I Used To Think I Was Stupid...

I just wrote a book, people! No ghost writer, no transcribing of sermons... I - WROTE - A - BOOK. All by myself. This girl who used to think she was stupid and inept with nothing to say. This girl who unfairly compared herself to her salutatorian sister and valedictorian brother. This girl who was born and raised in Spokane, Washington on the wrong side of the tracks, in a blue collar, working class family who went through seasons of life living on food stamps... I - WROTE - A - BOOK. This girl who got asked if she wanted to sign the "dumb rock" in high school, who was then petrified (no pun intended) to ask any further questions in case I looked like a fool... I WROTE A FREAKING BOOK! Take that, "dumb rock!"

Now before this becomes a prideful rant, let me take the "I" out of the equation and replace it with "we"...

This girl who has been abused, cornered, terrified, controlled, broken, ashamed, fearful, confronted, lied to, betrayed, cast aside, over-looked and unqualified... by the literal grace of God, with His love, tender nudge and whisper, truth and direction, through obedience, a multitude of tears while on my knees and a million and one little "yeses" - I wrote a book, no WE (Holy Spirit and I) wrote a book together.

Yesterday, I received the final proof to go through one last time for any final edits before it goes off to be printed. It's surreal. I keep looking at it as it sits here next to me on the couch with the morning sun shining down on it, like a new born baby fresh out of the womb. I keep thinking, "I actually did that. This college drop-out did that."

1 Corinthians 1:27 says, He uses the foolish things to confound the wise, and this fool, who may not be wise by human standards, or of noble birth, partnered with God and wrote something that I believe will bring His freedom and life to many. 

Truth be told, I'm a little tired, okay - a LOT tired - because my husband, 4 kids and the church that I'm leading didn't press pause while I sat and wrote my heart out. But in this bleary, puffy-eyed, tired state is an overjoyed momma (albeit in need of a caffeine drip).  

A momma who no longer believes she is stupid.

I'm overjoyed at what the time, tears, energy, early mornings, late nights, writing trips, encouragement from friends and family has produced - a little piece of the inheritance that I'm leaving to my children's children sits on the couch next to me in the morning sun and I feel the glorious weight of it all. I'm overwhelmed by the kindness of our God to love us and partner with us, in spite of us. It's profound. He sees us, the fullness of who He created us to be right in the middle of our mess, our brokenness, insecurity, lack of qualification, and takes us by the hand (if we'll let Him) and leads us down roads of destiny. 

This book, She is Free, is a little piece of my journey from brokenness to wholeness, and at its core is Jesus. The One who rescues me, loves me deeply in all of my flaws, has delivered me multiple times, held me when I hurt more than I knew was humanly possible and simply never gives up on me - ever.

"26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” - 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NIV

So, in the first week of October when my book is released, I hope you'll invest in (or gift) a piece of freedom that will cause you to search your heart and go on a journey of discovery with the One who will never leave you or let you go.

Love, Andi

P.S. Here is a direct link to pre-order my book at Barnes and Noble!!! 

 

 

Seen or Significant?

Do we want to be SEEN and validated publicly or SIGNIFICANT, even if only anonymously?

Both, probably. I mean, who doesn't want to make a difference in this life while having people tell them along the way that they're doing an awesome job? Oh, and whoever "they" are - they can feel free to tell other people too!

I was sitting at LaGuardia Airport last week at my gate, worship filling my ears while reading my Bible, when an unlikely verse jumped out at me:

Matthew 26:18 NIV "He (Jesus) replied, Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" 

A certain man.

No name, no fanfare, nothing about his apparent relationship or background with Jesus, yet extremely significant. He was named in history but didn't make a name for himself.  He was known by the Teacher, and that was enough.

This certain man's house was where the Lamb had His last supper to fulfill the Passover - death passing over life - the life we all need to truly live was within His blood and the final sacrifice about to take place, once and for all. This certain man's house was the place of communion before the crucifixion. Did this man know who Jesus really was? Was he a Pharisee, a teacher of the law that connected the dots and realized that "the Teacher" was the Messiah that they - Israel - had been waiting for? Had he & Jesus met on several occasions, so many times so that at the mention of "the Teacher", this "certain man" offered up His home to be the location for a significant moment on the road to the cross? 

What we do know is that at the mention of His name, this man opened the doors of his home. At the request of the Teacher, he didn't hold back. It also appears that he didn't push for his name to be written down somewhere so that history could remember him for his great hospitality during what seemed to be a covert mission, harboring a controversial figure in his household for one of the most significant meals of all time. This man was audacious and obedient. He made room for Jesus - literally.

So, am I making room for Jesus, or for myself?

I have gone through seasons of wanting to be seen, validated and known by the multitudes. I have wanted my ego stroked and my gifts validated. I have wanted to be seen with the cool kids (whoever they are) and the right crowd (again, whoever they are) to feel a sense of importance. I have had positions of authority and the things of this world that I thought made me a significant person taken from me. I have fallen off of my pedestal more times then I'd like to admit and have crawled back onto it like a moth to a flame, while gripping it for dear life, hoping that standing on it would make me feel better again - even if just for a fleeting moment. All of these things point to a deep longing in me to be seen, known and loved. These places in my heart can only be healed and validated by Jesus.

If the Teacher comes to me and asks me to open up my home and life for a significant purpose, would I do it? Or do I first need to post about it, be seen doing it and therefore negate the power of its beautiful, anonymous significance in all its ordinary glory? What if history were only to record a moment where "a certain woman" opened her home to the lost, disenfranchised, broken and hurting? Or where a "certain woman" loved her husband and children well? What if that's it? Or what if there is nothing at all? Am I content with NO historical mention of my life after I leave this earth? No St. Andi Andrew day for the public to remember my greatness? Am I okay with that? Some days, yes, but some days... no.

The truth is, deep down, the older I get, the more I simply want to be known intimately and loved unconditionally by the One. This means not always being seen or known by the multitudes. Can we be truly known and loved by the multitudes anyway? Spoiler alert - no. 

Are we content to be un-named in history, but still significant in it? There is so much peace that comes when we realize how deeply known and loved we are. Striving falls to the wayside and a holy satisfaction descends upon our hearts and lives. When I am truly known by the One, I can be used for significant moments and often unseen purposes because I trust His direction and plan for my life. What's so beautiful (and painful at times) is that in this life that is a long obedience in the same direction, my motives are constantly checked and purified along the way. 

So, let's take a moment and ask our hearts, "Do I want to be significant, even in anonymity, or do I want to be seen and validated publicly?"

"God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I'm walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways - the path that brings me back to you." - Psalm 139:23-24 The Passion Translation
Source: www.andiandrew.com

Doers or Deceived?

I am often slow to post anything on social media in politically and emotionally heightened times - not because I don't care, but because I am accountable to God for every word that flows out of my mouth. With every finger I point in assumption or judgment of others motives and actions, I personally feel the weight. Whatever scripture I post, call to action or quotable quote I grab from someone else, I live in such a way knowing that I am personally responsible to go and do something with what I have said or written. I am also keenly aware that I answer to God at the end of my life here on earth for every heart motive, idle or active word (Matt 12:35-37 NKJV) and deed I do or don't do. Heavy, but true nonetheless. 

A few months ago, my husband was speaking to our church and read out James 1:22, followed by a throw away comment that has stuck with me:

James 1:22 NKJ
“22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
“Hearing but not doing is a form of deception” - Paul Andrew

These last few weeks I have "heard" a lot of opinions. Heck, I've even had a few of my own but have chosen to keep them to myself.  It can be crippling to take in so much information, yet feel like there isn't a clear path to help those in need, or so it seems - because let's be honest, we only need lift up our eyes from our phones to meet a need. I want to step away from the anonymity of my computer or iPhone screen and get my hands dirty. I want to look people in the eyes and place value on them. 

I want to be educated, equipped and then activated to go and do something.

While we don't yet see certain injustices reconciled here on earth or perhaps we do see first hand how an executive order affects our loved ones and it feels like confusion and pain seem to reign, I'd like to put out there that we as followers of Jesus can all SIMPLY be about the Father's business in our day to day lives (Luke 2:49, Matt 12:46-50, John 4:34-38). I'm sure we could all use some "simple" in our live right now. We will always live in the tension of the "NOW but NOT YET" where life is unfolding before our eyes as we simultaneously hope and work towards a better future. The times we live in are a wake up call to the global Church to lift up our eyes and really see people and then do something about the pain unfolding before us. Let us all be deeply loved by God and in turn give Him all of our love and adoration. Let us then love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matt 22:34-40), reconcile hearts to the Father (2 Cor 5:16-21) and actively make disciples (Matt 28:16-20). 

