Monday, January 31, 2011

A Fashion Dilemma Diverted

I stood in my closet with my hands on my hips, wrapped in a robe with a towel swirled around the wet hair on my head.
“I don’t know what to wear,” I moaned rather loudly to my husband in the other room.  “I don’t even remember what I wore last week!  I don’t want to wear the same thing twice!”
I needed to get out the door, get the kids to school, and get to the Women’s Bible Study that I am currently teaching at my church.  It was week four of the six week series I have been working on, and it wasn’t that I didn’t have clothes to wear, I just was getting hung up on what to wear.  And for whatever reason, I didn’t want to risk a repeat. Who knows why. 
As I stood there expressing my wardrobe woe to my husband, not really expecting a solution from him nor a response I heard him say,
 “Andrea?” ( ---- long pause -----)
 “I bet Jesus wore the same thing every time He preached.”
I almost fell over laughing as the burden of wearing the right thing, or the same thing, was completely lifted off my shoulders. It brought it all in to perspective. Sure, it wasn’t completely unreasonable for me to want to look presentable, but it was probably just fine if I wore the same thing twice!
Phew! What a relief!  A fashion dilemma diverted!
How silly and superficial of me.  Apparently, I had a momentary loss of memory (or judgment), forgetting that it wasn’t so much about the messenger as it was about the truth of my message, which was for that day – God’s grace is Amazing.
It was God’s grace on top of grace for me – right there and then.  He was reminding me of my priorities, making me laugh, and giving me freedom to wear whatever and not worry about what someone may think of me if I stand up in front – again – with the same outfit on. It’s okay.
That morning I shared the story with my friend Debbie, and then with the 140 women at the study.  They all laughed, while I stood there laughing at myself.
The next day Debbie sent me a message. “Dear Andrea, I can’t help thinking about what you said this past Wednesday and I came up with a new slogan.  WWJW – What Would Jesus Wear?  What do you think?”
I love it!  A play on WWJD, and quite funny, I will say.
So, dear friend, next time you are feeling like you are having a major fashion dilemma as you step forth to share the love of the Lord (or just are going about your day in His service) remember WWJW?  It just may take a lot of pressure off of you, for really, it does not matter what you wear when you are doing His work. It really is all about Jesus.

Friday, January 28, 2011

And the Winner(s) of the Read and Share Children's Bible are ...

Karen Y. and Kristina St. ...

I just couldn't resist giving both copies away.  It is far too fun and special!

Ladies, you can e-mail me at andreak54me@gmail.com  and let me know how I can get them to you or let me know of Facebook. Maybe even at bible study next week?

Congratulations!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grace to Grieve

I was caught off guard by my grief this week.
Grief seeped up from the depths of my soul.  Grief from the past reappearing in the present.
Maybe you know the same thing. Maybe not today or this week, but maybe from time to time you have grief that comes out of the blue.  One moment things seem to be humming along and the next it feels as if you are under the heap. Grief is heavy. It hurts.
Grief is real.  We cannot help it.  Our grief is a response to loss. God grieved, too.
Grief is good.  Grief, placed in the hands of God, can be used for good. It draws us closer to Him and His comfort; it gives us a fresh perspective on His love and on His tender loving care of our hearts.
God gives us grace to grieve. I don’t think I always accepted this. I have tried to run from my grief, stuff my grief, ignore my grief, or guilty myself in the feeling that I had no right to have grief.
But His grace – His all-powerful, all-loving grace, that we neither deserve nor can do anything to do get – is present in the lives of those who love Him. And He gives grace to grieve. His grace sustains us through times of sorrow and loss, through times of difficulty, through times when we would much rather pull the covers over our head and stay in bed.
This week, I am trying to accept God’s grace to grieve.
I can’t help the grief. It’s just there.
But the Lord is present, too.
I’m resting in His care and allowing Him to minister to my heart – again.
And in lying back in to His arms, I hear His heartbeat say to me, “Remember, dear child, my grace is all you need. Go ahead and grieve. I’m holding you.  You’re safe with me.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Children's Bible Give Away!

