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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)

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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.

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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

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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!

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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!

School of the Week, Uncategorized

Christian Central Academy {School of the Week 2017-18}

Central Christian Academy

This week we thank God for and pray for Central Christian Academy!

Fast Facts:

  • About 400 Students (K-12)
  • Founded in 1949
  • Mascot: Crusaders
  • Colors: Blue and White

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of Christian Central Academy, but especially our First Trinity high school students: Brendan and Tommy. 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.
    Head of School: Mr. Thad Gaebelein
    Assistant to the Head of School: Mrs. Lori Williams
    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 - CCA Banner.jpg

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Christian Academy of WNY {School of the Week 2017-18}

Christian Academy of WNY

Fast Facts:

  • Founded in 1993
  • Students representing 36 different churches attend
  • Mascot: Eagles
  • Colors: Green and White

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students at CAWNY, but especially our First Trinity students: Maria and Liz. Ask God to walk with them each day and give them opportunities to live out their faith at school.
  • Pray for their administrators, especially their principal Mrs. Cindy Lichtenberger, that they would have wisdom in their leadership.
  • Pray for sports, music, and drama activities this week that the students would do well, have fun, and be safe.

SOTW - CAWNY(1).jpg

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Dwell On These Things

Today my devotion has me reading Philippians 4:8-9. It says,

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, dwell on these things. And the peace of God will be with you.”

Every time I come across this verse I try to think of one thing for each category as a way to dwell here a while. In a world lately where everywhere I turn I find more tragedy, disaster, and heartache, this was a helpful exercise to pause and do today. And yes, it did being so peace!

  • True – God loves us… all of us… even me.
  • Noble – Firefighters working countless hours to battle fires in CA; first responders running toward the hard and messy and dangerous to save lives
  • Right – taking time for self-care
  • Pure – a little kid’s giggle
  • Lovely – Bright purple and yellow flowers on my table from beautiful friends
  • Admirable – Teachers doing the hard work of showing up day after day to love on kids as well as teach them and prepare them for life
  • Excellent – An amazing team I get to serve alongside
  • Praiseworthy – All the youth and young adults I see serving around the church and world impacting greatly the lives of those they serve.

What would be a few things that would make your list? Comment below!