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Ashes to Ashes

Growing up in a Catholic family, Lent was always a fairly important part of the year. My siblings and I would have a competition every year to see who would get the darkest ashes on their forehead on Ash Wednesday or the biggest palm on palm Sunday. We would talk for days about what we were giving up. And once we declared our official Lent sacrifices, you can bet we policed each other mercilessly to uphold them. Very spiritual of us, I know.

As my walk with God has evolved over the past few years and expanded beyond Catholicism, I don’t focus on Lent quite so much. I have fast days throughout the year and I check in with God frequently about things I need to give up. Personally, I feel that type of spiritual growth should be ongoing rather than squished into 40 days.

These days, I no longer go to Catholic masses, but instead attend a non-denominational Church. Yet every year on Ash Wednesday, I still seek out a Catholic mass to pray, reflect, and get my ashes. I like the reminder that without my Creator, I am naught but dust. If not for my Savior, I would end up as mere dust again. I like the reminder that my worth was given to me by Jesus and not myself. I think it is mind-boggling and so humbling what Jesus endured – the magnitude of that, the amount of love and compassion behind it, is staggering to me. I could worship 24/7 for the rest of my life and still not give enough thanks for that. And for me, Ash Wednesday mass still encompasses all of these things in one. And so I go.

This year was no exception, but it was a bit different. I missed the afternoon mass because I was helping out my roommate’s aide (who is still in agony and unable to move around much after being hit by a city bus a week ago). The evening mass I attended instead happened to be bilingual – English and Spanish. It was interesting the way the cultures melded together. Sometimes we would sing songs in English to a tune traditionally heard in Spanish mass, or we would switch off line by line. There were two priests, and they took turns speaking in English and Spanish. But when it came time to pray, no switching was necessary. Hands joined and voices lifted to the sky. Spanish and English alike joined together. The languages were different, but the words were the same as we prayed together to our Father. And in that moment, when we forgot about whose turn it was or what the Spanish-speaking priest was doing vs the English-speaking one, when all focus shifted to Jesus Christ our Lord, I could feel His presence so strongly. It was truly amazing. My spirit was definitely stirred.

I have always had an appreciation for the season of Lent (even if I don’t adhere to the schedule as strictly as I once did), but today opened my eyes to an even deeper meaning of who God is, and how deeply the Holy Spirit resides within us. It doesn’t matter what language we speak or culture we’re from – God is so much bigger than that. Life isn’t bound by language or location. And though those things can divide us, together we are brothers and sisters under Christ. We are sons and daughters together. Without Him, our voices would be solitary and insignifcant. Without Him we would have been a room full of dust. But because He sacrificed for us, because He gave the precious gift of Life, our voices rang strong enough to resonate through the whole building.

Jesus, I praise You for who You are and what You did for me. I love You more than words can say.

God bless!

~Rebekah A

Finding My Church

Before moving to NY, I was part of a non-denominational Christian church. Our doctrine? The Bible. It was common for church-goers to have a weekly fast day, and come every week with visions, dreams, revelations from God. Bible studies, a 24-hr prayer room, and prayer meetings throughout the week abounded. Some even lived in special houses together, as a way to live intentionally for Christ and witness to others they came in contact with. These people lived for Christ and Christ alone, and He led us to do some really amazing things.

I haven’t found that same combination of spirituality, passion for Jesus, and sense of community/family anywhere since moving. I did find a church whose preaching I love, and I still listen to it in my free time, but it was so big that you could go every week and never see the same person twice. I found one that was smaller and has great outreach and a sense of community, but I have been questioning the spiritual strength. I get the impression that if I were walking down the street with other churchgoers, and felt called to pray for someone that we passed, they might not join me with it. And talking about a fast day, for no reason other than to strengthen my own walk, seems to be a foreign idea. But it could also be a sign that I could be a leader here.

I reached out to my new pastor with an email and a prayer request….just something I was looking for wisdom on. And he replied immediately, with a “I’ll keep it in my prayers”. And at first glance, that’s great. But for some reason, the quick response bothered me. I was sort of hoping He’d spend some time with God before replying. I was going to him with some pretty intense things – signs and visions from my old church, and I wanted his take or some extra wisdom on it. It was almost enough to make me decide that maybe this isn’t my church home after all.

However, to be fair, the advice I sought was based on a few things that are tough to grasp at best, let alone when you’re hearing the story as a third party. Meanwhile I joined a small group there, called a growth group, which keeps me there til Christmas. I’m praying in that time that things have a chance to play out and I get some guidance on where I’m supposed to be!

In the meantime, be praying for me that I hear God’s guidance clearly!

Thanks, and God bless!

~Rebekah A

Ready For…..?

We humans are in a perpetual state of preparation. We wake up in the morning and we start to prepare ourselves for the day: we get dressed, do our hair and makeup (unless you’re me, in which case makeup is reserved for special occasions and hair is thrown up into a ponytail on the way downstairs, but I digress), eat breakfast, brush our teeth. If we have families, we prepare them for the day also. We run errands in preparation for household tasks. We cook in preparation to eat. We budget and have savings accounts in preparation for retirement/emergencies/new things. Whether it be for a long-term or short-term goal, we are constantly getting ready for things here on earth. The problem is, our lives consist of more than just things that happen on earth. There is a spiritual realm too, and our lives are very much a part of it. But what do we do to prepare ourselves spiritually?

When we think ‘spiritual’, we tend to think long-term. We think of going to heaven, or of a vague image of Jesus watching over us. We might also think of praying and having God answer our prayers. And yes, that encompasses a lot – praying for ourselves and for others is a huge part of our spiritual lives. However, when it comes down to it, so many of our physical acts have some bearing on the spiritual realm. And when you think of how much preparation those physical acts take, it starts to become clear how much our spiritual preparation is lacking.

