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.

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66 in 52 Challenge

Psalms (Part 1) – Week 17 {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 17 - Psalms 1-50

The Big Picture of Psalms:

The word “psalm” is used to describe a poem or song typically one connected with some kind of religion. Right in the middle of our Bibles we find a book filled with these psalms. What’s neat is that many of the psalms can be traced back to various points in the history of God’s people. Some psalms are filled with gratitude and thanksgiving while others lament the hard times in life. There are psalms that seem to have been used in royal ceremonies with some of the Kings and others written hidden in caves.  One of my favorite things about the Psalms is that it seems to document the everyday life of believers which makes them very relatable to our lives today.

Fun Facts about the Psalms:

  • There are 150 psalms in the book.
  • Psalm 119 is the longest psalm with 176 verses.
  • Psalm 117 is the shortest psalm with only 2 verse.
  • Psalm 118 is in the very middle of the Bible.
  • Psalms is actually divided into 5 smaller books within the book with each section ending with a song of praise called a “doxology”.
    • Book 1: Psalm 1—41
    • Book 2: Psalm 42—72
    • Book 3: Psalm 73—89
    • Book 4: Psalm 90—106
    • Book 5: Psalm 107—150
  • Today, the psalms are used in both Christian and Jewish worship.
  • King David wrote 73 of the 150 psalms

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.

  • I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1)
    REFLECTION: What can you give thanks to God for this week? Who will you tell of God’s wonderful deeds in your life?
     
  • The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? ” (Psalm 27:1)
    REFLECTION: Who or what in your life is trying to make you fearful right now? What does it look like to trust and depend on the Lord in the middle of that fear?

  • The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
    REFLECTION: Who do you know that needs to be reminded that God is near? How can you remind them of the truths in this verse?

  • Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 38:15)
    REFLECTION: What are you waiting on an answer from God for? How can you wait well this week?

God’s Grace in the Psalms:

I think we can find just about any human emotion somewhere in the Psalms. I kind of mentioned this in the summary piece above, and I mention it again because I think that it is where I most see God’s grace currently in the Psalms. Reading through them, especially a lot of them at one time like we’ll be doing the next few weeks, reminds me that God is big enough for whatever I’m thinking and feeling. He can handle my anger, even if it’s aimed toward Him. He can walk with me in my doubt and bring me back to a place of trust. He understands our fears and reassures us in those anxious moments. Not only is God bigger than all our emotions, He also was the one who created us with those emotions. Of course, we can let those feelings lead us into actions that go against His desires, but the emotions themselves are a gift of grace, one that often, if we let it, leads us straight into deeper relationship with Him.

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!

66 in 52 Challenge

Reflections on Job: Yet I will trust Him

Trust.

This is the word that rises to the surface as I read through Job.

It takes trust to fall to your knees in grief and worship there after receiving the news of the death of your children.

It takes trust to get up and move forward each day after that.

It takes trust to appeal to what you know about your God when those around you encourage you to give up and curse Him.

It takes trust to stay confident in your identity and convictions when those closest to you question you all the way.

It takes trust to appeal to God knowing how powerful He is but believing that whatever He could do to you would be better than giving in to what you know isn’t true.

It takes trust to humble yourself and admit where you didn’t live up to a perfect standard.

Trust.

Trustbelieves: “Even now, God in heaven is my witness and my protector.” Job 16:19

Trust remembers: “You, the source of my life, showered me with kindness and watched over me.” Job 10:12

Trust stays humble: “What you say is true. No human is innocent in the sight of God. Not once in a thousand times could we win our case if we took him to court. God is wise and powerful— who could possibly oppose him and win? When God becomes angry, he can move mountains before they even know it.” Job 9:2-5

Trust is not afraid to ask the hard questions: “Why should I patiently hope when my strength is gone?” Job 6:11 “Why is life so hard? Why do we suffer?” Job 7:1

Trust helps us remain faithful: “In spite of everything, Job did not sin or accuse God of doing wrong.” Job 1:22

Trust proclaims: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” Job 19:25-27

Trust stays focused on what’s most important: “Let God All-Powerful be your silver and gold.” Job 22:25

Trust does not depend on sight: “I cannot find God anywhere— in front or back of me, to my left or my right. God is always at work, though I never see him.” Job 23:8-9

Trust relinquishes perceived or desired control: “From the very beginning, God has been in control of all the world.” Job 34:13

Trust leans in when it doesn’t make sense: “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him…” Job 13:15

Jesus, on the best days and the worst, may I trust You and You alone. Teach me to trust. Teach me the humility and peace, the patience and focus, the determination and proclamation of trust. Always. Amen.

66 in 52 Challenge

Job – Week 16 {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 16 - Job

The Big Picture of Job:

The book of Job, named after the key character in the book, starts out giving an interesting glimpse into a conversation between Satan and God. Satan claims that the only reason Job is following after God faithfully is because he has been blessed. If the material things in life, his family, and later on his health, were taken from him, Satan claims Job would walk away from God. Despite more tragedy and loss than we could imagine, Job remains faithful. Much of the book includes conversations between Job and three of his friends (and a fourth in later on). They don’t seem to get it though and blame Job for all the bad things that came upon him. They believe he MUST have done something wrong but that was not the case. While Job doesn’t go along with his wife’s suggestion to just “curse God and die” it does not mean Job didn’t have any questions. The last section is a series of conversation between God and Job where God reminds Job he is in control of everything, Job is humbled, and much that Job had lost was restored.