Opportunities to be about our Fathers business are unfolding right in front of our eyes every single day. It's in the breakthrough conversation with that cafe owner after years of patronage where they begin to seek the heart of the Father and ask us to lead them there. Or the moments where our kids ask the big questions about eternity where we get the honor of discipling them and telling them about the goodness of the Gospel. It's in the moments where we take someone out to coffee whose world we don't understand and never could unless we walk a mile in their shoes. It's the moments where we step out (even if we're scared) and pray for someones healing. It's in showing up at your local community center and sitting with that young, marginalized, world changer while believing in them and showing them that there is a way to step into their dreams. It's choosing to be generous with encouragement and compliments instead of keeping them to ourselves because kindness is good for the soul. It's leading that neighbor of yours on their deathbed to Jesus because hell was never created for God's children to spend eternity. It's finding out how you can see systemic injustices reconciled and bridges built by serving in or volunteering in programs that your local church or community centers have to offer. It's in putting your hand up to tutor that underprivileged genius that may never get the opportunities that others will because of their upbringing or the color of their skin - but your simple act of kindness could break through a barrier. It's giving your finance to causes in places where your feet may never be able to tread. It's in each of us us putting our money, hands and feet where our mouth is. 

What will cost us? Is it just our words or will we let it cost us our time too? We are all accountable.

Ben Smithee, one of our Liberty Church Union Square Team members posted the below picture and quote this week:

"Regardless of political beliefs, religious belief, or roast beef, let's just freaking love each other and the world would immediately be a much better environment. We expend so much energy in fighting, hating, and spewing vitriol that we forget the Great Commandment. @andiandrew 's message this past week really drove it home. I mean, what if we all just did one loving act for another person this week. One simple act of love, rather than take the ease of contention. Call it a dream, but I believe we were meant for more and that God's words were not just a set of optional guidelines for life. Live like you mean it, love each other, help those less fortunate, and for gosh sakes - wash your freaking hands!" - Ben Smithee (@smitheeeeee on Instagram)

What I love about Ben, (and he doesn't know I'm saying this until he reads it) is that he is a part of the Big Brothers and Sisters program and has been for years, he serves at Church every week, runs his own business and does amazing charity work without any fanfare. He lives this stuff week in, week out and every single one of us can make a difference with the "neighbors" that are in our world. 

I feel the weight of these times as a leader in the Church and it's enough to take me out some days... My hope is that we'd be equipped, educated AND activated in our faith. May we keep it simple with our eyes fixed on the ONE. May we be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry (James 1:19). May we choose to take a breath, seek wisdom and respond instead of react. 

Rise up oh Bride! Humble yourselves and unite under the name of Jesus Christ! Wake up you sleeper and put your hand to the plow! Step away from your computers, phones and all forms of distraction and GO! Be about Your Fathers business...

 

 

Do I Even Need To Go To Church?

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I’ve been in church my whole life. Some of you who are familiar with my story know that, when I was a child, parts of our journey had devastating effects on my family. I’ve also been hurt more than once in the church as an adult, and have personally journeyed alongside my husband and family towards discovering what church truly is. I’ve wanted to quit more than once, both as a church-goer and as a woman in ministry. But I’ve stayed. I’ve kept at it. I believe in the power of the local church, not because it is perfect, but because Jesus loves and believes in the Church, and calls us to both build the Church and be the Church. I’ve given this quite some thought, and I want to share with you, both from Scripture and from my journey, about why I’ve stayed and continue to build the Church with passion.

What’s The Point?

Many times people don’t quit Jesus- they quit the church and its imperfect people. However, I believe that we as a people have lost our "WHY" for "temple worship", and it's meant to be simply this: to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. 

"11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." - Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV

Corporate gatherings, Sunday services, and the like, no matter how big or how small they are, if they're held in a YMCA, someone's home or a state-of-the-art auditorium, are all about EQUIPPING the SAINTS (simply put, followers of Jesus) to go out and DO the work of the ministry. To be UNIFIED in faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.

You may be thinking, "I can get just as equipped, if not more, reading a book at home on my own on Sundays rather than at a church service." Now, that may be true, but our gathering together goes beyond just equipping.

Can we do things like be equipped and worship outside of a church setting? Yes, and we should do those things,  but Hebrews 10:24-25 cannot happen if we do this alone, "24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Gathering together is for more than just equipping; it's for worship, encouragement, and spurring one another on toward love and good deeds. It's for being a part of something bigger than yourself, for a purpose that resonates beyond yourself, for being a part of a community that will value you and, for better or worse, see you for who you are and push you to become an even better version of yourself, a.k.a. more like Christ.

When we isolate ourselves, we can become self-centered, seeking our own desires while spouting our own ideas before seeking understanding in a multitude of wisdom. 

1 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.
2 A fool has no delight in understanding,
But in expressing his own heart. - Proverbs 18:1-2 NKJV

Jesus didn't isolate; He had intentional solitude. Isolation is self-protection from society, whereas solitude is preparation for society. We have to know the difference. 

If you’ve been a believer for a while, you’re probably aware that corporate church gatherings aren’t all about you - they’re about being equipped to spread the Gospel to others. Lately, I've observed that there are multitudes of disgruntled millennials (to be clear, not all millennials), as well as hurt, angry and bored church-goers of every age that are dissatisfied with the "monotony" of going to church on Sundays. Recently, I have had one too many conversations with people that are saying, "I'm just not sure I believe in going to church on Sundays because I am the Church wherever I go." 

Of course WE ARE THE CHURCH wherever we go, but we cannot miss the integral part of gathering corporately in community. Sure, if Sundays have become the mark of "Christianity" for you, then you've been sold a watered-down Gospel. Go and read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the book of Acts all over again to see what we as followers of Jesus are all about. We're not simply "Sunday church-goers."

Before you throw Sundays (or gathering as the church corporately) out like a baby with the bathwater, consider its purpose in serving the body by preparing us to live out the Gospel in our daily lives.

As of late, I've been having great discussions with our good friends Tyler and Hannah Pines, sparked by having them look through the doctrine in my coming book, to be released this Fall. In a recent email discussion, Tyler wrote this powerful statement pointing to the "why" for corporate gathering:

The purpose of the Church, therefore, is not to save the world. That is the mission of the saints, who have been given the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Cor 5:19-20). The purpose of the church is to equip the saints (Eph 4:11-13), to gather to stir each other in love and good works (Heb 10:24-25), and to worship God corporately in spirit and truth, as in the days of the tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11, John 4:24). - Tyler Pines

New believers and followers of The Way in the book of Acts were so desperate to be equipped and discipled that they gathered corporately in the temple DAILY and in each other's homes. 

It Was BOTH-AND

"42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 EVERY DAY THEY CONTINUED TO MEET TOGETHER IN THE TEMPLE COURTS. THEY BROKE BREAD IN THEIR HOMES AND ATE TOGETHER WITH GLAD AND SINCERE HEARTS, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." - Acts 2:42-47 NIV (Emphasis added)

The "temple model", if you will, is simply an opportunity for believers to be equipped. It is not the whole picture, but it is a fundamental part of it.

We gather corporately (Sundays, worship nights, prayer nights, conferences, etc.) to be equipped by the apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and evangelists. For Jesus, this was from a boat on the lake so His voice would carry to the multitudes, going to the temple (as was His custom - Luke 4:16-21) and reading from the Torah or from a mountainside; really anywhere a crowd could gather and hear His voice. He created spaces for people to hear about the Kingdom of Heaven. After Jesus died, rose again, and had ascended to the right hand of the Father, they didn't destroy the temples and tell everyone to stop meeting there; they continued to use the space to gather so that new converts could be equipped to be followers of Jesus. We also see that they would then break bread in each others homes to disciple others and become disciples; it didn't just happen in the temple. Every day of the week, they had countless opportunities, as do we, to carry the Kingdom of Heaven living within to their every sphere of influence from neighbors to workplaces, to their own families, to the grocery store and beyond. 

But What About Discipleship?

