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Don't Stop At Forgiveness...

It had been two years.

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Two years since we'd sat together to catch up, and this time it was different. This time, we sat together without talking about grievances, hard things, uncomfortable things - painful things even, like we had out of necessity in a tough season just a few years prior. We'd both been on deep, long, and at times, arduous, individual journeys with God, changing, transforming, wrestling, healing and growing deeper roots in Him, separately. It hadn't been easy for either of us, as it turned out, but sitting there on the couch in her Brooklyn home felt just right. God really does make all things new.

I was nervous as I walked from the subway to her front door, praying with every step I took. Would we drag up the past, or had we both healed and changed enough to have grace for one another to move forward? Would we see each other through God's eyes or through the pain of our past?

Turns out, it was through God's eyes.

One thing that rang true in our conversation was that God is all about reconciliation - the promise that we'd be reconciled to Him and to one another. There were laughter and tears (mostly on my end- I'm such a crier). The Gospel, at its core, is about reconciling the entire world to God, the Father of all life. He sent His one and only Son to redeem, restore and reconcile us to His heart. It's His plan that we would all walk in our true identity, looking to Him, the One whose image we're created in. 

As I sat on that L-shaped couch, across from this old friend, I saw the beginnings of new life, the glory of God manifesting right there in that Brooklyn home. New beginnings. New life. New hope. New horizons. NEW.

It's not always easy to get there. For Jesus, the entry point was death on a cross followed by a wrestle with all of hell for the reconciliation of humanity. But on that third day, when the world had lost hope in their human plan of what they'd thought was meant to be, Jesus took the keys that held us bound to sin, death and destruction and rose from the grave, defeating its power with complete and total authority.  He is the resurrection and the life that makes all things new. 

There is no other Gospel but death and resurrection. First Jesus' death and resurrection, and then our own as we die to ourselves and are resurrected in His life as a new creation. 

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It is for His glory that we reconcile with Him and are reconciled to one another. It is for His glory that we seek to reconcile the wrongs in this world, establishing His Kingdom of light and love in their place. Word to the wise, you're in for a fight (the right kind, though!) because it is territory that the enemy has been squatting on, and it's not his. Remember whose name is on the title and deed. That's right, it's YOUR name, because it's your inheritance as a child of God. So go ahead, child of God - place your foot on it.

I don't know what needs to be reconciled in your life today, but Jesus kicked down the door of death and defeated it completely so that you can walk in His resurrection power. You may need to die to yourself, your way, your plan, your blueprint, but just remember - there is resurrection on the other side of death.

As my friend said in a post on Facebook after we caught up,

"Don’t stop at forgiveness if reconciliation is in your grasp. Being right will never be as fulfilling as being together. Be like Elsa and #letitgo"

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 TPT

"17 Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new. 18 And God has made all things new, and reconciled us to himself, and given us the ministry of reconciling others to God. 19 In other words, it was through the Anointed One that God was shepherding the world, not even keeping records of their transgressions, and he has entrusted to us the ministry of opening the door of reconciliation to God. 20 We are ambassadors of the Anointed One who carry the message of Christ to the world, as though God were tenderly pleading with them directly through our lips. So we tenderly plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Turn back to God and be reconciled to him.” 21 For God made the only one who did not know sin to become sin for us, so that we who did not know righteousness might become the righteousness of God through our union with him."

Musings From A Woman On The Verge Of 40

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When your kids start calling Ice Ice Baby and Can't Touch This "oldies" in casual dinner conversation, you've officially become your own mom and dad. When you start saying, "when I was your age..." and catch yourself, cupping your mouth in shock, then yeah... life it is a'changing.

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When your eldest son says, "Hey mom, they measured my height yesterday at school. I'm 5'4" now... officially taller than you. Also, I weigh 105." Ugh. First of all, thanks for reminding me of how short I am, when, secretly in my own mind, I'm a super model. Second of all, now my weight doesn't feel so amazing. Third of all, when did I get to the age where I have a son that is taller than me? For real, though. HOW AM I ALMOST 40?

I hear people say that they're pumped for 40, ready to turn 40, excited to step into 40, but this woman is just seeing more wrinkles (collagen, where did you go??) and lumps. And what ever happened to my metabolism, and my thick, silky hair? What. The. Heck. In case you're wondering, I'm just waiting for small lips to come back in, too. I'll be sooo on trend. And why do I cry all the time... correction, more than I already did?  Whhhhhaaaaat is happening to me????

