MAKE ME A SERVANT

John 13:12-17

Today is Maundy Thursday. In Christianity this week is called Holy Week, because Christ entered Jerusalem to the adoration of the Jews who thought He was coming as the King of Israel who would free them from the oppression of the Roman Empire. Instead, He was arrested, crucified, buried, and arose from the grave.

This day before “Good Friday,” when we remember Christ’s death on the cross and the shedding of His blood to cover our sins is equally sacred for the Christian. That was when Jesus taught one of His final lessons to the 12 disciples in the “Upper Room.” The word Maundy comes from the Latin word “mandatum” meaning a new commandment, taken from the scripture phrase “a new commandment I give you….”

His mandate was for them to love one another as He loved them. He told them that in the world, kings and great men order their servants around, but Jesus said that as His disciples, we should be servants of all. He illustrated this as He washed their feet. This night is also when He told them He would sacrifice His life. He took bread and said “this bread is my body broken for you.” He took the cup of wine and said, “this cup is my blood poured out for the remission of sins.”

Christ washing Peter's feet 2

That night they really didn’t understand His words, but they soon would see Him crucified.

Maundy Thursday is a service of remembering Jesus’ mandate to LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS HE LOVES US, AND TO BE A SERVANT OF ALL.

Oh that we all would love one another so deeply, and have a servants heart. That we would see everyone as God sees them. What a difference that would make in our world.

My Mother, Rev. Gladys Johnson wrote a chorus about being a servant. We sang this in the late 50’s!

I am a servant of my Lord Jesus.
To do my own will is not for me to say,
but just to follow in paths He leads me,
and let my Lord have His own way.

Have a blessed weekend with family and friends, and remember…when we serve others, we are serving Him!

Image credit http://christimages.org/

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Paths of Righteousness

Psalm 23:3 “He guides me in paths of righteousness (right decision making) for His Name’s sake.”

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We are all on a journey of life. The choices we make along the way affect us and those around us. There are consequences for stepping off the path of right decision making. If you’re like me, you often make a choice that is wrong and you try to “fix it,” or you try to talk God into making it work. Yeah – I’ve done that a few times in my life, and the consequences hurt.

The bad thing is, the enemy of our soul is the accuser and will bring up those wrong choices to try and make us ineffective in what God has called us to do for Him.

The good thing is, Jesus waits for us with open arms and unconditional love when we get off that path of right decision making.

I have just returned from a weekend with my sister Tami, my niece Nikki, and my daughter Kristin. We were in Atlanta, Georgia to spend time with Nikki as she leaves today on a missions trip to 11 countries in 11 months.  I saw a young lady who has grown so deeply in Jesus, and watched her rejoice in the choice she made in leaving the comforts of home, family and friends. If you’ve read any of her blogs lately you know the decision to go on this missions trip was difficult for her. But now she is fully committed and knows she made the right choice for this time on her life’s journey. I believe she is on a path of right decision making for His Name’s sake. In other words, she is making known the love of Jesus to different people groups in Central America, Asia and Africa. That path of righteousness is for His Name sake.

As Kristin just wrote on her blog entry a couple days ago, we are all different, and have traveled on paths that are as different as our personalities and giftings. And that is what the “Body of Christ” is all about. (Romans 12:4-8)

You have giftings that are unique to you. You are traveling on a path, a journey of life. Whether you make right decisions today or tomorrow is up to you. God gives each one of us the freedom of choice. He also says, if you need wisdom to make right choices you can ask Him for it. (James 1:5) And if you have made a wrong choice in your past you can ask for forgiveness because Jesus paid for it already on the cross. God is in the restoration business, so don’t despair if you’ve made some wrong choices. Just walk with Jesus now on the path of righteousness for His Name’s sake!

A great way to start a new year….right?

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Different Gifts, Same Spirit.

The women of LifeWords Today just spent a couple of wonderful days together in Atlanta, Georgia. Tami and Nikki flew in from Southern California to meet up with Nikki’s World Race Squad for their final training before departure on January 9th for 11 months of mission work in Central America, Asia and Africa. My Mom, Karen, drove up from Florida, and I drove down from Charlotte, North Carolina to spend some family time together. Now, I am back home in Charlotte and I am pondering our time together, and looking toward the New Year.

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This evening I read the January 6th entry by Sarah Young in her devotional “Jesus Calling” (which all four of us read regularly, and which we highly recommend to you). It is so appropriate for such a time as this:

“I am able to do far beyond all that you ask or imagine. Come to Me with positive expectations, knowing that there is no limit to what I can accomplish. Ask My Spirit to control your mind, so that you can think great thoughts of Me. Do not be discouraged by the fact that many of your prayers are yet unanswered. Time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon Me, to trust Me in the dark. The more extreme your circumstances, the more likely you are to see MY POWER and GLORY at work in the situation. Instead of letting difficulties draw you into worrying, try to view them as setting the scene for My glorious intervention. Keep your eyes and your mind wide open to all that I am doing in your life.”

