Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm Feelin' a List

Just ending my day and feeling a bit detatched from the blog cuz I've felt such a funk these past weeks. But want to keep you abreast of life in Anna's world (I am pretending you are highly invested)...
  • Watching my "n-th" endless hour of news about the economic crisis. Wavering between total trust/peace and lamet/freakin' about how we might have done things differently. Plus spending too much time listening to the same analysis over and over.
  • I am (overly) interested in seeing how Palin fares verses Biden on Thurs given my personal bent towards caring about foreign affairs. Kinda an unfair match up in that category.
  • Lunched with Heather and Angela today... Angela came with Malachi in tow (per her usual) and I brought Lucky to test the dog-love affect on recovering patients. Heather loved both. I feel inspired to take Lucky around to hospitals for visits because he's so wonderful. But in all honesty, he'll probably stay reserved just for my friend in recovery (I'm assuming there's dog-hospital training).
  • We leave for Turkey three weeks from tomorrow. Yes, I did NOT studder. That's basically tomorrow which freaks me out about every other hour.
  • Andy and I went to the Turkish American Women's Assoc end of Ramadan Iftar dinner last night. So honored to be invited and loved getting to spend the evening with our sweet friends from Turkey, living right here in Austin. Got my dolmas on... all readying my tummy for Turkey in 3 weeks.
  • I talked to Robin today, in the D.R. She is sick and homesick. Everyone out there who knows who I'm talking about, pray for her. She's fought a LOT of illness so far this semester and it makes for hard times down there. I am so glad I got the phone when she called. Lots of tears, prayers, and just needing company. Send her an email!!! PS-- I MISS HER!!!!!!
  • Storytelling Group is rockin' my world. I am so glad that God is stretching me in this area of life... how to talk about Jesus to people who don't know Him in a way that is not limited to Scripture quoting and formal explanations!
  • I am super curious about how Bush & Maris' day went today, meeting the birth mother of their soon-to-be baby boy. I keep blog-stalking waiting for the update.
  • I tried "two-a-days" today at the gym... just getting sick of being unhealthy. But was so ravenous by dinner I ended up having sushi with white wine... but followed by 2 100 cal paks of cookies. I went over my Weight Watchers points. Buggar! Even with the "activity points" I earned from working out twice. Will this weight ever come off?
  • Andy and I have a new TV sitcom stand in till our favorite shows come back: King of Queens. Laughing lots. Surprised we like it. Ok, love it.

The Story of Elijah

This past week in our storytelling group, we were each to prepare a story from the Old Testament. We could pick any story we wanted to... just to get the ball rolling for us to practice storytelling in general. I chose the story of Elijah. Partly because I went to the top of Mount Carmel when we were in Israel last May, so I've seen the place where this happend. But also partly because when I was studying James a few weeks ago, he referred to Elijah as an example of someone who prayed with results.

James 5: 16b-18 says, "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for the next three and a half years! Then he prayed for rain, and down it poured. The grass turned green, and the crops began to grow again."

So, I was intrigued. I cross-referenced my way back to the story in the Old Testament and was enamoured with it as though it were a page turner. Here's my "storyteller's version" for you.

When King Ahab was king of Israel’s northern kingdom—which was full of God’s people, he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord than any of the other kings before him.” What did he do, you might ask? Well, God had given His people a command, “You shall have no other gods before Me” and “you shall not make any idol or likeness to worship or serve because I am a jealous God and I show will show mercy to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

But King Ahab didn’t keep these commands. Instead, he married Jezebel (who wasn’t one of God’s people) and began to worship Baal (Jezebel’s god). He built a temple and altar for Baal and he set up places of worship and sacrifice to this false god. He led all of God’s people into a state of rebellion from God, and led them to worship Baal as he instructed. He really distracted God’s people from worshipping Him.

So what does God do? Well, without much fanfare or announcement, the prophet Elijah bursts upon the scene and, per God’s instruction, predicts a severe drought will come during the reign of King Ahab. Elijah goes to the King and says, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel lives—the God whom I worship and serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years unless I give the word!”

The no rain thing had a two-fold purpose: 1) a consequence/punishment for disobedience to God (by worshipping other gods), and 2) it was an exercise in redirecting the Israelites’ heart and focus on God.

Elijah prayed for no rain… for so long… and when the people’s attention was assuredly gained, he goes out to meet King Ahab. When the King sees Elijah, he says, “So it’s you, is it?—Israel’s troublemaker?” But Elijah replies “I have made no trouble for Israel. You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshipped the images of Baal instead.”