I'm turning 40. Yes, 40. Let that sink in, Andi. 

Some of you are older than me and want me to just shut up. Others of you are like, "what? Lumps? Loss of hair? Slower metabolism? Ahhhhh! I. can't. even."

CALM DOWN. It's all going to be okay. Or at least, that's what I hope I'll be letting you know on September 4th, when I step out of my 30's and into my 40's. (Yes, I'm accepting gifts.) Also, I share a birthday with Beyonce, so that's something.

I find myself wrestling with these thoughts often, "Since when did age become something to avoid?" "When did we stop embracing the beauty of grey hair, lumps, wrinkles, a life lived with experience and wisdom?" "When did looking like I'm forever 21 become the goal?" "Why can't we all just age well?" Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we're eternal beings that still can't cope with some of the effects of the Fall in the Garden. Maybe it's comparison. Maybe it's vanity. Maybe we just like beauty products (yes, I see you). Maybe we're locked into a moment where we felt the most beautiful and want to get back there somehow...

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This is my BEAUTIFUL mom. This is her real grey hair; the hair that young people now spend crazy amounts of money to have. but hers is all natural. It's all her. Those wrinkles, sans botox; those laugh lines, sans fillers; all earned, all hers. Every. Single. One. She's beautiful. She's a tad emotional (I get it from my Momma). She's a little crazy and totally creative - a hippie to rival all hippies (you should try her homemade kombucha) - and she's aging beautifully, inside and out. And as I teeter towards 40, I thank God that she's my mom. When I start freaking out about aging, I just look at her. She's paving a way for me and so many others. 

A couple of months ago, my 5-year-old Sammy pointed out the wrinkles around my mouth and asked me, "what are those?" to which I replied, "Laugh lines! Those are earned over time, buddy. You have to laugh a lot and then you'll get your own." Deep in thought, he smiled and nodded, thinking that was quite possibly the coolest thing ever. 

Look, you do you. Botox, fillers, all the things... whatever floats your boat. I just pray that we as woman can age beautifully from the inside out. That we can be at peace with who we are, and that we find a way to genuinely love who our Creator has made us to be. Truth be told, I've shocked myself over this last year with all these conflicting feelings and fears of hitting a certain age. For the most part, I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin,  but in the times I'm not, I cry it out in my Father's lap. I let Him remind me how amazing I am, and then I get back up, dust myself off, and keep going. 

My conclusion? This short lady (who is a super model in her own mind) is going to keep walking her way down the runway of life with a little less hair, a tad slower metabolism, a few more tears than usual, and laugh lines, to boot, and she's going to be just fine. 40, I'm coming for you like a dance battle.

Because, DANCE BATTLES.

 

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Guest Post with Jamie Ivey

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Guys! I met a new friend who you're all going to love... let me introduce you to Jamie Ivey! Just last month, I flew down to Texas to meet her and record an episode for her podcast, The Happy Hour With Jamie Ivey (you can listen to the episode here). She is mother to four beautiful kids, wife to Aaron, lives outside of Austin, Texas and has just released her first book, If You Only Knew; My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming FreeI asked if she wouldn't mind me sharing some of it with you, and she said yes! She's a soul sister with a message of freedom and vulnerability that aligns so deeply with my heart. I believe you're going to love her and love her book!

Here is an excerpt:

"Remember at the end of high school when they announce the people who are “Most Likely to _________”? Then they fill in the blanks with things like, “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Most Likely to Stay Single,” “Most Likely to Become Famous.”

I never received any of those “Most Likely to . . .” awards in high school, but I can only imagine what I would have received if they’d given me one: “Most Likely to Get Married Early,” “Most Likely to Become a Teacher,” “Most Likely to Become a Mom.” Yet on the inside, my identity was in shambles. I knew I wasn’t “likely” to do any of those things. And as I worked my way through college, the predictions would only have gotten worse: “Most Likely to Get Divorced,” “Most Likely to Get a Disease,” “Most Likely to Get Pregnant.” (Well, that one actually did happen, but thankfully not the others.) 

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If we’re not careful, our whole identity can become wrapped up in what other people think we’re supposed to be or what we think we’re supposed to do. Perhaps today, for example, you’re basing your identity on something as fresh and recent as how you acted last night and what somebody said to you or accused you of. Or you’re finding your identity in the mom you want to be, or the mom you hate that you are. Maybe you’re finding your identity in the job you have, or the job you wish you had but can’t seem to get hired for. 

