Blog News

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Fun announcement:
Joyfullyblessed.wordpress.com is in the process of becoming JoyfullyBlessedBlog.com!

Pardon “the dust” as this transition happens, categories are re-organized, a new look comes this way, and more. All the posts remain available and while less new content will be posted during the transition, still keep your eye out, because there still will be posts coming your way!

Devotional, First Trinity

Truth IN Love

One technique our church has taught for studying God’s Word is to look at each word in a verse, emphasizing it and seeing how that gives insight to the verse as a whole. One place I love to use this study tool is on verses that seem well known to me already. When “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) popped up as the verse of the day during our recent Miracle of Mercy study I decided to use this technique.

In general with this verse, I feel like each part is one over which I could stumble when it comes to living it out.

SPEAK: I hold back and stay content to “let my actions show” when really I may just be afraid to speak up.

THE TRUTH: Other times I may speak, but what comes out isn’t truth or is only partially truth, not THE truth. Rarely is it a flat out lie, though we can all say that’s happened too. Rather, I’m tempted to beat around the truth or hide the truth in wishy-washy thoughts. If I’m going to speak truth, it needs to be the whole truth, unhidden.

IN (love): This is where the rubber hit the road for me in my recent reflections on this verse. To be in something meant it’s completely surrounded by something else. If I’m IN a house, from the outside, you’d see the house (and perhaps me peeking through a window). If an ingredient is IN soup, you may taste the individual ingredient, but overall, you just taste soup.

I think sometimes I serve up truth WITH love, as a side dish or a house with a garage. It’s much harder to speak truth IN love. When I can do that, what the person on the receiving end sees most, is love. When it’s serve as a side dish, I have a much higher chance tog hurting the other person, but if it’s all wrapped in love, the truth still gets communicated but in a way they can receive. Maybe it’s like parents who hid medicines in foods their kids enjoy.

LOVE: Lastly, love. I can stumble to love out this verse when I don’t have a heart of love. This means I have true and honest unconditional care and compassion for the other. I’m willing to sacrifice. This is where the shift can happen from “setting someone straight” and walking with a brother or sister into a better way of living. This is the place to stop and do a heart check.

Questions I want to ask myself next time I need to “speak the truth in love to someone”:

  • Am I actually speaking up?
  • Is the truth I’m speaking THE truth that needs communicated or just A truth?
  • Am I sharing the whole truth or hiding being some lies? Am I adding a bunch of caveats?
  • While getting straight to the point, is that truth also completely wrapped in love? How will the other person receive that truth… with a side of love or seeing love as the main dish cooked with truth all through it?
  • What is my motivation? Is it simply to set them straight? That’s not love! Love requires sacrifice. Does this require me to give of myself? How might I be able to sacrifice lovingly to walk with this person into truth?

Family, First Trinity

The Family of God – This Is Us

Last weekend at our church we started a series called “This is Us”. Awesome TV show aside, I’m thankful for a chance to step back and look at our family and what defines us as a church community.

At one point during the sermon we read together this paragraph from our core values:

We are an authentic community that celebrates the hurts and joys of life together. First Trinity is a vibrant community of people with varied backgrounds and experiences who are sharing life together. We are joyful people who laugh and rejoice in the highs of life and hold each other up through the lows. We are a family who supports and encourages each other on a lifelong journey of faith.

For some organizations, a core value sheet is more of “hoped for dreams of what we wish we were.” However, when Pastor continued his sermon after we read that paragraph by saying: “This is us.” I got goosebumps. It’s true. This IS us.

Our church does know how to celebrate well! (If you need proof, look back over our Facebook page of all the fun/funny celebrations we’ve had the past couple weeks as we’ve thanked God for the 15 years Pastor Chuck has been here.) Perhaps what I love more is that we live the “lows” part of life together just as well as the “highs”.

This weekend we also celebrated All Saints Day in the Church. One part of the service each year is a slideshow with pictures of church members and loved ones who have died in the past two years. As they scrolled past in each of the services this year, here are some of the things I caught out of the corner of my eye:

  • A young boy, seeing his cousin’s picture on the screen, bursting into tears, and being wrapped in the arms of his mom who didn’t try to quiet him, but just let him cry.
  • A woman say to her husband “Wow, she’s lost a lot of people lately” as if making note to check in later.
  • The realization of many that life is precious and has no guarantees as a middle school student’s picture also appeared on the screen.
  • A high school student shocked when she saw an older member on screen that she didn’t realize had died more than six months ago. A dad scooting closer to comfort.
  • Hands held.
  • Tears shed with zero shame.
  • Friends and family embraced.

