Revelations

Calming The Storm Within

I was talking on the phone one evening a couple months ago to a mentor and mother in the faith who said these words to me,

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"The accuser is NOT the author of your life story and legacy!”

Boy, did I need to be reminded of this truth.

Once again, those words shook me awake to the reality of just how easy it is to entertain a negative, toxic thought for too long until it grows into a viable life option. It was only when I confessed out loud the sneaky whispers that the enemy had planted in my mind (that I'd willingly entertained and actually considered!) that the turnaround came.

This can happen to any one of us. These thoughts start like a small seed and, if left to germinate, grow into a plausible reality. The moment we bring them into the light, they're robbed of their power. I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but the accuser does not get to derail you, destroy you or take you out. Allow Jesus to be the author of your legacy as you continue to live a life enfolded in His arms. He will never leave you, forsake you, accuse you or lie to you. Trust Him. 

When we don't deal with the storm inside of us, It's virtually impossible to confront the storms churning outside of us. 

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In Mark 4:35-41, after a huge day of teaching, Jesus and His disciples pushed off into the darkness to go to the other side of the lake to an area where pig farmers lived, a place considered unclean according to Jewish custom. On the way there, they were confronted with a demonic storm, but all the while Jesus slept, completely peaceful within, aware of His authority and unafraid of what was churning all around Him. "38 But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion. 39 So they shook him awake, saying, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” (4:38-39) The disciples lost their minds, allowing fear to take over. How often are we just like them, running around the boat of our lives, mad at Jesus for sleeping, yelling extreme statements like, "We're all going to diiiiiieeeee!!!!! Don't you even care about me, Jesus?"  I've been there.

I was there 2 months ago. 

As my mentor reminded me that the accuser is not the author of my life story and legacy, I woke up to the demonic storm coming at me. The words straight out of Jesus' mouth to His disciples after he calmed the storm leapt off the page and dove straight into my heart, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?” (4:40b)

Haven't you learned to trust yet?

In that moment, Jesus and I went to a scary place together. A place I had been trying to avoid for years. A place where I hadn't yet learned to trust Him. It was only then that peace and healing could come as I recognized my lack of trust and my deep need to rest in the bow of the boat with Jesus. You see, there was no storm in Him, but there was in me. He knew how to calm the storm within me so that I could then confront the storms that churned outside of me. 

Partnership with the Prince of Peace, even in the midst of chaos, confusion, destruction, pain and trial, will cause us to walk in and live from a place of rest, authority and confidence even when it doesn't make sense. This is the peace that surpasses all understanding that the author of Philippians spoke of, and it is your portion.

So if you're ready, ask yourself, "Why am I so afraid? Have I learned to trust Jesus in this area of my life yet?"

Take some time to pray, journal, turn on some worship (try "Surrounded" by Michael W. Smith - for real, click the link...) and re-read Mark 4:35-41. Ask Jesus to reveal the truth to you, and why you can always trust Him fully with your life. 

The R Word

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I led our leadership team in corporate repentance on Friday night.

We made it personal first: what did we each need to repent of in our own hearts? Pride, greed, offense, gossip, fill in the blank... And then we cried out for our city, our nation, and the nations of the earth as we repented on their behalf, asking God to heal our hearts and heal our land.

I love prophetic acts because they're a demonstration of humility before God, showing the enemy that we, God's people, aren't messing around. We're on the move and we're a united front. 

"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

The R word, repentance, isn't sexy, but it's effective, and it only works when we choose humility. Our words, motives, and subsequently, our actions (or lack thereof) start in our hearts. It's imperative that we become aware of the conscious or subconscious meditation of our hearts (Psalm 19:14), if we want to see change in us and in our world. 

Repentance requires what I would call a turning on our behalf, yes, from our wicked ways. Now, some of us are automatically thinking of an extremely wicked person, but any partnership with the enemy's ways is wicked, and we have to choose to turn from it. Need a reference point? They can look like gossip, slander, pride, arrogance, greed, selfishness and offense, to name a few, and if we're completely honest, we probably partnered with a few of those this morning before we even started our morning commute! Go ahead, I'll give you a moment to take that post down... wink, wink. 

In Christ, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)! But we still have to choose to walk in our true identity on a daily basis in order to keep shedding the old ways we once walked in, while intentionally putting on Christ. You were created by and for love - this is good news!

As followers of Jesus, our faith is active, not passive. We are all in a constant cycle of pruning and flourishing, pruning and flourishing. Intentionally recognizing of the state of our hearts before God is vital to personal transformation, and in turn, the transformation of communities and nations. As we continue to partner with our divine nature as new creations, we'll begin to see change all around us. 

