Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving - What's it all about?

Take a minute and think about the above question - what's the first thing that comes to mind? Pilgrims? Dinner at Grandma's? An attitude of gratitude? Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie? Football? One day til Black Friday??

I don't know what your answer is, but last night at our Thanksgiving Eve service my thoughts shifted from my response to God's. In God's eyes what is Thanksgiving all about? I have to believe it means more than setting aside the fourth Thursday in November for food, fellowship and football.

As we walked through scripture, we found that is the case. Thanksgiving was first mentioned in the Bible in Leviticus 7:12, "If you present your peace offering as a thanksgiving offering..." The passage goes on to explain what was necessary to make the sacrifice acceptable to God. Many steps were involved to give an offering of thanks, a process we don't think about today.

It's true, God's expectations back then are different than they are today - He no longer wants or needs us to sacrifice an animal. He sent His Son years ago as the lamb who took away the sin of the world. So as you reflect on your Thanksgiving day don't worry about failing to carry out the procedure required of the initial thanksgiving offering, but do please take some time to think about what that offering should look like in the here and now.

For a clearer picture turn to Romans 12:1, "And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind He will accept. When you think of what He has done for you, is this too much to ask? " Thankfully, God no longer asks us to go through the grueling (and gross) process of animal sacrifice instead He gives us even a bigger challenge - He wants us to give up our bodies, our very lives for Him.

And on a day designated as Thanksgiving that may seem easy - we set aside time, prepare a wonderful meal, gather with family and friends, offer thanks for the blessings and then prepare for the biggest shopping day of the year. In the busyness of it all, do we really stop and think about thanks giving? What should that look like?

Think of all He's blessed you with, starting with salvation - is it enough to pause on one day out of 365 and have a grateful heart? I don't think so, but this Thanksgiving I'm seeing things differently than I have in the past. It's not that I've been ungrateful - really for the most part I've usually been a thankful gal, but the holiday is thanksGIVING and it's not just a state of mind, this word involves some action.

On the world's calendar it's one day out of the year, but in God's eyes I believe He sees Thanksgiving as a way of life. And again this is my interpretation but I believe He expects more than words of thanks - it's our living sacrifice that truly shows our gratitude and glorifies His name.

So on a day when perhaps you sent a card to say "Thank you" or gave a hug with a grateful heart take a minute and think about how you can thank our Father in heaven. And though thanking the ones we love is important, and enjoyable too, giving thanks to God daily is what it's all about.

This can't be done with a card or a big meal, but there's something we can give. And I think it's wonderfully explained by the words in my son's board book, "What can I give him as small as I am? I will give Him my life."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What's in a name?

"Jeda-what? How did you come up with that name? How do you spell that??" All questions we've heard a number of times over the last month after naming our little guy Jedidiah Jay Beran. I'm sure the spelling one is a question he will hear for many years to come, but for now when his 4 year old sister asks, I simply respond, "J-E-D."

That speeds things up, but for now I'd like to share the story behind his name because I know it's not one you hear everyday. Our three older kids all have a family connection with their name - J.D. is James Daniel, with James being his dad and grandpa's name and Daniel his other grandpa. Joy's middle name is a combination of my middle name, Ann, and my mom's middle name, Lee, to get Leanne. While Jaylyn has her other grandma's name for her middle name, Marie. This time around we decided not to move to the next generation, but instead have a name that was on my heart during the pregnancy.

As some of you know, prior to this pregnancy we experienced a miscarriage and as I prepared to meet our little man, the baby we lost came to mind quite often. At times I would find myself feeling guilty - as I was excited about a new baby, it was hard to think about embracing a new child when thoughts would turn to the baby I never got to hold.

I believe it was last March when I was first explaining this to my husband. He grieved too, but things seemed different from a mom's perspective. As I shared my pain with him he encouraged me to look at David's response after he had lost a child. So in an attempt to find comfort that is what I did.
I found myself in 2 Samuel 12 and read the following words, "But when David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. "Is the baby dead? he asked. "Yes," they replied. Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. Then he went to the Tabernacle and worshipped the LORD. After that he returned to the palace and ate. His advisers were amazed. "We don't understand you," they told him. "While the baby was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the baby is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again."

David replied, "I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, 'Perhaps the LORD will be gracious to me and let the child live.' But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me."

Though it didn't take the pain away, David's words made sense. In the few short weeks I knew I was pregnant before the miscarriage I sensed something was wrong. I too had shed tears while our baby was living, but now it was true my child would not return to me. Like David though there was hope - someday I will go to her.