This is us. What a gift! We laugh and play and worship (this week’s theme) and enjoy life together. But we also weep and cry and comfort as we walk through life. We help each other remember we’re not alone!

I love that when we talk about holidays, even ones that can be somber like this one, we use the word “celebrate”. We celebrate All Saints Day because these members of our church family are living ultimate paradise in heaven. We celebrate because we will see them again because of the hope in heaven. We celebrate together, yes even the lows, because that’s what families do.

This is us.

Joy, Mission Work, Uncategorized

A story of scars…a story of joy

We sat gathered around in a small room in her house. Worship and teaching were happening in the next room over.   We couldn’t all fit and so those of us who weren’t teaching let other have our place.  The church leader joined us and instead of sharing our testimonies, we had the honor of hearing hers.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about how she became a Christian as much of her story has to do with what came next.  The abuse and beatings… by the hands of her husband.  Any time he found she had gathered with Christians or went to another prayer meeting, the beatings ensued.  For years this went on, sometimes worse than others.  Her young daughter would even blackmail her saying that if the mom didn’t give her what she wanted, she would tell Dad she was at another meeting. One day he got so mad that he got out a knife.  As she told the story, she lifted her shirt to reveal a 12-inch scar down her side.

Her local church graciously took her in and helped her get out of this dangerous situations.  Years later after forgiving her husband, she sensed God working to restore their marriage. She prayerfully hoped in the process He would help her husband see the grace and forgiveness of Christ.  Shortly after her return, the husband was arrested for theft and spend 3.5 years in prison.  This gave her even more time to grow in her faith and pray for her husband.

He is out of prison now and while he is not a believer… YET… we were sitting, gathering, worshiping God in their house.  He was there as lunch was served.  He was present, listening intently as one of our translators shared the gospel with our bus driver, assuming the husband was a Christian, and realizing later that while the bus driver ignored him completely, the husband was listening to every word.  He is not a Christian yet (or at least not when we were there a year ago), but I can’t help but wonder what God did in him that day as we sat in his home.

The wife had been praying and praying that God would send foreign believers to come and encourage them, despite the risk of spending years in prison by having us there.  She recounted a time in the recent past when her husband mockingly said, “Do you really think that by your loud praying God will send foreigners here?!?”  She laughed and continued her story, “This morning I told my husband: ‘You see! God answers prayers!’

A friend of this woman went on to tell us that the believers of her village all became followers of Christ because of this woman’s testimony!   And the community continues to be radically changed!

“They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink to death.  Therefore, rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell there in.” Revelation 12:11

I wish I could show you a picture of this woman I took as she finished sharing her story and let us pray for her.  Pure JOY is the only way to describe the look on her face.  Please continue to pray for her and believers just like her all over the world.  Pray they would have grace and strength to stand firm in the faith no matter what comes against them.  Pray for protection, peace, and continued overwhelming joy!


Crossroads, School of the Week, Uncategorized

Clarence High {School of the Week 17-18}

This week we thank God for and pray for Clarence High School!

Fast Facts:

  • About 1,600 students
  • Mascot: Red Devils
  • Colors: Red and Black

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of Clarence, but especially our First Trinity high school student: Nicholas. Ask God to walk with him each day and give him opportunities to live out his faith at school, in extracurricular activities, and in his home.
  • Pray for their administrators, faculty, and staff.
    Principal: Kenneth Smith
    Assistant Principals: Robert Coniglio and Julie Mampe
    Ask God to give all who lead the students wisdom and grace.
  • Pray for the students who are sports teams or in music programs that they would perform to God’s glory, stay safe, and have fun.

Copy of SOTW - City Honors Banner

Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Six Important Words

Last Saturday I spent almost an hour with my 3 year old Goddaughter wandering around our church’s annual mission fundraiser, a theme basket auction. It was great. I love this girl so much and was delighted that she had chosen to spend so much time with me despite so many other awesome people she knows and loves being around. After both of us put in most of our tickets, she decided to go back to where her mom was. However, within a couple minutes I felt those little arms wrapped around my leg again. As I picked her up for another hug she explained:

“I just love being with you.”

