Back in September at Idea Camp, I had the pleasure of hearing Jennie Allen speak. And let me tell you something, I was all on board to sign up for whatever it was she was about afterwards. Her passion, her heart for Jesus, her honesty about being a woman and loving other women was a language I speak it deep in my heart. It is a language that has been beating its rhythm loud in my head since my friend Ann began calling us the #esthergeneration from the red clay of Uganda. Its song is being sung in my development of our social enterprise initiative and our St. Francis Emmaus Center.
So when I learned about Jennie's IF:Gathering, I got excited. If you know me, you won't be surprised that I leaped right in without looking at how deep the water was. I told you about the common ground established with people at Idea Camp. IF was an opportunity to really see that concept bloom, and I was all in.
When Jennie announced her bigger vision for IF and all the ladies I like to read a whole lot started sharing pictures of those twinkle lights and that pretty white table, and I knew I could be a part of it from my little mountain top in faraway Costa Rica, I was doubly excited. But sad that I would be alone. So I boldly shouted that anyone who wanted to could come join me here for IF: Missions. I realize now that it is really easy to be all brave like the other girls when your proposal seems unlikely.
But then they said "yes". Ladies from varied backgrounds and different denominations said they would actually like to ask IF with me in this space and see where God led us. And then, as I tend to do when I jump into something with all my heart, I panicked a little. Not about having company. But asking myself if this was what God was doing, or what I wanted.
And so I did what I do when I am panicking about God. I prayed. I sat with Him. I searched my heart and I searched His Word. And He led me to the answer of why my heart simply must ask IF. That answer is three-fold.
1. My Morning Offering makes me an offer. For as long as I can remember I have prayed a Morning Offering that begs for the "unity of all Christians". But I have not every often asked myself what my responsibility was to what I was praying for. If we are honestly praying for unity, it seems to me that we need to be actively working toward unity, no? And how do we find unity if we never meet? Never sit at the same table and see one another for who we are. If there is no relationship, how can there be unity?
I want that unity. I want to be able to sit with sisters in Christ outside the lines and the boxes that have been drawn for us and see anew what unity could mean. I want to sit at a table that is about conversation not conversion to one way of thinking. I want grasp what is good and lovely and noble in the sisterhood of Christ and shake it up like a bottle full of dormant sparkles and watch it mix and float and become something breathtakingly beautiful. Because I believe in a God that unites. And I believe He does it in ways that are not systematic but surprising, in ways that are much less about what we bring to the table and much more about what He has to serve us, in ways that challenge the deepest parts of us and yet lavish us with love and generous grace. Because His purposes, His heart, His love are already triumphant. If we can just let Him win, the world will change. Hearts will heal. Stereotypes will crumble. Timid voices will find their vibrato and sing. And oh, how I would love to sing in the chorus of united sister love, in the #estergeneration's choir.
2. Acts 2 asks for all. "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." That is what His Word says.
I believe that if ALL the disciples were in one place the day the Holy Spirit set them on fire and the church was born, that there were women there too. And the flames dances on their heads and their mouths opened and they were ALL IN ONE ROOM and they left from there and set the world on fire. Acts does not tell us their stories. And rightfully so. It is named Acts of the Apostles for a reason. It has a purpose and it has its story to tell.
But who is telling ours? Because there is a story left to be told, the story that we are writing, the distant daughters of the women with flames dancing over their heads and the fire alight in their hearts and their tongues loosed with the power of God and the whole world waiting to hear what they have to say. And I want to be one who tells that story because I know in my deepest being that it is full of the glory of God and the kingdom come and heaven's hope.
And I think it has start right there where it did in Acts 2. "They were ALL together in one place." In the days before division and denominations built walls between us, the Spirit came in full force when they were all together in one room. And the world was a changed place because of it. And I know from my own life that the Word of God is extensively repetitive. We go back and do what He did and what they that named themselves His name did, Christians, and the Word is alive again and our God lives and the flames dance and the fire falls and the world changes. And I want to be there waiting.
3. Romans 8 yokes me with an obligation. If we are the distant daughters of they whom the Spirit descended upon and we claim life in Christ, then we live governed by the Spirit. My favorite book of the Bible then says in verse 6 that "The mind governed by the flesh is death,but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace". A mind governed by the flesh is death. Sin, division and fear have their origins in death. Life, peace, love, and unity are the thoughts of the mind governed by the Spirit. And so in verse 12 Romans tell us that we have an obligation: an obligation to live according ot the Spirit. To live life and peace and good and hope and unity and fire dancing, life changing risks.
And Romans ends its brilliant treatise of life in the Spirit with this: "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God...Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."
And for this we will gather. We will suffer through the unknown and the strangeness and the things that divide God's children with our Jesus. We wonder why about one another and find things hard to swallow in our differences. We will feel the brokenness in the Body of Christ and wish there were away out of it. Because we know that there, in that place, his glory will shine.
And wherever the glory of God is, I want to be. And I want to lift my hands and hear the wind of the Spirit rise and watch the flames dance in eyes of my sisters and speak the words of life in their foreign tongues so that they will hear. And I want them to do the same for me.
So, me, I am asking IF. But I think God is already giving me a glimpse of the answer.