Let's not be fooled. Discipleship is a slow burn over a lifetime, through every season, in loving community, coming in from countless facets. It’s not just a hot topic; it’s for a lifetime. We are never "perfect disciples" of Jesus. There is always more to learn and do. Just look at Jesus, and how He lived life intimately with 12 people over three years, and all the ways in which they learned from Him. They watched Him preach, teach the Torah and prophesy in the temple. They had front row seats to His life, often scratched their heads, gleaned from Him, were challenged by Him, listened to Him speak to the multitudes and also have time for the one. They watched Him heal, deliver and make whole the least of these. They were activated in their faith, but also confronted and challenged in their unbelief. And when He ascended, He left it to His disciples to do what He had modeled for them -  to continue to be taught by the Holy Spirit and to disciple others in "The Way". 

In our modern-day context, activation of our faith should be taking place all the time within community. If we're equipped on Sundays, then what are we going to do to activate what we've learned? Activation can take place in our own time with God, in small group/discipleship settings, corporate gatherings, and as we do life together as Followers of Jesus. There was fluidity to the way Jesus discipled; it was all-encompassing. Sundays can be a part of that, if you take what you learned and do something with it, but that's entirely up to you.

We Are One

We are ONE body with different functions. If we could stop talking about who's right and who's wrong when it comes to "styles" or "models" of church, and actually just start doing the work of the ministry, we'd start to see more of His Kingdom bring light into the darkness. If we could stop comparing ourselves amongst ourselves and actually start loving one another, we'd begin to see a lot more unity in the church. If we could open our eyes and see that we are all ONE body with many DIFFERENT parts, whether we execute the Gospel through the equipping and making of disciples in a house church, mega church, underground church or community church, we'd get a lot more done. We'd stop hurting one another, and instead, learn from each other.

Often, when we’ve been hurt in the church or disagree with they way someone else expresses the local church in their setting, we can swing our beliefs to align with another extreme. The problem with extremes is that we begin to live in reaction to what we don't like instead of being led by the Holy Spirit into everything we ourselves are called to, without judgment of others and their method of spreading the Gospel. 

So What Is The Fruit Of Your Life?

Dad and Mom baptizing Giles. 

Are people becoming disciples? Are they being transformed around you and walking in their identity? Are they discipling others? Are you being transformed and walking in your identity? Are the lost coming home? Are you seeing signs, wonders and miracles following those who believe? If you can answer "yes" to all of the above, then great! Keep lifting up your eyes and stay about your Father's business in the lane to which He's called you.

Meet together, however and wherever you may gather as a church - movie theaters, homes, gymnasiums, parks, schools, beaches, rooftops, warehouses, state-of-the-art auditoriums, and the like. It doesn't really matter as long as the Gospel is being preached and people are doing life together in the "slow burn" of the discipleship journey, and we are finding ourselves, and others, becoming more like Christ and transforming society as we see the Day He comes again approaching.

“19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” - Hebrews 10:19-25 NIV

Brain Tumors & Joy - "When Joy Gets In The Way"

I kept thinking to myself, "She must be faking it? I mean come on, you can't have an inoperable brain tumor and be so full of life and joy!"

My mother-in-law has stopped me in my tracks on several occasions and in this season, it's her contagious joy and peace that she lives enveloped in that often has me scratching my head in wonder. At first I thought it was avoidance, but now I see that it's a life connected to LOVE. I've asked her to write about it as a guest here on my blog. I hope it encourages you in this holiday season as we all look to 2017 and the year is to come. 

"When Joy Gets In The Way" By Jenny Andrew

The word joy is mentioned 815 times in the NIV version of the Bible. Just this fact alone makes the word significant
I was born Jennifer Joy. "Joy" was my last name or "surname" as we say in Australia where I grew up. It WAS my name, and although I was often teased as a little girl for the full label of "Jennifer Joy" or "Jenny Joy" as I was most often known, I wasn't aware of the potential significance of my name until recently. I began to see that my name was no accidental choice, that it was given to me for a purpose. Of course, when God is part of a decision, the potential of that decision is loaded with purpose. 

You see, I have recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

It has been described as being "like an octopus wrapped around the left side of my brain". This should, in most circumstances, instill fear and sadness in me. However my overwhelming emotions, and those of my husband, have been peace and joy. Occasional the blanket of peace is ruffled, but most of the time I feel covered and enveloped by peace. As well as the peace we are covered in, my "platform" for all I do now, especially in my fight for complete healing, is to choose "joy" as my weapon of choice before I chose to do anything or react in any way. It has become, not merely my name, but the banner over my life.
Joy may seem like an unlikely weapon. When we think of weapons, we generally think of aggression, fighting or inflicting injury. But as a Christian, I can assure you that JOY is all of these and more. Firstly, Satan hates joy. When he sees we are living in joy, he flees as he knows where joy comes from - God. When he sees me living in peace it reminds him that he has already lost the battle and we belong to Jesus! Secondly dealing with a challenge is so much simpler when my heart is in a good place and I'm looking at the best rather than the worst.  Although this season has brought its challenges, and will undoubtedly bring more, the joy and the peace continue. Recently I was speaking about my journey through this illness to a group at our Church and what I was learning along the way. I had my "notes" and my "plan" but it became increasingly clear as I continued, that I was to talk about living in JOY and using it as a weapon. This was not something I had planned to talk about at length - but JOY got in the way! 
We are surrounded every day by what the world sees- wherever we live, with worst case scenarios, doom and gloom, and negativity. There's a lot to be said for living in reality and it's important that we do so and don't bury our heads in the sand, but let's bring some light to the darkness by using joy, hope and peace to every situation. 

So there you have it. She LIVES this stuff. I heard someone say last week, "If the joy of the Lord is your strength, don't let Satan steal your strength." Well, Jenny is walking in that strength in spite of her circumstance and diagnosis and I'm still over here scratching my head at times while learning so much along the way. 

When something get's in our way, usually it has a negative connotation, especially when it's associated with fear, doubt or obstacles. When joy keeps inturpting you, invite the inturrption rather than pushing it away. Let joy get in the way.

My prayer for you in this season of your life, no matter the reality, darkness, pain or loss that you face is that JOY will keep getting in the way.

P.S. On top of her contagious JOY, my mother-in-law has been writing beautiful music in this season. It's perfect for your meditations or quiet times and is straight from heaven. Download it here!

http://www.jennyandrewmusic.com/ or look up Jenny Andrew Tranquil Worship and Tranquil Worship Two on iTunes! 

 

 

When It's Not "All Good"

The dam broke this morning.

The long-awaited tears that have needed to flow came out in a conversation with my husband and mom this morning, and we may have all shed a few needed tears.

The to-do lists have kept me sane in this season. Christmas with all its parties and preparation have almost been a unconsciously welcome distraction. Truth be told, "all the things I need to do" have protected my heart from feeling what it needs to feel. Avoidance has been my friend.

Instead of facing my reality, I've been short-tempered with those I love. I've let unhealthy anger rise to the surface more times than I'd like to admit. Frustration has been at its peak. At the same time, a looming sadness has lapped at my ankles with the internal anticipation that the tide is about to come in and drown me in its forceful flow. But maybe I want it to. Maybe it needs to.

My mother-in-law is sick. 

My mother-in-law that I deeply love as if she were my own flesh and blood has an inoperable brain tumor and is smack dab in the middle of her first round of radiation and chemotherapy.

This has changed all of our lives to say the least. Our schedules are different. Our priorities have shifted. 

We've never been here before. 

There's a tension in this season. On one hand, as a family (and a church family), we're all on our knees believing for a miracle. We love belting out the lyrics, "I believe in You! I believe in You! You're the God of miracles!", with everything we have. On the other hand, we're making the most of every moment. Making sure we are present, treasuring each breath. Sitting by the fire, telling stories, laughing, crying, and just being.

Life is full of tensions. It's not always "all good" and it's not always "all bad". Most days are filled with a tension somewhere in between. 

All I know is I want to feel it all, breathe it all in, live fully in each moment. The joy, the triumph, the pain, the reality checks - all of it. I don't want to shut down and switch off because to be fully alive is a gift. 

Today I'm deciding - yes DECIDING - to enjoy the chaos that comes with four children in a tiny NY apartment even when I may feel like I'm being pecked to death by chickens on occasion (okay, on lots of occasions!). I'm going to decide that Christmas isn't about to-do lists and making everyone happy, but it's about Jesus, the long-awaited Savior who came so that I could FULLY live here on earth and into eternity. I'm choosing to not condemn myself when I'm less than perfect and bark at one of my kids. I'm going to love myself and say sorry if I need to say sorry.  I'm going to cry if I need to cry and use up the whole tissue box. I am choosing to slow down. Look people in the eyes. Laugh more and stress less. I'm choosing to stop feeling guilty for all the things I "should" be doing better or more of.