We've got to ask ourselves what places and over what things has God given us the authority to pray? What assignment, region, workplace, family, nation, and/or people group has He brought around us and asked us to actively love? And what are we doing about it? Lofty ideas don't work here, but repentance, prayer and action will. Matthew 4:17 tells us that, as His first act after coming out of His desert testing & beginning His earthly ministry, "Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This emphasizes just how crucial the act of repentance is, not only for our personal walk, but for the kingdom of heaven coming on the earth! What do we need to turn from, and instead, turn to Jesus?  Where do we need to walk in humility and turn from pride? Pride is at the root of most of our problems. 

Repentance from self-preservation is what brings us to Jesus in the first place, and it doesn't stop on the day we begin to follow Him. It is the daily choice and act of humility that changes us and changes nations. The R word is pretty powerful.

Love, Andi 

Keep Showing Up

There's no magic potion to walking in freedom. Most days it's just putting one foot in front of the other, as we discover more of our inheritance in Christ, being renewed by every revelation that we unearth in the richness of HIs great love.

"If you have really experienced the Anointed One, and heard his truth, it will be seen in your life; for we know that the ultimate reality is embodied in Jesus! And he has taught you to let go of the lifestyle of the ancient man, the old self-life, which was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions. Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him!” Ephesians 4:21-24 TPT

The truth is, we simply have to keep showing up to our own lives, taking responsibility for our heart, emotions, thoughts, and actions with Jesus and with one another. There's an old song by Sara Groves called, Just Showed Up For My Own Life, and it couldn't explain better what it takes to walk in the life that we already have in Jesus.

Spending my time sleep walkin'
Movin' my mouth but not saying a thing
Hopin' the changes would take
By workin' their way from the outside in

I was in love with an idea
Preoccupied with how a life should appear
Spending my time at the surface
Repairing the holes in a shiny veneer

There are so many ways to hide
There are so many ways not to feel
There are so many ways to deny what is real

And I just showed up
For my own life
And I'm standin' here takin' it in
And it sure looks bright

I remember first hearing that song years ago and feeling wide awake to the possibilities; that freedom was actually possible. I also began to understand that community was designed as a context for transformation. The authors of Gospel Centered Community say it like this, “The agent of sanctification is the Holy Spirit. The tool of sanctification is the truth of the Gospel. And the context of sanctification is community.”

I love family dinner. Something crazy and profound almost always takes place at the table. The table represents a place of conversation, connection, learning and communion. We change when we keep showing up to our own life and to the table with others.

We have a choice every single day. Here is an excerpt from my book, She Is Free.

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"Family dinner in our house can get pretty crazy. There’s laughter, stories, interruptions, prayer, life decisions, jokes, inappropriate behavior (the phrases “butt cheek” and “booty” come from our youngest more times than I’d like to admit), tears, discipline, encouragement, and, of course, food. The table is a place where we engage as a family. Our children get to tell stories and discuss what’s important to them, as do we. We talk about our highs and lows of the day and encourage each other as we go around the table. We teach our kids that interrupting doesn’t bring honor and that some behavior is not for the table. Sometimes, a poor attitude or poor behavior will keep one of our children from coming to the table until they are ready to engage. They know that there is always a place for them there; they are a part of the family.

In order to step into the fullness and freedom of what God has for every one of us, we need to cultivate a willingness to approach His table and engage with family. There will be laughter, tears, encouragement, confrontation, life decisions, and, most of all, a safe place for you to be yourself in the presence of God. At the table, you will learn your identity as a son or daughter of the Most High God. But you have to choose whether you’re willing to come to the table to engage in your personal transformation.

There will be days when you’ll feel like it and days when you won’t. Many times we disqualify ourselves from coming to the table because of pride, insecurity, weariness, lack, apathy, fear of failure, or a host of other hurdles. Before you go any further in this book, you have to decide that you’re worth the journey. Even if you don’t feel like it, you just need to keep showing up—keep coming to the table. Too often we dream about life in the palace but are unwilling to walk out of our prisons. We are deceived into thinking it will be embarrassing to admit our flaws. Pride will continue to torture us in captivity until we lay it down and humble ourselves before God, admitting that we need Him.

In light of this truth, ask yourself, “Do I really want to be free, or do I just like the idea of freedom? Am I willing to do what it takes to get free, or do I want someone else to do the work for me?”