This is a first for me!  This week I am offering a FREE copy of a children's Bible!

Thomas Nelson publishing contacted me to review their newest children’s bible AND  they gave me an extra copy to give away to my readers.  Below is my review, with details on how to enter for the FREE copy, to follow.

I sat down and read through the Read and Share Bible with my two youngest girls, ages 7 and 10 – and they really enjoyed it!
·         They liked the bold illustrations.  The “good” characters look friendly and brave; the “bad” characters do not look scary. I appreciate this as a mom. We don’t need to open any doors for nightmares.
·         We all enjoyed the open ended discussion question at the end of each story.  They helped us talk through the story and get excited about the next one.
·         My oldest daughter liked the titles for many of the stories.  Often they used alliteration, making them fun to say and interesting for children, like “Jesus with the Temple Teachers,”  “Writing on the Wall,” “Pushing the Pillars,” and “Seven Dips in the Jordan River.”
·         The stories are short (which helps with young attention spans!) but give a good representation of the full story from the bible. In addition, the scripture reference is sited below each title, so that you can go to a bigger bible and get more information on the story.
You can view an excerpt from the story of Noah's Ark here.
I think that his is a sweet bible for children in the toddler, preschool and young elementary age, and I recommend it!
As for the FREE copy?
Simply leave your name in the comment area below, add yourself as a follower or e-mail me at andreak54me@gmail.com  I will gather the names and chose one at the end of this week, and post the winner on Friday, January 28, so stop on back and see if you are the one!  If so, I will mail it out to you ASAP!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Taking the Test, Doing My Best and Trusting Him for the Rest

This past Thursday night I spoke to a great group of gals at my children’s school.  The purpose of the, a “Mom’s Night In,” was to bring the women together for fun, fellowship and encouragement.
We enjoyed yummy food, a time to get know each other through a silly icebreaker, and competitive (or not so competitive) ugly slipper contest.  A skit (or rather, a sketch, if you may know the difference – I didn’t)about how overwhelmed and stretched we can be as mom’s preceded my talk, and after I spoke,  we ended the evening with tons of fun “give-aways”, table favors to take home. Mixed in it all was shared  a few good laughs and even some tears. 
I spoke on “Abiding in Jesus” from John 15, sharing about the vine, the branches, the fruit, things that we tend to abide in -- false vines --  and Who we really need to abide in -- Jesus. Truth is,  although I studied the passage and wrote the talk, I needed to listen to my own words.
I’m glad that I did. 
The day started out with a lot of attack.  Weird things, one right after another throughout the day – some personal and some practical.  I’m still shaking my head over a few of them, and although I’d rather not get in to the details in this venue, trust me, there were some odd, unexpected twists in the landscape of my day.
I’ve heard it said that we take the test after we study.  This was undeniably the case this time.  But all day long, I just kept on taking the test, filling in the dots with the truths that I knew, in answer to the circumstances and temptations that arose.  I was bound and determined to practice what I preached.  I was going to stay continually connected to the Source of my strength, Jesus, no matter what. 
And again, I’m glad that I did.
It was a great joy to share with these special women. I loved it. I love them.  I know that God loves them even more. 
And as I placed my head on my pillow that night, I thought to myself, “I’m not sure what grade I got (actually, thankful that God doesn’t grade – I’m sure I’d either be filled with pride or discouragement, depending on where it landed on His scale) but I know that I took the test, did my best and trusted in His grace for the rest.”
Amen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is There Someone Who Makes You Want to Know God Better?