Key Themes:

  • JUSTICE – One huge theme in Job is justice. God’s justice is called into question, yet he proves himself faithful.
  • PAIN – Any kind of pain imaginable is covered in Job: physical pain, grief, emotional pain, broken relationships and more.
  • FAITHFULNESS – Satan doesn’t think Job will remain faithful. Job’s friends accuse him of not being faithful. Job’s wife struggles to be faithful in the face of grief and loss. Throughout the book we also see God’s faithfulness.
  • GOD’S ALMIGHTY POWER AND CONTROL – Near the end of the book we see a few whole chapters where God declares His power and control in the world. Yet that is not the only place this theme arises. Even back in the conversations between Satan and God it is clear that God is completely in control. He set limits on how much Satan was allowed to mess with Job.

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 (two this week since we’re in two books!). 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.”

  • “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.” (Job 1:20)
    REFLECTION: What is your normal first reaction in grief or suffering? What might it look like to make worship part of that response?
  • “Then [Job’s] wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity?  Curse God and die!’  But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’  In all of this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9-10)
    REFLECTION: Describe a time when someone close to you challenged your faith and beliefs. What was helpful during that time to stay focused on God?
  • I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You, therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2, 5-6)
    REFLECTION: The word repent means to turn around and go the other way. What is one place where you see the need to repent in order to get your eyes back on Jesus this week?

  • I know that my Savior lives,and at the endhe will stand on this earth.My flesh may be destroyed,yet from this bodyI will see God.Yes, I will see him for myself,and I long for that moment.” (John 19:25-27)
    REFLECTION: Job couldn’t be sure about a lot of things, but he claimed complete confidence in this fact: His redeemer lives and he will get to see Him.

God’s Grace in Job:

I’m a book like this, where a huge theme is God’s justice, it’s easy to miss God’s grace. While I could point to a few areas where it is clear (for example God’s restoration of what was lost at the end), as I think about God’s grace this time it comes in the not-so-obvious ways. If I faced the kind of loss Job did and then endured those kinds of conversations with people who were supposed to be my friends, I would only be able to get through by the grace of God. I believe the same was probably true for Job. God’s grace provided (and provides still today) the strength to get up each day in the face of trial and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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!

Thyroid

Our Bodies are Amazing! So is the Creator.

The more I consider it the more I realize just how amazing the human body really is!

I can get a cut on my finger and within a few days, you would have never known if was there. Without having to think about it, hundreds of times a day, my lungs fill up with air and oxygen is taken to cells all over my body to allow them each to do the work they need to do and my heart pumps blood and my eyes blink.

In some miraculous way I don’t understand, my brain thinks a thought and instantly my fingers move in a specific way hitting the screen of my phone or keys on a keyboard in just the right place to put a series of letters together that make up this sentence. Then somehow your eyes can scan those letters on some screen potentially across the world and your brain computes a message. Mind-boggling.

When we’re sick our body’s immune system kicks in.

When we’re tired or hungry our body sends us signals that it’s time to eat or sleep.

Seriously our bodies are incredible! The more I think about it the more I am convinced this can’t all have happened by chance. Our Creator God is incredible!

This also makes me consider the times our bodies don’t work the way they should. While God designed them to last forever and function perfectly, that got messed up when sin entered the picture back in Genesis. Ever since then humans have been living in less-than-perfect bodies, bodies that ache, bodies that fade, bodies that get sick.

I’ve thought about this more recently, as I deal with some health issues of my own. Long story short, I will be having surgery in May to remove half of my thyroid. A thyroid is a small gland, shaped kind of like a butterfly located in our neck. If you would have asked me 6 months ago what our thyroid does I would have potentially stared back at you confused and barely been able to say where it was even located in my body. But now I know exactly the amazing, miraculous things this gland does for us. Each moment of every day our thyroids produce hormones that impact the function of almost every vital organ in our body including our bones, the heart, and on some level, basically every cell in our body! It’s work in these areas regulates our metabolism, weight, and energy levels. So it does pretty important work each day that often we are clueless about.

While mine thankfully functions very well, some extra cells have decided to grow on one side of it and I now have two very small nodules on the right half of my thyroid. One is not a concern at all and the other likely isn’t anything serious either however it was still labeled, “suspicious” after a few tests.

So, we’re on to the next step which is just get rid of those cells just in case. This is scheduled to happen in May. I won’t know until I wake up from surgery whether they removed just half or the whole thing. It will just depend on what they find when they get in there. Either way, the recovery should be pretty quick. (That also is amazing evidence of the incredible complexity of the bodies God gave us!)

As I mentioned before, the thyroid gland is a pretty crucial part of our body. Without it eventually our other organs would stop functioning properly too. If my entire thyroid is removed, I will need to take medicine that replaces the thyroid hormone in my body. That may or may not be the case if they leave the left half, but either way I find it incredible that God created humans with brains that at some point in history were able to figure out what a thyroid does and what is in the hormone it produces. Then they discovered how to replicate that in such a way that our bodies can take a little pill each morning and continue to function well even when that part of our body is removed. It’s amazing!

I am feeling good about the surgery and at peace with taking this next step.
I am confident in my amazing surgeon.
I am thankful for the awesome family and friends walking the journey with me.

And I am finding myself even more and more amazed at our Creator God who also happens to be our Healer as well!

That, too, is an amazing design! 🙂

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