Walking the Way of the Cross

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Good Friday was a good Friday indeed! For the last couple of years our family has joined with members of other churches in our community for a walk down Main Street. We take turns carrying a big wooden cross, singing hymns, stopping along the way to pray for businesses and places of importance in our community.

It’s a time when denominational lines are crossed. Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, non-denominationalists come together to remember and thank Jesus for His great sacrifice. The focus is on Jesus and our community.

As I followed the cross, watched people take turns carrying it, listened to the happy chatting and the singing around me, and joined in prayer for our town and our neighbors, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with love and peace. When Jesus walked the earth, He lived in community. He created community. He loves community.

Through His suffering and great sacrifice on the cross He became The Way for us to have community and relationship with Him and The Father. When He went to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit as a guide, a helper, to have community with Him. And He left us with a whole community of other believers and followers of Jesus to work together in Kingdom work and provide encouragement for each other.

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This is the community I witnessed yesterday and one I have experienced in my own life. When my burdens have been too much to bear, my sisters and brothers have held me up in prayer and have come alongside me with truth and encouragement. When prayers have been answered, they have celebrated and thanked God with me. When others have crosses of pain, regret, loneliness, suffering and grief, the community of Christ should come alongside to help each bear their crosses. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And when prayers have been answered and hope and love reigns in a situation, we need to be celebrating and praising God together.

Together, in our town, the community and body of Christ are praying and celebrating. We are praying for the peace, love, and the hope that comes from Jesus to shine through us so brightly that others will want to join in community with Him. We are celebrating hope, the blessings, and answers of prayers that chains have been broken and the lost that have been found.

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I am eternally grateful to Jesus for what He has done for me. And I am incredibly thankful I live in a place where churches can come together and we can express our views openly.  I know that others around the world do not have this “luxury” and for them and other communities of believers I am praying for safety and strength. Happy Easter weekend! Peace and grace be with you!


Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti-The Podcast

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Photo Credit: MOPS International

I am so excited and honored to have one of my talks turned into a podcast! I gave this talk during MOPS International’s Coach training in Milwaukee last fall. The whole experience was humbling and surreal. I praise God for leading me out of my comfort zone and stepping into new things for His glory. I thank MOPS International for believing in me and allowing me to share my heart. I hope you will listen, be blessed and be encouraged. If you would like to know more about MOPS International and what they do, I would love to talk with you.

(Google Play link to the podcast below. It is about 12 minutes long.)

https://play.google.com/music/m/D4xz4cy52fqhn2d3gfdnv76c2im?t=Throw_Kindness_Around_Like_Confetti-Connections_Podcast 

“When Shanna woke up on her 38th birthday, she had a to-do list that didn’t excite her much. So she threw it out and made another list full of kind things she wanted to do that day. With her new list and a new attitude, she spread kindness around like confetti. All year long, we should strive to walk in grace and do good works and love each other in the name of Jesus.”

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400 Years of Silence

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I scratched the letters B-A-B-Y on a young, green pumpkin and then quickly hid it among the tall grass and tangled, prickly vine. The word would grow as the pumpkin grew. My hands instinctively rubbed my belly as if to warm the life growing in body. I looked towards the bright, blue sky and with a smile mouthed a word of thanks.

A baby, my prayers had been answered. Counting the months, I calculated when I would be “safely” past the first trimester and when it would be “safe” to announce our news. I had it all planned. Our new addition would be adorably announced on social media with a glorious, orange pumpkin full-grown from our own garden. Three pumpkins in a row, one inscribed with the word “baby,” all lined up on the porch step. One pumpkin for each of my children. How perfectly-pinteresty it all would be!

I couldn’t wait to tell my other two children, our family, and our church but I was cautiously optimistic. God had shined his face upon me and had taken away the pain of an early miscarriage. A miscarriage I had experienced only a few short months before. I was relieved nothing was wrong with me but was it really safe to say anything? What if this baby was taken from me too? Doubts and fears flooded my happy heart and I decided to commit to silence.

