Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Very Random Thoughts about Spices and Friends ...

I’m thinking of coordinating a spice exchange.

I know it sounds strange. My kids would probably say, “That’s really random, Mom.” They’re right.

Here’s the thing ... yesterday, I was cleaning out my herb and spice cupboards. Totally not on my list of things to do, but there I was, doing it anyway.

And here’s what I noticed -- my spices replicate.

It seems likely, although it remains a mystery as to how they do it. Do they germinate? Divide by mitosis? Expand like Amish Friendship Starter Dough?

I’m not sure.

All I know is that I have a lot of some things. It verges on ridiculous and pathetic.

2 containers of:
·                 dried onion
·                 ginger
·                chili powder
·                ground cayenne pepper
·                basil leaves
·                paprika

3 containers of:
·              dried parsley
·              poultry seasoning (I could season a whole farm)
·             crushed red pepper

And sadly, 4 containers of:
·             thyme (seriously?)
·             vanilla extracts
·            ground cinnamon

I’ve got extra of ‘this’ … maybe you have extra of ‘that?’

We could share. Perhaps, I have something you could use, and I’m pretty sure there is something I’m out of, and will need at a most inopportune, unexpected time.

As I sorted and cleaned, my mind synapsed (again, randomly – is it being pre-menopausal?) over to thoughts of friendship.

I think it’s a bit like the friendships the Lord gives us. We all have different gifts.  At times, we may have an abundance of something. These things are not ridiculous or pathetic, but rather, rich and important -- rich and important to share.

When I need laughter, I call the ones who seem to have overflowing silliness.

When I need hope, I know the girl to call. I’ve seen her hold on to hope in Jesus, when life looked pretty hopeless. 

When I need to be strengthened in my faith, I call the friend whom I’ve seen measure out a lot of it.  She’s the one I know will give me some of hers, so that I can continue to move on.

When I need to see the truth clearly, I call the one who will be honest with me and direct me to the Truth. She’s got plenty to share, and she does it lovingly, gently.

We all have something extra, something extra that the Lord gives us to share with one another. 

Let me know if I can help. Happy to give of my time or my – err – Thyme.

(Tee-hee – now I’m laughing at my own jokes? Time to sign off …)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Thanks for Grace

“Who would like to say grace?”

Perhaps this question will be asked around a million tables this Thanksgiving.

When my daughter was younger, she would pray, “God is grace, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.”

The original prayer is “God is great …” but, I cherish this rendition. 

Maybe it’s because God’s grace is so precious to me.

Seems like the Lord hand-tailored this focus on grace for me this week.  I taught on Rahab last Wednesday – “God’s grace knows no barriers,”  and saw Les Miserable night where I  watched the theme of God’s grace dance upon the stage.

And then there’s my own life.  Flashbacks roll in front of my mind, like scenes on a stage, reminding me of what God’s grace has been during times of great sorrow, loneliness, fear and uncertainty.  And even in today, I see what it is to be for me.

God’s grace fills me with peace when chaos swirls around me.

God’s grace rescues me when I am lost.

God’s grace washes me with strength when I am weak.

God’s grace fills me up with His truth when I am bombarded with lies.

God’s grace draws me close and wraps around me when I am scared and cold.

God’s grace stills my anxious heart.

God’s grace shows me that forgiveness is possible and it sets me free.

God’s grace leads me on when I am hesitant (or forget) to follow Him.

God’s grace covers me when I sleep.

God’s grace forgets my wrong-doings and does not hold them against me.

God’s grace refreshes me like falling rain when I am weary.

I am humbled by His grace.

Indeed, God’s grace is precious to me.

And this Thanksgiving, I am keenly aware of it and thankful for it – thankful for God's grace, Jesus.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Time a Snake Dropped in for Lunch ...

I was looking for them -- long, sleek, footless, fanged creatures – but not that day.

On this particular day in Africa, I was unaware, distracted by a powerful worship service with the children at the orphanage and a lovely lunch to follow.

We sat back in our chairs and relaxed under the large tree, out on the veranda at a local resort restaurant. White table clothes waved in the breeze. Our team members gathered for a special lunch after church. We shared stories about our experiences in Africa, what we were learning and what God was revealing to us.

It was a beautiful day and we were basking in what God was doing.

Unexpectedly over the laughter and jovial talk, I heard my son William (now my hero) shout …


Ten feet from our table, a four foot (or was it twenty foot?) long, dark gray snake lifted the front part of its body off of the tile floor, bobbing up and down as he slithered forward, attacking in our direction. 

It did not look friendly.  It looked evil.

Truth is, any snake in Africa is considered  unfriendly. No garden variety gardener snakes there.  One can always assume they are poisonous, perhaps even deadly.

I’m not a big fan of snakes, and certainly, not unknown, aggressive, venomous, “sure-to-seek and kill” African snakes.

We all jumped to our feet and backed off. Our host, Benedict threw a chair at the snake to slow it down and yelled for the workers to “do something!”  We scattered away while the snake sped under our table, making it’s way in and out of our friend Adrienne’s bag, and continuing on … crazed.

The workers finally came running with sticks and killed the beast.

No one knows where it came from. We think from the tree over-head. It dropped in for lunch, nearly scared the britches off of us and then it was a goner. I’m just glad that none of us were.

We all walked a little more cautiously for the rest of our trip. Well, at least I did. I looked up in trees, in tall brush and under my bed. Thankfully, no more sightings.

God used this encounter of a 'snakely' kind to remind me that sometimes, evil does drop in for lunch or in life.  Seems like the old adage stands true.  When you least expect it, expect it. So ...  Be aware. Be wise. Be ready.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Defining Faith Moments

A defining moment -- that’s what my friend calls it.

