Random

Congratulations!

“Congratulations, you loan is paid in full.”

Ever since starting my Financial Peace journey (which was also around the time I started to have to pay off my student loans), I always get excited and celebrate when I see another e-mail with the above subject line. (Only a few more to go!)

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The emails often come at least a month after the final payment is actually made. So even though I KNOW the debt has already been paid, it is always exciting to get that email that verifies that truth. It’s proof that I don’t owe them anything else. Today, was no exception.

Though, I will say, that as that email came through my inbox today, in this Holy Week, I was reminded of another debt I have… an even greater one that the student loans I’ve managed to rack up. A debt that I would NEVER be able to pay off no matter HOW big my debt snowball is… the debt of sin.

As we journey through this Holy Week with Jesus… seeing his suffering… seeing Him step in and say, “I’ve got this one,” we can look forward to that glorious moment Easter Sunday when we receive a holy “email” that verifies once again:

CONGRATULATIONS, YOUR DEBT HAS BEEN PAID!

May we truly CELEBRATE what God has done for us and live in the freedom that comes in being “debt” free.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. … For you were called to freedom. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:1,13)

Bekah's Heart, Random

Laughter Came From Every Brick

Just wanted to share a beautiful poem I love by Teresa of Avila. Hope you love it too!

Just these two words He spoke
changed my life,

“Enjoy Me.”

What a burden I thought I was to carry –
a crucifix,
as did He.

Love once said to me, “I know a song,
would you like to hear it?”

And laughter came from every brick in the street
and from every pore in the sky.

After a night of prayer,
He changed my life when
He sang,

“Enjoy Me.”

Bekah's Heart, First Trinity, Haiti, Internship Highlights, Joy, Mission Work, NY Adventures, Random

I love my life! (And I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.)

At 11:45 this morning I passed this sign on my way back from helping run the ropes course for Operation Purple Camp at Pioneer Camp and Retreat Center: 

The crazy thing about this is that I drove past that same sign for the very first time exactly two years ago today at the end of a 1,200 miles journey to move here from Kansas.

When I passed the sign today, I found myself instantly breathless and in awe, recalling all that’s happened in the last two years.

I recalled the nervous excitement of pulling into this parking lot for the first time greeted by car-washing youth and my amazing teammates and I think about the one that will take place this coming Saturday in that very spot.

I think about the hard times, the good times, and the in-between times that have filled the last 730 days.

I’ve been stretched, comforted, challenged, pranked, loved, encouraged, invited, broken, healed, sick, healthy, prompted, cared for, listened to, led, followed, supported, …. changed.

And most importantly, I remember the countless amazing people I’ve gotten to experience each day of the last two years with.

Earlier today, a friend commented that I lead a very interesting and fascinating life. As I thought about her comment a little more, I decided it was really true…. I do have an awesome life.  Even in the midst of any struggles or hard times, I have a family who loves me, an awesome job with the best teammates, opportunities outside of work to explore and serve, a wonderful home, a healthy body, the freedom to worship my Savior, friends all over the country and world to share life with, and most of all, a God who created me, saved me, and sustains me each and everyday.

I love my life!  (And I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.)

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full!” (John 10:10)

Bekah's Heart, Random

Delight

I’ve been pondering this for the last few days and just can’t stop thinking about it…

God delights in seeing us delighted.

I wonder what your thoughts on this statement. What is your initial reaction? Do you agree? Disagree? Why? What does this speak to in your life right now? If this is true, how might that change the way you interact with God and simply do life?

Please, share your thoughts in the comments section today.

Random

20 Seconds of Insane Courage

I haven’t seen the movie “We Bought a Zoo” but the other say I was shown a clip of what I assume is a father and son having a conversation. I was caught by this comment:

“You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage… just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come of it.”