Elijah says to the King, come, I challenge you to a test to determine once and for all which god is the real god. When all the people were assembled on Mt. Carmel, Elijah addresses the crowd saying, “How long are you going to waver between 2 opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal is god, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent. The sting of the truth shut them up for a moment.

Then Elijah sets the scene for the dual. There will be 2 sacrifices. One prepared for Baal, and one for God. Each group will call to their god asking him to consume his sacrifice. And the God who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God! So the 450 prophets of Baal called to their god all day, all the way until evening, but nothing happened. The sacrifice of the prophets of Baal did not produce a result.

Now it was Elijah’s turn (1 prophet to their 450). As he prepared the sacrifice, he even drenched it with water to make it even more difficult for a fire to start and he dug a trench around it and filled it with water too. Then Elijah prayed “O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, prove today that you are God and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this AT YOUR COMMAND. Oh Lord, answer me! Answer me SO THAT these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

In a fire-y display of power and majesty, God consumes the offering of Elijah’s sacrifice, proving to the on-looking nation that He alone is Lord God. Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull (the sacrifice), the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the ditch.

When the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried out, ‘The Lord is God! The Lord is God!” THAT is the result that God desired from Elijah’s prayers. God had wanted His people to return their affection to Him. Having done so, Elijah immediately went and fell on his face praying that God would now release the rains on Israel. And He did. Now that God had regained the focus of His people, He allowed the rains to return. And the people knew it was by His hand. The grass turned green and all the crops began to grow again. And the people worshipped God once again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm Officially a Responder

Okay, so, do you remember a few posts back, I mentioned that I was "Now Sharing Jesus Online"? Well, after applying and going through their paper training, the organization starts giving you online inquiries and emails to respond to. But for the first 30 days, you're still considered "in training," and they monitor/counsel you for a month as you get used to sharing Jesus online with all the contacts that come to your inbox. Really smart on their part, and I have certainly appreciated someone over my shoulder just making sure I had someone to turn to with questions I was having. But as of yesterday, I completed my 30 days! I'm now officially a responder.

But now to the really cool part... In just my first 30 days, I responded to inquiries from:
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • Nigeria
  • Indonesia
  • Jamaica
  • South Africa
  • Algeria
  • UAE
  • Botswana
  • Turks & Caicos
  • Fiji
  • Bangladesh
  • Thailand
  • Egypt
  • and 12 different states in the U.S.

Ya! That's right!!!! I got to encourage new belivers, or recommitting believers, or people who were seeking about Jesus from ALL THOSE PLACES in just 30 days. I mean, how stinkin' cool is that!?!?!? (you set up how many emails you get a week, so you could get fewer if you don't have as much time).

Bottom line, you all should sign up to do this. It is such a joy for me to get to do this everyday. Whenever Andy comes home for the night, I am always jumping to tell him-- "guess where I got an email from TODAY!?!?" It puts me in the best mood. PLEASE SIGN UP... you will love it!

WANNA SIGN UP TO DO THIS TOO (or learn more about it)? Click here!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Stone's New Worship Dude's Wife-- Get To Know Her

Hey all you Stoners out there reading this blog... I just wanted to introduce you to the latest addition to the ever-growing crowd of Stone staff wives: Jamie Ivey. Aaron came on staff in August, or something like that, to help share the load of worship leading with Andy. We have absolutely loved getting to know them so far... seriously good peeps and an incredible addition to the Stone.

Anywho, I just finished my latest article on my Ordinary People blog and its about Jamie. She and Aaron are bleeding hearts for the country of Haiti and would love to tell you why you should care about Haiti too. If you haven't found their blogs, yet-- check them out (Jamie and Aaron). Or you can go to my Ordinary peep blog and read more about her.

But HEADS UP-- Jamie leaves on Monday for Haiti to visit the two kids they are adopting from there (see photo above or Aaron, Jamie & their two Haitian kiddos), encourage and love on some missionary workers there, and witness first-hand the devastation left by Hurricane IKE (you think Texas got it bad... Haiti is in near shambles without a government infastructure that can help). Keep a close watch on her blog this week as she will be posting pics and updates regularly.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Quiet Phase

I have had a few people email wondering where I wandered off too this week in the blog-o-sphere. Truth is, I haven't felt much like writing. This past Sunday, Sept 14th, was my mom's birthday. She died when I was 25 and I think I find myself missing her more around birthdays than I do on the anniversary of her death. I don't get near as weepy after so many years, but I think I just get more quiet. I don't talk as much. I think a lot more. I just process, internally, the life that continues on around me. Plus, the "semester" really got underway for me this week and I have been busier than normal. That combination has lured me into going AWOL, if just for a week or so. So, thanks to those who've wondered where I went... I will slowly return, little bits at a time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trailer for Beyond Belief

9-11 Widows Reach Out to Afghan Widows

To watch the FILM TRAILER, click here.