We all desire freedom, but it’s often more complex than a simple yes or no answer. Freedom means something very different to each of us, depending on the landscape and shaping of our lives. How was your relationship with your mother and father? Were they both around? What about siblings? Did you experience abuse or trauma growing up? Shame? Fear? Anger? Discontentment? Anxiety? What about walking through dark seasons that have stuck to you like they still own you? Broken relationships? Loss? Pain? The sad reality is that everyone can identify with something on this list, however incomplete it may be. As we each look back on our lives, even if we had two loving parents, a white picket fence, and a healthy church environment, the enemy has still tried to weave a tangled web of lies to keep us in bondage and make us believe that we're cut off from our relationship with God. The good news is that our God has given each of us a way out of that bondage. The question is, do we actually want to partner with God to do what is necessary to live free? Or are we content with putting on a show for the rest of our lives? It’s up to us.

There is no question that God wants you to live a free life, but He respects your free will enough to allow you to choose. There is always more ground to take, and once the ground is taken, it’s time to pour it out and give it away to others so that they may attain the measure of freedom that God has stored up for them as well. As freedom germinates, grows, and blossoms in your life, by its very nature it must bear fruit and reproduce. You will begin to transform the culture around you."

Keep showing up friend. You've got this because He's holding you through it all. You're worth it - and there are lives on the other side of your freedom that need what you have to give. Don't give up!

xoxo Andi

For more my NEW book She Is Free, get your copy at www.sheisfreebook.com

Change Your Narrative

A friend of ours decided to celebrate their 40th birthday in Greece this summer, and when invited to come along, we jumped on that bandwagon like a teenage girl (or middle-aged mom) purchasing Bieber tickets. 

When we showed up at the airport, Paul and I got a free upgrade (not even sad!) and happily settled into our seats. While the other passengers boarded the plane, I tested out all the buttons on my remote to see just how flat my bed would go and gladly accepted all the drinks the flight attendants brought by, because it'd be rude not to!

Mid-sip of that second refreshment, a quarter of the way into my first movie, cozily tucked under my comforter with my footrest up, the lady next to us (who we'll call Negative Narrative Nancy) starts yapping about everything she could find wrong about being in business class. I mean - were we even on the same plane??

After sitting on the tarmac for about 30 minutes, the first delay notification came in, but I couldn't have cared less! I was lying down, watching a movie, and eating snacks under a comforter that I wasn't sharing with my four children. We sat on the tarmac for a good hour and a half, just 3 minutes shy from being deplaned and put on another aircraft. Luckily that didn't happen, but during the delay, Negative Narrative Nancy used business class as her stage with absolutely no need for a microphone. 

She started talking loudly. "Ugh! (deep loud breath, sigh, eye roll) The pilot needs to update us- he's not telling us what's going on! Hey lady (flight attendant), what's REALLY going on? Why are we delayed? What aren't you guys telling us? I need a Xanax."

The couple in front of Negative Narrative Nancy had their six-month-old baby, and anytime it cooed or made a peep, the woman would breathe deeply, roll her condescending brown eyes and ask if she could have a different seat in business class "AWAY from that baby". After the poor couple were bouncing their sweet baby (seriously, it was such a quiet baby - just ask me, I have four!) to keep Negative Narrative Nancy appeased, to the point of their quads and biceps giving out from muscle fatigue, good ol' Nancy turns and addresses all of business class saying,  "I can't think of anything worse!"

What?!? Lady with no children, come over here and let me sit you down. Nothing worse than a baby in business class? Negative Nancy - paaalease! I can think of a lot of worse things like... This plane going down. Snakes on the plane. My movies not working on the plane (come on, you know you're with me!) and worst of all, YOU never taking that Xanax you speak of and and continuing to talk for the rest of our time together on this airplane!

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We were in business class people! Business class! And her negative narrative was destroying the atmosphere. The funniest part of this story was that we found out later that a group of turtles mating on the runway caused our delay! Literally, turtles on the runway, which got me thinking...

Have you ever been running a meeting where someone is giving "feedback" but their tone is far from constructive and instead, full of negativity, just posing more problems with no solutions in sight? Maybe the problem is as minor as a turtle on the runway, but the meeting you were so smoothly running is now in a proper nosedive due to a negative narrative taking over. Maybe you started out solving a problem in your own personal life that feels like a minor hurdle, but then the negative nosedive in narrative you find in your own words or thoughts actually becomes the problem instead of the initial situation you faced? It's possible that you naturally operate in faith and optimism, but you're surrounded with "friends" and family who tend towards the negative, calling themselves "realists" and you've unconsciously joined the same club, not sure of who you are anymore. Maybe the pain you've walked through has consumed you, and instead of facing it and walking through it with the Healer, it's become your identity, your constant narrative.