God’s been teaching me a lot about courage and confidence lately, and as I look around in my life, it seems that this quote is pretty accurate.  Our lifegroup right now is doing a study called “Connect the Dots” and it’s about discovering God’s ongoing will for our lives in each and every day.  This past Wednesday we got talking about how knowledge of God’s Will doesn’t always equal obedience.  The author explained:

“Many of us have the delusion that if we knew with certainty what God wanted us to do, then we would do it without question, no matter the cost. Not true–our personal history bears witness to it.  There are commands in Scripture that you and I disobey every day.  … Each of us can remember a time when we knew God wanted us to do something and we refused. … Maybe it was a prompt to share your faith with a new friend or to shut your mouth when everyone else was bashing your boss.  Whatever the instance, you ignored the prompting.”

Knowing God’s will doesn’t offer a guarantee that we’ll obey.  As we talked about why this is and how we overcome these obstacles we realized that fear was our greatest enemy.  Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of what others will think. Fear of how it will impact our lives.

Fear traps us… and we need some courage… some God-courage… and often just 20 seconds will suffice.

2 Timothy 1:7 ” For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.”

1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”

Where could you use 20 seconds of insane courage in your life right now?  What has God been asking you to do that you find yourself hesitating from?  Ask God to give you the strength you need to take the courage He’s offering  and act in faith.  He promises us… something great will come of it!  Now do it!

Hebrews 10:35-39 “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.  But my righteous one will live by faith.  And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

Devotional, Random

WHY?!?

In my devotion time this morning, one of the questions presented was:

Can you think of a time when you asked: ‘If God loves me, then why…?’  If so, what happened that led you to ask that question?”

As I reflected and journaled a bit on this topic, I came to realize that it seems that as Christians we’re often told we can’t ask why. Oh most of the time people don’t flat out say that but in their responses to our “whys” we get that idea.

We ask, “Why did that person have to die?!?”
And their response completely directs our thoughts elsewhere, “Don’t think about that, just know they’re in a better place.”

We ask, “Why do I keep getting hurt in that situation?”
And our minds tell us to stop asking that, we must deserve it, right?

We ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
And we’re told (in hopefully not so blunt terms), “Get over it, that’s just life.”

 

I’m not saying that it’s not helpful to move beyond why.  For example, in the book Torn it talks about how in our “why”s the biggest question we really need to be asking ask is “who”… Who will be there while my world is falling to pieces?  Because most of the time we’re asking “why?” we’re broken and even if we got the answer to the why, it still wouldn’t take the pain away. But if we are asking “Who” then God will always be there and that brings comfort in the pain.

I absolutely LOVE this way of thinking and have found it very useful.  I’m not saying that it’s not good to shift focus off the “why”.  However, I do think we sometimes do that too quickly and in doing so we think that the “why” itself is bad or wrong.  We feel like we “shouldn’t” ask why.

However, I contend that we must start with the “why” because most of the time that’s where our hearts are at in those “why” situations.  God desires us to be open and honest in our relationship with him and if we just ignore the whys in life, we ignore our truest feelings in those moments.  In doing so, we end up putting up walls to keep God out of that part of our life.  It keeps God out of our pain which is exactly where we need him most.

As long as we’re turning to God with our whys, with our anger, with our frustration, with our hurt, it’s okay and actually really good for us.  It’s GOOD to ask the whys…

What could be better than seeking truth from Truth Himself?

And slowly, but surely, HE will change our prayers reminding us that the why doesn’t matter, and to just rest in him.

“… Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7

Random

Encouragement is a powerful thing.

As I opened my e-mail to start my work week, I was excited to see an e-mail from a friend I met in Africa.  His love for God and passion for sharing it with others was truly evident in my time there and I must say that his encouragement this morning just made the week start off right.  🙂 I could not help but share his encouraging words with all of you.  This morning I lift up the same prayers he mentions for everyone who finds themselves in ministry… which is all of us!   (I’ve added some cultural/personal notes are in italics and parenthesis.)

 

Dear Rebekah, servant of God, I hope you are doing well and standing strong in the faith of Christianity. Glory be to the Almighty God for his mercy and grace that he appointed and commissioned you for the work of his kingdom.