Today, my good friend Toni and I sat down to watch a documentary we had Netflix'd called "BEYOND BELIEF". We found the website for this documentary while we were training a group of 10 women to go to Egypt this past spring and made mental notes to rent it when it came out on DVD. It arrived in my mailbox last week, and we set up a date-day to watch it together. I woke up this morning, turned on the news while I brewed coffee, and realized our date-day was TODAY- the anniversary of 9-11. And the documentary is about two 9-11 widows and what they did in their grief to reach out to the widows of Afghanistan, where our troops were sent in retaliation from the Sept 11th attacks.

The Netflix package reads: "Two strangers, Patti Quigley and Susan Retik, formed a common bond in their grief when both lost their husbands on Sept 11, 2001. This documentary chronicles what they did with that unimaginable loss, traveling to Afghanistan to meet women there also widowed by violence. Director Beth Murphy follows Quigley and Retik as they discover that although they are worlds apart, they share a kinship with the Middle Eastern counterparts."

The two women started a non-profit organization that helps provide grants to organizations that work with widows in Afghanistan. They train them in skills that help them provide for their families, give them micro-loans, and check-in on them after they've completed the programs. These two women started "Beyond the 11th" with one fundraising bike ride from Ground Zero back to Boston where they lived with their families on the anniversary of 9-11 in 2004. It took 3 days, but they made it back and raised $140,000 to give to Afghan widows. Then in 2006, they travelled to Afghanistan to see the faces and hear the stories of the widows they had compassion to help. After meeting these desperate women across the world, they vowed to return home and keep raising money to help provide a means for these ladies to press on despite the challenges and horrific circumstances under which they live.

Rent this film on Netflix... Go to the Beyond the 11th website and read more about their stories... Donate to help provide food, care, education, and aid to the widows of Afghanistan.
http://www.principlepictures.com/beyondbelief/ (the documentary's website)http://www.beyondthe11th.org/ (the non-profit they started to bring relief to Afghan widows).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Alter-Blog-o's New Post

I posted my latest article on the Ordinary People - Extraordinary God blog that I have (my "alter-blog-o"). Anyway, wanted to let you guys know... the latest story is about KATIE (pictured above with Steve), a midwife from Austin who is about to move (with her husband and newborn baby) to the Middle East to work at a hospital there. It's a pretty fascinating story. Check it out HERE.

My heart for the Ordinary People - Extraordinary God website is to share the stories people I know personally, or have a close degree of separation from, who God is using to do His work... the point is, God can (and does) use anyone who is surrendered to His will. You don't have to be a super-star Christian, a high-ranking influencer, or even a paid church-staffer. The only requirement is you have to be a follower of Jesus, sold out for His glory. God loves to use ordinary, normal people because it is through the weak that He shames the strong. Read these stories and BE INSPIRED to fulfill His unique call on YOUR LIFE. No believer is exempt from an amazing call to serve and love as Christ's ambassador. Believe He can use YOU...

If you have missed some of my past articles on that websites, here's a short list that you can click on, depending on your interests...
  • Today's post: KATIE-- Middle Eastern Baby Catcher (newlywed and new parent, Katie, heads to the Middle East to be Christ's light to delivering mothers)
  • CARA-- A Broken Heart for the Local Community (a video testimony of her work at the Hope Community Outreach Program)
  • HILARY-- Teaching Strangers in a Foreign Land (she's an adult ESL teacher in Austin welcoming internationals from around the globe)
  • JEN-- Side-splitting Voice of Our Generation (Christian author and speaker living in Austin who's calling women to action for Jesus)
  • WAHIDAH-- A Matchless Ministry to the Handicapped (An Arab woman who opened a daycare facility for mentally and physically handicapped children in North Africa)
  • CAROLINE--India's Orphan Ambassador (local Austin-ite turned non-profit hero who's goal is to care for all the orphans in India, one at a time)
  • ROBIN-- Answering His Call One Day at a Time (an Austin 20-something living in the Dominican Republic working for an educational development program for Hatian immigrants in the D.R.)
  • ABRAR-- Inspiring Me to Expand My Ministry (an Arab woman living in North Africa that does evangelism ministry on Satellite TV yet still spends her days in the slums of her city reaching out to poor women)
  • AMOS-- Just Your Average Guy (a look into how Amos' story, from the Bible, shows us that God uses unsuspecting people to accomplish His purposes... the conception of this whole website's vision)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Storytelling Experiment

Since the beginning of 2008, I find myself continually being prompted by the Spirit to work on improving my Biblical and testimonial storytelling skills as it relates to evangelism in my life. As I intentionally pursue an increase in relationships with women who don't know the Lord Jesus, I sometimes feel overwhelmed or intimidated or just plain clueless about HOW to share and WHAT to share with them. I read my Bible every day, teach in the Get Trained Ministry, am a pastor's wife, and yet somehow I still get tripped up by the enemy as he lurks to intimidate my outreach. What I realized is many of us know the Bible, but have a hard time recounting it in SIMPLE story form to someone who is unfamiliar with it. We know what God is doing in our life, but would be hard-pressed to explain it in non-churchy terms to a nonbeliever. This was something I began longing to work on.