I called her out of the blue last week, regarding a totally unrelated subject. One thing led to another, and she relayed a story to me about how years ago, she found her self, although a Christian for along time, face to face with whether she was going to trust God or not, during a difficult time.

“I would begin to worry about the situation, but each time, I said, 'NO! – I am going to stop worrying and trust God.' It took time and it was work, but little by little I learned more of what it meant to trust the Lord and I began to see Him work, in ways I never thought possible. It was a defining moment for me.”

Defining moments.  I get that. I can think of a few over the years. Sometimes, they are really big and other times, they are smaller, but none-the-less, defining.

Last week, unexpectedly, I found myself glaring at one of these faith defining moments.

I’m not  totally surprised. In the back of my head, I figured something would happen, as I prepare to speak on Rahab this week, with a focus on Who God is and what faith is. 

I’ve been rolling the idea of “faith” over and over again in my head. What is it? What is it not?  What does it all mean?

Whenever I teach it seems that I find myself asking more questions than finding answers. 

And almost always, I get the test.

I study. I learn. I pray. I write.

And then somehow, someway in the most unusual ways something happens, and I feel the Lord push in to my seeking heart and say, “Now, my dear loved one, let’s see how you are doing with this lesson that you are learning and perched to teach about.”

And so this past week, I find myself asking, “Where is your faith, Andrea?”

I sigh.

I come up dry, after I wipe the tears of my disappointing unbelief away.  I pour my heart out to the Lord and ask Him to help me with this unbelief. I shrink back at the fact that perhaps my faith is more frail, more fragile than I thought.

I listen to my friend. She knows.  The Lord uses her.

I take a deep breath and ask Him to show me.  I feel His hand of comfort on the small of my back. I am directed by Him. I choose to trust His Word.  He ushers me in to the great Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11, points to verse 1 and reminds me of this:

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

I sigh, again.

Faith defining moments – as hard as they are, either over minutes or hours or days or years, they keep me focused on the One who Loves me and strengthen me. 

And I find myself in a familiar place clinging to what I know is true, regardless of what things may look like, now or in the future, sure of Him and certain of His love for me. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sharing a Note from a Reader ...

I almost missed it! A yellow floral note card peeked out from between catalogs and credit card offers, in my mail 2 weeks ago. It’s not every day I get a handwritten note in the mail. I was so excited.  I pulled up a chair, and sank in to it as I sank in to her words. 

(I got her permission to share with you all. She asked to remain anonymous).

Dear Andrea, 

I want to thank you for the entry I read today, Friday, October 21. It met me exactly where I am.  For the last ten years, each fall, my heart and mind do a “march” that takes me back to past events beginning in the end of October retracing my steps to find me standing at the sight of an open grave of my son, at the end of November.  

God has sustained me, grown me, helped me these past 10 years. His Mercy and Grace support me, hold me up and lead me on.  His great love gives me Hope and Strength.  Yet, here again, another fall, and I find myself on that “march” again. Like you, in hope and in trusting, I see each year God exchanging beauty for ashes.

This journey, this “march” as painful as it is, does remind of where I was , but more powerful yet, I see in hindsight the victory and overcoming power of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  He loves us and does not leave us where we once were.  This “march” may continue every fall, for all my life, but I can ‘see’ from where I stand today that defeat and despair have been replaced with rejoicing and praise.  This trial has been a ‘tool’ for my transformation in the refiner’s fire.  To Him all praise is due. 

So, I will keep on “marching” to “see” His glory – all for His glory. For it is not about me, it is all about Him.

Thank you, dear one, for sharing your faith, your hope. Thank you for your transparency and honesty. I continue to be a faithful reader. Keep on sharing your heart.

And thank you, friend, for taking the time to write and share your story with me -- with us.  It is a treasure.  You are a treasure.  May the Lord continue to strengthen you.  Your “march” is not in vain.  He is using you for good.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Helping Matilda

Her name means “mighty or strong in battle.” I’m not sure her parents knew that when they named her, but it fits her.  God knew that.

Before the age of five, Matilda was a little girl most likely doing what most little girls do in African villages. They run and play and help their families with chores.

And then … she developed spinal tuberculosis, and lost movement of her legs. 

At age 7, Kathleen Schwartz, of the Villages of Hope, Zambia (click here to learn more about VOH on their blog),  met Matilda. She was sitting outside of her hut, unable to walk.  God began to unfold a series of events through His placement of Kathleen in Matilda's live,  and she was eventually treated with antibiotics and surgery to help her spine. Now she lives at the Villages of Hope, where we visited this past summer and where we met this remarkable little girl.

Yes, she is mighty and strong.  This little girl is an inspiration to all who meet her. She perseveres with her peers, keeping up as she swings her half paralyzed legs along with the use of a walker. She is ever smiling and bringing joy.  She does not hesitate to be involved and try her best.  She loves life and she loves the Lord.

But, she needs some more help.  God has ongoing plans for Matilda. She will be travelling to the United States for surgery, where a team of doctors and health care professionals agreed to treat her for free!

Procedures are underway to secure a visa, passport, etc… and, although $10,000 has been raised to help pay for airfare and other expenses, a bit more would help.

It’s true, isn’t it? God uses His people to love His people.

Would you consider being a part of His story for this little girl?

1.     Please pray for her and all the details that need to come together RIGHT NOW.  If it’s the only thing you do, it will make a difference!
2.     Consider following her story and praying for Matilda on an ongoing basis. You can find more about her story at www.matildaspath.wordpress.com .
3.     Consider make a financial contribution to help with expenses while she is in the United States. You can do this through pay-pal, located at the above e-mail address.

Thank you.  We just never know what God is doing. It is a privilege to be a part of His work, loving people, drawing them to Himself, giving them a hope.

May you be blessed because of your love.
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