I have found myself being Negative Narrative Nancy in the business class of life more times than I'd like to admit, destroying the atmosphere of my home, workplace and even within myself. I have come into agreement with lies, circumstance, stress and negativity, letting it dictate what I see, feel, think and in turn, what I do. 

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Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. - Proverbs 4:23 NIV

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. - Proverbs 4:23 NLT

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. - Luke 6:45 NKJV

Everything I do and speak comes out of the abundance of what going on within my heart, which then determines the course of my life.

So let me ask you, on what narrative is your heart meditating? Because whatever it is, it will become your reality!

Our narrative starts in our thought life as a conscious or unconscious meditation, which, sinking down, becomes the meditation of our heart and, ultimately, our words and actions shaping our world.

I've had to be intentional to live aware of the negative or positive narratives playing out in my life. Sometimes I'm overreacting to turtles on the runway, and other times, I'm facing legitimate pain, trouble, trial, and problems in need of solutions. She Is Free: Learning The Truth About The Lies That Hold You Captive is an honest glimpse into my heart while on the journey of changing my negative narrative - a journey which I'm still on today and want to share with you. It’s messy, it’s real, but most of all, it’s wrapped in the Love of a Savior that has set me free in deeper ways than I ever imagined and continues to do so on a daily basis.

It's imperative that we take authority over our negative narrative, because it changes the course of our story here on earth, and this spills out into the lives of others. There are people out there that need your story. People on the other side of your wrestle for freedom that will thank you for bringing the Good News of what Jesus has done in you and for you, because He can and will do it for them too. 

Will you join me on the freedom journey?

My NEW book She Is Free is now available for pre-order. Plus you will receive amazing FREE bonuses if you pre-order by October 3!

From Faker to Freedom Fighter

I’ve heard it said, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you,” but for me, what I didn’t know was actually destroying me.

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Ten years of serving Jesus on my resumé, knee-deep in three kids under the age of three, married for seven years, and yet I was completely unaware of how deeply loved I was by my Father in heaven. I didn’t know that there was no need to perform, serve, or achieve to receive love and acceptance, or that I could actually live from a place of deep love and acceptance. I was one of the greatest Christian performers around, yet I wasn’t getting paid for my efforts. I was desperate for the real thing, for someone to let me fall apart, see me in my mess and still not walk away. What I didn’t know was that Jesus was right there all along waiting for my great unraveling. And when it finally happened, He didn’t walk away; He gently and steadily led me into healing and wholeness.

From the outside, I was doing all the "right things", according to western Christian culture - serving in church, going to weekly services, reading my Bible daily, praying when and where I could, "getting over it", whatever "it" was, and moving on quickly. I may have been the walking wounded on the inside, but on the outside, I always had my hair perfectly done, make up on, and kids on my hips with a big smile on my face while walking through those church doors. The arrows shot at me from childhood and on into adulthood had me running like a steam train without breaks, neglecting the time it took to rest and unravel in the arms of the Great Physician who had the ability to heal my heart, mind, and soul. Instead I looked to humanity to meet that need, and they were utterly failing.

This roadshow was beginning to take its toll.

Throw in a traumatic season right before the birth of my baby girl and life had me walking into the darkest night of my soul; like the walking dead, I stepped into its menacing prison. I didn't know where else to go or what to do, so isolation, rage, fear, unforgiveness, shame and control became my protectors, my weapons. The trouble was, I was destroying those closest to me, my husband and three small children, not to mention my own rapid self-destruction.

Where was this so-called freedom in Christ?

I felt trapped—trapped in my thoughts and emotional pain, trapped in a cycle of living that had me questioning my sanity. Too many times I had confessed out loud, “I feel like I’m going crazy!”, and I was starting to believe it was true. I’m not sure if it was the postpartum hormones for the third time around or all the neglected pain that had accumulated over the course of my lifetime up until that moment. Needless to say, I was in turmoil, and something had to give.

I felt like a donkey led by a carrot on a stick, chasing an ever-elusive freedom always dangling in front of me, just out of reach. I had read about this freedom in the Bible countless times and had heard many sermons about it, but it seemed as though I was the donkey destined never to actually reach it. Maybe it was for everyone else but me. Countless moments of failure woven into my days solidified a fear in me that I might just need to live out my Christian life faking it, always putting on a show for everyone around me. After all, I had become good at it. I could keep hiding behind my sense of humor, believing this was as good as the Christian life gets. But the trouble was, I knew that wasn’t true. If the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead was alive and at work in me (Rom. 8:11), then surely that power was enough to pull me out of this pit.

