Pressing On to New Places and New Adventures

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. I’ve missed it! But I also have been enjoying my life…my very busy but extremely blessed life.

And…some exciting things have been going on! I’d love for you, my readers, to follow me as God leads me “further up and further in”

Over the next few months, I’ll be blogging over at a new place, Scripted by Love.

Click on over to read about my journey… to AFRICA!

Still Pressing On,

Rebecca

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My King of Love

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Had a sweet time learning this song with some friends tonight. It’s a reminder of who Christ is and who I am in Him. A reminder I need every single pride-poxed, worry-saturated day.

Soak in the gospel truth. Breathe deeply the love that overflows for you in your most lonely times, the love that seeks you out when you think you are beyond finding out, the love that calls you home and that is your home.

Make these words your own

The King of love is mine. And because of this, my life is good all the time.

The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And O what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.

The School of Friendship

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

He’s sitting in his usual spot, on the soft armchair in the back corner of the coffee shop. I’m sitting next to him today. It’s my last day of work and I want to be sure to spend time with this special friend.

He’s drinking a chocolate milkshake and I’m telling him about school and my plans.

“You’re a good girl, Rebecca.” He says that all the time.

“Thanks,” I say with a smile. ” You are pretty nice yourself. I noticed how Bob is sitting with you and Fred and Linda and your whole breakfast group now. That’s nice because I always felt sorry for him eating breakfast all alone.”

“Yeah, well he’s a good guy”

“How did it happen that you became friends?”

“Well, it;s a funny thing.” He pauses a minute to rub at some chocolate milkshake dribbles on his pale yellow polo.

I get up and retrieve a Tide-to-go from my purse. He tries to use it for a few minutes  than hands it back with a crooked smile.

“It will come out in the wash”.

“Anyway, about Bob?”

“Yeah. You know, every day when he came in, I’d ask him to join us back here for breakfast. And every day he just kind of shrugged and said no.”

“He seems very timid.”

“One day, Fred just had enough. He got up, took Bob by the arm and said ‘Come on, sit with us for a change’. And Bob did. And he’s been sitting here ever since.”

I smile at the image of Fred’s friendly intervention. “I’m so glad. I can tell Bob likes having new friends.”

“He sits with me now after everyone else is gone and we talk. He won’t leave until I do. You know, he doesn’t have a wife to tell him when to come home.”

“Oh really?”

He doesn’t answer right away. He’s intently slurping the last drops of his smoothie. I stand up to get back to the dishes in the sink.

“Do you know what he told me, Rebecca?” There’s a new tone in his voice — a quiet thoughtfulness.

“What?”

“His wife died, just a few months ago. Every morning, before he comes here, he goes to the cemetery. He goes to her grave and he says ‘Why did you leave me?’ That’s what he told me.”

There is another quiet pause. I reach out to touch his hand that’s fumbling in his wallet.  “I’m glad he doesn’t eat breakfast alone anymore.”

His blue eyes soften. He presses a five dollar bill into my hand. “For the smoothie,” he says. “Keep the change. You’re a good girl, Rebecca.”

As I watch him shuffle out the door, I think to myself of how far I am from being truly “good”. So often I noticed Bob, with his bagel and coffee and newspaper. I noticed how he’d brighten up when I remembered his usual order and how he liked to sit where he could watch everyone from the safety of his little table. I could see he was lonely and sad, but I never took the time to find out why. I didn’t stop to talk to him beyond the usual pleasantries.

Two older men showed me kindness in action. How it isn’t enough to just notice a lonely person — sometimes you have to get up and take them by the arm and give them the help they need, but are afraid to ask for. Sometimes you have to sit with someone and be patient before they will open up their heart to you. Often, when you reach out and give yourself in friendship, you will find yourself blessed too.

Isn’t that what Jesus has done for us? He reached out and drew us in when we were secluded in our own death. When we didn’t have a hope in this life, He enveloped us in His saving, adopting, communing love and gave us Himself — and with that one gift, all of life was given meaning.

He fellowship-ed with our sorrows on the Cross. He was patient with the gentle unfolding of our hearts. As we continue to spend time with Him, He continues to ministers to our souls, telling us to “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29)

In a simple way, three older men sharing breakfast in a coffee shop taught me a lesson about friendship, about kindness, and yes, even about the gospel.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:17,18)

I’m learning that most of the time, there’s more to this life than what meets the eye.