Nikki has inspired the rest of us, and countless others, to let go of earthly things and let God truly lead our lives. She has surrendered to His will for her at this time in her life. She is willingly stepping into extreme circumstances where trust in God is paramount. As I step away from this weekend together, I realize several things.

The four of us are very different. Our individual talents, personalities, and life callings are all different. My Mom is 17 years older than her sister – another generation! My Aunt is 16 years older than me. And I am almost 15 years older than my cousin Nikki! Our perspectives on life vary almost infinitely. We have four very distinctly different life experiences set in different eras.

But, together we share a generational blessing of women in ministry. Our love for our Lord Jesus and our desire to share Him with others, binds us together. Our individuality is woven together with Jesus as the common thread.

This weekend we spurred one another on toward our goals for 2014. We challenged one another. We encouraged one another. We prayed blessings over one another.

I feel more tightly bound to all three of them and to our shared purpose through LifeWords Today than I ever have.

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So, for 2014, I challenge you to value and encourage the differences within the members of your spiritual family. I also challenge you to value your own gifts and ask God to give you opportunities to use them. Do not compare your gifts and purpose with others. You are unique, and God planted in you everything you need to make an impact in this world.

Only you can create and give to the world what God put inside of you. Ask Him to activate it and give you vision and purpose that you have never seen before! You CAN do all things through Him who gives you strength!

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

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Take a Leap of Faith

This week the New Year begins, and on my mind is what is coming up for me in this new year. This week I am leaving to go on an 11 month mission trip and traveling to 11 different countries. God called me to go back in April of 2013 and I can’t believe the time has come for me to leave! This is unlike anything I have ever done before. Be away from home for almost a year! Live in different cultures for almost a year! And better yet I have to carry everything I own on my back for almost a year and sleep in a tent! What did I sign up for?

I had to take a leap of faith. I have had no doubt in my mind that this is what God wants me to do in 2014. I have certainly tried to talk myself out of it a few times, but time and time again God reveals himself to me and confirms this trip, this leap of faith is exactly what I am supposed to do at this point in my life.

As I prepare to leave by packing all my belongings for the next year in a backpack, and saying “good-bye” or “see you later” to my friends and family, and can’t help but think of all the events and birthdays and trips I am going to miss and reflect on the events of this past year. I am sacrificing all that I have in order to follow Jesus, but he made the ultimate sacrifice. He sacrificed his life in order for us to be free! Free to follow him. Free to live a life for him. Free to travel the world for him!

Nevertheless, I am also looking towards the future and have excitement for all that God has planned for me. I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s not going to be boring in the slightest.

This next year is going to be a year of complete faith. I am jumping out of my comfort zone and into something only God knows. It’s scary and exciting at the same time.

For those of you who don’t know, I am going on a trip called the World Race. It is through a Christian organization called Adventures in Missions. I am on a squad of 47 people all between the ages of 21-35. We are going to 11 countries in 11 months to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We will be traveling to Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, Cambodia, Philippines, South Africa, and Swaziland.

Please keep me and the rest of my squad in your prayers and follow my adventure on my World Race blog- nikkiromani.theworldrace.org.

   A squad

 In 2014, are you going to live by FAITH? Would you take a leap of faith for Jesus and do WHATEVER he calls you to do?

Listen to his call on your life. You will not regret it.

“Live by FAITH, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

 

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Ministry of Visitation

I was visiting a Nursing home one day, when a voice called out to me, “DO YOU HAVE ANY MORE OF THOSE TO GO AROUND?”

The friend whom I had gone to meet had been sitting, watching the traffic in the nursing home, her fingers twitching aimlessly over her folded hands, her legs wrapped in a shawl even though it was a California summer day. When I visited, she never liked to talk with me where others could hear, so I wheeled her to her room where we spent a short while talking about the goodness of the Lord and his tender care over each of us.

I assured her again as I had done on each visit, that the Bible says , “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The words comforted her heart and encouraged her faith. They were more than words to her, and to me. They were a way of life, and that afternoon we were both conscious of the presence of our Lord.

Following our prayer and visit, I returned her to the lounge so she would not be alone. I kissed her aged, wrinkled face. Suddenly, to my right, the voice spoke out. “Say, do you have any more of those to pass around?” I laughed and glanced at the elderly man, and my heart went out to him.

Perhaps I was the shadow of someone he once knew. Or, I could have been his daughter who did not come to visit as often as he would like. I quickly went to him, and giving him a hug and squeeze, I bade him and my friend, “good-bye.”

