Books

REST – Giving Away 5 Ebooks!

Rest.

It’s something God has been teaching me so much about the last few years.

We are designed to both work hard AND to rest well. When one of those is out of wack, WE are out of wack.

A while back I discovered that a 24-hour Sabbath period each week is not only what God commands but is a beautiful, needed gift. When I am intentional about “stepping away from the things that won’t step away from you” (as Ann Voskamp says) I remember who I really am. I am energized to live that out the other 6 days of the week.

More than perhaps anything, this quote from Mark Buchanan led me into this pursuit of resting in God on a regular basis. It reminds me that even in the busiest of times, this is crucial.

“Get this straight: The rest of God – the rest God gladly gives so that we might discover that part of God we’re missing – is not reward for finishing. It’s not a bonus for work well done. It’s sheer gift. It’s a stop-work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we’re allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfilment of our obligations. It’s the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could.”

When I noticed that the kindle ebook version of The Rest of God (where this quote came from) was on sale today, I knew I wanted to give some away. Five copies actually!

All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog with one way you enjoy the rest of Sabbath (or wish that you would make time to enjoy). Five comments with be randomly selected tomorrow morning. Entries end at midnight (Eastern time).

Praying you get some true, soul-refreshing rest this weekend!

66 in 52 Challenge

Proverbs – Week 20 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I am focusing in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will post a summary page with some thoughts about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey! Click here to see where we’ve been so far!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Week 20 - Proverbs

The Big Picture of Proverbs:

Proverbs is one of three books we consider part of the “wisdom literature” in the Bible, along with Job and Ecclesiastes. Solomon who we met earlier in Scripture is the author of most of them. Having been known as the wisest man on earth, it seems he might have some wise ideas for how we as humans can best live in this world. Throughout the book we often see a contrast given between a wise life and a fool’s life. The first nine chapters give somewhat of an introduction to the book and the rest are filled with short phrases or poems that help us understand and live life well.

Themes in Proverbs:

One study Bible I own has does a great job of laying out some main themes throughout the book of Proverbs in a way that I found helpful. It uses 5 main themes and then gives examples of sub-themes within them. Here are a few examples for each that might be helpful.

God

  • The Commands of God (4:1-4, 6:20-23, 29:18, 30:5)
  • How God sees man (5:21, 16:2,7, 20:24)
  • What God loves (11:1, 15:9, 16:11, 14:31)

Man

  • Adversity (3:25-26, 17:17, 18:14, 24:16)
  • Happiness (3:13, 15:23, 24:17, 29:18)
  • Humility vs Pride (11:2, 15:33, 22:4, 27:1-2)
  • Spiritual and Physical Health (4:20-22, 14:30, 18:14, 25:25)

Relationships

  • Friendship (17:9, 18:24, 19:6, 27:6)
  • Parents and Children (14:26, 19:18, 22:6, 15)
  • Quarrels (3:30-31, 10:12, 17:14, 25:8-9)

Wealth

  • Envy (6:34, 14:30, 21:25-26, 28:16)
  • Generosity and Greed (3:9, 3:27-28, 19:17, 21:26)
  • Security (1:33, 3:9-10, 4:13, 13:6)
  • Wealth vs Poverty (6:10-11, 11:4, 20:21, 22:1-2, 4)

World

  • Faithfulness (11:13, 20:6, 25:13,19, 28:20)
  • Hope and Mercy (13:23, 18:13,17, 21:15, 22:28)
  • Justice (12:17-22, 13:5, 16:6, 20:17)
  • Good vs Evil (1:10-19, 11:3-5, 14:14, 25:21-22)

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse. Since Psalms is so long we’re dividing it up over three weeks. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:33)
    REFLECTION: What do you need to put in God’s hands today?
  • “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)
    REFLECTION: Where have you been using less-than-gracious words lately and maybe need to ask for forgiveness? How can you speak life into those around you this week?
  • Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. (Proverbs 9:9)
    REFLECTION: What is one way you can continue to grow and learn this week even in something you’re already pretty good at?
  • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7)
    REFLECTION: How can you go throughout this week in awe and reverence of our God?

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Vibrant. Wilted. Shattered.

Image 1: Green and Vibrant

I walked out my front door this morning and the first thing that crossed my mind was: “Wow! When did that happen?!?”

I was caught off guard and pleasantly surprised by the way the world turned green, seemingly overnight. Grass is growing, the tree filling with leaves.