http://www.freefoto.com/

This morning I spoke from Acts 6 – 8 on the life and death of Stephen, the first martyr of the church,  at our Women’s Bible Study.  I opened with this story. _____
I walked in to the gym the other day to work out and this is what I noticed about myself –as soon as entered the gym I straightened up.  I put my shoulders back, I stood taller (and can I say this? I sucked in my gut). There was something about being in that environment that helped me. can’t explain it.  I’ll slump in my chair at my office desk, but walk in to the gym, and I’m as tall as an oak tree.
In some ways, that is how I feel when I am in the presence of someone who I know loves and trusts God.  Just being with them makes me stand taller and helps me to be more aware of my own posture.  God uses their presence to help make me stronger and to help increase my faith.
Nancy Erickson is one of those people for me. I haven’t seen her for years, but she was very influential early on in my walk with the Lord. There was just something about her that was different from what I ever experienced.   Very different.
As I got to know her, I watched and witnessed her gentleness, her love for people, how she parented and grand-parented, taught bible study, and persevered faithfully. One time a hot pumpkin pie dropped out of the oven onto her foot resulting in a hospitalization for an infection.  I watched her in the hospital endure pain with joy, and love every person who walked in her door, never making it about herself, but always about them and the Lord.
I saw her seize any and every opportunity to love in the name of Jesus. She spoke the truth – God’s truth, helped me see the bigger picture and the details about Who God was how He loved me. And (and this was no small “and”) she helped me to understand why God allowed my child to have special needs. 
She believed in me, because she believed in the Lord. And she loved me.
I knew she wasn’t perfect, but there was something about her that was VERY different – and it made me want to know God better. Memories of her still make me want to know Him better.
Sometimes, God uses people to reveal Himself to us, doesn’t He?  Now I can see that it was the ministry of the Holy Spirit in her and her choice to love Jesus in everything she did that was so different.  Then, I just knew she was unique and that what she had was beautiful. 
What about you? Is there someone in your life that makes you want to know God better?  What do you see in them?  How does that increase your faith and help you to stand taller for the Lord?
Let them know. God may use you, in return, to encourage them.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Don't Want to Add to the Darkness

Today I had my hair colored.  Nothing new or different, just a good coating of brown (my natural color)  over a few (more than my liking) silver threads.  I sat in the chair, with a wet head and read through a magazine. I rarely take the time to read random magazines but in the salon chair, a doctor’s office or at the oil change station, I try and seize the moment and read up on what people are thinking and saying or at least, what the magazines are reporting.
Today, I paged through Oprah Winfrey’s magazine and got caught up in an article (click here to read) about the new television network that she is starting, OWN.  I don’t know a lot about Oprah, but I found her thoughts about the trash on TV (my words) interesting.
She said, “In recent years, I started to feel that, Gee, television has lost its mind. You used to be able to watch shows and come away with something that brought a little piece of light into whatever you are doing.”  Her desire is to create this new network to offer shows that are edifying and interesting. 
She went on to share that she has a quote outside of her make-up room that says, “Be responsible for the energy you bring into a room.”
I pondered that for awhile.  I can see what she is saying – positive attitudes, happy hearts, kindness, etc…
But as a Christian, I think we have a greater calling and that is to, “Be responsible for the Jesus we bring into the room.” 
I like that. Being highly visual in how I learn and apply truths in to life, it makes me stop and remember who I am and who I sometimes may NOT look like. 
When my faith is weak and my heart is heavy with the stresses of the day, I can bring crabbiness in the room, not Jesus.  
When I get tired, I bring worry in to the room, not Jesus.   
When I get overwhelmed, I bring distractions and too much of myself in the room, not Jesus. 
When I am anxious about the future, I bring fear in to the room, not Jesus.
When I take my eyes off of God’s truths, I bring lies in to the room (sometimes, even the room of my heart), not Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:20 says that we are ambassadors for Christ.  We aren’t going to be perfect representatives, that’s for sure, but as representatives for Him we need to think about what we are doing and what we are saying, as we either will bring the light and hope of His love in to the room or just add to the darkness.
I don’t want to add to the darkness. The world seems dark enough as it is. I don’t know what my little piece of light will look like today, but I am asking the Lord to help me be responsible in bringing the Light of His Love wherever and however He leads.
Dear Lord, With so much vying for our attention, with heavy hearts and with burdens that are nearly too hard to bare, it is hard for us to remember that we are ambassadors for You.  Please, help us to see the people around us as You see them and help us bring the light of Jesus in to whereever we are, near or far, in our homes, our workplaces, our churches and our communities. Help us to be responsible with our calling, whatever it may be.  In Jesus name I pray,  Amen.