When Seasons Change

We have a problem every summer. A mysterious, ugly plant appears in our front garden, right by our porch. Well, it’s no longer a mystery since we all know by now what it is but everyone pretends we don’t. We ignore it’s exponential growth, we overlook the way it obnoxiously crawls over our walkway and our guests need to take a detour just to get to our front door. Finally, one day in late August, someone will make the flabbergasted yet equally expected announcement: “Guys, there are PUMPKINS growing in the front yard!”

It’s one of the first signs that fall is on its way.

Summer is ending. Signs of it’s departure are everywhere — the big yellow school buses that make my drive to work just a hint more stressful; the cool mornings ideal for early runs; the “autumn glow” just as the sun is setting.

Today our Junior High Sunday School class graduated and we said bittersweet farewells to girls who have grown so much in the past year. My sisters and I are also affected by this “growing up” phenomenon — now all out of high school, I watch my younger sister head off to college and my older sister to grad school. Both our trampoline and our pool were taken down this year, mementos of our childhood, reminders that snapshots in time do not last forever.

I love the changing seasons. The way nature naturally slips into a new mood and dons a new look. Familiar patterns fading away and making room for new ones. It’s a soothing reminder that though “time like an ever rolling stream” is fleeting so quickly by, God remains faithfully just the same as the seasons faithfully change every year.

Summer and winter and sprintime and harvest. Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above. Held together by the Author of Redemptive history.

Just as I am.

All the changes I see around me are symbolic of God doing new things inside me, the Holy Spirit changing me.

I am learning that sometimes I need to go through ugly times — vine-y, awkward growing stages — before I see the beautiful results God is planning all along. Often I resist from the change process, afraid of the pain it may inflict. When He touches the sensitive parts of me — that  one relationship, that one sin I won’t let go, that one fear I can’t overcome — I cringe, much in the same way I shrink back from getting a shot at the doctor’s office, though I know the vaccine is for my good.

And yet where there is pain, there is also life. Where there is the seed of Christ’s life, there His Holy Spirit is moving and making with gentle, gracious hands. I may need to spend some uncomfortable time in the dirty “depths” so I might “learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision” (Valley of Vision xxiv)

Sometimes I appear a haphazard weed, but God sees me as a work in progress, planted with care and being prepared in time for the harvest.

Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ (Jeremiah 5:24). He is working His way — in history, in Creation, and in the garden of my heart.

Yes, from this overgrown tangle, You are making something beautiful. And for that I join with all nature in manifold witness to Your great faithfulness, mercy and love.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven….
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end…..I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

(Ecclesiastes 3)

God does Big Things in Small People: Missions trip reflections

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New York City is a melting pot of needy people.

Homeless on the streets. Transplants from other countries who bring with them the traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Driven young professionals who have disregarded the faith of their fathers as primitive and ignorant.

It was to this flashing bustling metropolis of human frailty that my church sent a missions team, myself included, to minister to the future of the city — the children of Forest Hills, a neighborhood of Queens.

I questioned the significance of spending a week with the so-called “least of these” when there are so many needy people in New York. On Monday when I sat cross-legged with 14 squirming, chatty three year old and opened my Bible to teach a lesson, I wondered if they would hear or understand a single word.

But that week I learned that where I thought my abilities lay wasn’t what mattered. God has the power to change lives and His strength works through and beyond my weakness. I prayed 1 Thes 5:24 “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” When I spoke, I prayed that God would reach fertile soul in young hearts. I was not expecting that my own heart would be among them.

It was overwhelming to me that for many of these children, this would be the only week all year long that they were in a church and be read the Word of God. And it was equally overwhelming to see how God’s truth was taking root in their hearts.

There was the Chinese mother who stayed in the classroom because her son couldn’t communicate in English. She would say the verse and he would repeat after her. Together, they were learning to treasure God’s Word.

There was the little boy adopted just two months before. The only thing that kept him from crying was to be held tightly in someone’s arms. Simply love and attention drove away the tears and brought joy to his eyes.