The silence seemed to be the correct discipline. Only a short week later, my fears became a reality and I lost my baby in a second miscarriage. Angry, hurt, and confused, I walked to the garden with tears streaming down my face, ripped the young, green pumpkin from its life source and threw it as hard as I could into the neighboring woods. It smashed open where it landed. My actions did not make me feel better, it made me feel worse. I felt abandoned, forgotten, and lonely. My faithful prayers had not been heard. If God was so close, why did he feel so far away? And why couldn’t I hear Him? Was he just silent to everyone or just to me? As hard as I tried, I couldn’t hear a thing. Not a peep, not a whisper, not a word…..


It had been four hundred years. Four hundred years of silence since anyone had heard anything from God. Not a peep, not a whisper, not a word.

New religious sects had developed during the Inter-Testamental period (the time between the Old and New Testament.) These groups added many rules and requirements to the law of God and this gave way to avoidance and passive views of religious life.

Politically, Rome was a dominating and an oppressive authority. The Roman Empire was so large, land had been divided and placed in the overseeing hands of the Herods. These men’s lives were filled with political intrigue, murder, violence, sexual immorality, deceit, and hatred. 1 Times were dangerous and uncertain. Hope was waning in the deafening silence.

God was about to break in. His silence was about to be shattered.

In Luke 1:5, we are introduced to a priest named, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth.“Both of them righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” (Luke 1:6)

With a life devoted to faithful service, one might think it would have meant a blessed life. But Elizabeth was barren and having no children in those days would have been humiliating and disgraceful. The Jewish Rabbis said that seven people were excommunicated from God and the list began, “A Jew who has no wife, or a Jew who has a wife and who has no child.”  We can only imagine the whispers behind her back and the longing for a baby in her heart.

Divine interventions come at God’s timing, not ours. When the time came for Zechariah’s division of priests to be on duty, Zechariah was chosen by lot to go into the inner temple of the Lord (Luke 1:10.) This would have been a huge deal and a great honor. There were no less than 20,000 priests altogether and about 1,000 priests per division.3  Zechariah had just won the holy lottery.

On the day of his service, Zechariah stood by the alter, praying his life-long prayer for a child, burning incense, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him (verse 11.) Startled and gripped with fear (who wouldn’t be?) the angel responded, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John.” (verse 13)

Your son will be a joy and delight to many (verse 14,) one who will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah to ready a people prepared for the Lord. (verse 17.)” Zechariah’s response to the angel’s news was one of question and doubt (can you blame him?) and the consequence of his disbelief was silence. He was unable to speak (and some say unable to hear- Luke 1:62) until the day his son was born.

Elizabeth, became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months (Luke 1: 24.)   We are granted insight into her heart with a response of praise. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (verse 25)

A baby. A miracle baby was coming. A baby who would make way for another miracle baby. Against all odds, this was really happening….

 


 

I stared at the positive sign. It was the fifth test, the fifth positive test. How could this be? The timing did not line up. There must be some mistake but how could five positive signs be wrong?

I had just come back from a four-day conference and retreat. I had been surrounded by Godly women, sat under the teaching of faithful people who had inspired and challenged me and my faith. I knew it was a special place and I had been there by divine intervention. I needed healing and restoration and I wanted not only to feel God but I wanted to hear from Him too.

It started as a peep, then a whisper, and then words. “Lay it down at my feet. Surrender your plans and your desires. In my time, not yours.” I did not fully understand but I faithfully made a decision to obey a voice I felt had long forgotten me. I surrendered it all-the fear, the control, my plans- and I left the conference full of peace and hope. I was not fully healed. I knew there would be more work to do, difficult times ahead but I was on a path of healing and God’s silence had been broken.

The blood test from the doctor came back positive, the first trimester came and went, I broke out of my own seclusion and silence and shared the news we were expecting a third baby. No pumpkins lined up but cute little shirts just as “Pinteresty.” This was really happening….

Nine months went by and when it was time deliver my son, he tore into this world through an unexpected C-section. The silence of our life was shattered by his colicky, incessant cries. His first year was challenging. I lived on a limited, allergy free diet and little, very little sleep. I struggling to hear any peep, whisper or word from God. Something was different this time though, I knew the silence did not mean avoidance or abandonment. I knew what I felt did not equate to what was true.