Not long ago I thought winter would never end in Buffalo. The wall of green outside my door was a great reminder for life:

In the darkest and coldest of winters, when it feels like the hard season will never end, slowly change occurs, often undetected. One day we will wake up and exclaim, “Wow! When did that happen!?!” Hope will return and new life will be vividly on display.


Image 2: Wilted and Dying

On the way to campus today I stopped by Trader Joe’s. While paying, a manager walked up, handed me some potted flowers, and told me to enjoy! Oh how this felt like such a gift, a beautiful reminder of God’s abundant grace; I think I smiled the whole way to campus. I didn’t have a chance to stop back at work or home and despite my concern for the flowers on this hot summer-like day I had no choice but to leave them in the car. I hoped that since these flowers survive just fine out in the heat when planted in gardens the same would be true in the pot.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. I returned to the car to find them discolored, wilted, dead.

Also unfortunately, it kind of mimicked how I felt at the end of my day. Nothing particular was hard about this day and lots of amazing things actually happened. Yet, I felt like these flowers were a perfect representation of my wilted spirit.

As I drove home processing it all, a comment from the Trader Joe’s cashier popped into my head: “Oh, and if you plant them, they’ll come back again.”

That’s it! Often when our hopes and dreams wilt or even die, we throw them away as useless. But, if we put in a bit more effort, aren’t afraid of getting a little dirty, and plant those dreams, perhaps they’ll bloom again.


Image 3: Broken and Shattered

Each Wednesday this month some other young adults gather in my home to explore faith and life together. We’re currently studying Psalm 31 and talking about committing everything to Jesus. Tonight our conversation centers around brokenness.

The speaker describes a mirror that shattered in the house he shared with his friends back in college. In this story, some guys just left the mess, laughing about the way in which it was broken. For those that did help clean, some of the pieces of mirror were swept under the couch, others were rearranged into a collage with super glue, others were ignored and left alone.

When life shatters do we hide our brokenness? Rearrange it to try to make it look better? Ignore it? Laugh at it? Or do we let Someone, Jesus, come in and heal the broken places with hope?


What does your life look like right now?

Green and vibrant?

Wilted and dying?

Broken and shattered?

Three images. One message: Hope.

Spring is coming.

Dead dreams can bloom again.

Shattered lives can be healed.

Jesus is enough!

Bekah's Heart

Choosing Failure

The title of this blog post alone is enough to send some of our hearts racing and palms sweating (mine included). We live in a “Failure is not an option!” world, but I’m starting to think maybe it is. Even more, I sometimes wonder if it might be the BEST option.

We live in a go-go-go, get it all done, add one more thing culture. Success is often oddly defined by who got the least amount of sleep, pushed the hardest, and checked the most boxes. Failure then becomes anything less than perfect. But maybe there is something better than perfect.

A few days ago a woman at my church randomly mentioned a book she was reading in passing. We don’t talk much and I’m not sure what prompted her to stop and tell me about this book but it was just the reminder I needed. The title, “Present Over Perfect” is one example of why sometimes choosing “failure” might just be the best way to live life. Do I want to spend all my time time and energy perfecting this this life or actually living it?

This month is crazy busy for me. I knew that heading into it and, at first, had a mindset to “buckle down and get through it.” As I thought about it more, that just sounded exhausting and joyless. In praying about that a few days ago, my prayer shifted to ask God to help me actually enjoy this month. Most events will stay on the calendar and the to-do list is still long, but my mindset has shifted to one that desires to be present this month. Some of that will happen by choosing failure.

At a conference in February I heard a woman speak about being “in the clear” and “out of the woods”. Normally, we feel we must be out of the woods before we can be in the clear. Her proposal was that we don’t have to exchange one for the other. What would it look like to be mentally “in the clear” even if we’re not “out of the woods” yet?

One of her talking points was: “Failure is completely inevitable, but fear doesn’t have to be.” Long, long story short, I’ve realized that failure really is inevitable (or at least something short of perfect). Failure will come, but perhaps by choosing it, I don’t have to live in fear. So as I head into this month, a month in which I know the boxes won’t all get checked, expectations won’t be met, and people will likely be disappointed, I’m intentionally choosing some things to “fail” at in order to succeed at the most important things.

I know I need to pass off some things at work or even just cross them off the list completely. I want those things to happen. Other people want those things to happen. But there are some tasks that are just more important to make sure happen.

As I prepare for surgery at the end of the month, it is important for me to take care of my body and soul. If I have to choose, I want to succeed at eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep even if that means failing at keeping a clean house. (I’m pretty sure paper plates were made ‘for such a time as this’, right!?!)

