Friday, September 20, 2013

Bent Knees. Burdened Hearts. Blessed hope. A BIG GOD!!!

One of my dear ones snapped this picture this morning at bible study.

Ordinarily I would totally tease her about ruining the sincerity and sacredness of the moment by pulling out her phone and capturing it.  But, honestly, I am so glad she did.

I know how this morning will live in my heart and mind.  But seeing it again makes it real and floods my soul anew.

It was church.

Our Thursday morning ladies bible study group came to hear a video of Priscilla teaching on Gideon and God stole the show.

The Lord had directed me to do things a bit differently this morning.  You know...shake it up a bit. 

The ladies were game for it.

They listened as I relayed all that God had done this week in my life. (I feel like I could write a mini-novel from Monday to this morning)  I could tell by the looks on their faces and the nods of their heads that they too had run a hard race for this week.

As I shared my hits and misses of the week they cried openly in understanding. 

These gals go for real.  As their leader I don't have to hold back the raw-ness of all that is going on....and neither do they.  We share it all.  Burdens are halved.  Joys are doubled again and again.

Some days are grand with God!  These are days to celebrate!

Then there are those other days...the days that we wish we didn't have to admit were real.  The days when the best we can give God are the broken pieces of ourselves and ask Him to be the balm that can bind us back up again.

We shared.  We related.  We understood. We prayed for ourselves.  We prayed for others. 

Then we worshipped.

A friend of mine went to the piano and began playing a song that God had told me were to sing.

Sing we did.

Some sang with hands held high.
Some sang with heads bowed low to the floor.
Some were singing words that they can't bring themselves to even say...
Some were tending to others hurting and in need.

What is it about worship that does this?

All focus was on Jesus and His goodness and grace toward us.

The world, hardships, diseases, problems, evil, brokenness, anger, doubt, and anything else competing for attention had to flee.

Jesus Christ alone was lifted up.

The atmosphere in the room was sweet with His presence.  The heavenly hush was felt and heard.

 An hour in the bible study video hadn't been watched yet....and no one cared. 

Bigger things were going on here and we all knew it without anyone uttering a word except in song.

I sit here 12 hours later and I am not over it yet. 

We ended our time of worship and this group of godly women encircled me.  This is the picture above.  They surrounded me and spoke to God on my behalf. 

It was the moment when the teacher gets taught.

The prayers and faith of these women are such that I could easily sit at their feet any day of the week.  The fact that God allows me to lead them is so backward to me. 

We did finally get to the video of Priscilla teaching us about Gideon. 

It was like the delicious icing that topped an already glorious cake.

We walked out of that room differently than when we entered.

Loads were lighter.  Faith was heavier.  Eyes were lifted to God in expectation....thankful for what we had received.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  James 5:16

Monday, September 16, 2013

His Love Considers Our Lack

Our Thursday morning ladies bible study is now 4 weeks into studying "Gideon" by Priscilla Shirer.

It is nourishing to my soul and just really good on so many levels.

This week I found something in scripture that I did not know was there.

The verses are found in Judges chapter seven.  These few verses scream God's love, tenderness and patience toward Gideon in an unexpected way.

I love it when God surprises us with His nature.

"During the night, the Lord said, "Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp,for I have given you victory over them!  But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the the camp with your servant Purah.  Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged.  Then you will be eager to attack." (the Lord speaking to Gideon in Judges 7:9-11)

Did you see it?

God considered Gideon's weakness:  fear.

I can't help but think of God as the role of a Dad here in this passage.  He looked at his boy and knew victory was certain, even ordained.  But his boy was outnumbered 450 to 1.  Those odds were all he could see.  So God stepped in with patience and spoke directly to the fear raging in Gideon's heart.

It would kind of be like me saying to my kids,  "There is no reason to be afraid of the dark.  But because I know you are still afraid, I will plug in a night light."

God stepped in and offered Gideon a "night light" to greatly encourage him before battle.

I hope this speaks to your heart as it did my own.

God knows your weakness.  He is ever patient toward you and me. 

Sometimes I look at the things that God has laid in my path and I want to just place a banner across my head that reads, "I am weak and afraid and timid.  I have little faith"  just to be sure He remembers who He is dealing with here.

