayer is important, I wanted to stand up and say, “Me too! Remind me!” I begged God to instill me in me an urgency for prayer and a commitment to it. Since then, He has been faithfully showing (prodding, whatever) to me what prayer does.
Being in the Word.
Ann Voskamp shared with us something that Zac Allen said to her recently: “You are what your inputs are.” What are your inputs? Facebook, your favorite news station, family, friends, magazines? What information are you drinking in everyday? Is it the Living Water? I don’t spend enough time soaking it in.
People are Perishing.
There was an urgency in the air. Not unlike some kind of electricity. People all around the world are drowning in the mire. And the ones closest to us likely don’t even know it. I walk by souls everyday in the store, office, on streets, and am too busy, too frazzled by my own circumstances, and too tired to notice them. The reality of Jesus returning to this earth began to be loud and urgent to me in Orlando. And our leaders at IF are feeling the weight of this in selecting the next steps for the IF:Gathering ministry.
I’d like to share the details of one of our stories from Orlando because of the incredible way God is weaving the threads for us to see. On the last afternoon, we were really short on sleep and energy, and I was emotionally spent. Micki, Nina, and I called an Uber to go to the outlet mall, even though we were just over it. Waiting for the car to arrive, Nina says something like, “I’m so tired. I know I’m supposed to go out and be light to the world, talk to people (like our Uber driver), and watch for opportunities to share Jesus, but I’m just so tired!” Micki and I commiserated with her and we climbed into the car. Our driver, surprisingly, was a Nigerian woman. We soon realized that she had snuck some Christian radio in on us and started laughing. Tina went on to explain that she drives for Uber as a ministry tool, is writing her own women’s devotional, and has a website, Tina King Ministries. We told her about IF and what we were doing in Orlando. Then she prayed the most wonderful prayer over us, praying specifically against the enemy, and we hugged and took a picture together before she left us at the mall. The three of us took off through that mall, so giddy at God showing us up in the Uber cab, that we could not even pay attention to where we going. Fast forward about 30 minutes. Micki gets a phone call. (Thank you Lord, for this sweet social butterfly who exchanged numbers with an Uber driver!) Tina is calling because she found my wallet in her backseat! (I’m not going to mention the name of the specific friend who left it there.) We were dying. Completely floored. How else would I have gotten on the airplane home the next day? We were able to contribute to Tina’s ministry and have been keeping up with each other via Facebook ever since.
And here is where the story comes full circle. Tina messaged me the other day that she would like to get involved with IF: Gathering. She will be back in Nigeria in February, a country that, until now, had no one interested in hosting, that I am aware. I am so humbly grateful when God lets me be involved in what He is doing, when He does things in such a way to reveal His threads to me.
And what am I doing now, six weeks later, you ask?
I’m hiding in my closet with Cheetos, trying to escape a weekend that was a little short on alone time and full of, well, my children.
Six weeks later, my home is decorated for fall. You know, just the right amount of chrysanthemum, not-so-creepy-more-like-cute Halloween, pumpkin, hay-bale LOOK. The one that indicates my house is ready for the harvest, but I’m just not sure whose. It makes me happy. It helps me paint a picture and forget the dark heaviness of sin and the weight of glory. It also helps me tra-la-la over the all pain going on around me for a few.
Six weeks later, I am still trying to get a grip on what happened back there in Orlando. I’m not sure when I have been that physically, spiritually, and emotionally worn out. So I’ve been using the excuses, NOT to talk about it or write this post. I’m still trying to process it all. I’m tired. I’m sitting with God on this one. I’m trying to get my home and family in order. I’m purging all of the excess of stuff out of my house. Come on, it’s for Garage Sale for Orphans. Help One Now needs my junk, For the Love.
I feel that we were commissioned in Orlando. Not exactly like the actual Great Commission, but you get the idea. I need to not forget the urgency I felt toward prayer and the reality of death and hell. People around us are perishing for eternity while I decorate for a harvest that I didn’t produce. The enemy is whispering his subtle lies and sucking the marrow out of our souls.
What am I going to do about it? Let me throw off every weight and live by the word of His power.