On Saturday morning, I planned to spend 2 hours working toward a writing deadline. When that time came it was so obvious that the biggest need was to rest. So, I made the hard, but good, choice and probably will not meet that deadline.

Do I want to let people down? No.

Do I enjoy not following through on a commitment to myself or others? Of course not!

Do I use “failure is inevitable” as an excuse to slack off or just give up? Never.

But sometimes, a well-placed “no” or “not right now” leads us to a deeper, more fulfilling life than we could ever imagine. Not to mention potentially freeing others to do the same.

In the book I mentioned above, author Shauna Neiquist says: “People called me tough. And capable. And they said I was someone they could count on. Those are all nice things. Kind of. But they’re not the same as loving, or kind, or joyful.

I choose joy.

I choose love.

I choose a spirit that is kind to those around me.

And, at least in this season of life, that means choosing a little failure.

66 in 52 Challenge

Reflections on Psalms (Part 2)

“Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
For each day He carries us in His arms.” (Psalm 68:19)

As we go through life each day there are plenty of things that I don’t understand, don’t like, am confused by or wish are different. Each day I hear of, and at times am unfortunately a part of, injustices, inequity, and marginalizing “outsiders”. Each day I hear of the pain and hurt my students and their families are facing and if I’m not intentional, each day can just be too much.

But this is also true:  Each day, we are not alone.

Each day, He helps us see our faults and choose a new way.

Each day, He guides and protects, leads and loves.

Each day, we have reason to praise, no matter what is going on around and in us.

Each day, He is Lord.

Each day, He is Savior.

Each day, His on His throne and nothing can change that.

Each day He carries us in His arms.Thanks be to God!

Uncategorized

Reflections on Psalms (Part 1)

Wednesday night I had the joy of attending a Rend Collective concert. I was so thankful for that chance as the whole thing was so refreshing to my soul! Not only was it a fun night out with some amazing friends randomly in the middle of the week, Rend Collective also knows how to party well! Despite the fact that they are humans like the rest of us and go through just as many ups and downs as anyone else, they deeply understand God’s joy more than perhaps anyone I’ve met.

A few years ago I heard them share something that has since become one of my favorite quotes:

“Seriousness is not fruit of the Spirit, but joy is!”

The Spirit was alive and the fruit of joy was abundant on Wednesday night. So often in Christian culture it’s easy to slowly slide into seriousness, to make our lives all about doing the right things or not doing the wrong things. As we read Scripture, the clearer message of Christ is: “enjoy life with Me!” He tells us that He came to give us “full, abundant life”. (John 10:10)

The Psalms seem to echo this concept of joy and celebration in abundance. Even the psalms of lament seem to often come back to an element of praise. As I continued reading my way through the Psalms the morning after the concert, it solidified this idea that joy is key in a healthy relationship with God and will overflow in our life when that relationship has priority. Here are just a few of the dozens of verses that jumped off the page just in the 10 chapters I read Thursday morning:

  • “…Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. …You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!” Psalms 30:5, 11-12
  • “So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!” Psalms 32:11
  • “Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord; it is fitting for the pure to praise him. … We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.” Psalms 33:1, 20-21
  • “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.” Psalms 34:5-6
  • “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. … Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. … I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart. … But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”” Psalms 40:2, 4, 8, 16

There were many things that God is showing me as we journey through Psalms but this one was clear: perhaps one of the best representations of Christ to the world is my joy. Satan will try to steal it, circumstances will try to overwhelm it, my soul will at times have to fight for it, but joy is possible, because the Spirit lives in me and longs for me to live in joy! Maybe it’s time for us Christians to stop being known by our seriousness, and start being known for our joy!

Crossroads, School of the Week, Youth Ministry

Williamsville North High {School of the Week 17-18}

Our final school of the week for this year is Williamsville North High!
Fast Facts:

  • Enrollment: 1405 students
  • Grades: 9-12
  • Mascot: Spartans
  • Colors: Green and Gold

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of Williamsville North High, but especially our First Trinity high school students: Adam, Lucas, Abby, Katie, and Ben. Ask God to walk with them each day and give them opportunities to live out their faith at school, in extracurricular activities, and in their homes.
  • Pray for their administrators, faculty, and staff.
    Principal: Gary Collichio
    Assistant Principals: Andre Thomas, Brian Swatland, and Jason Lehmbeck
  • Ask God to give all who lead the students wisdom and grace.
  • Pray for the students who are on sports teams, in music programs, or participate in other extracurricular activities that they would perform to God’s glory, stay safe, and have fun.

2018-04-24 08.52.32