In a sense, the Lord used that time and my son as a way to prepare my heart for a deeper, more dependent, and richer life in faith with the Lord. My babies (the ones in heaven and ones on earth) created an atmosphere that has helped me remember the importance of repentance, dependence, and to stay the path of the Lord even when its hard, goes against all odds, and when it seems God is silent and far away.

Some of us may wish a message from God would come to us. We might feel like God has long forgotten us or his silence is sign he no longer cares. I would like to encourage us to hold on to hope. Listen in the silence for a peep, whisper, or word. Take heart in knowing God hears your prayers (even when we don’t feel like he does.) And be ready with a prepared heart for the Lord’s divine intervention and startling interruptions in our life.

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  1.   Swindoll, C. R. (1984). John the Baptizer: Bible study guide. Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living.
  2. Barclay, W. (1975). The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
  3. Barclay, W. (1975). The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press

Seek and Believe-A Study of the Gospel of Luke-Scripture Plan

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You will watch a generation of Christians-of Christians-set the Bible aside in an attempt to become more like Jesus. And stunningly it will sound completely plausible . This will be perhaps the cleverest of all the devil’s schemes in your generation. Sacrifice TRUTH for LOVE’s sake. And you will rise or fall based upon what whether you will sacrifice one for the other. Will you have the courage to live in the tension of both TRUTH and LOVE?

– Beth Moore

If we are going to be a generation of Jesus followers who follow Jesus well. A generation who keeps His commandments, live like Him, love like Him, then we are going to have to think like Him and KNOW Him well. We can sit under good teaching, read books by good and faithful people, and we can discuss things of faith with others BUT when it comes down to it, each of us, as individuals need to know how to distinguish between truth and lies (with discernment given by the Holy Spirit.)

The only way to get to know someone well is to spend time with them. To get to know Jesus, we need to go right to God’s word. Spend time in prayer and read scripture. Jesus wants us to seek Him, ask questions, believe in His words, rest at His feet, and experience His love as we learn to walk faithfully with Him.

Over the next months, our Sisterhood will be studying through a series on the gospel of Luke. We are going to focus on getting to know Jesus well- what he did, what he said, who he said it to, who he associated. My prayer is through our prayers and scripture readings, God would work on our hearts, help us become more like Jesus, and know both TRUTH and LOVE so that we can become faithful disciples and more willing servants of Him.

Below is a scripture reading plan for the Gospel of Luke. There are five scripture passages for each week. Grab your Bible, grab a journal, maybe a cup of coffee. I have developed a tool, using Luke as an acronym, to help in our study of the scriptures. As you pray and read through each of the scriptures, I hope you find what God has for you to discover.

Please join us (virtually) and in person at our Sisterhood gatherings on this journey to seek and believe in Jesus, Son of Man. I will be praying for you!

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L- Look towards God in prayer ( Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9)  Don’t go to  the scriptures looking for your idea, go searching for his.

U Read prayerfully and carefully to understand  Proverbs 2:1-3, “Call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding. and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of  the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

KKeep and store commands within your heart– Proverbs 2:10-11,” For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant for your soul. Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you.” Deuteronomy 11:18

EExplore– What does this mean to me and my relationship to Jesus? How does it apply to my life? Where can this passage lead to me to deeper and new places with Jesus? (James 1:22, Ephesians 5:1-2)

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Click link below to download plan….

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One Word for 2017: INSTRUMENT

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There are too many good words to chose from and I went back and forth before deciding on THE word. The one word which will serve as a lens to view life through and a word to focus on in 2017. It’s a word I will explore and ask God to use to help me to grow in character and in faith. My word for 2017 is INSTRUMENT.

It wasn’t a word I had considered. I could have missed it. I discovered the word while watching a scene from a TV show aired on the Hallmark Channel. I know, I wish I could say I was led to the word in prayer or while studying my Bible or reading classical literature written by some famous, great author, or even heard the word from a motivational speaker or pastor. No, it was through a TV show.

In this one particular scene, a character held a worn Bible in his hand (at least it was a wholesome TV show) and carefully turned to the inside of the cover. Holding his breath in anticipation, he found what he had hoped would be there and thoughtfully read the inscription (the following prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.) The words sparked new resolve in him, renewed his faith in himself and his mission. In classic dramatic action, he took off running with his Bible in his hand, sprinting to bring healing to a situation and leaving me to think about St. Francis’s prayer. The word INSTRUMENT lingered in my head all night and the following day.