I'm going to live.

I'm glad the dam burst this morning. Not so I could sit here and wallow in the tide of sadness that hit, but so I could wake up and live present. It's okay when it's not "all good". Sometimes that's just life and there is nothing wrong with you.

Jesus is present, even when we're not ready to be. The Comforter is comforting, even when we don't want to allow ourselves to be loved. Father God is gentle, kind and good, even when we can't see it through the fog we are in. 

So go on... Go ahead and really, truly live - even when all the to do lists, preparations and distractions try and get in the way. Every moment... Every breath is a gift.

 

 

What Truth Will Set Us Free?

How often have you heard this phrase, “The truth will set you free!” - Many times I’m sure and often out of scriptural context. This line alone is used in movies, churches, devotionals and countless conversations around the world, but the truth alone can’t set you free because it depends on what truth you’re holding on to. Is it your own truth? The world’s truth? Your neighbor’s truth? Buddha’s truth? The government’s truth? Pop-Cultures truth? What about the truth of your past and pain? The shocking truth of your present reality that hurts like hell? All of these “truths” will fade away yet there is One whose truth is eternally unshakeable. This is the truth that we can align our lives with to live in freedom no matter the circumstance around us.

John 8:31-32 AMP says, “So Jesus was saying to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word [continually obeying My teachings and living in accordance with them, then] you are truly My disciples. And you will know the truth [regarding salvation], and the truth will set you free [from the penalty of sin].”

Scripture tells us that if we hold to Jesus’ teaching, know it, walk in it, abide in it, and follow it, then we are truly His disciples or His students. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19, 8:28, 12:49) so holding to His teaching and following in His ways is also holding fast to the Father’s heart and ways. Once we meditate on and align ourselves with His truth, THEN we will know it and the truth of His goodness, love and salvation that rescued us from the penalty of sin and death (John 3:16-17) - THIS my friends is the truth that will set us free.

1.) Abide

To abide in Him (Jesus words, life and resurrection), it is necessary to read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and see what He taught so we can live in accordance with His teachings. It is here that we'll discover how and why He lived, died and rose again. What is the purpose of the resurrection and what power does that have in my life today? We will discover what mysteries He spoke of and revealed. We will see what moved him with compassion and therefore into action. What questions He asked the pharisees to reveal the nature of their hearts and in turn the nature of ours if we let it.

Listening to podcasts and sermons on a Sunday are great, but alone they are nothing compared to pulling apart the gospels (really the whole Bible from beginning to end) for yourself on your own time. It is here that your heart is revealed to you, and you can sit with Father God and ask all the questions you'd like. He loves to be with you. He loves your questions... He made you and know's how you tick, what you need and right where you are.

2.) Discipleship

To be a disciple/follower of Jesus it's imperative that we choose to remain in a constant state of learning and transformation coupled with the laying down our lives on a daily basis. We aren't following Jesus anywhere if we constantly dictate the terms of our following, spouting our "truth" that we'd like Him to come into agreement with so that we feel better about our decisions, ways of thinking or lifestyles - strong but true (hello, we've all been there - I've been personally wrestling with something all morning). 

"23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." - Luke 9:23-26 NIV

Laying down our lives, ideals, ideas, habits, ways of thinking and living is very unpopular or has been deemed "outdated" in today's society. In nations where persecution runs rampant for those that proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior, physical death or incarceration is always a real possibility. Those who choose to follow Jesus literally count the cost and then make a conscious choice to lay down their lives (John 15:13, Luke 9:23-26) because they actually may die for what they have given their lives to. Sometimes it's hard for us to grasp this in our western world but the moment we say yes to Jesus, we willingly surrender walking in "our ways" and go on an incredible adventure discovering the truth that has the ability to set us free when we meditate on it and align ourselves with it. Every day we can become more like Jesus as we choose to surrender to His miraculous love and truth. He takes us in as we are transforming us into His likeness.

 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. - 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV

3.) Walk in Freedom

As we abide and live in accordance with Jesus ways while walking in the reality of His resurrection power in our daily lives, we discover the powerful truth regarding our salvation and the fruit of our lives becomes HIs freedom and wholeness. Am I doing this perfectly yet? No way! Is it my aim to learn more every day, have my heart revealed and healed, and become more like Him? YES!

It's a free will choice to align ourselves with the truth of Jesus life, death and resurrection when all hell breaks loose and our present pain reminds us of the circumstance we have to stare in the face. It's a choice to still ourselves when we just can't seem to stop trying to fix or control everything with our bare hands and Instead of meditating on and soaking in His goodness. It's a choice to turn from our ways and turn to Him on a daily basis.

HIs truth sets us free.

He is The WAY, The TRUTH, and The LIFE that we seek. (John 14:6) 

 

Chaos, Community & The Power Of The Table

I woke up last Wednesday in the middle of the night at my hotel in Nashville to the news that Trump has won the election. I didn't have any extreme emotions whatsoever because immediately my mind and heart went to the people God has called Paul and I to pastor, love and come alongside at Liberty Church. I placed both hands over my heart and began to ponder - how can we come alongside our people at this time? Father, what does your heart say in this day and age to your people? How can we lead with wisdom, truth and love? How can we create safe spaces for people to be transformed, and then go out and bring transformation as followers of Jesus Christ?

I came home and asked my husband if we could swap our rostered positions this month so I could speak to our church instead of him on Sunday, as I felt I had a word in season for our people. (You can listen to the message here or watch it here - I believe it may really help you.) These last few weeks reminded me that cultivating true community and making disciples - true followers of Jesus Christ with a free will - isn't neat and tidy. It's messy yet beautiful and totally worth it.

True Community WITH Unity Can Be Messy

Pastor Cedric speaking with my husband Paul

Pastor Cedric speaking with my husband Paul

Pastor Cedric C. Johnson, a good friend of my husband's who also wrote a book entitled, Race, Religion, and Resilience in the Neoliberal Age (Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice), came and spoke alongside my husband Paul at our "Race, Justice and Unity, A Liberty Family Conversation" that we hosted last month. Amongst many other things, he spoke about the four stages to true community. 

I will break down these stages in my own words alongside reflections from that evening.

Stage 1: Pseudo Community

Oftentimes, we comfortably and often unknowingly remain at this stage, not letting our guard down with one another, while living internally (and sometimes externally) isolated lives, even when others are physically in our midst. This is where we self-protect and preserve. 

Stage 2: Chaos

Chaos is not something we naturally want to embrace. The moments, seasons, interactions or world events that bring chaos in our lives, cause our guards to come down with one another while exposing the state of our hearts. These are the moments where our beliefs are exposed and confronted. Where disunity is seen, felt, and wrestled with. These are the times when relationships are tested and solidified, or tested and broken down. These are the moments where our bias and pre-conceived ideas are often brought into question by someone else's point of view. These moments, seasons and interactions can cause us to look at our own hearts and search them in partnership with Father God, or they can cause us to abort mission and go back into self-protection mode. Often in a church setting, this causes us to either put our roots down, look each other in the eye and build together with an understanding that every life is in desperate need of God's grace and that we're all on a steep learning curve, OR it can cause us to go and look elsewhere for another imperfect church. 

Stage 3: Emptying

This is where we arrive at relationship with no agenda. Where we learn to continuously lay our lives down just as Jesus did (John 15:12-14, Matthew 16:24-25, 1 John 3:16). It's a place where we come to understand others and not always have the insatiable need to be understood. It requires humility and the ability to let others speak and be heard. It requires confrontation and conversation paired with truth AND love.

Stage 4: True Community

Oh, we say we want the real thing, but the real thing can be messy, just like marriage can be messy and full of chaos. I choose my husband every day, people, just like he chooses me! "In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer..."  I once heard Pastor Chris Hodges of Highlands Church in Alabama say, "Love's not a ditch you fall into; we choose to love one another." It couldn't be more true with our neighbor, our community, our spouse, our friends, our kids, and those we don't understand and even disagree with. The real thing isn't always nice and neat, but it's oh so worth it!

The Power of The Table in True Community

The book of Acts is just that - a collective of people not just speaking (a.k.a. just putting quotable quotes on social media without putting their hands to anything) but acting on and doing the good work of the Gospel day in and day out.