I grew angrier by the moment trapped in my pain, yet somehow, something innate in me still believed in the greatness and goodness of my God and His ability to set me free. I knew that two choices lay before me: to completely surrender my mind, will, heart and emotions to an unseen God, or to succumb to the darkness I felt creeping in all around me. 

This book is my journey out of hell and into the arms of healing love - from faker to freedom fighter. And I want to share it with you...

Truth be told, I wouldn't have spent a couple of years of my life writing this book if I didn't genuinely believe that it would help set you and those you love free. It's a tool for this journey we call life, one that I wish someone would have handed to me in the dark night of my soul. When we're free on the inside, we can then carry this freedom to the world. This book is me giving the life and freedom I've found in the Father's loving embrace, to a world who desperately needs His love and freedom. Would you join me on this journey?

Freedom is possible for all of us... 

My NEW book She Is Free is now available for pre-order. Plus you will receive amazing FREE bonuses if you pre-order by October 3!

  

The Cost of a Critical Spirit

I shocked myself. The negative words sputtering out of my mouth, declaring the worst over my circumstances and identity were detrimental to my mental, emotional and physical health. I found myself saying things that I rarely say, things like, "I hate that I'm like this." "I don't like myself." "I hate that I feel everything." "I hate that I want to quit and feel so depressed lately." "I'm an awful leader, incapable of inspiration or strategy." "Why do I even try?" "I wrote a book about freedom, but feel like a phony - how can I be in such a dark place of discouragement and be free, much less tell others how to be free?" 

 Celebrating 15 years of marriage...   

Celebrating 15 years of marriage...

 

Thank goodness I said them in front of my husband, who reversed the curse of my words and declared the truth over me. I sobbed in his arms. These were the early hours of our 15th anniversary on Australian soil. 

Soon after my cathartic sob session in his arms, I got a text from a dear friend who was praying in the States for me. She said, "As I prayed this afternoon, this is what I sensed. Please feel free to disregard anything if you don't feel it's right so, the word 'witchcraft' came to me and I felt like there were some things that needed to be broken off. Witchcraft can mean anything as simple as a curse or negative declaration spoken over somebody or something. I had this sense that things have been said, or even people have agreed in their hearts with statements that are not true and you have been feeling the impact. I believe it is a critical spirit. I feel like it's trying to strangle any growth from happening"

She was right on. Cue more tears. Criticism. I had partnered with lies aimed at myself and our church. I had begun to criticize myself, speaking lies over my life and the endeavors I've been entrusted to steward. As I came out of my emotional fog, I realized I was deeply critical of myself and ready to surrender to the darkness. The cost of a critical spirit is great. It poisons the hearts of those who dish it out, and does the same for those who ingest it as truth. 

Destructive criticism is far different than constructive feedback.

One tears down from the sidelines, while the other invests and builds with a sense of ownership, partnership and relational reciprocity. We all know the "feedback" we've either been given or dished out that hasn't been with the intent to build anything. The ultimate cost of this is destruction and it takes its toll on the heart of the giver and of the receiver. 

I think of the times I've hurt my husband and children while operating in a critical spirit with words that lacked encouragement or eternal life. I think of the times I've been so high, mighty and "right", assuming others motives while judging those with a critical spirit in church leadership or just others in general who do life differently than I would.

I have brought division. Death.

I have been a part of the problem. I don't win, and it doesn't build anyone or anything. Repentance and humility are the cure and according to the Apostle Paul, living a cheerful life, without complaining or division among ourselves is key -  but that's easier said than done. 

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:14-16 TPT,

"Live a cheerful life, without complaining or division among yourselves. For then you will be seen as innocent, faultless, and pure children of God, even though you live in the midst of a brutal and perverse culture. For you will appear among them as shining lights in the universe, offering them words of eternal life."

I desire to be a shining light in the world we live in today. But I have to choose to live from the abundance that is already within me, given as the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have to choose to break agreement with the ways of culture and instead transform culture with words that drip with Kingdom life and love.

My friend continued with a prayer in her text message that literally delivered me as I sat on the stairs up to our bedroom of our Airbnb in Sydney. Maybe you too need to be set free from the criticism of others? Like I did, maybe you need to repent of a critical spirit? May this prayer transform you and set you free.

"In the name of Jesus, I command the critical spirit to flee. You have no right to reside here and you must go now! Father, I thank you that your blood has already paid the price and taken care of our freedom, our LIBERTY. We are free. Andi [insert your name here!] is free. God, as all that is not of you gets chased out of the door, I invite your Presence to invade in a deeper, more tangible way that surprises and explodes like only you can. I pray for a turnaround in circumstances, hearts and spiritual climate. Fear, anxiety and negativity would be no more but JOY would be activated and where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Thank you God for all that you are doing, seen and unseen. We are ready and waiting for you to blow our socks off!"

