Uncategorized

He’s in the waiting…

“Waiting” is a word I often associate with Advent. Waiting for the celebration of Christ coming to earth. Waiting for Him to come again. Waiting for Him to show up in our lives here and now.

Another blog post I read earlier this week talked about all the times the word or the concept of “wait” is found in just the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel… Elizabeth and Zechariah waiting decades for a child, Mary and Jospeh waiting to see what in the world God was up to as they navigated unknown circumstances, and Simeon and Anna watching for the long awaited Messiah. Sometimes when I think of waiting, I think it’s simply about trusting God while passing time until He shows up. Listening to some music as I got ready this morning, these words struck me:

“Take courage, my heart; Stay steadfast, my soul; He’s in the waiting; He’s in the waiting” – Take Courage by Bethel Music

It’s less about me waiting for God to show up… and more about realizing He can be found IN the waiting. For Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, you, and me– Jesus doesn’t just come at the end of the period of time before an answer comes, He’s walking with us every step of the way.

It’s true for many things in life we do have to wait for an answer, a situation to resolve, a breakthrough in a tough circumstance. When that’s true it feels as if we’re waiting on God to show up wondering “when will He come through?”

The truth I’m learning is that He’s already here. THAT’S the message of Christmas: Emmanuel–God WITH us.

So… take courage,

stay steadfast,

look around:

He’s HERE…

IN the waiting.

And He is faithful.

School of the Week, Uncategorized

Kenmore East {School of the Week 17-18}

This week we thank God for and pray for Kenmore East High School!

Fast Facts:

  • Founded 1959
  • Grades 8-12
  • Mascot: Bulldogs
  • Colors: Navy and Gold

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of KenEast, but especially our First Trinity high school students: Haley, Jack, Chris, Jaclyn, Chris, and Ethan. 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: Mr. Patrick Heyden
    Assistant Principals: Ms. Elaine Thomas and Mr. Joseph Greco
    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.

SOTW - KenEast banner

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

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

 

Uncategorized

On Being ‘Needy’

Needy.

It’s an interesting word… One with not the most positive of connotations in our culture.

No one ever wants to be “the needy girlfriend” or “the needy child.”  To have it said about you that ‘you’re so needy’ probably doesn’t leave you walking away with a ton of confidence.

Desperate is another word like that… perhaps with even a worse reputation. Okay, you have have some needs, but to be desperate makes you crazy.

In reality though, we are SO desperately needy.  It only takes one glance through a newspaper or Internet news feed to see how much our world is messy and hurting and, well, in need.  At some point I heard a sermon that left the words “desperate” and “needy” echoing through my soul.  These were the three truths shared about being ‘poor in spirit’ from the first beattitude:

  1. I have absolutely nothing.
  2. I have no power to change.
  3. I must trust God to act.

When I look at my life or the world around me it can be easy to despair at the poverty (of any kind), violence, disrespect, war, hatred and more. In a word: sin.  Oh I can try to think I’m so much better than “those awful people” whoever they may be, but the reality is I’m just as messed up as anyone else.  I have just as much potential for hatred and violence than anyone.  I am just as tempted to wander away from truth as the next guy.  I mess up every single day and on my own there’s nothing I can do about it.  The definition of “poor” seems to apply: destitute, needy, lacking, reduced to begging.

What’s so amazing about this beattitude though is that our neediness isn’t repulsive to God.  Rather He tells us that’s exactly where He is found.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3

This has echoes of one of my other favorite verses:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Or as Romans 5:6 puts it:

“While we utterly helpless, Christ came…”

It’s true God is not repulsed by our desperate need, but rather it’s in the midst of that where He draws near. He pours out his mercy and grace. He sends His Spirit to revive and restore us.  He holds on to us and reminds us to not despair or run from our neediness but rather to remember He put that dependent heart in us so that we would look to Him to fulfill every need we can’t fill on our own.