I shall never forget another occasion when a little old lady sat daily in the hall of another nursing home. As I made my weekly call to one of the patients, I walked quickly down the hall, my heels clicking on the hard polished floor. Before I reached my friends’ room, I had to pass Maude. There she was, watching the flow of traffic, nurses hurrying by. For the most part Maude lived in her own world of seclusion and memories. But, on this day, as I approached, she brightened, stretched out both arms and said, “At last! You have come to see me!” The fact that I was a complete stranger didn’t matter. Where human need is concerned, there is no such thing as a stranger. I stopped. She drew me close, kissed me on the cheek, then let me go, retreating again into her memory world.

I walked away with tears in my eyes.

Woman in wheelchair

When you catch a glimpse of those wheel-chaired patients, sitting aimlessly around, or wheeled to the front door wishing their loved ones would come, but seldom being rewarded, you will make it a point to find a little time – as the Lord enables you – to become a part of the ministry of visitation.

(This was written by Gladys in the late 70s or early 80s when she was actively a Church Pastor. We wanted to share this encouraging word as we near the holidays to remind ourselves, and you, that there are so many people out there who just need a smile, a hug and a person to show interest in them. Challenge yourself to reach out the next time you can fit it into your schedule.)

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Spice Infusion

Last Wednesday night I was dressing my beautiful piece of Wild Alaskan Sockeye for baking. Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Cracked Pepper, Garlic Powder and Dill.

WHAT’S THIS? A recipe? A contest? What is that paper inside this bottle?

I have to know now….I commence to digging into the dill bottle to find out. It’s a 2″ by 3″ piece of paper folded 6 times. Wow, that unmistakable dill smell really soaks into paper after two years:

“I pray you are adding spice to your life!! Do that thing you’ve been thinking you want to do outside yourself! Just DO it! 10/29/11.”
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Two years ago my friend Candi came to stay at my home for several weeks. We were both on a mission to improve our health both physically and spiritually and we spent those weeks encouraging and inspiring one another to improve our diets and exercise regimens. We hit it hard and struggled through some amazing physical and spiritual challenges together.

Candi secretly took the time to leave encouraging notes here and there around my house. I found most of them within a few days after she left. A couple more in the following months. And, they were always timely.

But this one? This one was perfect. And I found it almost two years to the day after she left it for me. Just what I needed to hear at this time in my life. I had to use my dill spice enough to get to that note. She knew that when she planted it there. She knew it could be any length of time before I found that note. She got to know me well enough to know exactly what to write to be sure that whenever I found that note, it would be the PERFECT thing at the PERFECT time.

And so, it was.

What can you do to inspire someone you love? How often do you take the time to plan something like my friend Candi did for me? Get outside yourself a minute. Think deeply about what you can do to surprise your spouse, your best friend… or even an acquaintance…with a big shot of encouragement.

I am not suggesting that you break into your friend’s home to rummage through his/her spice bottles….or sock drawers….but, then again, maybe I am (minus the breaking in part..LOL). So, like Candi so aptly said…

JUST DO IT! Get outside yourself and elevate someone else today. Inspire someone. Encourage them. Speak LIFE to them. You have no idea how deep or timely the impact may be. Learn to listen to the small promptings you feel deep in your spirit when a random person crosses your mind. DO SOMETHING about it – write them a note on Facebook, send ye olde greeting card with a stamp to their mailbox, text or dial those digits. Don’t let that prompting get lost in your everyday. Take the time to invest in that person’s life. You’ll find that prompting is most times the Holy Spirit trying to use you in that life.

Just like Candi’s note that holds the unmistakable scent of dill after a two year infusion, your encouraging word to others will add spice to their lives that is relevant and long-lasting.

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life….” Prov. 15:4 NIV
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thess. 5:11 NIV

Thanks so much to my friend Candi for speaking LIFE to me and inspiring this post. That tiny piece of paper and ink will forever remain magnetized to my refrigerator door so I can see it every day. I’ll be sure to pay it forward!

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Called to Ministry? Nah.

Tami.Scripture.LaunchPhoto

I come from a family of ministers.  My mom, my dad, a few aunts, uncles, cousins, my sister and my niece all professed to be “called” to the ministry at a young age.  Even my daughter is leaving soon for a year to minister to others on the world stage of missions.

Me?  Nope. Not me.  If there’s one thing I’ve always known about myself, it’s that I was NOT called to be a minister.  Being called to the ministry was something that happened to other preacher’s kids at summer camp.  Not me.  Many of my friends and family in ministry know God put this call on their lives.  I never felt that way.  Never had that still, small voice telling me to leave my nets and follow Jesus into the unknown throes of ministry.

When I was a kid, being “called” to the ministry meant you HEARD the call, and ANSWERED that call by attending Bible college or seminary, getting ordained as a pastor and leading a group of adults or families or youth or a choir in the day to day living out of faith.  It was messy and challenging and involved being able to speak wisdom in front of a group of people.