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. - Proverbs 18:21 ESV

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!!! 

 

 

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

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.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

Inadequacy, Anxiety & Fear - Getting Honest

The first day of the New Year didn't start out the way I had hoped. On the other hand, New Years Eve was awesome: surrounded by my kiddos, good friends, no make-up, comfy clothes and watching the Disney Channel. But the first half of the first day of 2016, no bueno. Inadequate, anxious, and fearful... Those are the words and overwhelming feelings that marked January 1, 2016 for me. Not the sort of resolutions, nor words, one writes down to "walk in" for the year. Let's just say those thoughts, feelings and emotions were not in the plan for 2016, yet there they were, physically part of my being on day one.

I had just posted "Positioned for 2016" on New Years Eve and was writing my latest post "What are you waiting for?" when on the first day out of the gates of 2016, it all got tested.

Let's talk about inadequacy for a moment. It's often how I can feel when embarking on something new and it's simply an indicator of what's going on in my heart. Whenever I feel totally out of my depth, and unable to achieve, perform, or do what I am "supposed to do"(all yuck), I know I've stepped out of connection with God, and have started walked into striving and fear. He never asked us to perform for Him to prove our love, yet sometimes we act like He has.

On the way back from ringing in the new year at our friends' house in the Hampton's, I started having heart palpitations that literally took my breath away. What's annoying is that I've been having them for the last couple of months. (Don't worry, I'll get them checked out) Fear began to creep in because of the palpitations, paired with deep feelings of inadequacy for the year ahead. With several speaking engagements booked for the year, the pressure (I put on myself) to write my first book, the pressure I feel (and put on myself) to love and lead my children "better" (performance is a killer) than I already am, the pressure I feel (and put on myself) to build an even better marriage, as well as the pressure (once again, that I put on myself) to pastor a growing church with love, excellence and strength was stacking onto my shoulders in the form of completely overwhelming and unrealistic expectations. The pressure was causing me to crumble and my physical body was manifesting what was going on in my spirit.

With each heart palpitation, I literally started to picture myself dying (I know sooooo dramatic!). I started to picture the heart palpitations as heart disease and that I was going to have a heart attack and die young, maybe even in 2016. I started to picture my children orphaned and wondering who Paul would marry when I was gone. Whoa! How quickly we can go down scary, dangerous and negative roads... Or is it just me?

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Paul asked me what was wrong on the drive home just as the sun began to set. I poured out my deepest fear as he grabbed my hand and held it tightly. We put on worship and as one of my sons began to sing out beautifully behind us in the back seat, we both started to cry.

The truth is, for the last 6 months or so, I had started to feel my heart disconnect from feeling anything, which is really strange for me. I am a feeler to a hilt and always have been since I can remember. I actually used to think it was a weakness, but then I realized God thinks I'm pretty awesome and He made me this way. I feel everything to the depths of my being. I feel a room when I walk into it. I feel the mood and temperament of people when I encounter them. I feel joy and I feel pain in my depths. So when my feelings begin to shut down and numbness sets in, I know something’s wrong. I felt myself going into self preservation mode and not wanting to trust anyone anymore. I even unconsciously shut God out and surrounded my heart with my worries and inadequacies as a makeshift vault.

Later that evening after we got home, we dropped off our kiddos to be with our amazing life assistant/Mary Poppins (seriously, she is like Mary Poppins) for the evening. My husband Paul and I left for Manhattan to go out to dinner with two “heart of our heart” friends, Christa and Lucas Gifford. They had both come into the city at the outset of the year to invest into our worship team and then Christa kicked off the first Sunday of 2016 speaking across our Church Communities.

As we hung out, and made up for lost time, somehow our conversation led to a moment where I began to pour out my palpitating heart. I talked about my huge feelings of inadequacy for the year ahead. Luke and Christa were both squarely looking me in the eyes, and telling me that “I was enough” that “Jesus paid the price for me, and that I was worth the price.” They said this and a billion other things I'm still pondering in my heart. Things that have ruined "my plans" for the year (in a really good way).

The love in their eyes for me, without agenda was like looking into the eyes of Jesus. My husband squeezed my hand (lots of hand squeezing that day) and nodded with a big smile on his face in agreement and adoration for me right where I was. The love from these three people was almost too much to take, but I liked it and I received it. That "moment of honesty", even in the depths of my inadequacy is what caused a moment of truth and connection to happen. A moment of truth that I'm still marinating in.

