Bekah's Heart

A Hand Holding God – Jesus Interruptions

I really am loving our current series at church about the ways that people interrupted Jesus or He interrupted their lives through Scripture and the way it still happens today.

This week’s story (read the whole thing here) was about a man who interrupts Jesus to ask him to come heal his daughter. When a woman interrupts Jesus along the way it delays Jesus and the man’s daughter dies. Yet, the story doesn’t end there. As Jason said in his sermon this week, he invites the father a little closer, to trust a little more and continues on to the house where the child was. Here’s how the story ends:

“…(Jesus) took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.” (‭Mark‬ ‭5‬:‭40-42‬ ESV)

I went to bed Saturday night after hearing the familiar story once again at church simply thankful that even when interruptions come in life and our plan seems to be falling apart, that God may indeed have an even more glorious plan.

In the middle of the night, I woke up, my mind swirling about a million different things, I found myself reading the Psalms trying to fall back asleep and came across this treasure:

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭37‬:‭23-24‬ NLT)

It wasn’t until the next morning when I was finishing preparations for the children’s sermon that I made the connection between these passage though…

Our God is a hand-holding God.

He reached out and raised this girl to life, by holding her hand.
When I stumble through life, he holds my hand.

Suddenly other verses came to mind:

Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. (‭Psalms‬ ‭73‬:‭23‬)

For I hold you by your right hand— I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭41‬:‭13‬)

Our God is that near… So close to hold our hands. He faithfully walked with Jairus through the ups and downs of the situation. He welcomed the interruption of the woman as she got close enough to touch him. Our God is not a far off, distant God. He delights, as the Psalm 37 verse says, in the everyday details of our lives. He walk through every step of life, holding our hands all the way. Oh, yes, we may stumble and fall, but He’s got our hand, and we will never be completely destroyed. He picks us up, dusts us off and reassures us we have no need to fear the next steps, He is near.

“Against all hope
Help me hope
Against all fear
Draw me near
Against all hope
I will hope
Against all fear
I will draw near…
In You I have everything I need”
– Christy Nockels

Jesus, thank you for being a God that gets so close, you can hold our hands. Walk with us today reassuring us that you are near, to comfort in the hard times and celebrate with us in the joyful moments. Against all hope, help us hope, Lord. Against all fear, draw us near. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

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Crossroads, First Trinity

Locked Up – Follow Up

Wow!  That’s the word that first comes to mind when I think about the LOCKED UP simulation for high school students at First Trinity yesterday.  For 12 hours, eight students from First Trinity and Grace-Niagara Falls gave up their identities and their rights to get a little taste of what it’s like to live in a country where being a Christian is illegal.

 

After hearing from Marty Doster about his experience in China, the students were processed into the prison and began to experience a VERY small taste of the reality that over 200 million Christians face everyday.  With guards yelling in their face, forcing them to do physical challenges, and mocking Christians any chance they got, the students began soon realized that this wasn’t an ordinary day at youth group.

 

One of my personal favorite moments from the day happened a couple hours into the simulation a few of the students couldn’t resist smiling.  As one of the guards were telling them to smile, they responded that even if they wiped the smile off their face, they’d still be smiling on the inside.  Each in push-up position while the other prisoners answered, they one by one confirmed that they were all indeed smiling on the inside because no matter what they were facing that day, they knew God was with them.

THAT, my friends, is the joy we have as Christians… not happiness that comes and goes with circumstances… but deep rooted joy in a God who loves us and cares for us and is good.

 

While I hope to write more stories throughout the week ahead, I wanted to be sure to share what a couple students posted on their Facebook page (for the whole world to see) as soon as they returned home from LOCKED UP last night.

“Had an amazing experience today… cant even believe christians around the world actually have to go through stuff worse than that everyday.. it was pretty [bad] but im now stronger in faith and in the bond with my “cell” mates.. love you guys and all the christians around the world!”

“I will never be able to fully explain what happened today. all i know i can express to you is that the events of this day have changed me. i, as well as a few other people, got the chance to really see what it’s like for a persecuted Christian in the world today. i feel so connected to God, my youth group, and all of the people throughout the world who are fighting and dying to keep their faith alive. today was really an amazing experience.”

 

Want to find out more about persecuted Christians around the world, or even write a letter to one who needs some encouragement?  Check out Open Doors or ask me for more information.

Thank you for praying for the youth that participated and the persecuted Christians we were thinking of all day.

More pictures of the event can be found on the First Trinity Facebook Page.

College Ministry

God on the Move

It seems like everywhere I turn lately it is obvious that God is on the move and it is SO exciting to see.

One of the places I witnessed him this past week was at Lutheran Campus Ministries (LCM) of WNY (also known as Organic Campus).  First Trinity had the opportunity to partner with this great community by making and serving the meal for the college students before their monthly worship experience.  Eight First Trinity members were involved in some way in making the dinner happen (not counting the many of you that I’m sure were praying!).   As I left that night, the college students I was talking to were not only thankful for the meal we provided but also the conversation that took place with the First Trinity members.  Two FT young adults and I stuck around for worship after the meal and were blessed by the experience.