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The next night, I was watching another television show. This one about a group of nuns and midwives from London who traveled to a struggling mission hospital in Africa. I know it is just a TV show but I was inspired by the characters and story lines. Each character using their gifts and INSTRUMENTS, whether faith-based or science-based, to bring hope and healing to lives. By the end of the special, I was ready to buy plane tickets to Africa, move my family, and join some mission field hospital!

Granted these shows are fictional, the settings staged, the characters imagined, but the story lines are not all that different from the true stories and realities of our world. There are lost people. People who have lost their faith and faith in themselves. Hurting people who need light and hope. People with physical needs- food, clothes, a roof over their head and emotional needs. People who need to be heard and loved. People who need someone to come alongside of them and need to know they are not alone or forgotten. And I want to get in there, in the middle of it as an INSTRUMENT, as a tool in God’s hand.

Whether that means working in the little things, everyday life with everyday people or building something big, with new people, outside of my comfort zone, I am praying that God will use me for his glory. A tool by itself is useless. It is only effective in the hand of one who knows how to use it. For me to be an effective tool, I need to know the One who is using me and for what purpose. Part of my 2017 plan is to read through the Bible and focus on the gospel. Particularly, I am feeling led to the gospel of Luke. Some of my blogging, writing, and speaking engagements over the next months will be on my study of Luke.

I hope your new year is off to a great start! I am looking forward to studying, learning, and trying new things in 2017. If you have a word or goals for the new year, I would love to hear and pray about them for you.

Until next time,

xoxo

Shanna 

 


2016: Year in Review

There have been times in my life when I’ve had an overwhelming sense to do everything I can to remember the moment. Sometimes the moments have been big, life altering events like my children’s births or the death of a loved one. Other times the moments are found among mundane everyday tasks. Moments that stand out as special, holy gifts. In good and bad moments, I have commanded myself to stop, take a good look around, listen, and pay attention to the people who are with me. Then I pray. I pray my careful observations will become a memory or a lasting impression on my heart in which I can always feel.

Over Christmas break, we traveled to my brother’s house where we gathered with my family. Our family lives in several different states making times when we are all together very rare and special. It was loud and crazy. There was food, a lot of food. There was dancing, singing, praying, and playing with the kids. And food, more food. There was a whole lot of talking and a whole lot of love.

While we were together, I couldn’t help but think about what it was like for my Grandma, Mom and Dad, to be surrounded by a family they started. A bittersweet mix of the golden memories of the past and forging new ones in the present to be remembered for a future time. Missing loved ones and celebrating life in their children and grandchildren. A job well done, children reared, overcoming hard times and celebrating the good times. All this wrapped up in this thing called life.

One night my brother-in-law called us into the living room to watch a video he put together of clips he had taken of his family throughout the year. He captured the big moments and the small ones and masterly put them together complete with touching music. With my family, I watched a year fly by in about three minutes. I was struck with how much of our daily worries and what we think is big stuff, really isn’t and how the small touches, details, and love in life are really what mean the most. All those little moments collected together to mean something very big. It is not the things or even the places, it’s the people that make life worthwhile and meaningful.

My brother-in-law’s video inspired me to reflect back on my year. I went through hundreds and hundreds of pictures and picked out the most meaningful captures. When I look at these pictures, I see a common theme. My word for 2016 was community. These pictures represent so many of the special communities I am part of. God has richly blessed me through this word and my heart is so full thinking of His kindness and His gift to me in people. I was going to add captions but then changed my mind. For those of you who were with me, I hope these pictures spark a special memory or a special moment for you. Thank you, thank you all for being a part of my life, praying for me, and inspiring me to be the best woman, mother, and leader I can be. I love you dearly!  Happy New Year! ❤

January- Subways and Skiing

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February- School, Snow, Sunsets

 

March- Family

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Road trip to my brother’s house where we met up with my sister, my parents, and Gammy. We do not get to see each other often so these trips are important and special time.