I have to admit to being both envious of those who heard the call and relieved that I wasn’t one of them.  Being a PK (pastor’s kid), I’d heard my share of messy stories and really couldn’t fathom being the one who would help out someone in that kind of need.

I don’t think kids now have this dilemma.  If they grow up in a church, they are sent on missions trips out of the country or even in their own towns.  Feeding the hungry, clothing the homeless, bringing hope to the hopeless.  They are the hands and feet of Jesus.  They LOVE like Jesus did.  They don’t wait for a calling. They DO stuff.

But me? I wasn’t called.  So I lived my life.  I raised my kids. I taught them to love Jesus.  I prayed for family members and friends. Even counseled a friend or two in a tough spot.  I gave a sandwich to a beggar on the street.  Gave a blanket to a cold homeless woman on a rainy night. Wait. What? That sounds suspiciously like ministry.

And so, at the ripe old age of fifty-something, I’m finally realizing I am called.  Called just like you are called.  In the trenches of real life.  It’s still messy and challenging, but doesn’t necessarily involve being able to speak in front of a group of people.  (Can I get an Amen?)

What it does involve is being available.  Teachable.  Willing to use your gifts to share the gospel.

Which brings us to today.  LifeWordsToday, to be exact.

About a month before we ever began discussing the idea for this blog, I came upon a scripture – Psalm 49:3  “My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.”  I was compelled to write it on a card to keep in my Bible.  Next to the verse I wrote, “3/12/13 = from God = (?about what?)”

A calling, perhaps?

What’s your calling?

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Because It’s In My Blood

I was born into a family full of preachers, singers and musicians…and though I felt “called” at the age of 5 to ministry, my ministry never took the shape I thought it was required to take. I have only recently realized that we are all called and that God uses each unique path in this life when we invite Him in and ask Him to use us… turns out I don’t have to be a speaker, a singer, or fluent in Hebrew… I just have to be me. My Grandma Johnson helped me to realize that in her last years on this earth, and she still inspires me daily.

Johnson's first pastorate
(Grandma, 2nd from left, at her first pastorate – yep, a woman preacher in the 40’s!)

My Grandmother was the kind of woman everyone wanted to be and/or be with. She was daughter, sister, wife, mother…. preacher, pastor, counselor and friend. I had the great privilege of having her in my life for 35 years. I know many people who never even had the chance to know their grandparents, or lost them much earlier in life. Though I didn’t live near my Grandma Johnson after the age of 5, I spent a great deal of time with her in the summers in my younger years. Later, when life didn’t afford me the time to spend with her in person, we began to spend more time on the phone together. When I started AndyBooks she helped by writing some short words of wisdom for me to post on my “For Your Spirit” page and we called them “Words from Gladys.” She wrote these for me between the years of 2002 and 2005, and that page still gets the most hits on my site every single month. She was a gentle soul and I never remember her raising her voice to anyone for any reason at any time. People loved her and learned from her. They wanted to spend time with her and she was always gracious and generous with her time. I don’t know how she wore so many hats simultaneously in her life, but from my perspective she did it with a grace and ease that made me want to be just like her.

My life has taken many different turns than hers did, so as I have grown older I have learned not to compare myself directly to her, but to instead pray for and hope to emulate her character. I don’t know if I have met that challenge with much success yet, but perhaps my love of writing passed to me through her and now God is giving me a chance to share it with others. My mother, Karen, and my Aunt Tami were both gifted with beautiful voices, and my Grandmother shared her voice boldly from the pulpit as well as gently one-on-one. Now it’s time to find my voice. I have been praying about my direction in life and how to use my gifts more effectively. When my Aunt Tami came to visit me in Charlotte in April 2013 and for the first time in my adult life I spent time alone with her, I came to realize that the women in our family come from a long heritage of ministry. When she told me the story of my 9th Great Grandmother, a Quaker preacher on Nantucket, I was overwhelmed by our awesome history that boasts women preaching and ministering before it was an “acceptable” thing for women to do! When she asked me what I thought of collaborating on this blog with my Mom, herself and my cousin Nikki, I was thrilled. It seems that God has orchestrated all of this (what a surprise, LOL) and that He has given us this platform to use our collective voice and mantle of ministry passed down for a couple hundred years.

Gladys Johnson, my Grandmother, passed away just prior to her 91st birthday in 2009. My Mother is 71, my Aunt is 54, I am 38 and my cousin Nikki is 25. Together, we cover nearly a century, and we have collectively traveled all over the globe. This gives 5 very distinct perspectives on life and ministry, and together we form LifeWords Today.

I’m excited and I hope you are too! LET OUR WORDS SPEAK LIFE!

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