Before 2015 had ended, I asked God what the word for our Church was for 2016. Instead I got two words, LOVE and CONNECTION (more on this in an upcoming article). You see, when we are all SEEN and KNOWN, and deeply LOVED even after we're fully seen and known - warts and all (which can be scary), then we have true CONNECTION. And God is all about connection, it's why Jesus came! To invade our hearts with His love and in turn connect us back to the heart of the Father.

Brunch with the Giffords
Brunch with the Giffords

So this weekend when Luke and Christa came and dropped love bomb after love bomb through countless meals and conversations, not to mention the investment and encounter they gave to our worship team Saturday night, and personally sitting on the front row hearing the same message three times over this last Sunday while getting totally wrecked each time, let's just say something started stirring in me. My heart is slowly thawing out. The numbness is leaving and I'm feeling like myself again. There is still work to be done, and you better believe I will do it because I'm so worth it, and so are you for that matter. You and I are worth His blood.

As a church we entered 21 days of fasting and prayer on Monday January 4th. On the first night of the fast, I laid my kiddos down and started an internal dialogue with God. I was pottering around the house getting insignificant things done, almost to avoid slowing down and processing more of what was going on inside of me.

I felt God ask me, "What are you afraid of?"

I really thought about it... "Am I afraid of what I'll find in my heart? No... I'm actually afraid I won't be able to find anything or even figure out what's going on and then I'll be stuck here in numbness. I'm afraid that this "feeler" has been disconnected too long. Yeah, that's it."

So what did I do?

I slowed down on purpose, stopped cleaning the house as a petty distraction, sat in the presence of God and listened to what He had to say to me. Not surprisingly, He had good things to say to me because He's a good father like that. Then, I sat down and wrote this blog to process a bit further. I needed to be honest with myself and I truly hope my honesty has somehow empowered you to be honest with yourself. Then I trusted a few people God has placed around me to talk things through in more detail than I would share publicly on a blog. We all need a few true friends who love you where you are, but won't leave you where you are. Lastly, I have put a couple things in action to continue on the road of sanctification and wholeness, because it's a life long journey. God wants your whole heart always, so continue to do what it takes through every season for Him to have all of it's real estate.

Remember, Responsibility is your ability to respond...

So how will you take responsibility for your heart and life this year? We've got to stop waiting for others to do it for us and respond to God love and goodness that is always available to us.

So stop for a moment and ask yourself a couple of questions. 

When you start to feel yourself disconnecting, slow yourself down long enough to ask why. Where are you self protecting and self preserving? Why are you isolating yourself? What pain has crept in that you have tried to shut off so you don't have to feel it? What lie are you possibly believing? Are you even aware that you're connected or disconnected?

Stop, ponder, journal, listen... What do you hear?

I just know God so deeply desires for us to receive His love to the depths of our being, and out of us being loved right where we are, by the lover of our souls, we can once again find ourselves connected back to Him and His heart. He has never left us. We may have drifted, grown dull or numb of heart, but it's okay. He's got you and He is the greatest heart physician there is, so consider putting your heart back into His hands.

Now to get practical:

Christa speaking at our Downtown Community
Christa speaking at our Downtown Community

After you get honest with yourself about where you're at just like I had to on the first day of the year, why don't you consider having a listen to the podcast from this past weekend by Christa Black-Giffordhere - "Love Yourself"  - based out of  Matthew 22:38-39. Listen as many times as you need to, so you can marinate in it.

Think about pre-ordering Christa's book - "Heart Made Whole" (P.S. She doesn't even know I'm writing this article and has not asked me to do this. She's a friend and I believe in her and what's on her life). Invest in the healing of pain you may find in your heart to "turn it into one of your greatest strengths."

I've said it before and I'll say it again...

Loved people love people and make the love of God known...

I just know it's going to be a great year even though I wasn't so sure it would be on January 1st. My hope is that you will be able to say the same. Oh how our God loves to turn things around in a moment if we'll just go on the journey with Him and get honest with ourselves.

xoxo

Andi

What Are You Waiting For?

A lot of times we are waiting for “someday when…” But our someday is NOW.

I remember sitting and having a meal with Steve and Sharon Kelly, two amazing mentors and friends as well as the pastors of Wave Church in Virginia Beach. Over my grilled salmon, I poured my heart out, not to mention all my insecurities in regards to what I felt God had asked me to do in launching She is Free here in NYC. After I was done verbally processing all my emotions and fears, Steve very seriously looked me in the eyes and asked,

"Andi, how old are you?"

To which I said "35. Why do you ask?"

Steve's reply hit me between the eyes and deep within my heart when he said, "So when are you going to grow up?"

Well ouch, and thank you.