So with that I had some peace and found myself looking forward to the newest addition to our family. With that expectation came the joy of choosing a name and as I had numerous names go through my mind, God drew me back to this story in Samuel in July.

In verse 24, it goes on to say, "Then David comforted Bathsheba, his wife and slept with her. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved the child and sent word through Nathan the prophet that his name should be Jedidiah - "beloved of the LORD" - because the LORD loved him.

When God had me read these words again, I had just found out we were expecting a boy when prior to our ultrasound I had felt it was a girl. That experience brought back the pain and loss of our miscarriage, but God kept speaking to me. As I let go of a little girl's name He had put on my heart, He gave me the name of our new little man.

It's a name I didn't expect, actually one my husband considered 3 years earlier, but I had ruled out. I think he was surprised when I was the one to put it up for consideration this time! But as I read thru the notes in my Bible that go along with verse 24, I could relate - "Solomon was the 4th son of David and Bathsheba. But Bathsheba may still have been grieving over the first child's death."

That was me. And now I'm blessed to have my own little Jedidiah! Even though others will forever misspell his name, I know without a doubt it's the one God gave! And I pray he will always live up to the meaning of it and forever be a friend of God!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rise and Shine - WOW!!

The Rise and Shine Women's Retreat was held on Saturday, October 31st and what a day it was!! Above is a picture of the planning team along with our guest speaker, Renee Swope from Proverbs 31 and her assistant, Leah DiPascal. (From left to right - Leah, Rachel Beran, me, Renee, Judy Walsten and Leanne Anderson) The event was one we've been working towards and praying about for months and God showed up in a big way to answer those prayers and more!!

I'd like to try and capture a bit of the journey this has been, so to start at the beginning - in September of 2006 God put it on my heart to write a book and a couple of weeks later the idea of a women's conference was impressed as well. Doubt took over though and I really didn't think that would happen. I'd read plenty of books and attended a few conferences that I knew there was no way I could do either. I was right, alone I couldn't, but after putting the ideas in God's hands He continued moving me forward.

He started with the book, but about a year ago reminded me of the idea of a conference. I entertained it in my mind for awhile, still thinking it was a bit of a stretch, but yet no matter how much I tried convincing myself this was crazy, the idea didn't go away. So by December I stepped out and shared with my husband and a close friend and mentor and they agreed it would be work, but encouraged me to keep listening to God and move forward.

So I did and by January, we'd set a date, had a location, contacted Renee Swope to speak and created a planning team. It was all a bit overwhelming, but God kept providing confirmation as this is what we were to do. But by the end of February circumstances made me second guess all that was taking place - I found out I was expecting a new baby!! And with a due date of October 29th, 2 days before the retreat, I honestly didn't understand what God was doing.

I questioned how this was all supposed to happen and wrestled with the fact that I may not attend a retreat I was planning and excited about. I also felt bad in a way thinking here I had this idea, put a team together and may not be there to help. But still God confirmed it all - I remember in March when we were going to sign a contract and officially book Renee as our speaker. Before printing the contract, I emailed the team a second time to make sure this is what we were to do. After hearing another round of yes responses I printed the form and felt God say, "You need to do this."

That thought came to mind quite often as we kept moving forward. At times I'd wonder, "Why God? Why do we need to do this?" I never heard an answer, but tried to create one a few times, and often thought about the women who would be attending. And though I'm sure He had more than one reason for us to plan this event, He answered my question this past Saturday.

When God impressed on my heart, "You need to do this" I never thought the reasons would be so many and so personal. Like I said I know other lives were touched, but not until I was driving home did I realize I was one of the women we'd been praying for. Our goal for the retreat was that women would be encouraged, refreshed and renewed and leave with the desire to "rise and shine." He answered that prayer for at least one attendee - ME!

I look back at the journey of the last year and I am amazed at His faithfulness - God provided every step of the way. Including the birth of our little man on the 12th of October. And then He topped it all off with a wonderful experience this past weekend, one in which I was truly blessed. It was an honor to meet and visit with Renee and Leah on Friday night - they are wonderful women - so real and have a huge heart for God and His people.

Then Saturday, wow, I still feel like I don't have words. It was so neat to see faces for the names we've been praying for and hear stories of hearts touched by God. Listening to Renee was an opportunity to hear from God - I related to so much of what she said and was greatly encouraged by her obedience.

It seemed like God had so much to say and from the stories I've heard He wasn't just talking to me! I could elaborate but for now all I can say is I'm so grateful we serve such a BIG God, one who is good and has plans that are perfect. Tonight I encourage you to listen to His voice and follow His lead because when we believe, He will bless!!