In a period of some three weeks back, to date,  I have always been convicted to pray for you, for God to give you more grace to stand in salvation, courage and direction as he is going to take you through all hardships, bless you and expand your ministry.  (Three weeks ago today was when I officially checked out of my apartment after moving to my new house.  Exciting to know on that very day, this friend was praying for what God had planned in my life.)

RUTH, THE LORD IS WITH YOU.      Jeremiah 1:4-8.  (In Ugandan culture, all names … first, middle, and last are all used interchangeably.  While there, I could easily be called by “Rebekah”, “Ruth”, or even “Freed”.)

However, I am also continuing with the ministry with much focus on the development of the Youths Empowerment Mission Ministries which I believe will continue to benefit  youths in Uganda and elsewhere. But we still stand with a challenge of getting partners who could help us to fulfill the vision and achieve the desired destiny in the lives of people.

I still feel the zeal to go before God, praying for your life and the ministry.

Please receive my heartily wishes for the best of this week and the whole year.

 

Be encouraged today, friends, and please join me in praying for and encouraging Youth Empowerment Mission Ministries of Uganda.

Random

Sabbath days are for…

Over the last month or so God has really been teaching me a lot about Sabbath.  It’s  been brought it up in conversations.  One day the name of God I focused on was Jesus as “Lord of the Sabbath”.  A friend posted on his blog about how he and his wife have been celebrating Sabbath.  God’s led me to various passages talking about it, and even tonight at the Short Course it came up in a discussion of Psalm 23 and how God leads us to “lie down” … to rest.

One specific revelation in this area came while I was at the Workcamp ReGroup in Colorado in January.  I went a day early to visit a friend and the next morning had a few hours after she went to work but before the conference started.  Having been busy with preparations to move, some time to just sit in a coffee shop in Arvada, CO with Jesus was exactly what I needed.  As I settled into that time I remember thinking something to the effect of “Man, I’ve missed this.”  I started thinking back to the last time I had some time like this with Jesus.  What surprised me in thinking about this was when I realized that it WASN’T very long before… in fact it had only been a couple days since I had some similar time with Jesus.  What I took from that moment was the reminder that when God set up this whole Sabbath thing, he set it up to be weekly.  Again, and again, and again, and again.  It wasn’t just because I was in a “busy” season of life that I needed this rest.  No, I am CONSTANTLY in need of this.

As I’ve evaluated my rest… my Sabbath lately, I realized that while I do a pretty good job of stopping my occupational work for periods of time, that’s not the only thing Jesus was talking about.  For example,  (with the exception of this month where I’ve been going to the Short Course on Monday  nights) I do a pretty good job of staying completely away from church and church stuff on Mondays.  However, I’m not sure packing every Monday with a long list of laundry, cooking, cleaning, running errands, etc. really constitutes as Sabbath.  After reading my friend’s post I mentioned above, I decided to try to be more intentional about having a long period of time each week where I’m not doing a single thing that constitutes “work”… not occupational work, not house work… time to really focus on being with other people, or simply doing things that let me rest… that let me “lie down in green pastures… beside quiet waters” for a while.   I don’t want this to become a strict thing… I want to stay in the spirit of the concept of Sabbath more so than the legality of it… trying to focus more on what Jesus did on Sabbath than say, the Pharisees for example.  There is also an element of rearranging the way I’ve gotten used to doing life so that I do my work on the other 6 days of the week.  This will probably be something I continue learn about the rest of my entire life.  But a picture is beginning to form…. and lately, here’s a little what Sabbath has meant for me…

Sabbath nights are for…gathering around a meal and God’s Word with friends.

Sabbath nights are for… going to bed early…. or staying up late. 🙂

Sabbath nights are for… popcorn-eating and movie-watching.

Sabbath nights are for…  phone conversations with friends.

Sabbath nights are for… enjoying my new home.
Sabbath days are for… not setting an alarm.

Sabbath days are for… staying in pajamas until noon.

Sabbath days are for… finally showering and getting ready at noon… and choosing intentionally to put sweatpants back on. 🙂

Sabbath days are for… recreation and exercise… and some Sabbath days are for taking a break from it.