I had allowed fear and insecurity to rule my thoughts, actions and belief in myself and I found it hard to take myself seriously or even back myself. I had gotten in my own way and saw myself as less than everyone else around me - comparison truly is a killer.

 

Not too many months later did my husband say to me, "It's like you're a sheriff, and you've willingly handed over your badge and weapons. But it's time to take them back and step into your authority." He started to pray over me and as he did, I felt God say to me in all my inadequacy and insecurity, "I have confidence in you." The floodgates were opened. To hear those words from my Father and Creator even when I didn't have confidence in myself deeply changed me.

You see, He has confidence in you even when you don't. Your inadequacy, fear, insecurity, pain, rejection, fill in the blank, does not phase Him! Jesus died to connect with you and step into those moments, look you in the eyes and say "You've got this, because I've got you."

Steve and my husband's words over me brought me to a turning point. I was 35 people, 35! And I wasn't getting any younger! It's like I was waiting for someone to give me permission to step into my dreams and destiny, but God already had. So what was I waiting for? What are you waiting for?

Sometimes I'm so aware that I need to number my days, take each breath with gratitude and not waste a single moment.

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." - Psalm 90:12 NIV

What has God put in your hand today? What dreams are you "pregnant with" that you're afraid to give birth to because of the responsibility that comes with it? What can you do to make a difference in your world right now, whether it's spectacular or seemingly mundane? When's the last time you slowed down enough to look your child in the eyes, leave your house a hot mess and play hide and go seek? What have you been dreaming about doing but are too scared to take the first step towards? What's on your bucket list that you could put into motion after you're done reading this? Maybe you've felt for a long time you're supposed to start writing but don't feel like you're good enough? What do you need to put in order or purge to make room for more?

You have permission to SHINE, to be SPECTACULAR. You get to be POWERFUL.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

So... What are you waiting for? Stop waiting for "someday when." Stop waiting for permission because your time is NOW. Back yourself. God has confidence in you because He is holding you. The world needs who you are and what you have to give to complete the big beautiful picture God is painting throughout time and eternity. History is His story, so what will the chapters with your name strewn across their breathtaking pages look like?

LOVED People LOVE People

When Paul and I were first married, I remember a particular time where I was SO mad at him. We lived in Maroubra, a beach in Sydney, Australia at the time. That particular morning I was taking a walk during the sunrise and praying which was my ritual at the time. I was venting to God and spouting of all of the justifications for my anger when the Holy Spirit cut me off. "Andi, I only require you to love Paul as much as I love Him."

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

I remember yelling at the air, head tilted towards the sky, "THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!!!"

And Jesus replied, "Yes, but loved people, love people."

It is impossible to love others and serve others unless we first let ourselves be loved. It is impossible because we need Jesus love in us, permeating our lives to love others.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. - 1 John 4:19-21 NIV

As verse 19 says in 1 John 4, we have the ability to love others because we ourselves are first loved.  What is the premise for this love? How do we receive it?

"7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." - 1 John 4:7-12 NIV

Now to some of you this may seem elementary, but let's go there anyway. To receive this love, we must be born of God, or "born again". God delights in hitting the restart button of your life, that's why it's called being born again. When we receive Him, we get to start over! We are made new and the slate of sin is wiped clean! God made it possible for us to receive His love by showing His love among us through His Son. God took His word (John 1:14), wrapped it in flesh and sent it to earth in the form of His Son, Jesus. He was here, in flesh and blood and He felt what it's like to live, love, and overcome.  He gets you. He feels you. He's walked a mile in your shoes.

Now a big key comes next in verse 9 of 1 John 4,"He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."

That we might live THROUGH Him. At first we receive Jesus as a conscious decision, but then what? Sometimes we have no idea how to live our lives THROUGH Him. What does that even mean?

Take a pair of glasses for example, when you put them on, you can see clearly again as you look through their lenses. Well to live a life with 20/20 vision, you need to put on Jesus and live your life through Him.

How?

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Well a few simple tips would be to start by reading the whole book of John - this guy loved Jesus something crazy. He walked as a son and a friend knowing he was loved and intrinsically part of the family.

Next I would suggest reading through 1 John and 2 John. In particular study chapter 4 of 1 John. Dig deep. Ask God to show you how to live IN His love and THROUGH His life.

Practically you could also order a "Journible" online (I got mine on amazon), and I would recommend the book of John or the Journible including 1, 2 and 3 John if it's a deeper revelation of love your seeking. It's an amazing and simple journal where you write out the word of God on one side of the page and then write your revelation on the other page.

How great would it be for your 2016 to be a year marked by love?

Loved People, love people and make the love of God known.