Maybe you find part of your identity in what you did this summer, or what you wish you’d done this summer, compared to what everybody else was doing (and bragging about doing). Maybe you find your identity in the ministries you perform at church and how people perceive your “Christian” standing because of it. Maybe you find your identity in your passions, in your body mass index, in your checkbook balance, in your home décor choices, or whatever other kinds of indicators seem to measure your worth and success as a person. We are constantly finding our identity from everything around us, from everywhere we go, and from everything, people say and think about who we are or who we should be. 

But this is not who we are. And we always need to remember that. 

A few years ago, one of my kids came home from school, super down about his day. He told me how during the day, some kids at school had been talking about all those “Most Likely to . . .” categories, and his friends announced they had voted him “Most Likely to Lose at Arm Wrestling.” My first inclination was to laugh. From my vantage point as an adult, of course, being known as the best arm wrestler in third grade doesn’t mean much. But I held back my giggles because I could see this insult had been a real blow to my son’s nine-year-old heart because his friends had made him sad . . . and “because I’m strong,” he told me.

“I know you are,” I said, pulling my sweet boy close to me, hugging him. I whispered into his ear, telling him he was a child of God whose identity was already secured, and that his identity in Christ is the only identity he ever needs to be worried about. He didn’t need to be devastated or heartbroken over what his friends were saying because that identity never matters. 

And I wonder if that’s not what our Father wants to do when we come home from another day of combat, with all those false identities screaming in our head. Can’t you just hear Him saying, “My sweet daughter, those thoughts you’re thinking are not true? Remember My promises to you? My Word is true. You know this. You are a child of Mine. You are a new creation. I have made you alive with Christ, and I have chosen you to be My daughter so that I can do great things through you.” 

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Over and over I’ve needed Him to whisper these truths to me—through His Word, through His Spirit, through my community. And if past (and current) history are any indication, I feel pretty sure I’ll be struggling to believe it until the day I take my final breath on this earth, until I’m face-to-face with Jesus. Of the numerous things in my life that I battle nearly every single day, remembering my identity is one of them.

Over time, God has revealed Himself to me in ways I’d never before been willing to accept. I finally started to learn that my identity is not skewed because of all the things I’ve done or haven’t done, but is secured by all the things Jesus has done (as well as by what He hasn’t done, like condemn and reject me). 

My identity is only what it is today—a daughter of the King—because of Jesus. It has nothing to do with me. “Most likely” has been replaced by the absolute assurance that I am loved and cherished by my heavenly Father, despite all that He knows of me. And when I finally began believing this truth—that God could use a broken, messed-up person like me for His glory—I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. 

That’s when things really started to change for me. I know it can be the same for you." 

So friend, get out there, buy Jamie's book and subscribe to her podcast. You'll find a fast friend through each page you turn and each episode you hear.

xoxo Andi

Helpful Links: 

Jamie's Book

Jamie's Website

Jamie's Podcast

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

Pain, Lies, Love, Truth & Freedom

If you haven't already heard, I released a brand new She Is Free Book Video Series last month to accompany you or a small group of women who you'd like to walk on a journey to freedom with. Maybe you haven't purchased the She Is Free book yet, so, in just a moment, I'll give you a taste of what it's all about. Maybe you'd like to buy a bundle of books and shoot this post to a group of friends, inviting them to gather together and start a book club! Whatever you do, my heart is to resource, equip and activate you to walk in the fullness of freedom Christ has for you.

Friend, here is what I've learned; pain has a way of either telling us something or destroying us depending on what we do with it. The moment we consciously surrendered to a loving God in the middle of our mess, trusting Him to hold just us as we are, even with baggage from years of compounded pain, our hearts begin to heal.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction of my book - She is Free:

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"I’ve heard it said, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” but what I didn’t know was destroying me. 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 there was no need to perform, serve, and achieve for love and acceptance or that I could 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 and see me in my mess and not walk away. What I didn’t know was that Jesus was right there all along waiting for my great unraveling. Not only that, He didn’t walk away; He gently and steadily led me into healing and wholeness.

How often have you heard this phrase, “The truth will set you free!”? Many times it is out of scriptural context. This line by itself 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 culture’s truth? What about the truth of your past and pain? Or the shocking truth of your present reality that hurts more than anything? All of these “truths” will fade away, yet there is One whose truth is eternally unshakeable because He is truth incarnate, the word made flesh. This is the truth that we can align our lives with to live in freedom.

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].” (John 8:31–32 AMP)

Scripture tells us that if we hold to Jesus’s 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.