I love Acts 2 -  specifically the beauty of the Church as she emerged on the earth after Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father and sent the gift of Holy Spirit. The Church that we are all an extension of, playing our part, building together in our unique places and spheres here on the earth. Their devotion, their outright passion, coupled with tangible signs, wonders and miracles following those who believed is confronting. Their hunger to learn and to be together, breaking bread, praying and sacrificing to meet each others needs is inspiring. The sincerity, the joy, the favor and salvation - it is breathtaking! This is HIS Church. 

The Fellowship of The Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. - Acts 2:42-47 NIV
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This passage mentions breaking bread twice. Why, you ask? Is it because bread is SO good? Well, yes - we all love carbs even if we don't like to admit it in this gluten-free, Paleo day and age we live in, but beyond that, it's the picture of the table - the beauty of gathering around a meal while prayer and connection take place, coupled with an excitement to discover more of who Jesus IS in our lives TOGETHER.

I have to imagine that most of these people that we read about in Acts who gathered in the temple courts daily didn't get to meet or come in contact with Jesus before He ascended to the Father. Because of this, their sheer desperation to devote themselves to the apostles' teaching, to connect with one another, dig in, learn, grow, and pray together is palpable - it was necessary. They needed each other. And we still need each other.

This Hasn't Changed.

Connection, chaos, truth, love, a good meal, savoring life and new-found revelation happen at the table. A desire to go out and bring others to the table happens as we discover the joy of coming together in our diversity and differences. It's at the table where Jesus is the center, leveling the playing field as we empty ourselves to come and hear each other, understand each other, lovingly challenge each other with truth and love, giving our lives to each other. It's a place where we commune with Him, and with one another. There is so much power at the table. And when we get up from the table it's then time to put into practice what we've talked about. To be doers of the word, not just hearers. It's time to put our hands to the good work of building together, loving our neighbor, speaking up for injustice and bringing the good news of Jesus love to all we meet.

Remember, love is a choice - it's not a ditch you fall into. Love requires us to lay down our lives daily. Love doesn't stop at the table, it moves us to action. Where there is new understanding, there is also new responsibility.

 

 

 

 

The Necessity (& Pain) Of Transition

We all say we want to grow, step into our purpose, walk in the NOW season that God has for us... 

And then transition hits. 

In labor (don't worry guys, this won't get graphic) transition is the most painful part of bringing fourth life - especially if done without an epidural, which in my case was with all four of my amazing humans.

Contraction after contraction pile on top of each other making it feel as though you won't be able to go on any longer - that you'll need ALL THE DRUGS, that you're ready to claw someones eyes out, anybody's eyes out. Sometimes in transition you start vomiting all over the place (so glamorous), laughing one moment and then crying the next. Saying things to your husband like "Come close to me - No! GET AWAY FROM ME!" literally all in one breath.

Needless to say, transition is intense. And then, not long after pain, on top of strange foreign emotion, on top of primal moans, those glorious words are spoken, "It's time to push" -  soon after, a baby is placed on your chest, boring a hole straight into your heart as they try to open their little eyes to see this strange planet they've just arrived on. And in that endorphin rushing, all consuming moment - transition is complete as utter joy over-rides any memory of all the pain you felt just moments before.

Killing It.

Killing It.

Transition is necessary to bring fourth new life. 

Just last week I had a moment where I dramatically slid down the wall until I was sitting with my my knees pulled up to my chest, crying (all the emotions) as it hit me that my eldest was going to Middle School and my youngest was going to full time Pre-K. They were those "all over the place" sort of tears; grieving the end of an era in the Andrew Household, excitement for what was to come and terror as I tried to work out the new calendar we were going to have to navigate as a family. Not to mention that I had just embarked upon my first round of edits for my first book (this is a HUGE job - whoa!). I also had in mind that I was in need of preparing messages to speak at Highlands Women's conference, ReCreate just a couple weeks after my kids started back at school. Then there's the not so small, looming set of details that our own Women's Gathering - SHE IS FREE was bearing down upon us (all the birth references ;).

It all began to hit me as I recognized this all to familiar, welcome yet slightly unwelcome package of emotions... I found myself in a life transition once again. 

So now what do I do? To what do I cling to?

Grace.

Grace for the moment. Not for tomorrow. Not for all the things I am worried about "someday when", but grace for now... Grace for today.

I mentioned in my most recent Coffee with Andi that as I woke up with a checklist in my head a couple of weeks ago, Holy Spirit whispered to me as worry tried to grip my heart,

"Andi, you can do this day in My grace, or your strength."

Immediately I made the choice to align my heart and life with GRACE. The grace that is all sufficient for me in my weakness, worry and checklists (2 Corinthians 12:9). The grace that is available now and always because I have all of Jesus - ALL OF HIM. 

In my own words, GRACE is:
- God’s ridiculous love that saved us and made us sons and daughters - heirs alongside Jesus. This. Is. Crazy. This is GOOD NEWS! This is AMAZING GRACE!
- Unmerited favor that we live in on a daily basis.
- The sufficiency (an adequate amount of something) and fullness of God that we are able to walk in because we’re sons and daughters. 

Matthew 11:28-30 in the message says,

" 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.”

As life transitions hit, or any new season for that matter, we have to find a new rhythm of grace because grace is always available to us. Maybe last season you were dancing the Samba, but this season requires you to do the Waltz. Pay attention because it's possible that the Samba has no grace in this season. Don't ignore the signs of transition or change. Walk with Jesus. Work with Jesus (not for Him - do you see that?) and you will learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 

#mamarazzi

#mamarazzi

This morning, I dropped off my eldest at the subway to meet his friends so he could ride in to school WITHOUT ME for the first time. The rhythm of grace had changed for our family, and we've decided to go with it.

I'm enjoying this new dance because I'm not dancing alone, I'm dancing with the best dance partner there is - Jesus.

The Power of Empathy

em·pa·thy [ˈempəTHē]

NOUN

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

As a pastor, mother, wife, leader, friend and human being living in the world today, I don't always get it right. To be honest, I don't always know what to say in the social, economic and political climate we live in at this time. One can feel frozen, crippled and unable to speak. Questions race through my mind like; Who or what do I speak up for? What do I post on social media that we should pray for today? What do I say? What do I do? Who will I offend? Who will get angry with me and call me disgusting names that I'll have to then block from my social media? All of these questions and more can keep me from doing anything as a Christian and simply as a citizen of the human race.

There are so many hard topics to breach from the massive refugee crisis, #BlackLivesMatter, bombings in different nations, death in the middle east every day, shootings, human trafficking, the upcoming U.S. election - fill in the blank. I'm sure if you could jump in here and write this, you would have a list of things in your heart to fill up this page with. 

Here's the deal, 

Sometimes all I can do is EMPATHIZE.

Every human life matters to the heart of God. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

Therefore, as a human, regardless of the color of my skin, ethnicity, background or socio-economic standing, we have this God-given ability to TRY and UNDERSTAND and SHARE the FEELINGS of another. 

We all want to be heard, understood, and loved. Understanding doesn't always mean agreement or even that I'll know what to do next - that's not what this is about. Empathy is part of the heart of God.

Love in Action
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21 NIV

I want to rejoice with those who rejoice, I want to weep with those who weep. I want to empathize with others because it is our God-given ability to do so.

May we all keep being led by the Holy Spirit into ALL TRUTH. May we live our lives wrapped in LOVE that is the very being of God and then serve each other with that love. May FREEDOM and UNITY be at our core and a catalyst for true change. May we SEE, and I mean really SEE one another as we appreciate the beautiful creation that every single one of us are.

 

 

Give Yourself a Time Out

I had an explosive moment with my kids. I wish I could say it was the first time but that would be a lie. I adore my kids; it’s just that sometimes they’re like the flock of seagulls on Finding Nemo saying “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” and I’m Dory being pulled apart on the docks in the Marina. This particular episode of being pecked at caused me to shake with anger and walk away from the situation so that I wouldn’t unleash my wrath. I asked the kids to give me 5 minutes to be alone with Jesus and they obliged.

I needed a time out.