Some of the other ways I witnessed God on the move were mentioned in a thank you letter we received from Steve, the LCM Pastor, this week.  Please read the letter below and pray that God would continue to work through this ministry, and First Trinity’s partnership with them, in amazing ways!

 

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2 February 2012

Dear Friends at First Trinity,

Thank you to Bekah, her crew and all of you at First Trinity for the fantastic dinner last night.  We had 23 people and then 19 for worship.  The focus of worship was on God still creating in our lives today.  Part of the sermon experience was for groups to get together and create a painting of their vision of who God is.  All four of those pieces of worship art are hanging in The House and are each wonderful in their own way!

 

But better than that were the interactions from the Peer Ministers.  I watched Katie welcome every single person that walked through the door and engage them in the type of radical hospitality that Jesus modeled… really asking how people were doing.

 

I watched Nick bring a friend that he met at work three days before and as she broke into tears telling him about a long term relationship break up.  He got her dinner and just sat with her in her tears in the back room so she wouldn’t have to go out with everyone else crying or sit in the back room alone.

 

I watched Jeremiah skip coming up to Communion so he could stay with a new girl that wasn’t comfortable with Communion because she had never seen it before. And he explained what it was and why we celebrate it. (Side note from Bekah not in the letter from Steve: I was in the group next to their table and I think my favorite moment of the night was hearing him explain it and then all of the others at the table sharing the personal significance it had in their own lives.)

 

I watched Mary Grace sing with the most incredible and haunting voice a version of Holy, Holy, Holy that opened up the concept of the Trinity that young adults could hang on to.

 

It was awesome… but not because the room was completely full… instead, because God was very easy to see!

 

Still in One Peace,

Steve

Crossroads, First Trinity, Internship Highlights, Joy

30 Hour Famine – Recap

Hello All!

Well, we made it to the end!  The 30-Hour Famine was a success (in my opinion at least).  22 youth and 4 adult participants from four area churches gave up eating for 30 hours so others could eat!  I hope to tell more specifics in the days to come about our experience.  But for now, here are some highlights:

  • Anne Miller and Jon Whited making our “Tribe:Haiti” experience come to life a little more by sharing stories from their trips to Haiti.
  • Celebrating Jon’s birthday on Friday night with a candle put straight on a plate (since we couldn’t eat anything) and then with the treats his parents brought for dessert when we broke our fast this evening. 
  • Lots of laughter and games!
  • Going door-to-door collecting food, coats, and blankets for those in need. (Yes, in the wind and the snow). 
  • Later in the day, a man showed up at church with 7 more blankets that he wanted to donate to our collection for people to keep warm this winter.
  • We left some of the food we collected to the First Trinity Food Pantry and then took nearly 70 extra pounds of food to the Food Bank of WNY where we toured their warehouse and learned more about those in need around our area.
  • The Canfield Family cooked us an awesome spaghetti supper to break our fast and helped clean everything up!

Thanks to everyone who helped out and especially a big thanks to all the youth participants who gave up their time, money, and food for 30 hours so others can have what they need.  You’re AWESOME!

Bekah's Heart, Crossroads, First Trinity, Youth Ministry

Truly a Beautiful Sight!

Here is a glimpse into the beautiful sight I witnessed while I worshipped this weekend:  

  • Two middle school students working together to make sure we had light on the candles in the front of the Church to help us focus on THE Light, Jesus. 
  • Three high school student singing, playing, leading the congregation in praises to our King.
  • Four sisters in middle and high school greeting people as they came into worship, directing God’s sons and daughters to go receive His very body and blood, helping collect the gifts of God’s people and present them back to God.
  • A high school student, knelt down in prayer with a man at the altar railing.

 

I LOVE seeing youth involved in worship.  And no, for those of you who don’t attend First Trinity, this was NOT a special ‘youth’ service.  It wasn’t really a “special” day at all (well, minus celebrating Sue’s Master DCE Award!!!).   What I mean is this is not the first time I’ve witnessed young people in action here at First Trinity. 

Take Christmas Eve, for example, when a 4th grader stood up in front of the entire congregation for each service and recited, from memory, the entire Christmas story from Luke 2.  Hearing the story of the Christ child, proclaimed from a child… simply beautiful.

Or our New Years’ Eve lock-in where 7 of the 15 youth participating had some role in planning or leading a section of the event. 

It is such a beautiful thing to see the entire body of Christ working together.  And it wasn’t JUST the youth either that made these things (and so many more) so wonderful.  It’s the interaction between all those serving.

At that New Years Eve Lock-in, TEN adults helped with some aspect of the lock-in from set-up to serving breakfast and even a few brave souls who stay the entire night (mostly awake) with the students so they could enjoy bringing in the New Year with their friends.

On Christmas Eve, I’m sure there were many hours of practice with those 4th graders’ parents rehearsing and encouraging to each of them to prepare, not to mention the many others who served in that service.