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One thing I’ve learned on the journey thus far is this: our spiritual freedom is found as we learn the truth about the lies that have held us captive. These are the moments in which love breaks through the darkness and the blinders begin to fall off of our eyes, revealing the sweet freedom that is ours to walk in. There are spiritual forces at work that try to lure us into their world of lies. The Bible is very clear on this. In Ephesians 6:12, we’re told, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Once we buy into those lies, they create an atmosphere or subculture around us from which we live, operate, and see our lives. Imagine the lies we partner with (whether knowingly or unknowingly) are like a dirty, scratched, and damaged pair of glasses. Glasses are supposed to help us see more clearly, but if the glasses are smudged, scratched, or dirty, our view is skewed. Lies do this; they cause us to see ourselves, others, and our lives without clarity.

Oftentimes, what’s going on outside of us reveals what’s going on deep within us. Whether it’s the news, social media, circumstances, our spouses, children, leaders, friends, the driver in the car in front of you, coworkers, or that person walking down the street, any of these can push our buttons and squeeze our lives like a toothpaste tube. It’s when we are under pressure that we see what is within us. Is it anger? Control? Fear? Unforgiveness? Or is it peace, love, joy, patience, and the like?

What if I told you there’s a way to break free from the lies you’ve found yourself living in, that there’s a way to step into the truth that is wrapped in love, enabling you to create the culture of the kingdom of heaven inside your heart and around your life?

In some seasons it feels like a fight to step into spiritual freedom, and in other seasons there’s a beautiful ease in aligning ourselves with what is already ours in Jesus. I want to share with you how I’ve done this in my own life. It’s an ongoing process for each and every one of us and, of course, a very personal one. It’s a journey I hope we can share together. I believe I can help as a fellow traveler on the path of freedom."

I'd love to share in the She is Free journey with you.

There is so much more we'll cover together in this book, from how I hated my mom, to forgiving and reconciling with her, to stepping out from under the heavy blanket of shame I lived with for years because I thought I deserved it. We'll talk about anger, fear and the insatiable need we have at times to control things, people or circumstances. It's raw, vulnerable and practical. My hope is to provide you with the right tools to dismantle the lies that have held you captive.

You can be free.

Indifference Kills Transformation

My husband and I were invited by a friend, and Liberty Church Community member, to attend the Restore Fall Benefit Dinner at the Tribeca Rooftop last September. Restore believes that 'sex trafficking is a problem that has a solution.' 

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Besides being in awe of the good work that Restore is doing, that line got me thinking... If there is a solution to a problem I face, or that we, as a society face, I cannot afford to be indifferent. Nothing changes around me when I stop having genuine care and concern for the plight of humanity. 

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference." - Elie Wiesel

Indifference kills transformation; personal transformation and societal transformation. 

It's hard to take action when we're indifferent. It's hard to break free from the lies that hold us captive if we're indifferent. It's hard to bring freedom to others when we're indifferent, and comfortable in our comfort. 

Jesus came to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable, so maybe it's time for us to shake things up at the start of 2018. Ask yourself, "Where have I been indifferent in areas of my life that really matter? And what can I do to make one change today?" It could be as simple as having a conversation with someone you've been avoiding. It could be choosing to give your time, talent or treasure to a cause that is worthy. It could be choosing that bible reading plan you've been avoiding because you've already decided you'll fail. It could be a personal goal that you'd like to achieve, but have found yourself thinking over and over again, "It's not a big deal." That mindset indicates that you've stepped into a form of indifference. Maybe it's time to stop waiting for someday, when...

The truth is, we may just change the world as we become resolute that we will not walk, stand, or sit in indifference when it comes to the things that really matter.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

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

The Trap Of Isolation

Some of my greatest wounding has come from imperfect humans in my world, yet some of my greatest healing has come from being in Godly community with, you guessed it - imperfect humans. We're all imperfect people tryting to walk this life out in Perfect Love. 

I'm sold out to building a loving, Christ centered community, and truth be told, some days I still want to run - but I wont because isolation is a trap. It provides us with a false sense of security from others, leaving us to our own devices while often cultivating an orphan spirit that is fixated on survival and self rather than abundant life and others.

Here is an excerpt from my book, She Is Free from the chapter called, Freedom From Isolation.

"A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment. - Proverbs 18:1 NKJV

Lie: Isolation from honest and vulnerable relationships will keep me safe from rejection, betrayal, and pain.