Lord, we realize how poor and needy and desperate we are and that we don’t have any power on our own to change. So we trust You to act and praise You that You already have in Your Son Jesus. In His Name we pray, Amen!


Uncategorized

City Honors {School of the Week 2017-18}

This week we thank God for and pray for City Honors School at Fosdick-Masten Park!

Fast Facts:

  • About 885 Students (Grades 5-12)
  • Founded in 1976
  • Mascot: Centaurs
  • Colors: Silver and Cardinal

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of City Honors, but especially our First Trinity high school student: Jude. 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: William A. Kresse, Ph.D.
    Assistant Principals: Alicia Barinas, Tandy Hamilton, and Angela Hannah
    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.

SOTW - City Honors Banner(2)

Uncategorized

Stand in Awe

I wrote the blog post below almost a year ago now. For some unknown reason I never hit “publish”.  While the specific details have changed over the last 10 months, if I were to re-write it based on today, the premise would remain the same.  I’m so thankful I found it this week in my old “drafts”.  Posting it “as is” becomes one more reminder of God’s work in my life then, and today.  At the conclusion of post I reference the “end of 2017” … we’re not quite there yet, but being only a couple months away I can say that at least so far 2017 has continued to cause me to stand in awe! Looking forward to these final 2 months.

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

DECEMBER 2016:
At the beginning of this year, instead of resolutions or goals or things like that, I stumbled upon a set of 2-3 word prayers that I began praying over various areas of my life. For my career: “grace-filled passion” … over my physical health: “beautiful temple” … for my home: “sanctuary for all”.  And the list went on. 12 areas. 12 short prayers.

At various times throughout the year I was very intentional about praying each of them every day. Other times I would focus on one specific prayer for weeks on end. And realistically, as things go, of course there were the times I didn’t think of them at all. What amazes me most though is through both the intentional times of focus and those where these prayers were far from my mind, God heard and God answered.  One step more… the answers were different (and in almost every case better) than I could have imagined.

When I sat in those early January days praying “intentional relationships” over my family and friends, I could have imagined the ways God would bring depth to friendships already started. Nor could I have imagined the amazing people he has brought across my path to grow with, laugh with and do life with.

When I prayed for “open doors” I had no clue I would finally get to go to China. Not to mention trips to Belize and Chicago and Kansas and so many other places.  And those are the doors that were opened to go… not to mention the ones that were opened right around me… doors to interact more with my neighbors… doors in ministry at UB… doors to sing with the Buffalo Philharmonic … and more.

Prayers for “outrageous generosity” in my finances have led to opportunities to see amazing things happen and be a part of it.

“Try new things” in my personal life was answered through little things like exploring new foods or getting my first massage… and then there are the big things too like opening my home to an exchange student and simultaneously becoming ‘mom’ for the first time. Yea… definitely didn’t see that one coming 12 months ago.

Looking forward to 2017 it’s easy for me to think of all things that seem missing, the things I wish would have gone differently this past year, the ways God didn’t come through in the way I hoped he would. But when I stop and ponder the countless ways he’s answered these prayers and more, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude and that gratitude leads to trust.

Jesus, keep me trusting You. When I stand at the end of 2017 I will once again find myself amazed at all you did. Whether the year ahead is filled with great joy, unbearable heartache, confusion, excitement, or most likely a combination of it all, I can trust that it WILL be filled with you.  When I stand at the end of 2017, may I find myself once again standing in awe.

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known…” Habakkuk 3:2a

Uncategorized

Here and Now

“72 people were baptized there this week”

“1.7 million people became followers of Jesus through our ministry last year.”

“2000 people showed up overflowing from the church”

“We were able to spend 13 trucks of rice after the flood destroyed that city.”

These are just a few of the things I heard at dinner a few weeks ago. I was sharing a meal with some friends as we enjoyed an evening with a brother-in-Christ, Neil, who runs a ministry that works all over the world. I had a chance to go on a trip with Neil a year and a half ago and I love any time I get to be around him. He has such a vision for God at work around the world and equips and empowers thousands of people to do the work of Christ.