But He already knows. 

My weakness is safe in His almighty hands.  His heart toward me is love.  He patiently builds and grows the character and depth needed in my life that will sustain and strengthen my shaking knees. 

I fall into the mindset and even start to believe that God stays frustrated with me.  When I mess up or give in to doubt and fear I assume that He is angered.

He is long suffering toward His children....and those He is pursuing.

He gives us chance after chance after chance. He lives outside of time and can't be disappointed because He already knows everything we will ever do.  He isn't let down or surprised by our weaknesses because He knew them before we were even born.

This kind of love, this grace that has no end, is mind-blowing to us.

When he first came to Gideon He called him a mighty warrior even though Gideon was obviously hiding in fear from his enemies. 

Who would look at someone hiding out and call them a mighty warrior?

Our God would.

The God who see what we will be before we are.

The God whose love toward us fills the lack within us.

Rise up mighty warrior.  His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

"He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."   2 Corinthians 12:9

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Circumstancial Evidence

Everyone has heard the saying, "When life gives you lemons; make lemonade".

We say it to friends.
We hear it from friends.

But doing it is an entirely different story.

This saying is very cliche and even annoying when you are the one getting pounded by lemons.  But I do think it is wise.

God tells us in His holy Word to"give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

God talked to me plainly as a friend this past week. 

He did not mince words.  He simply said, "Andrea, you are a woman of your circumstances."

It wasn't condemning.  Just very matter of fact.

His voice brought conviction and revelation.  His words were truth.

This truth came on the morning after a little fit I'd had.

I am tempted to write out all that had been going on that led up to the fit.  But those words would simply be an attempt to justify my fit.  Basically I was angry at God for allowing my circumstances to be very difficult, painful even.

But bottom line is this:  when things are rolling along good, then I am good.  When things turn sour, I do too.

So we are back to lemonade.

We can take the lemons and squeeze the juice out of them figuratively speaking.  How?  By taking our current set of circumstances and being present and real in the moment of them.  God has allowed the upset, the heartbreak, the loss, the let down, the sharp curve, the accident, the betrayal, or the problem to persist because there is something in it for you.  And Him. And others.

As we come to God in complete transparency, even admitting that we don't like the circumstances, believing He is at work then our focus shifts from us to Him.

At this point we have only squeezed the lemons.  Lemon juice does not equal lemonade.

It is missing the sweetness.

Take that situations and thank God for it.  Even if you don't really mean to but are still counts.

That is sweet in God's eyes.

It means surrender.
It means humility.
It means He can work and do His thing in Your life.

Remember...the saying says, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade".

There is action required.  Lemonade doesn't just happen.  It is made.

Press in and squeeze closer to God.  Glorify and thank Him for each hardship and circumstance.

A sweetness will pour forth from your pain.  Blessing will come from your obedience.  God will be honored.  Others will be refreshed.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Quick Trip

We got the chance to get away for a quick long weekend trip.  (I think that may be an oxymoron?!?)

We jumped at the chance.

 This is Anna Maria Island...a little slice of heaven.  It is south of Tampa, FL.  Shep and I had the opportunity to vacation here when we were newlyweds.  It holds some specials memories for us!
 We were excited to take our kids to a place that they have never been.  Needless to say...they loved it. 
 Playing at the beach beats school any day of the week.
 Caroline can pull off the ultimate "chilled out" look.  We all did some of this...
 Shep loved fishing in the surf.  Of course he couldn't escape little ones who just wanted to be beside him.
 Zeke loved using his goggles to explore.  I saw this view of him more than anything else...
 I enjoyed the little things.  Quiet.  God's gorgeous creation screaming His praise.  Little treasures.  Time and memories with my family.
 Caroline enjoying the arms that always hold her close...
 Ava's sweet silliness....
 I wanted to show just how crystal clear this water was.  You could look down and always see your feet.  Oh!  If only life and faith and parenting and everything else could be seen with this kind of clarity!
And, of course, a selfie of me.  This is the only way that there is proof of my presence on this trip. I take all the there very few of me actually being in them.

This was a change in our norm.  It was much-needed and so appreciated.  God refreshed our spirits and helped us grow closer as a family.  Exhausting but well worth it!!!