“Good news, your heart is normal!”

Tears filled my eyes as I read those words from my cardiologist while sitting in my office in lower Manhattan. I turned to look out my window, gazing up at the Freedom Tower (as I still like to call it even though its official name is One World Trade Center), laughing and crying at the same time at the symbolism right outside of my window: freedom.

Two days before, I had been at an appointment with my cardiologist getting an ultrasound to learn whether there were any abnormalities in my heart causing the constant, disturbing heart palpitations I had been experiencing that year. At those times, my heart felt as though someone was holding it in my chest and rattling it around, taking my breath away. Along with the heart palpitations, yet another bout of shingles had erupted on my hip. I felt chained to the reality that my body would react every time we went through a big season. In my head, I knew this was a lie and wasn’t in the character of my beautiful, loving God. The counteracting truth is that He sent Jesus to heal my body, my heart, and my mind with resurrection power that is at work within me. Because of this truth, I started to ponder what my responsibility is in partnering with and living in that healing.

Truth be told, it had been a rough year. It was a year filled with much goodness, joy, triumph, celebration, and love, yet the hard and painful things were trying desperately in my head to outweigh all of the good. Heart-wrenching moments kept dancing around in my mind like a creepy circus clown trying to get all of my attention. Friends I thought I would have forever were dropping like flies and stepping out of our lives and into new seasons. I felt rejection set in and started to act as a victim of my circumstances while unhealthy thoughts swirled in my head: It’s not my fault; I’m a target for this stuff; this always happens to me. My heart was filled with such heaviness that it may as well have been tied to a weight and dropped into the ocean. Subconsciously, I began to isolate myself from connection to others because it seemed safer to detach than to love deeply and be hurt again.

For years, isolation has been a strong tower that I’ve hidden in during times of pain to separate myself from reality. If I ever felt subject to circumstance, misunderstood, or unable to control others’ free will in causing pain to those I love or myself, I’d subconsciously cut them off by drawing an invisible line in the sand because that relationship was now unsafe. For years I allowed what others did to rob my heart of the peace that is my inheritance to walk in, come hell or high water. The problem was, my strong tower was man-made, not God made.

 

Choosing Loneliness over Potential Pain

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, slept through storms unaffected by fear (Matt. 8:23–27), and because he lives in me, I have access to that peace at all times no matter what others do, say, or think about me. No matter the political or socioeconomic environment. No matter the state of my marriage, the state of the church, the state of the nation, the president that’s leading our country, the horrible things I saw on the news today—circumstance does not have the authority to steal my peace and isolate me from love unless I surrender that authority.

Isolating ourselves so we’ll never be rejected is simply a different way of being hurt. It’s choosing the pain of loneliness over the potential pain of loss. By isolating ourselves, we attempt to stop others from rejecting us, but we simultaneously reject the love of God. In turn, we also reject the possibility of thriving in community, friendships, and relationships that are a part of our purpose.

As we consciously choose to move past our desire to self-protect, we go willingly into the pain, hand-in-hand with the lover of our souls who heals us and keeps us safe in the secret place (Ps. 91:1 KJV). I love those words, “the secret place.” The secret place is a secret because it’s unknown and untouchable by the enemy and his lies. In the secret place, his lies are broken down and void of power as we discover the truth that sets us free."

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

Present In His Presence

I'm not going to lie, I think about bacon cheeseburgers mid-worship from time to time. Sometimes I'll even ponder food for so long that I easily dream-drift through each course I desire, ending with the best coconut cream pie ever from Prime Meats (always after my burger and fries, of course!). As I break out of my prophetic food dream, I usually look down to make sure my phone's on silent (because no one wants to be that guy), only to be alarmed at the 10 text messages that came in while I was focusing on connecting with the Father's heart. So, of course I have to check to see if any of them are urgent, and before I know it, worship has ended and I have been present for a sum total of five seconds flat. Do better, Andi. Do better. 

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And what about when I'm actually out at the meal after church on Sunday, eating my desired bacon cheeseburger, fries and coconut cream pie across the table from my husband, three sons and daughter? Well, of course, I MUST check Instagram to see what's happening in the lives of everyone who I know, generally know, or want to know. Meanwhile, I have five people whom I love, sitting around a table ripe for good conversation and knock knock jokes, while I'm on my phone. Present to my phone. Present to my burger and coconut cream pie, but not present to the opportunity of human connection that's sitting right in front of me.

We are living in a time where our minds are being rewired for overstimulation.