Sabbath days are for… reading an entire Karen Kingbury book in one setting.

Sabbath days are for… laughter.

Sabbath days are for… writing notes to friends or family.

Sabbath days are for… journaling, prayer, and reading God’s Word with no time limit.

Sabbath days are for… putting down the Bible a few minutes into your time with God and realizing that sometimes taking a nap can be worship.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How do YOU celebrate Sabbath?

Bekah's Heart, Books, College Ministry, Crossroads, Random, Youth Ministry

I’ll Love You Forever!

I was just wandering through Dollar Tree trying to find the something I needed when I heard the conversation. They were just two twenty-somethings co-workers trying to pass time as they restocked the shelves.

“Oh did I tell you…” one asks the other as if she’s simply going to state some random fact about her exciting Friday night plans or something. But as she continues I realize the news she’s sharing with her friend is anything but exciting.

“… my mom just found out that my dad’s had a girlfriend for like five months.”

“Really?!?”
“I’m never getting married!”
“Me neither.”
“There’s nothing anyone could ever say to me to make me believe they actually mean ‘forever’. Forever is a long time.”

And the conversation was over as quick as it started.

My heart broke for these women… probably my age or even a few years older who had just completely given up on the idea of ever getting married because of the hurt they’ve experienced and the simple “fact” that there that there could never be anything that’s “forever.”

I don’t think it would have caught me so much had it not been for a book I’m reading called “In Real Time:Authentic Young Adult Ministry as it Happens” by Mike Glenn. The conversation I witnessed this evening very well could have been an example in either of the two chapters I read earlier today. In one of the chapters, the book was describing a demographic of young adults who have been let down by authority figures in their lives. If those authority figures claimed Christianity, then they soon formed this idea that Christianity didn’t mean much.

“They have watched the way their parents lived out faith and have, by and large, decided it was not for them. They didn’t see a faith that works modeled at home. They saw materialism, divorce, and ambition dealt with in a way that was not significantly different from there secular friends’ families.

Now I’m not saying every young adult had a horrible life growing up or that most parent were bad parents. I know plenty of parents, including my own for whom that is anything BUT the case. But as I interacted with my peers in high school and college (especially as an RA and RC) and as I interact with high school and young adults everyday in my job and hear them talking about their lives and their friends’ lives, I’m realizing more and more that these generations of youth and young adults truly are in general very jaded and broken.

These young adults may have had everything materially or when it comes to opportunities, but feel abandoned.

“So the young adult knows only ‘I don’t want to live like that.’ The problem is you can’t live against. You have to live for. But most of them don’t know what ‘for’ is.

The book goes on to describe the reality for many young adults who missed some crucial affirmation from parents or other significant adult figures and while it truly may not have been a big deal then, as they seek to find identity and a purpose in life, they are left confused and wandering.

“During a child’s life there are several important moments when a parent, grandparent, or significant adult speaks a ‘you are’ phrase to the child. The adult will say, ‘You are smart,’ or ‘you are pretty’ and that statement becomes part of that child’s identity. …

If, however, the significant adult is absent for any reason and the ‘you are’ statement goes unspoken, children begin a quest to find out who they are. … The media is filled with all kinds of messages to a young adult on this quest, but instead of ‘you are’ statements, our culture sends ‘you are not’ statements. The magazines tell our young women they are not thin enough, not pretty enough, not sensuous enough. The epidemic of eating disorders is just one of the tragic consequences of a young adult looking for a ‘you are’ validation, only to hear, ‘you are not.’
Young men… as well hear ‘you are not’ in many ways throughout our culture.

The gospel is filled with ‘you are’ statements. You are chosen, beloved, called, redeemed. … Yet, many people assume, with some justification, that if they come to church, the only message they’re going to hear is ‘you are not.’. You are not ‘doing enough for God.’. You are not ‘good enough.’. Many young adults actually think that going to church will not only not help them but will actually do them more harm. In their minds the church has become another voice of judgment and condemnation, a constant and painful reminder of all the ways they fall short.