As I lay there on my bed shaking, hand on my heart, eyes closed with tears spilling down onto my quilt, I said out lout to myself, “What’s going on? What am I feeling?”. Sobs welled up and began to pour out of the deep sadness I felt coming from my heart. I began to say out loud, “I’m sad. I’m sad. I so so sad Father…” As I said those simple words over and over again, giving room, breadth and understanding to my deep emotions, I was able to pinpoint where the surface emotion of anger was coming from. Immediately, peace began to flood my being. I allowed the Father to scoop me up into His arms and hold me in my sadness. He didn’t tell me to stop feeling that way, He didn’t curse me for being angry with my children, He just loved me where I was, and His love was healing.  

Just 5 minutes later (yes, only 5 minutes), I walked out of my room and gathered my kids around me. We sat on the floor together and I apologized for allowing the sadness in my heart to come out as anger towards them. I explained that sometimes Mommy’s heart is sad or hurt and anger or frustration can come out as I try to protect my heart instead of letting the Healer help me. I explained that it’s not theirs to carry, but sometimes mommy needs 5 minutes so that Jesus can come, be with me and heal my heart. I asked for forgiveness and each of them in their different ways gave love and forgiveness. Finley had tears in her eyes and couldn’t stop hugging me saying she forgave me. Zeke was gently stroking my arm and smiling with his beautiful gift of mercy. Jesse asked “Who did this to you?” because his justice heart wanted to go and take care of business. Of course I didn’t tell him, but smiled at his zeal and passion. Then Sammy gave me his stuffed animal and told me, “You were angry… Daddy is really nice” and we all lost it belly laughing. All was well and I brought them onto the healing journey, which was in turn healing for them.

I use this as an illustration to say, at any moment of the day, in any season you can step away for a moment, give yourself a “time out” and connect to the Fathers heart.  Maybe your sitting at your cubicle and your co-workers think you’re deep into a project, but really your taking a moment to connect with God while staring at your computer screen. Maybe your baby won’t stop screaming and you feel like punching a wall. Check on that beautiful baby, make sure they’re alright, and then give yourself a few minutes with headphones on and worship on to connect with Jesus. Let the Fathers love into your anger, frustration, failure, rage, sadness... Let peace flow like a river and then go scoop up that baby and give them the love you’ve just received.  

In a recent coaching session with good friend and revelatory bomb dropper, Lucas Gifford (married to the amazing Christa Black-Gifford) who’s mission is to see others lead a heart-based life, I realized that the source of some of my unhealed pain and even physical sickness was the result of unreleased and consequently compounded emotions. I was born a deep feeler, but for years rejected a huge part of my identity and believed the lie that “feelings lie, so don’t trust your feelings.” If that’s true, then God made a mistake when he made you and I because God feels deeply and we are made in His image. Our feelings are indicators that tell us something about our heart and they are extremely important in our journey of healing. If we don’t give ourselves space to feel or give understanding to our emotions and pain, then we will shove them down, put them in a box causing them to compound while protecting that box of pain with our weapon of choice. We’ll then begin to operate in things like un-forgiveness, fear, anger, shame, control, and rejection, which are indicators that the heart is in need of attention and ultimately healing.

In the place of intentional connection, we receive healing, love and truth. Lies are abolished in the arms of the Father. The secret place of freedom, breakthrough and revelation is in connection to the Father’s heart, and His intentions for you are pure and only good. 

Go and give yourself a time out. 

 

Marriage - It Hasn't Always Been This Good

Paul and I will be married for 14 years this July, and let me just say, Marriage hasn't always been this good, fun or rewarding.

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For years we waded through constant misunderstanding and frustration while often trying to communicate to one another the way we needed to be communicated to. In the last few years though, we've hit a stride that has brought about an incredible unity and deep intimacy but not without intentional investment and a commitment to more. We laugh more often, are in agreement more often, have great sex (yes, more often - and this is a miracle because of all the fun baggage we initially brought to the table), and in general have a richer marriage.

You may be saying, "Well, good for you!" when right now that's not your reality. Well, I'm not here to gloat, I'm here to come alongside you and give advice from a friend who's been through seasons where marriage hasn't always been fun, rewarding, deep or intimate. So I want to share some tips, this is by no means comprehensive but a few simple, tried and true things that we have implemented in our marriage and over the years has brought about great fruit.

1.) Be intentional

Nothing good comes from passivity, apathy or wishing the other person would make the first move. None of us ever set out to be apathetic or passive, but when disappointment comes time and time again, it's easy to give up without even thinking.

You make the first move. Plan a date that would communicate love to your spouse and even if it feels awkward or doesn't go well, decide to see it as a seed in the ground to be cultivated for the future. It's a step toward breaking down walls and creating lines for healthy communication.

2.) Be committed to personal wholeness

There is nothing like letting the Healer into the areas of brokenness and pain in your life to do what only He can do. Until you do, it will always be someone else's fault, and often times the first target for blame is your spouse because they are closest to you. 

I would recommend books like Heart Made Whole, The Story of Marriage, and Love After Marriage. None of these books are for the faint of heart, but for those that are committed to personal healing and wholeness that in turn, bring about new life in your marriage.

3.) Plan a vacation together every year

Let me just nail your excuses to the wall. We have 4 kids and we make sure that every year we get away whether it's for a weekend getaway or a trip to Europe. Paul had been pushing for it for years, and I finally gave in 4 years ago (letting go of mom guilt) and I'm so glad I did. These getaways have deeply changed our lives. 

Last year in Paris, we brought along the book Love After Marriage to read and had some pivotal breakthrough, simply by setting time aside to be together. We also had a blast exploring the city of love while eating our fill of french food. The cost is worth it (so put it in the budget), for you, your marriage, and your children. Our kids think it's awesome when "Momma and Daddy" go on trips together because they see parents who are committed to falling more in love.

Get started!

Marriage is like a fine wine that get's better with age in the hands of The Master Vintner. So get to it!

Stepping Out Of Shame

Shame destroys intimacy. It could be shame that lingers from your past like decaying remnants of death reminding you of who you used to be. There seems to come a stench of fear with shame, rotting away the hopes that you’ll never get to live fully in your purpose. Maybe it’s shame surrounding lies and rumors that have been spoken about you and believed by the multitudes? The way they look at you when you walk into the room, makes you suspicious that every “knows” and is talking about you even if they’re not. Shame is mean like that. It could be sexual shame that you find yourself wading through as you once again look at pornography just one more time. But after it’s all said and done, the blanket of shame covers you as you settle under the weight of it. It could be shame from the abortion or abortions you’ve had and are riddled with fear to tell anyone because you believe you deserve hell for what you’ve done. You don’t. There is a love that desires to connect with you in the darkest crevices of your life. A love that can heal you and set you free.

Shame destroys and deteriorates our connection with God, and in turn our connection with others. Shame is one of the biggest hindrances to true and lasting intimacy. Intimacy between us and God and intimacy with others. We were created to be in connection and in loving community and family. It has never been good for us to be alone but we have to be willing to step out and take risks to walk in freedom.

The woman with the issue of blood risked it all and left her shame at the door of her isolating home when she went out into the crowd to find Jesus.  She had been secluded and cut off from society for years, ridiculed and alone because levitical law commanded it to be so as not to make anyone else unclean. When she heard that Jesus was in town, the one that had been called “The Great Physician” she was in such a place of desperation for her healing, that she was willing to risk ridicule, not to mention making others unclean to get clean herself.

To go from captivity to freedom, we have to get to a place where we are like the woman with the issue of blood and say, “I don’t care what the cost is, I don’t care what people think anymore, I will do whatever it takes to get free from this bondage.” Then, we need the tenacity to push through and touch Jesus even when others tell you to give up.

Mark 5:25-34 NIV

“25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

She had been isolated for 12 years. It is no small thing to have an issue of blood, AND for 12 long, grueling years! According to Jewish Law (Leviticus 12:1-8; 15:19-30), when any woman was bleeding she was unclean and impure, whether that be due to her monthly period, the month of bleeding that occurs after birth, or hemorrhaging like the woman with the issue of blood. She couldn’t have sex with her husband (if she had one) and she had to be isolated from society and regular fellowship. She could not worship God in the temple and if she was walking around in public she would have had to declare that she was unclean. This would have been extremely embarrassing, isolating and humiliating. People probably knew her in her town as “that woman” who has “the issue”.

Maybe like the woman with the issue of blood, who was separated from society and isolated from God’s presence, you feel isolated and alone in your shame. For this woman, the symptoms of blood loss would have been exhausting and would have left her physically weak, anemic and fragile, and very possibly spiritually dry. The endless sickness could have made her feel overwhelmed and alone on the journey and the same could be true for you in what you’re facing.