More than anything I took away from that night the reminder that God is at work. God is alive. Here and now. In our time.

It brought a whole new meaning to a song I heard recently called “Here and Now”. It was written by People on a Hill which is a worship collective based out of Rochester NY. Here are a few of the lyrics:

“We have heard the stories
The fame and wonder of Your name
We have seen the glory
Your power on the earth displayed

In our day, in our time, make them known again
In our day, in our time

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…

This is the place
We are the people
Now is the time
For Your revival…

Here and now. Here and now!

We believe we’re about to see Your faithfulness like never before
We believe we’re about to see Your glory and power. ”

Jesus we trust that you are the same yesterday, today, and forever! You are faithful and you always have been. We wait expectantly for the ways you will work… here… and … now! This IS the place … WE are the people.  We do believe that we’re about to see your faithfulness like never before.  Show up with your glory and power Lord, today! Amen!

Uncategorized

A “State of the Soul” Address

“How’s your soul doing?”

I feel that this is the question that God has been asking me over and over again in all different ways over the last month or two.  The question has appeared in the form of conversations with friends, moments of connecting with Him in worship, podcasts and sermons, conferences and worship nights, and times alone with my journal and a pen.

For the most part I tend to focus my life on whatever is in front of me.  What is God calling me to do today?  What’s the next thing to center my attention on? What needs done. I am thankful though that God has repeatedly shown me over my life the value in stopping from the tasks here and there to check in.  Sometimes these “state of the soul” reflections come at normal, logical moments like the beginning of a new ministry year or after a big trip or event. Other times, God simply whispers “Don’t you think it might be time to sneak away a little and check in?” As a brother in Christ recently called it, this is “the dance between doing and being.”

A couple months ago, I had one of these heart checks and it wasn’t a pretty picture.  It wasn’t all “bad,” but it was definitely messy. Like an overgrown garden I was starting to have a hard time distinguishing between the flowers and the weeds. My lack of attention had also caused some of the weeds to grow up and start choking out the joy in parts of my life and creating conflict in relationships.

Thankfully, the Master Gardener was glad to come in and do a little cleaning up. Not even a month later another opportunity presented itself to evaluate the state of my soul. As I did, I found myself somewhat baffled at the miraculous change that had occurred in such a short period of time. I knew God was at work… trust me… He had me working right alongside Him the whole time too, but to visually see the difference on a journal page that one month had made caught me off guard in the best of ways. The hymn writer Horatio Spafford said it best:

“It is well with my soul.”

When Horatio wrote these words the circumstances of life were anything but great. He was actually on a boat passing the very place that another ship had crashed days before, a crash that claimed the lives of all his children. No, circumstances have nothing to do with a soul that is well. Instead, it has everything to do with Jesus.

Many of the tough situations that caused those “weeds” in my life are still present. Just like all of us, I look around at all the disasters and tragedy and injustice in our world right now and it can be overwhelming. God still calls me to do things for which I don’t have the skills or abilities or strength on my own to complete. None of that has changed, what has changed is the state of my soul.

“But the more I read the Bible and the more I get to know Jesus, the more I realize that this life–even with all its quirks and turns and tragedies–is meant to be amazing. Not because circumstances are always perfect, but because our souls have found their homes in God. Fulfillment comes from having a healthy soul and… our souls stay healthy when they regularly return home.” ~ Judah Smith, How’s Your Soul?

And I wonder: perhaps the reason I have seen so much change in the state of my soul lately is simply because I’ve regularly been “returning home”.  I’ve climbed up into the lap of my Heavenly Father again and again and let HIM tell me the state of my soul, let Him do some gardening work, let Him pour out His love and grace in the middle of the mess. As Judah Smith says later in that book, “Maybe the reason we feel restless on the inside is because we haven’t been home in a long time.”

Let’s lean in. Let’s listen. Let’s return home today so we may truly be able to say,

It IS well with my soul!