April- Wonder and Discoveries

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May- New Friends and Callings

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June- Overcoming Fears and Heights

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July- Gammy on the Go

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August- ADVENTURE

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September- New Beginnings

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October- Incredible Opportunities with Incredible Women

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November-SHINE…Together

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December- Home is Where the Heart Is

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Here’s to 2017….

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A Ship Called “The Fixer”

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I am a fixer. When something is broken, I want to fix it. Messy situations call to me like a sirens’ song to a ship. I want to jump in and help but sometimes I find myself frustrated and overwhelmed by the rocks of reality and the lack of my resources. Conflict makes me uncomfortable and angry disagreements make me uneasy. I wish the world could find a way to live in peace, love, and harmony, like pretty boats sailing on calm, happy seas at a beautiful sunset. (I know, I am a dreamer.)

There seems to be a lot a whole lot of broken lately. A lot of things that need fixing and many jagged rocks to be snared upon. From world wide issues to individual interactions and attitudes, I have been watching and listening, reading and thinking. I have been praying and  I have been trying to explain and solve situations and circumstances that are completely out of my control. When I find myself tired and heading for the rocks of burden and frustration, I need to steer my ship in a different direction.

If I had unlimited resources and ultimate power, I would drill wells for clean water, make sure each person had a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, shoes on their feet, and food in their bellies. I would find each orphan a home. If I had the power to take away all brokenness, fear, and the hurt, I would. I would cure cancer and all other diseases that destroy and take people away too soon. I would mend and heal broken relationships and anything else that cause physical pain, shattered lives, and futures that seem hopeless and scary.

But I do not have that power, I am not God (and a good thing too. I would royally mess things up.) I cannot see the whole span of time or His divine plan. I cannot see how God orchestrates divine interventions of people crossing paths and circumstances that allow people opportunities to grow in their faith and love. I cannot see the finest details or understand how harden hearts soften or how darkness turns to light through the smallest miracles and touches of love found in the most perilous of storms.

I am limited but I serve and love a unlimited God. When I start feeling overwhelmed and the need to fix things, or more accurately the need to control things, I am better off leaving those things in the hands of God and trusting in His divine purpose and plan. Trusting He will provide.

Yes, I can be the hands and feet of Jesus. I will still reach out, walk alongside, and love the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the widows, the orphans, and the lost. BUT I will not get overwhelmed trying fix the unlimited number of problems that exist or get frustrated with my lack of resources to fix them. God has ultimate control, the power, and all the resources necessary. He is watching and listening. God hears the cries of our earnest hearts. He hears and listens and because He listens, I can be calm, hear and listen too.

In the book of Malachi, chapter 3, Malachi points out different groups of people- the complainers and the believers. The complainers (Malachi 3:13-15) felt as though they were serving and not getting anywhere. They were grumpy, frustrated and could not see the rewards of their faithful service. In their eyes, their world was getting worse and they did not like not having the ultimate control to fix it.

The believers, the faithful remnant (Malachi 3:16-18,) found themselves surrounded by the same circumstances but they remained faithful to God by fearing the Lord and His plans. The believers met together to edify and encourage each other, to worship God. They held God high in awe. They did not try to control the situations, they did not complain, they spoke to each other about the Lord and His truths. God paid attention to them. He paid attention to their words and the way they served in gladness.

   16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

Malachi 3:16-18 English Standard Version (ESV)

When faced with situations that need repair, I can remember the faithful remnant and their example of servitude in gladness. When I feel helpless or overwhelmed, I can pray  in full confidence knowing God hears my prayers and he remembers me. I can remember that I am a treasured possession, like a jewel, beautiful, unique and precious. I can recall my own sufferings, trials, and God’s faithfulness to me and use those past experiences to have compassion and help another person. I can surround myself with a cloud of joyful, glad witnesses who can speak truth and encouragement to me. And I can trust, I can trust that the Lord sees the horizon and all the storms in between. He has the resources necessary and in His strength and for His glory, He will provide.

Be encouraged! Keep sailing your ship forward, diverting the rocks and learning from the storms. Pick up those who have been shipwrecked, help where you can but do not be burdened. Trust that God has you in the right place at the right time, it will be He who gives you want you need and it will be God who completely restores those in need. Fill your sails with prayers and thanksgiving, and enjoy the views as the Lord gently guides you in the right direction through life.