So what’s all this mean?!? Why write all this?!?

First, to say THANK YOU!
Thank you Mom and Dad for showing me an example of what it means to be faithful to each other and for living out your faith, even in (especially in) the hard times.

Thank you to all the people who have also done that as well as those who have spoken ‘you are’ statements into my life as I found (and continue to find!) my identity.

Second, if you ever have opportunities to speak words of grace into another human being (no matter what their age)… DO IT! You may be the only positive, life-giving voice in their life and even if you’re not, can you ever have enough encouragement?

Third, let’s make sure as Christians wherever we are, we’re proclaiming the true “you are” statements into people’s lives and strip away any hint of judgment or condemnation that tries to sneak in.

Lastly, I challenge us all to live out your faith in front of each other. Especially those of you who are married… model this for your children (and for people that aren’t your children.) If you’re working through a struggle in life, don’t try to act as if everything’s perfect… Let people see you turning to God in prayer. Let them see you broken and weak and real… needing a Savior. Believe it or not, doing that may be the very thing that could give someone like those girls in the store tonight hope… Hope for a marriage someday, but more importantly, hope in something Someone who really does mean it when He says “I love you forever!”

Bekah's Heart, Random

2011 in Review – The personal Journey

Last night (Friday) I had some time to just stop, take a break, sit by the fire at Panera and reflect on the past year.  One of the blogs I read had a link to another blog with a list of questions to ask yourself as you wrap up one year and head into another. Here are some of those questions and my responses…

 

What was the single best thing that happened in 2011?

I know it says ONE thing, but I have a tie for this one:

* Receiving and accepting the call to be the Director of High School and Young Adult Ministries at First Trinity Lutheran Church in Tonawanda, NY

* The birth and new life of Karlie Marie (my niece)

 

What is the single most challenging thing that happened this past year?

Letting God break through some hard walls I had up around my heart and bring about healing in some broken places.  Learning to love the real me and figuring out who that even is. Then, opening up myself to share that real “me” with others. (While challenging, these things are also some of my favorite things about this year!)

 

What was an unexpected joy this past year?

Saying no. 😉

 

What was an unexpected obstacle this year?

The awkward few months while both First Trinity and I discerned what God’s will was for me/high school and young adult ministry after my internship ended.

 

Pick three words to describe 2011.

Struggle

Freedom

Joy

 

What was your biggest personal change from January to December?

I’ve figured out more of who Rebekah Ruth Freed really is and have allowed me to really be ME (at least more often).  I stopped trying to be who I thought I should be and was able to focus instead of becoming me.

 

In what ways did you grow spiritually?

This is a hard one to really nail down but I think it involves depth…allowing God to take me deeper into truths he was already teaching me.  I’ve learned what it means to experience grace (especially from myself) instead of living under the weight of expectations I place on myself.  He’s challenged me to let walls fall in relationships with family and friends as well as the hurting parts of my heart I was trying to protect.  I’ve experienced freedom and joy as He’s taught me more about who He’s designed Rebekah Ruth Freed to be.

 

What was the most enjoyable part of your work?

PEOPLE!  Building relationships; interacting with staffmates; conversations with youth and young adults; multiple times to laugh with others each week.

Also, just getting to see goals starting to actually be met and the vision to take shape.

 

What was the most challenging part of your work?

Ignoring my people pleaser nature to try to balance the needs of youth and young adults with their wants and desires.  Trying to demolish my perceived/desire need for approval from others and simply doing what God was calling me to do each day.

 

What was your single biggest time waster in your life?

Evenings spent on the internet or playing games on my phone.

 

What was the best way you used time this year?

Investing in relationships…making time to just relax with friends…visiting friends and family in August all over the midwest… writing to people during Advent.  I don’t regret a single time I said “yes” to an invitation to hang out with other people.  I am better for it!

 

What was the biggest thing you learned this year?

Who I am is more than enough.

 

What are some of your favorite memories from 2011?

 

Create a phrase or statement that describes 2011 for you.

Live in Freedom. Breathe Life.  Choose Joy.

Be you!