Monday, February 17, 2014

If God Is Real


Something about skimming along the jet stream, at 35,000 feet above the ground makes me feel closer to God. Or perhaps, I would have felt that way anywhere, because of where I had been, all that I had heard, and the energy I felt from those women I had met.

Because there was all that, too.

It was a thread of friendship that entangled me to go on this adventure in the first place. A friendship that has shared mutual love and admiration for our families, homemade bread, and blueberry smoothies. Cherri called one day in August, after reading about the If:Gathering. She thought this was something the Lord had for us to do.

The IF event was billed in vague terms: If God is real, then what? Honestly, I have believed this to be true for some time, so didn't feel a need to have it proved. But there was that thread of friendship and trust and expectancy to share an adventure, so we pressed forward.

We bought plane tickets.

In some ways that was the easy part. Everything else felt like we were trying to thread a camel through the eye-of-a-needle,  because we purchased airfare before the IF:Gathering event tickets went on sale.

Bad idea on a normal day. We are either crazy or foolish. Trusting God to show up or putting Him to the test. We had no idea that interest would be so high and that servers would crash and all event tickets would sell out in forty-two minutes. And we were not two of the ticket holders.

I sent an e-mail to the organizers, just asking if they might remember us, if two people backed out.  What ensued was a long, slightly crazy story of faith and the passing of time, but in December we received an e-mail that said we were confirmed to attend the If:Gathering.

We prayed for those planning the event, we prayed for God to move through them and all the details. We prayed too, that He would orchestrate every detail of who we would sit by, meet, and encounter. From the taxi cab driver, to who ever we might be a blessing to or blessed by.

There became this sense that God wanted us there.

I never even tried to explain to anyone what the event was about.

I have kept some notes on the many ways we saw God show up to get us to the event. None the least of which was flying between the veil of weather that canceled flights all around us.

The venue was decorated with long farm tables, mason jars, strings of twinkling lights and flickering candles.

The women were expectant.

God indeed showed up.

Photo Credit

The event opened with Hebrews 1 and a call to repentance. A call to throw off all that is slowing us down or holding us back from doing the things God has designed for us to do. And not just do... but what He designed us to BE.


In break out sessions we talked about: what is holding us back, what consumes our thoughts, and are we living out the purpose God has for us?

I was surprised that most of the women I had the opportunity to speak with, they knew some things that God was pressing on their hearts to do, but they were not walking in them because of  fear, doubt and insecurity.

There were the Poets, Preachers, Prophets, Writers of Prose and Praise teams.

Many of the speakers were familiar names, but more… I had never heard of.

A few of the things that touched my heart?

Ester Havens, humanitarian photographer, washed off her make-up before taking the stage. It was a beautiful, vulnerable, transparent way to approach the podium and win my heart. She talked of her years of photographing people around the world, and the shift in her heart to capturing the beauty of their souls.

Annie Lobert shared a little about her amazing journey and how anything that we hide has power over us. Her raw beauty and rock-star hair along with her self proclaimed “harlots heart” reminded me that I too need to bind my wandering heart to Lord that loves me.

Christine Cain has fire in the marrow of her bones and ignited embers in my own, with her message, that we can be like the Israelites and be delivered, but not be truly free. -But Jesus came so that we could be free. Indeed.

Sarah Bessy in her beautiful, English, Jesus loving way… quoted this:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:21-30 MSG)

Yes. I want to live this out please.

Aaron Ivey and Christy Nockles led some of the most powerful, beautiful worship I’ve had the privilege to be part of. I don’t say that lightly, since every Sunday I am blessed with some of the sweetest worship opportunities ever in my own church body. I  wanted to take pictures, but it was too holy to interrupt. 

Jen Hatmaker delivered and summarized the heart-beat of the event with humor, sincerity and brutal honesty. This quote? “We have always measured greatness in terms of power. (Jesus) always measured greatness in terms of service.” Ya… I don’t even want to read her book: “7 : An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.”  …but I should.

Diedra Riggs who lives right here in Nebraska, shared her heart and struggles and this quote: “Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America.” ~ referring to Martin Luther King Jr.’s words in 1963

Bianca Olthoff  A beautiful, dynamic teacher in her own lovely right said this: “It has been said, ‘hurt people hurt people.’ Well you know what? Free people free people!” Amen to that Bianca!

Kristin Armstrong was one of the most beautiful surprises of the event. She is a class act who shared some of the most profound, lived out through brokenness, words I have heard. One of the quotes I love the most from her is this: “God has a way of finding us.

I went to get Kristin's link for this post and found this quote from her in response to some of her critics…. I think it shows the depth of her soul. “I do not write about these subjects because I think I am an expert, I write about them because I struggle. I write about authenticity because I know what it is to be disingenuous. I write about integrity because I know disgrace (and grace). I write about courage because I know what it is to be weak. I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful - for all of it."

Honestly there are probably blog posts forthcoming, about the things that moved me in the deepest places: like all the women I was able to meet, share a meal, pray over, hear their stories, and sit next to on the planes. It’s all floating around in my mind and transforming my heart.

But can I encourage you today with this, from my friend Cherri Putz, who had spirit-eyes and ears to see and hear and then responded to going to the IF:Gathering in the first place? She said this before we ever boarded the plane to leave: “The same spirit that we see in these women, that spirit that we are drawn to, is the same Spirit that lives in us.”

Can we understand the wisdom of that?

It was so good to go, to hear, sing, learn, meet new people who offer us courage to walk in our callings, and to close the gap on what divides God’s people. But the thing that draws us toward these people is Jesus. He is in them and He is in us if we have trusted in His name.

We only have to cry out His Name.

So can I ask you?

If God is real, then what?

For me? 

I want to be obedient, repentant, walk on water, answer the wild call in my soul, I want to NOT shrink back from what He has for me to do, and not even to do more, but be more like Him, as I move forward in faith, in love, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I want to live like I believe and not just go through the motions of life.

I want to hear peoples stories and tell peoples stories.

I want to see more people set free.

I want to love on people and bring glory to God. 

I want to bring glory to the very God who rides the clouds and hand stitches the broken hearts of men and women and Who redeems their stories for His glory. 

So tell me....

If God is real, then ________?


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© Rhonda Quaney