Friday, January 14, 2011

In Need of Some Insight Today

I poured myself a bowl of Special K, added some milk and drizzled some honey over the flakes. Standing by my kitchen counter, I looked out the window on to our snowy back yard, and began to mechanically take in my breakfast, while I prayed, “Lord, I need some insight today.”
I then quietly moved around the house attending to some housekeeping issues.  With two children home from school for “post final exam renewal” I did not want to wake them, both for their sake, and truthfully, for mine. I need time.
I poured a Diet Coke over ice. A DC at 8:30 AM is a bit early for me, but I was up at 4:30 AM to work on the study I am writing and teaching on the Book of Acts and already polished off a half a pot of coffee. It was more like noon in my mind and I was ready for a change in beverage.
“Lord, I need some insight today. Some Holy Insight.”
I have been praying it all morning. My mind feels way to full with “other” things, and I am having a hard time focusing.  Writing this study is challenging, and although I love the process, it does not come easily. I know very little about the book of Acts. I am learning a lot. I am learning to trust more.
But today, I find myself sitting here, needing a serious dose of insight.  Looking for insight. Praying for insight.  Trusting God for insight.  Holy Insight.
It doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes it feels as if I have to wrestle it out of the Spirit (if that is even possible) and other times it just pops in to my mind. I guess there are no set rules for gaining insight.
But I am also realizing that there are some tools –
·         Opening my bible. I can’t learn and see the truth unless I am willing to look at what God says. Today I am studying the life of Stephen. Ah, yes, there is a lot of Holy Insight here.  I am sure of it.  I just need to see it.
·         Being obedient to what God has called me to do – not just in writing this lesson, but in being a wife, a mother, a friend, a writer. It is looking for Him as I move about in the day, asking Him to give me fresh insight through the circumstances around me -- even laundry and dishes.
·         Praying – that’s the seeing part, I am almost sure. Asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what He wants me to see.
That’s where my head is today. Nothing profound, really.  Just a need and prayer.
Maybe you are in need of insight today. Insight on what to do next. Insight on how to parent or on how to deal with a difficult situation in your marriage. Maybe you need insight in to what to write in a letter to a friend who needs hope. Maybe you need insight in to your own heart, where you are struggling to believe in God's promises and love for you.  
My encouragement to you, today, dear reader is to take a deep breath, open His Word and read,  be obedient to your calling and pray.  I believe that God is faithful to show up and show Himself to us in the way that we need to see – today. 
I am trusting Him in it for myself and I am trusting Him to do the same for you.

Hmmm ... I think I have an idea coming -- but to working on the study on Stephen ...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Armed with Strength

“Here, Mom, I wrote you a poem,” my youngest daughter said to me as she slipped me a 3 x 5 card with her hand writing on it. And then she proceeded to recite it to me.
I am thankful for my mom.
She is very, very strong.
She can lift a 5 pound weight.
She is very, very strong.

Lately, I find myself often repeating her words in my head, with her little inflections and lisp; they encourage me and make me smile. They remind me of God's strength in me.
Truth is, I can lift more than five pounds of weight, but it is the weight of the world (or the weight of the week) that I struggle with, although I’m not sure why I even find myself trying to pick it up.
Strength. Perseverance. Wisdom. I need it, and I suspect you need it, too.
Thankfully, God’s giving of strength and any other thing we need isn’t dependent on our ability.  It’s dependent on His grace.
My arms may or may not be strong. Fortunately, my heart and soul are stronger. The irony is that when we are weak, then we are strong. For “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:32).
This is for you, too, dear reader.  We have all we need in life and our service for Him, through Him.
May I pray for you?
Dear Lord, Thank you for loving us and for providing for us everything we need. Thank you for your strength, when we are weak. Thank you for your wisdom when we are confused. Thank you for helping us to persevere when we are weary. Thank you for being our Hope. Help us to reach out to you and not try to do the work that you have called us to do in our own ability. Help us to trust you. In Jesus precious name I pray. Amen.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Talking about Tonsils