And last week… those students I witnessed using their gifts weren’t alone!  Just for that one service alone, at least 25 other people worked TOGETHER to make that service possible… other band members, readers, people working sound and powerpoint, greeters, ushers, and the list continues.

THIS is what the Body of Christ is all about. … each person doing their part … no matter whether the role seems to be “in the spotlight” or no one but you knows it even gets done… whether you’re 9 yrs old or 90.  It is so encouraging to be serving and learning and growing and worshiping in a place who values each person for who they are and honors the gifts they bring to worship our King.

 

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27

 

“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:12 

 

Crossroads, Youth Ministry

Please Don’t Underestimate Them!

I read this yesterday as the Facebook status of a high school girl and got her permission to share it here: 

I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I’m a virgin. I’m in high school, and I will not lose my self-respect just to "fit in".

Wow.

And the world says there’s no hope for this generation?!? 

Well, I think this girl just chose to stand up and say to ‘the world’, "YOU’RE WRONG!"

The coolest part about this, is that I know this girl is not alone!  Whether others are boldly posting their stance as a Facebook status or not, they state it with their lives!

Don’t underestimate our teens.  PLEASE!

Instead, remind them that they are beautiful and wonderful and creative and talented… that they are worth loving… just the way they are. 

Encourage them to refuse to change themselves to fit a mold and rather to just be who God created them to be.  Love them when they make mistakes, because we all do, and offer forgiveness.  I invite you to join me in showing them the respect they deserve.

Crossroads, First Trinity, Internship Highlights

Collision: Mend the Broken

Well we did it!  We survived the first “road trip” planned by Bekah. :)  As promised yesterday, I wanted to share a little bit about my experience this weekend at Acquire the Fire in Cleveland, OH with 16 teens and 2 other awesome adult leaders.  The theme this year for this conference was Mend the Broken.

 

DSCF7078 I guess I’ll just go through the weekend chronologically to give you an idea of what we experienced and learned.

 

The first session on Friday night started with worship led by a band called School Of WorshipThey led us in worship all weekend and it was always an amazing time to just enter into God’s presence and give him praise before hearing Mike Guzzardo share God’s Word with us.  FridayDSCF7088 night Mike shared with us that our lives are kind of like broken down cars that need refurbished.  First we have to let God take us out of the junkyard so that he can begin to take us a part and clean every little part of us…. it takes time and he has to get into every little deep place, but then, once we’re clean on the inside, he can begin to rebuild us in a way where we can think and live how he originally intended us. 

 

The night ended with a Newsboys Concert during which we got to be a part of the video recording for a music video.  They said they only use a live audience DSCF7060for a music video once every 2 or 3 years and they picked Acquire the Fire- Cleveland, OH to be that audience.  Watch for their video for the song “Miracles” coming out soon and see if you see any of First Trinity Crossroads group in  there!

 

After that we headed back to Lutheran High School West in Rocky Road, OH which was gracious enough to let us use their facilities to sleep and shower this weekend!  A youth group from Hosanna Lutheran Church nearby also joined us Friday night at Lutheran West.

Saturday morning started bright and early (for high schoolers) at 8:00 am and was broken into three sessions all including worship, a message, and part of a drama that continued all throughout the day. 

 

The first session Saturday tackled some difficult issues that teenagers (and all of us) face today regarding pornography, sex before marriage, same sex attraction and more. Teens were challenged to join “The Resistance” when they struggle with these or any sins in their lives committing to purity in heart, mind and body.  An organization called CovenantEyes.com also provided students with a 30-day trial of an internet filtering and accountability software that they produce.

 

The afternoon session was about failure and how we deal with it.  We were reminded that just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we won’t fail (see Proverbs 24:15) it means that God helps us get up when we fail and that we don’t have to be defined by our failures. 

The afternoon also included 2 concerts, one by Young Joshua and the other by Jimmy Needham

 

After dinner we went back for the last session which was about how our world tries to get us to focus on The Me-World .. my problems, my stuff, my fun.   God calls us in our new refurbished  life to focus on the HE-World …. the things of God’s heart… whether that’s serving your neighbor next door or going overseas, we all can start now making changes in our lives to shift and “get away from ME”.

 

Our weekend wrapped up by attending St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Chesterfield, OH on our way back to NY.  They were very welcoming, had a beautiful sanctuary and there was some AMAZING scenery on our drive  between the high way and the church.  Think, curvy hilly roads with gorgeous houses lined with trees still dressed in autumn colors yet covered with snow.  BEAUTIFUL!  Definitely added meaning to the term “scenic route”. 

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Overall it was an AWESOME weekend filled with fun and, I pray, spiritual growth.  Those of you from First Trinity, take a chance to ask one of the kids about it… them sharing with you is one thing that can help continue the growth that began this weekend. Thanks again for your prayers and support!

 

 

 

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Here’s a video summary put out by the Acquire the Fire organization. (You can see some of our group members at around 1:42).