I learned so much from these children. In Matthew 18:1-5, Jesus uses children to teach His disciples. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me

The children taught me how to respond to the grace and love of my Father God. Accepting, joyful, willing. With awe and wonder.

By the end of the week I heard God’s Word coming out of them:

My most “troublesome”, rambunctious and feisty child had a spill on the playground. As I rushed him wailing through the halls to the first-aid kit, I asked if he remembered the verse we had learned that day. Still crying, he looked right in my eyes and said perfectly, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”

A child told the other six-year olds that “Praying is easy – it’s just talking to God.” We found out that just the day before he had been afraid to pray until a teacher  told him that praying “is just talking to God”.

A three year old recited the entire 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”

And my favorite was when a little guy in my class would recite 1 John 4:9 “God showed us His love by sending His Son,” and then shout at the top of his lungs “JESUS!”

The Gospel. Coming from their lips.

We may never again see these children we grew to love. But that doesn’t mean the work of grace in their lives is over. When we walked through the crowded streets of Manhattan one night, I imagined my little children one day walking those same streets, bearing the light of the gospel to their city and speaking words of life.

I know that God is faithful and He can do it.

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Morning After the Storm

It was a dark and stormy night. The perfect beginning to a good story.

Unfortunately, I’m not the ideal heroine. There I was at 10:30pm in the little black Honda, paralyzed in the middle of the street. Right ahead of me was a river, flowing at least 5 inches high over the road. I probably would not have even seen it through the pitch black night and blinding rain, but I did see the car stuck on the embankment only a few yards away.

Perhaps this is when I mention that due to other flooding around our mountain, this was the only way home. Now there was no way home.

I honestly did not know what to do. My mind was blank of any solutions besides bursting into tears right there in the middle of the flooded street. Which is probably what I would have done if the figure of a girl hadn’t appeared out of nowhere and banged on my window, yelling at me to “Get away, it isn’t safe here! Don’t try to go home, just get away!”

Immediately, I was panicked into action and shot the car into reverse. At that same moment, three large fire engines, their flashing lights illuminating the torrential sky, came barreling down on me. Then a few tears did fill my eyes. I felt so helpless, so alone, and so vulnerable as I swung around and headed back into the stormy blackness. I called my dad to hear a soothing voice; I called a friend to find a bed for the night.

I was so scared. Fear clenched my heart tighter than the white-knuckled grip I had on the steering wheel. My heart thumped louder than the rain pounding on my windshield and I kept turning the radio up to drown out both. It took nearly half an hour to drive four miles because of how slowly I was creeping, leaning forward like an old blind woman, dodging puddles and crying out prayers. O Lord, protect me! Guide this car! Please, be with me!

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I saw a familiar porch light, like a lighthouse guiding me too safety. I saw a big blue umbrella making its way to the curb and under it the faces of my dear friends – faces I loved more than anything in the world at that desperate moment. Finally I let out the breath I had kept sucked in that whole dreadful drive and loosened my death grip on the wheel. Finally, I felt safe.

The sound of singing birds and a stream of warm sunlight woke me early the next morning. After a few happy hours of breakfast and coffee with the friends who saved my life, I was back in the little back Honda, driving home.

It was remarkable what a different place the world was from the treacherous storm of the night before. The sun had dried up the puddles and everything was glowing in cheerful summer light. Butterflies flitted between blooming flowers and a calm breeze ruffled leafy branches. Everything had survived the storm and now seemed more alive than ever.

When at long last, home came around the bend, I too felt a transformation had taken place.

There was something about the helplessness I had felt that intensified a truth to me: no matter how many ways I try to “make peace”, there is only one thing that can calm the storm – both in me and around me. That one thing is a relationship with Christ.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you

Fear is so very real. Try as I might, I can’t muster up courage to fight it. It strips me of my confidence…which is precisely where God wants me to be. Only when I throw up my hands and come to Christ, do I find rest. Only when I set my house on the guiding lighthouse of His Word, is my soul safe. Only when I realize that everything I could need and want is in Him, do I know true tranquility.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

When my heart is overwhelmed, I will look up. I will hope. I will rest. Though storm cloud opportunities to fear may be opening up all around me, You are there and in You, there is always morning light.

For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come. And He is leading me home.

*Scripture quotations are from Psalm 56 and Isaiah 26