If

IF:GATHERING…all my hopes

IF:GATHERING…all my hopes

One week from yesterday I will join thousands of women as a part of IF:Gathering.  I will be at IF:Austin with over 1000 women and we will be joined online with thousands from all over the nation and the world at  IF:LOCAL.  I am so honored to be a part and I have to tell you that I’m also a little apprehensive.  I’ll be honest as to why.  Let’s back up for a second…

9 years ago, while I was a part of the group, Avalon and we were joining platforms with the largest women’s conference in the church world.  We were the first artist that they selected to join on their platform for their entire year.  We ended up actually doing this for almost 2 years.  It was wonderful.  I met some amazing women speakers, worship leaders and other artists.  I was on the “inside” not because I was an artist on the stage but because I shared the same ultimate convictions, the same theology, and the same ideology. That one conference was representative of all the conferences I attended or was a part of.  I easily fit in there.
Without really setting out to, over those next 4 years, as life came and challenged me I changed little by little.  It was never drastic but a slow stretching, questioning, and owning of my own beliefs not only of God but of my views of God’s beautiful world.  I found such peace and joy in the actual process and also where I landed on each step of that journey. But I realized that I was also now on the “outside”.  I was not there because people didn’t love and care for me, I was on the outside because I now didn’t share the same ideology and the same worldview as the majority of my friends who are also professionals in the Christian industry.
So a year ago I was approached by Jennie Allen and Lindsey Nobles to talk about IF:Gathering (which would be so much more than a conference but none the less included one)and joining their leadership team, I was honored that they’d ask me to even be involved.  But I knew from past experience that maybe I wouldn’t fit here. The who’s involved are major – the most successful, beautiful, wonderful, and talented women in the industry who just so happen to believe differently than I do on some theological issues.  But IF was not going to be issue driven, if was TABLE driven. Now if you know me well at all, I’m all about the table – the shared space – the inclusive nature of pulling up a seat to bring not only your whole self to the equation but ALSO opening up your whole self to listen, to be filled, challenged, encouraged, and stretched by the one across from you.  For me the TABLE is the beauty of the kingdom.  So I jumped on board.  I am a part of a leadership team who is “seemingly” filled with those who fall on a different side of the majority of theological places that I do.  Which, I have to add, has NOT been a problem for me nor I think for them.  IF is supposed to be the coming together in order to partner and effectively make a difference in our world together.
TOGETHER.
So this time I’m coming to this major Christian conference feeling as an outsider and I think there will be a lot of us.
I don’t say that with a chip on my shoulder about this but in the transparency that comes with the reality of the situation.
So I am apprehensive not because I don’t feel welcome or loved but because I come knowing that maybe this time am the minority… maybe.
But I am hoping…
That in coming to this table, in participating in IF as the leadership and the conference, in actually focusing on the doing that so desperately needs to be done in this world that we can erase those lines of in and out that we draw both for others and for ourselves.
That we can diminish the exclusive circles where only those that agree can belong.
I am hoping that the majority doesn’t overwhelm the minority and that neither side uses our time to convince the other to change.
I am hoping for a move of God’s Spirit.
A move that balances us as individuals and as the Church.
A move that allows God’s spirit to guide us FROM the wars we focus on and fight internally in our Church TO standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder in effort to move out and heal the world that needs to see and know love.
So I come.
Because I believe in both God and humanity. I believe in us.
I push through being tentative to trusting so that we can be more together.
If God is real… then unity without uniformity can happen.
I believe and I hope you do too.
Look forward to meeting, joining, listening, talking, eating, worshiping, learning, and toasting wine with all of you at the table.
Best, Melissa
IF…it’s time.

IF…it’s time.

If…

If God is real, then what?

I have asked many questions in my 34 years on this earth.

    Why is the sky blue?  What’s actually in a gummy bear?  Why does my Memaw smell like peas? :)  

My questions changed as I became a young adult.

Why do I have to be home by 9?  What’s wrong with drinking?  Why can’t I marry a black man?

My questions continued to change in college and in fact became very directed at the church or those in the church.

     Why do you think you’ll lose your salvation?  Why do you think I need to speak in tongues?  How can we throw around the Bible and it’s verses, such as, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken and his children begging for bread” ON THE SOIL OF AFRICA?  Would God really create someone to love someone of  the same sex and then in the same breath condemn them?

Then as the years have passed, life happened and my questions grew as I grew.

Why does God allow suffering?  Does God allow suffering? Is God all powerful, loving and good?  Can God be all three equally?

Now these are just a glimpse of my struggles, my thoughts, my doubts, and even my desires throughout the years.

Good news for me and maybe you.  EVERYONE has them.

Now we might not share all of the same questions but whether or not we’ve voiced them aloud, we do each have our own.

Right now it seems that WOMEN are finding their voices more than ever before. Women are choosing to be bold, courageous, and humble enough to own our doubts as much as our deepest convictions.  Also I think, for some, we have even realized that our doubts are a healthy part of our faith and our spirituality.  We are recognizing the tensions in our world and maybe even moreso within our own minds and hearts.

I wonder if you have found your voice or if you want to find it.  I wonder if you would love to be a part of a community of WOMEN willing to own the tension, willing to ask the questions, willing to take part in being an answer?

Then welcome to IF.

This vision started by Jennie Allen and is also strategically driven by Lindsey Nobles is finally coming to fruition.  It is coming to life because it has captured the heart of not just myself, Jessica Taylor, Lauren Chandler, Jen Hatmaker, Esther Havens, Tara Jenkins, Rebekah Lyons, Bianca Olthoff, Angie Smith, and Ann Voskamp but its purpose is striking a chord in the souls of countless other women.

These women are not necessarily on the same page with every issue – be it social or theological but we ARE willing and wanting to unite together…despite our differences and more importantly because our differences showcase the diversity and beauty of not only ourselves but of those who make up the body of Christ.

table blog

We exist to gather, equip
and unleash the next generation
of women to live out their purpose.

if:lead

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We are gathering and uniting a team of women, who already lead our generation, and unleashing them to lead in their spheres of influence. Together we will create a community and foster an ethos – connecting, encouraging and collaborating together.

if:equip

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We are creating a blueprint for intentional equipping – reaching women with tools that are holistic, strategic and deep. By providing easy online access to a like-minded community and relevant resources, we will release women around the world to live out their purposes. // Online · 2014

if:gathering

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A fresh, deep, honest space for a new generation of women to wrestle with the essential question: IF God is real… THEN what? This 2-day conference brings women together and wrestles out how to live out the calling God has placed on our lives. // Austin, TX Feb. 7–8 2014

if:unleash

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

By partnering with organizations like Food for the Hungry, coming alongside women around the world, fostering relationships and utilizing our God-given gifts, our hope is that this movement will not only transforms hearts but leave a tangible impact on the world.

This is just the beginning ladies.  I hope you will join us, join the conversation, find your voice, your purpose and choose to use it for good in our world.  We need it.  We need you.  This world needs WOMEN that will use our minds, our intuition, our feminine wiles, our passion, our integrity, our creativity, our gentleness, our boldness, our lives to bring about the Kingdom.  I’m in.  Are you?

www.ifgathering.com

Cheers!  Melissa