She had spent all her money trying to find healing. It says she “suffered” at the hands of many doctors and only grew worse. So, not only was she broke financially, but to add insult to injury, she only got sicker as each year passed. She needed true healing and not another band-aid. In the area where you need to be free from shame, are you going around from person to person “spending” all that you have receiving band aid solutions that aren’t fixing the root of the problem? Maybe you’ve been let down so many times by people that you find it hard to push through and trust God? Because the only thing that can bring you true healing is to reach out and touch Jesus.

Touching the hem of His garment is extremely significant in this story. The woman with the issue of blood didn’t just reach out and touch any part of Jesus, she reached out and touched the “hem of His garment”, also known as the tallit, or prayer shawl. These were the fringes or tassels required to be on the 4 corners of all clothing on Jewish men in accordance with God’s instruction in Numbers 15:37-41.

The tassels were to remind the Jewish people of God’s Commandments. They were tied into 613 knots to remind them of the 613 laws of Moses. 365 “Thou shalt not” laws and 248 “thou shalt” laws. The tassels were in full view for everyone to see as a constant reminder to walk in God's ways, to stay on His path of righteousness. 

When the Jewish men would be deep in prayer, they would take this prayer shawl and cover their heads to be covered in the Presence of God. The shawls are white and blue, the same colors as the Israeli flag. The white represents heaven - the dwelling place of the Lord, and the blue represents the Holy Spirit. When worn, they are covering themselves in the presence of God.

The Tallit also represents authority. Remember how King David, before he was king, cut the hem of Saul's garment in the cave and was “conscience stricken” for doing so? Because it was an act that represented him cutting off the authority of His King. When Ruth laid herself down at Boaz's feet, she placed herself under his “Tallit” or his “Authority” to submit herself to him.

When this woman who had lived a life of shame and reproach for 12 years reached out to touch Jesus, she didn’t just grab what was at arm's length because there was nothing better to touch. She was going to make this count if she was going to go out into the crowd, risking making others unclean by physically touching them as she pushed through to her healer. She also risked making a Rabbi unclean by touching him. Somehow, I’d like to think she knew the significance of touching His tallit. When she reached out and touched it, she reached out for all it represented - all the promises and commandments from The Word of God, God’s covering and His presence, and all of the authority of Heaven and earth that Jesus was covered in as God’s Son. The tallit represents God’s Commandments, the presence of God and God’s authority!

And when she touched Him IMMEDIATELY He felt Power go out of Him. When you reach out and touch Him, it doesn’t just affect your life in miraculous ways, He feels your touch too. He turns his face to you, acknowledges and adores you in your public shame, heals you and commends your faith in Him.  He says to her; “Daughter, your faith has made you well” or “Your TRUST in me has made you well.”

And, if not the biggest thing to note, He calls her DAUGHTER. Not “woman with the issue of blood,” but daughter. He didn't speak to her issues and shame, he called out her true identity.

Some of you may not trust God with your healing - spiritual or physical, but can I encourage you today, like the woman with the issue of blood, step out and do something bold even if you risk looking like a fool - that act alone counteracts shame. He is approachable in every circumstance and there is no condemnation in Him, only love. 

Hearing God

"Mom, how do you know if you're hearing God or not?"

There I sat, in one of the greatest discipleship moments of my life. This beautiful son of mine is a thinker, a creative and has an amazing analytical mind that causes me to sit back in awe and wonder at the creation God has made. I stopped to listen to the Holy Spirit for myself on how to instruct and lead my son into connection with a living, breathing, all-powerful God. The one that knit him together in my very womb. The God who threw the stars up into the sky, yet cares when we ask him for a parking spot. Yeah, that God. The one and only God. The one who pulls us close, stands so near, at times waiting for an invitation to invade our space.

What was I going to say? After a few moments of pensive silence, I jumped in.

"Well babe, He speaks in countless ways. You only need to pay attention. Sometimes, it comes as a thought, other times, a whisper. Some people even hear Him as you hear me speak to you now. Sometimes, a picture flashes before your eyes and you see what He is saying. Other times it's a knowing or a feeling that's so deep you can't shake it. And His words... Oh His precious, priceless words. Written down so that we would know the sound of His voice when He calls us. When you read His words, you grow familiar and know the sound of His voice. You also know when it's not His voice, because His words and His way are deep within you... Does that make sense?"

"Yes." He said with a nod and a far off look in his eyes.

"Want to practice listening?"

"Well... Okay..."

We sat there together. Listening. Saying what we heard and felt and thought and saw. We practiced sitting in His presence... 

I love that now on several occasions, this son in particular will tell me what he feels/thinks God is saying to him and he's accurate most of the time as things come to fruition before his very eyes. It's fun watching all of our children grow in connection and relationship with the one that loves them more than I could ever comprehend. With the one who gave them the very breath in their lungs. 

So what about you?

How do you hear God? Do you hear Him? Do you want to hear Him?

Here are a few tips...

1.) Read His Word Daily

To know the sound of His voice when He speaks to you, you've got to know how He speaks. Confusion can easily come into our lives if we're not aware of what He would or would not say and how He would or would not speak.

I sit with people all the time that say things like, "Oh I don't have time." I don't know about you, but I am madly in love and I can't believe that I get to read His words inspired straight from heaven. I GET TO see how Jesus lived and watch how the apostles walked in His resurrection power. I love reading all my inheritance letters realizing more and more each day who I am and what I can step into. I don't have the time NOT to read His words. And the more I do, the more I walk in alignment with them, but at the same time, the more I realize how much more I have to learn. I have a desperate need to draw closer.  

2.) Practice Listening

I do this with my kids sometimes. Not all the time - I wish I was that spiritual! It's a lot of fun at bedtime to just sit and ask what God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is saying to them. It can be profound and just plain fun!

One idea would be getting a journal or having a place where you write down what you feel/think or hear. You could write it out on your computer or log it away in your mind, if you're able to retain knowledge in that way. My mom tends to draw pictures of what she see's or hears which. Over time, look back over it and see what it says, then begin to ask some questions. 

- Is it in alignment with how God speaks in His word?

- Has any of it come to pass? Or is this for another time?

- Are these promises for someone else or another generation to come?

- How can I pray?

- Is there anything I should do with these words or are they simply personal and for relationship?

Sometimes you'll get it utterly wrong, but don't be afraid to fail! Failure is a part of learning. Just laugh and keep going for it!

3.) God Speaks To You How You Can Hear Him

Every single one of us is a complete original, and God loved designing exactly who you are. Don't compare your lane to someone else's lane and don't compare your relationship with God to someone else's.

My husband used to believe the lie that I could hear God better than him because I'm more of a feeler and instinctive personality whereas he is highly analytical, strategic and profoundly creative all at the same time. The truth is, he hears God differently than I do. 

I remember when I wouldn't let him say the line anymore, "I know you hear God more than I do...." I started to reply to him every time, "You DO hear God."

For about a six month period he would start out some of his sentences by saying, "I'm not sure if this was God or my thought but..." and often times, it was straight from heaven. Over the years, I have watched my analytical, strategic, creative genius of a husband step into realms that challenge me and my relationship with God. He is a juggernaught and I am amazed at his walk with God. 

So just be you.

Maybe you see pictures or hear an audible voice. Maybe you get a gut feeling and can't shake it or times it feels like a whisper in your heart. Maybe you see incredibly detailed visions, or see the spirit realm as if it was as real as the physical realm. Maybe it's reading the word of God and having it come alive to you in the season you find yourself in. Maybe it just comes to you and drops out of your mouth in the form of profound wisdom... Whatever you do, don't compare - be you and walk in relationship with your Creator. He likes how He made you, and He wants you to hear Him.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

 

 

 

Put Some Clothes On

Have you ever looked in your over-full, bursting at the seams, can’t get the door shut closet and said these words, “I don’t have anything to wear.” Guilty as charged.

The truth is we all have a closet full of countless combinations of wonderful things to put on, but a lot of times we simply just want something new. Something better. Something more interesting and vibrant because we’re bored with what we have.

If we’re not careful, we can treat the Word of God like a closet full of dull, lifeless, boring, outdated clothes when really it’s a closet full of colorful amazingness!!! We can stand there asking God to give us something else, when everything we need is right there under our noses. 

What did you get dressed in this morning? Anger? Jealousy? Unforgiveness? Fear? Pain? Rage? Worry? Anxiety? Shame? Bitterness? Offense? 