I love talking to my kids.  They come up with some hilarious things sometimes.
While driving to school this morning we got on the subject of tonsils.  I’ve had a sore throat for weeks now and am going back in to the doctor today for some tests. We were talking about my appointment and the dreaded throat swab, when a dry wad of cotton is scraped across already swollen, meaty tonsils.  Yuck.
This led to, “What do tonsils do?” “Why do we have tonsils?” “Can we live without them?” “Do you really get to eat any kind of ice cream you want if you have them out?”
I tried to answer the questions as well as I could, having been a Physician Assistant in my pre-offspring life, including that I think you only get the ice cream that the hospital stocks, which is probably one vanilla and chocolate. They were disappointed. I was, too.
And then my eleven your old son said, with a playful smile of curiosity in his voice, “Can they do tonsil transplants? Could I give a tonsil to someone who may need one?”
I love that. I'm still laughing about it. Tonsil transplants. Having worked in the transplant arena with kidneys, pancreases (or is it pancrei? I can't remember) and livers, I am picturing a surgical procedure trying to do a living-related tonsil harvest from one person and transplant it into someone else’s posterior pharynx. Too funny. Well, at least it is to me.
I explained to him that this would not really be necessary (although creative!) as we do not really NEED our tonsils.  It would just be giving someone something that wouldn’t benefit them.
As I dropped the children off and drove away, I started to think about our giving people things they really don’t need -- things like poor advice or false hope.
We think we are helping, but we are not. They are like “tonsil transplants.” It doesn't benefit them.
I’m sure I’ve done it. I don’t mean ill by it, but before I know it, I’m handing over worldly wisdom rather than godly hope. 
I’m going to try and think about this some more and ask the Lord to show me how to give to those I love what He says is helpful for them – something they REALLY need  -- the hope that we have in Jesus.  Perhaps it’s   a meal, a word of encouragement, a listening ear, a book, a scripture verse – only the Lord knows.  I’ll ask Him for His wisdom.
And in the meanwhile, I think I’ll just enjoy some comic relief envisioning a “tonsil transplant.”
(PS -- I opted for no photo today -- I just couldn't bring myself to posting a posterior pharynx. Ugh).

Monday, January 3, 2011

And My Word for the Year is ...


Courage.
The problem is, ironically, I’m scared about this being my word for the year that I believe the Lord chose for me.
And I’m not sure I’m crazy about it either. I keep asking if perhaps there is a different word that the Lord would rather give me. I keep trying to shake it and replace it with another one. Couldn’t it be “kindness” or “joy?”  But time and time again, through multiple circumstances, it seems as if this is the word He chose for me. 
Courage. 
More specifically – Holy Courage.
If I am honest with myself, I know I need it. I need Holy Courage.
I know I need it for the things I fear and for the things that seem way too big for me to handle.
Let’s take teaching, for example. I’ve been swimming laps back and forth through the book of Acts, researching, writing and asking (begging) the Spirit for wisdom and insight.  Stroke by stroke, breath by breath, at times I weary and worry as to how in the world I am going to pull this off for His name’s sake.
I can feel my insecurities and inadequacies wash over me as I swim these laps.  It does not feel as if I am swimming in a calm, well chlorinated pool, but rather on seas with waves that rise and fall. I’m nervous about not doing a good job. I’m nervous about not doing the thing that I desire to do – please the Lord. I’m nervous about – well, I’m even nervous about being nervous.
I need Holy Courage.
However, as I study, I’m learning that it’s what the early church had through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t something they mustered up on their own; they had it because it was given to them, and they took hold of it.
They had Holy Courage. 
I need Holy Courage.
I have Holy Courage.
I just need to grasp it and believe -- for all the things that are before me in this year, the things I do know and the things I don’t have any idea about … yet.
Jesus said, “Take Courage!  It is I! Don't be afraid!” (Matthew 14:27). He is ever-present; I do not need to fear. I’m working on it, Lord.  Help me to believe.
Do you have a word for the year? 
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