The more I prayed about how to do this, God kept encouraging me not to go it alone. I sensed that this was a growing theme in some of the women's lives that I know. For us to set out to figure this out together would be even more fruitful. So tonight, our little Storytelling Experiment began. There are seven of us that are gonna meet every week for the next several months to begin figuring out this concept together. Every week we will each learn a new Bible story, practice telling it during our group time, then go out and and share it with someone outside the group each week... all with the goal of firming up this skill so that we will have an entire repertoire of stories ready to go when an opportunity presents itself in everday conversation.

Why stories, you might ask? Because STORIES are memorable, STORIES have power. Shane Claiborne writes in Irresistible Revolution: "Few things have more transformative power than people and stories." Not just that, but 4 billion people in this world cannot read well (if at all). Even in the U.S.-- where education is free and school attendance is compulsory-- 3 out of 7 adults have either Basic or Below-Basic literacy skills. That's almost half, folks! Plus, recent studies note that even people who are literate in the world today would much rather gather with friends to swap stories than to read alone, in silent isolation. Many people who can read quite well would rather watch a movie or TV show or talk on the telephone than read a book or magazine. (information from http://www.chronologicalbiblestorying.com/). Besides people's growing preference, stories are also disarming. Many people who may not come to hear a sermon or go to a Bible study will listen to a story. They aren't as confrontational, so you can tell them to people who would not otherwise discuss spiritual topics.

But perhaps the most compelling reason to learn to STORYTELL the Bible is because God thought storytelling was a great idea... The Bible, itself is basically one large story, made up of many smaller stories. And Jesus, Himself, used stories throughout His life of ministry... someone would ask Him a question and He'd tell a story to give the answer... when the crowds gathered around Him, He used stories to illustrate His points.

I want to know the Bible in such a way that the stories just fall off my tongue all the time! As this experiment unfolds this semester, I promise to post some of the stories I learn to tell. I hope they teach you about God and His heart for you. And I hope that you will turn around and tell God's story to someone in your life who needs to hear about the hope that is found in Christ!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My First Iftar

My sweet Turkish conversation partner emailed me today to ask if I wanted to go with her and a visiting cousin to watch the sunset on Mt. Bonnell. I hadn't been up there (this is really sad, being an Austin-ite and all) since 1996, so I jumped at the chance to spend time with the two of them! Her cousin is visiting for the summer (doing an ESL program at Rice) before starting university this fall back in Germany. She is a Turk living in Germany (I learned tonight that there are 1.7 million Turks living in Germany-- 500,000 of which are citizens! Who knew?!?!). So, my friend wanted to show her some Austin sights.
We walked Mt. Bonnell, took pictures with the river backdrop, then pictures with the city skyline backdrop,
then pictures with the steep stairs you climb in the backdrop. Next stop, we drove to UT to show her the Tower and the stadium.

Finally, the sun was down and it was time for them to "break the fast". The Muslim holy month of Ramadan started yesterday. For the next 30 days (28 now), Muslims around the world will be fasting from food and drink (even water, which I also learned tonight) from sun-up to sun-down. At the close of each day, they have an "Iftar dinner" where they break the fast together with family and friends. As we drove back to her apartment, my friend asked if I would join them for Iftar! What an honor!

The three of us and my friend's husband all shared a feast of traditional Turkish foods. We started the fast-breaking with a date and an olive (both of which my friend said had holy significance). Then we had soup (The World's BEST Soup, I might add) to ease their tummies into eating. After that, we had a loaded plate of dolmas, an Antioch specialty meat (my friend is from Antioch-- yes, the one from the Bible), vegetables, homemade yogurt, salad, borek... TONS of food! And we polished off the meal with tea and sweets. As if that wasn't enough, in her generosity, my friend sent me home with TWO plates, fully loaded with food for Andy (who was out of town tonight at Breakaway but who she thought might return very hungry late tonight) and a tupperware full of Turkish cookies!

I've said it before, but I'll say it again... Turks are the most hospitable people in the world! I am so glad to have experienced my first Iftar with such a sweet, precious friend!