It's like we have every tab in our mind open all the time and are pinging left, right, back and center all day every day. To simply sit and have a meaningful conversation is becoming a lost art if we're not intentional about seeking after it.

Even when we find ourselves in the "waiting rooms of life", we're usually itching to have our name called instead of seeing the opportunities to converse and connect with everyone else in the waiting room. We want next, next, next, next, and we keep missing now, now, now, now... we're not present in the present.

Now let's bring it back to the presence of God. How are you doing being present in His presence? No condemnation here - It's a daily practice to ask myself this same question. How are you at intentionally becoming aware of what you already have - His presence - because you have ALL of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

It's hard to be present with others if we don't know how to be present with God.  

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Slowing down, resting in Him, reading His word daily (even if only five minutes until the kids start crawling all over us!), turning on worship to change the atmosphere, making ourselves aware of HIs unending presence... it changes things. Being present in our pain and not dismissing it, that is where the eternal love of God touches our lives, and heals our hearts. It's the power of His presence that changes us and being present in His presence, well... there's nothing like it. 

C.S. Lewis said, "For the present is the point at which time touches eternity." 

Jesus came down to earth, eternity touched time, and now our present lives can be changed because of it. We can learn a lot from Jesus and how present He always was. He was present with His Father and often escaped the crowds and chaos to do so, and He was present with others - with the "one". The only time He wasn't present was when He was ignoring someone's lack of faith.

In Matthew 9:18-25, Jesus is present to Jairus in the midst of the crowd after a rough night in the storm with His disciples and delivering the demoniac. I'd be napping, but Jesus chooses to be present to Jairus when He hears that his daughter is ill. On the way to heal Jairus' daughter, Jesus is present to the woman with the issue of blood in the midst of the pressing crowds. He turns and sees her, heals her, and calls her "daughter". Then He continues on with Jairus, removes those with a lack of faith from the room, raises his daughter from the dead and even takes care of her physical needs, making sure that she gets a meal in her belly. 

The truth is, Jesus is present with you, right here, right now. Our distractions can dissuade us from being present, causing us to miss moments of connection and transformation.

He is present in the mundane and present in the pain. HE is present in it all.

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Today as I dropped my youngest son off at his kindergarten class, a mother and daughter in front of us were twirling and dancing on their way to the classroom. Sammy was observing and smiling while giggling to himself. Not seconds after that grin came across his face was he, too, twirling with exuberance. My heart swelled within me. I didn't record the moment on my phone or share it on an Insta Story. I was just there, present, proud, and full of joy watching him be an awesome kid - my awesome kid.

Our Father in heaven thinks you're a pretty awesome kid too. He's present with you and wants to journey with you. Intentionally becoming aware of His never-ending presence in our lives will bring freedom from captivity, shake our rickety foundations to be rebuilt by the Master Builder, bring healing to our brokenness but also joy in the seemingly unremarkable moments, and an awakened desire to spread the love that He so freely gives us. 

Can we simply be present with Him today? He has so much to tell us through His word and the whisper of the Holy Spirit. Let's choose together to stop missing the moments and instead, be right in the middle of each one - the ordered, the messy, the electric, the magnetic, even the monotonous - silencing ourselves to hear His whisper through them all.

When I am still, compulsion (The busyness that Hilary of Tours called "a blasphemous anxiety to do God's work for him") gives way to compunction (being pricked or punctured). That is, God can break through the many layers with which I protect myself, so that I can hear his Word and be poised to listen...
In perpetual motion I can mistake the flow of my adrenaline for the moving of the Holy Spirit; I can live in the illusion that I am ultimately in control of my destiny and my daily affiars...
French philospher and mathematician Blaise Pascal observed that most of our human problems come because we don't know how to sit still in our room for an hour." 
- Leighton Ford

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!

  

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!!! 

 

 

Doers or Deceived?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Do I Even Need To Go To Church?

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

What’s The Point?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Was BOTH-AND

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

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

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

But What About Discipleship?

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

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

We Are One

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

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

So What Is The Fruit Of Your Life?

 Dad and Mom baptizing Giles. 

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

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

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

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
andiandrew.com

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.

 

 

 

 

Marriage - It Hasn't Always Been This Good

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

andiandrew.com

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

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

1.) Be intentional

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

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

2.) Be committed to personal wholeness

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

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

3.) Plan a vacation together every year

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

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

Get started!

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

Stepping Out Of Shame

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

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

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

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

Mark 5:25-34 NIV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

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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?