I love the Word of God because it tells us exactly how to get dressed in the morning and even what to wear! You don’t even have to choose an outfit anymore, the word of God does it for you - but it is a conscious choice to get dressed in the right things. 

So what are the right things? Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love. LOVE! All out of Colossians 3:12-14. Put those things on and just watch how your day turns out! Watch your relationships flourish. Watch unity and peace come flooding into your life, in your family, workplace, friendships, marriage and even within the body of Christ. Choose the right outfit! 

“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 312-14 NIV

If you don't feel like you're looking your best today, ask yourself what you put on before you walked out the door? You may just need to change... 

Please, for the love of God - literally - stop acting like you don’t have access to this incredible wardrobe! You have access to ALL that God has provided through His Son Jesus!!! So please, PLEASE, stop blaming others for the way you choose to dress yourself and don't say, "I don't have anything to wear" when you have a closet full of amazingness to put on.

So here’s my advice to you, choose wisely and then go and put some clothes on.

Famous or a Follower?

1 in 4 millennials believe that they will be famous by the time they're 25. This is a sobering statistic that I read in Rebekah Lyons' Instagram feed a few weeks ago as she quoted a data point from a panel at Q Commons. The thing that is most alarming to me about this data is that it is just as prevalent inside of the church as it is outside of it. With the level of comparison to other's lives that we have at our fingertips these days, it's easy to lose sight of our purpose and get caught up in wanting to be known. Our gifts, talents, abilities and calling are irrevocable (Romans 11:29), but they are still just that - gifts. We didn't create them, nor were we the giver of them. We simply received them from God, which now makes them our stewardship responsibility to ask Him what He wants us to do with them and who He wants us to become to carry the weight of them. A lot of times that's a moot point. 

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

We become enamored by our abilities, or that of others, and then usually without conscious intent, the gift and calling become our identity instead of wrapping our identity in the One who gave the gift and calling in the first place.

When Jesus asked Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him, He wasn't enamored with their gift and talent in the area of fishing, nor was He projecting on them their impending future abilities to raise the dead, preach, prophesy, start a church, or heal the sick. He was interested in one thing - their ability to FOLLOW HIM. They didn't set out to become famous men who were known as Jesus' disciples... Their hearts were stirred and at once they chose to FOLLOW him.

Our true teachability lies within a heart that is willing to follow Jesus anywhere, anytime, no matter the cost.

Matthew 4:18-22 NLV

18 Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers. They were Simon (his other name was Peter) and Andrew, his brother. They were putting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. 19 Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him.

21 Going from there, Jesus saw two other brothers. They were James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were sitting in a boat with their father, mending their nets. Jesus called them. 22 At once they left the boat and their father and followed Jesus.

My heart breaks when I watch truly gifted and talented people unwilling to FOLLOW Jesus anywhere and do anything He's asking them to do. Hey, I've been there! A lot of times we are actually trying to lead Jesus (or others in our world) to what we want and desire and then asking Him/them to bless it or make it happen. Sometimes we'll even say "God said" and demand that our dream come true now, without walking through the due process to become the person that could even sustain or walk in the God dream. Let's all take note and learn from Joseph (Genesis 37) so that we don't have to make our own mistakes! Prematurely shared dreams can (not always) plant seeds of immaturity in our hearts that can grow and create foes that lead us into seasons we never saw coming. Instead, it's wise that we ponder certain things in our hearts like Mary the mother of Jesus did right after she had given birth in Luke 2:19. I can't be certain, but I can imagine that she was wondering what her life was about to look like as she raised the Son of God.

The Rich Young Ruler is a heart breaker. He seemingly did everything right his whole life except this one thing - actually choosing to die to himself, let go of everything and FOLLOW Jesus. He was invited into relationship with the Savior of the world, and then walked away because the cost was too great to follow. He did count the cost; he just wasn't willing to pay it.

Mark 10:17-22 NIV

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[a]”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

There is a cost to following Jesus, and so often we're not willing to pay it because we treat God like our genie in a bottle. Simply put, it does take sacrifice. It does take us picking up our cross and following Jesus as we die to ourselves and live our lives in Him. We want God to bless our good deeds but we refuse to live a life of getting to know Jesus, following Him wherever He leads us no matter how uncomfortable or unglamorous it may be. We seek another "prophetic word" without stewarding the ones that have already been given to us. We want the prophetic word to come to pass in our lives without asking God what He wants to do in us to sustain it, or who He wants us to become to walk in it.

Out of the 12 disciples, how many can you name? Now if you named all 12 off the top of your head, you're my hero. Have you ever noticed of the 12 disciples that not all of them got a book named after them in the New Testament? How many of them were Jesus' closest friends? The answer is 3. Not all 12, but 3. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that not all of them were famous, or even well known.  Not all of them even got to see the most vulnerable and powerful moments in Jesus' life like the Transfiguration or raising Jairus' daughter from the dead. But each and every one of them had met Jesus and they were important to Him. The knew Him and more importantly He knew them. He had called them by name to follow Him and somehow they knew He was worth following to the death.

How willing are we to follow Jesus even if we're anonymous for the rest of our lives? How honest can we really be in answering that question? Can your gift, talents and abilities still be used if no one sees or pats you on the back?

I get it, I really do - we want to be important, noticed, loved, significant... We want our lives to matter. But when we meet, and I mean truly meet and connect with The One who loves us in all of our anonymity, pain and shame - we'll follow Him to the grave because He thought we were important enough to die for.

So who's this really about? You, or Him?

Do you want to be FAMOUS or a FOLLOWER of Jesus?

Moving WITH Compassion

It's one thing to have compassion. It's another thing to MOVE with it. When compassion is awakened in us, do we just allow it to produce feelings within us, or do we allow it the power to move our hands and feet towards it's intended direction?

Compassion fatigue is real with so much pain up in our face and accessible on our electronic devices at all times, but I would actually call it compassion disassociation.

Disassociate: In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis. 

Paul with our Sponsor Child who's name is Ever in Honduras this week
Paul with our Sponsor Child who's name is Ever in Honduras this week

When we detach from our worlds reality to protect our hearts from the pain we see, we risk disassociation and loss of compassion. Even worse is losing the loss of moving WITH the compassion that is placed in our hearts.

Jesus was MOVED WITH COMPASSION. Those 3 words cannot be separated if we are to be effective in our compassion.

Matthew 20:34Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

Matthew 15:32And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, "I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way."

And right after he felt compassion for the people, he demonstrated through his disciples how they can move with compassion even if they don't have much to give by feeding the 4000 people (plus women and children) with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish.

So what do we have to give when compassion knocks on the door of our hearts?

Am I perfect at this? Absolutely not. I get overwhelmed just like the person next to me does but sometimes, and I hate to admit it, to a crippling level. I simply don't want to play into the enemies trap by not moving WITH compassion because I'm not sure what to do with my hands. I want to do something, anything really however small or large it may be. He (the devil) would love to see us all cornered, impotent, full of compassion yet unaware of what to do.

A couple of weeks ago after church in our Downtown Community right across from the NY Stock Exchange, my son Zeke and I walked passed a homeless man. We stopped, had a conversation, prayed with him and then went to go and find Alex who is a part of our Liberty City Team. On a weekly basis, Alex invests in a group of men at the NY Rescue Mission so I really wanted to connect them. As we looked for Alex, Zeke - moved WITH compassion, grabbed 3 small apples that were on the table in our lounge and carried them out to this young homeless man. As I watched my son place the apples in his hands, I saw compassion in action. Zeke wasn't thinking, "Well it's only a few apples and not the keys to an apartment, so let's not give them to him." No. He felt compassion and moved on it. Simple.

Compassion: Sympathetic concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

Let's all consciously work on our concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others to MOVE us into action.

Whatever lies before you, ask God what you can do - and then do it. Even if it only looks like 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish. In the hands of God, thousands could be nourished and cared for and you may never know this side of eternity.

Let's not be crippled by compassion, but moved by it.

P.S. 

If you want to do something in regards to the refugee crisis in Syria, you can give here through Messenger International to the A21 Campaign's Freedom Container Project for refugee's at the Greek boarder.

This freedom container is equipped with the following:

Ten water taps Six showers Solar Power LED lighting Mirrors A hot-water boiler Water filter for drinkable water Drying racks for 50 items of clothing Human trafficking prevention information posted throughout the container