So many amazing things happened that day. We were overwhelmed by the donations of over 225 baskets, hundreds of people came to participate, old relationship were rekindled, new friendships were made, and that’s not to mention the $17,000 that will now make it possible for missionaries to go to Haiti, China, and Guatemala in 2018. It was a great day! As I sat at the end of it reflecting on all God had done though, what stood out most were those six little words a three year old whispered in my ear:

“I just love being with you.”

I wonder how our lives all might be a little better if we used this phrase more. Isn’t this the connection we all long for in our relationships? As humans we are created for community, designed for intimacy, made to be WITH others. All the way back in the garden of Eden, before sin even entered the picture God declared, “It is not good for man to be alone.” What might happen if we started saying … and living… these six words to the people around us?

“I just love being with you.”

Use them with friends. Speak them to your kids. Show the words to be true as you interact with coworkers and spouses, grandparents and teenagers.

I just love being with you.”

As I pondered why these six words are so powerful, I suddenly realized that my goddaughter’s three-year old voice was simply echoing another… that of our Heavenly Father.

Bekah, My daughter, I just love being with you.”

In a busy world with so many to-do list items to check off, things to clean, places to go, it’s easy to forget that we are called ‘human beings’ not ‘human doings’. Oh how easy in our relationship with God do we slide down that slippery slope of working to earn His love or prove ourselves as worthy servants. Let all that fade away today as He taps you on the shoulder, invites you to climb up in His lap, and whispers in your ear:

I just love being with you.”

Uncategorized

Random Wisdom – Recapping October

As I reflected this week on the month of October, I recalled many amazing bits of wisdom (or just laughter) in various quotes, conversations, and books I read. In no particular order here are a few that collectively seem to summarize the last month in Bekah’s world:

  • “Why would He allow us to love people so deeply?” “Maybe because He knew you would.” – From a blog post by Katie Davis Majors
  • “How do you collect 20 percent of the harvest from an entire nation? Joseph knew the size of the famine relief task was larger than what any one person could accomplish. From the outset, his plan included others. He knew the depth of the problem and the width of its reach, so he decided on a plan and a team that matched the scope of the challenge. Second chair leaders are not looking to be solo performers; they want and need the support of a team.” – From Leading from the Second Chair by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson
  • “More and more I believe when we hear ‘not enough’ [from Satan], God is screaming: ‘You are exactly the right one and I am going to do mighty things through you.’” – Michael Harvey
  • “Who is your ‘who’? It’s not about the ‘what’; it’s about the ‘who’!” – Bill Woolsey
  • “Lord, if anyone other than You is holding a lid on this thing, if there’s even more You want to do, would You blow the lid off!” – Prayer heard on the radio by Ron Hutchcraft
  • “When I grow up, I want to be a Godmother too. Actually, I think I want to be a chef because I really like Wegmans.” – Piper, 3 years old, from the back of my car on a Godmother/Goddaughter breakfast date
  • “Every reason we give why Jesus shouldn’t or couldn’t use us may be the very reason He wants to and the very situation He uses! … What is your biggest excuse or reason for not fully following Jesus? What would this kind, brave, dangerous, loving Rabbi say to you tonight in response to that fear.” – Chris Brooks from Kairos Nashville
  • “No He didn’t make the pain easy. But He made it beautiful. He held me close and whispered secrets to me and revealed things about Himself that I had not yet known. … I did not find answers to my questions. In fact, I might have more questions now than I did before. But I have found deep intimacy with the One who formed me and knows my heart. He has taught me His secrets in the darkness. He has taught me true and unwavering hope in Him.” – Katie Davis Majors from Daring to Hope
  • “Gossip is sharing information with someone who is not part of the problem nor part of the solution.” – Rick Warren in Miracle of Mercy
  • “Have no fear little flock, for it is the Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” – Luke 12:30
  • Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry. The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations. …[Jesus] asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people.” – Henri J.M. Nouwen from In the Name of Jesus
  • “Why not here, Lord?
    Why not now
    You’ve done it before
    And there is still so much more
    Here we are, Lord
    The time is now” – Song: Here and Now by People on a Hill
  • “Prayer is asking God the incarnate to get dirty in your life. Yes, the eternal God scrubs floors. For sure we know he washes feet. So take Jesus at his word. Ask him. Tell him what you want. Get dirty.” – Paul Miller in A Praying Life
  • “Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is!!!” – Rend Collective
  • “We can dream big because God is big.” – Paul Miller in A Praying Life