I’ve posted before about how every second of the day, we are serving something. Is every second of the day serving God? And if not, who or what are you serving instead? These minute-by-minute choices absolutely ricochet into the spiritual realm. We are spiritual beings eternally, while our flesh only lasts a short time. Our body is merely an extension of our spiritual selves. And our every physical thought and interaction has some significance in the spirit. Are we truly prepared for that? How much time do we spend listening to God in the morning for some direction on our day? For some guidance on a situation that’s either here already or is coming our way? How much time do we spend in His word, using it as a mirror so that we may live rightly and store up treasures in heaven? Do we spend time fasting so that even our physical selves and physical world can draw closer to Him?

We need to start preparing for our days spiritually as well as physically. If that means waking up a little early to spend time with Jesus before you start your day, or foregoing the music on the way to work so you can pray, do it. Find a way to spend that time with the Lord, much the way you spend time on yourself. Spend time with Him and get yourself ready to be a true vessel of Christ, a true member of the body, in everything that you do.

God bless!

~Rebekah A

Overcoming the Carnal Mind

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” –Matthew 26:41

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Awhile ago I found myself dealing with a bit of a problem with someone I know. When I inquired to God as to what had brought this on, God showed me something I had done months earlier that had started the chain reaction of events that led me to the point I found myself in. I realized had I followed the Lord’s principles as laid out in the Scriptures, I would not have had to suffer the way I was. I repented and told God that if a similar situation ever presented itself, I would not make the same mistake twice. I would say no to the temptation.

A couple of nights ago I had a dream that the very situation I had dealt with before presented itself again. In the dream I was very tempted to repeat my prior error, but then I remembered my vow to the Lord. I reminded myself that following after God is the most important thing. There is no temporary fulfillment of the flesh that is worth sacrificing eternity. I said no to the temptation.

But then as sImageometimes happens in dreams, I suddenly became aware that I was dreaming! Once I realized I was dreaming, I revisited the temptation. I reasoned within myself that since I was dreaming that meant none of this was really happening so it wouldn’t be so bad to give in to the temptation; to give in to sin. It wasn’t even real I told myself. When I wake up, I will go on as before and no one will ever know. I’m not sure if I went through with my intention to sin as the dream seems to have ended at that point, but I woke up clearly remembering how I was justifying my desire to sin for the simple reason that I knew it wasn’t real. Our flesh will do as much as it can get away with!

 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” –Romans 7:18

Our thought life is important to God. The things in our hearts are important to God. While I may not have been completely conscious of my activities, and though I was “only” dreaming, the dream revealed the state of the inner man. My flesh was rising up. Somewhere deep down, that desire for sin is within. The carnal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:7). My flesh is weak. I know that the wages of sin is death. I know that nothing good can come of it, and yet I was so quick to go down that road because I could get away with it since it wasn’t “real”. The trouble is that the unconscious mind that brought me to that place in my dream is real. The dream came from somewhere and it revealed an area in my life that I need to deal with. So what’s the solution to this problem?

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” -Galatians 5:16

Walk in the Spirit! We have two natures, a spiritual nature and a fleshly nature. There is a battle raging between the old man and the new man. Paul said, “I die daily.” We have to crucify the flesh every day. I’ve recently been re-sanctifying parts of my life as I have found I need to do from time to time. I’vImagee started treating my temple better with healthier food and exercise. I’ve started reading my Word regularly again. I’ve deactivated my Facebook account. I’m praying more and allowing time for worship in the privacy of my home instead of just during song service at church. Perhaps, my flesh is rising up in part due to this sanctification process. The flesh doesn’t like the things of the spirit!

I’m doing my best to take up my cross to follow Him, but my flesh is still weak. I must remind myself of this so that I don’t fall into temptation. The Bible says to confess your faults to one another and to pray for one another (James 5:16). We know that sin leads to death yet we are still tempted by the flesh to fall into sin! We must die daily. We must walk in the spirit so that we don’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

Lord, Help me to walk after the Spirit and not after my own flesh! Help me to live clean and righteously before You in my thoughts, in my body, and in my spirit. I cannot do it on my own; I need your Holy Spirit directing my every step. Thank you Jesus for your loving kindness and your enduring mercy. I don’t know where I’d be without You.

-Rebekah L

Consecrating the Temple

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, whom is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

At Church on Sunday, we had a special time set aside to pray for healing. I have an autoimmune disease, and for the past almost-year or so now I’ve been fighting a weird eczema-type rash on my hands and arms. It hasn’t been fun, so if healing prayer is being offered, I’m all over it! But as I prayed for Jesus to just take my body and touch it with His healing hand, the hand of the Great Physician, He answered me with “I can’t. You’re not mine to heal.”

Excuse me? What do you mean I’m not yours to heal? Don’t I blog about you and love you and worship you and serve you? Trust me, Jesus – I’m all  yours. Go ahead and heal me!

Still the words resonated, “You’re not mine to heal”. I have to say that Jesus and I had a slight difference of opinion when it came to this ruling….but since He’s usually right about these things I figured I’d listen. What He essentially said was, my body is a temple. It’s consecrated space. At least, it should be. Right now though, it really isn’t. There are too many distractions and external things I’m letting in. When my body truly becomes a temple for Jesus, it will be His to heal. 

This got me thinking. I used to have a weekly fast day. I’ve stopped doing that. From fasting to eating habits to workout habits to how I spend my free time, every action I make is either consecrating or desecrating this temple. It was almost like God was telling me it’s not enough to have prayer time set aside. Our very bodies are temples – places of worship and praise, dedicated to our Creator. Our spirits merely inhabit it. We were created for God, not for ourselves. 

Then I had another thought. We literally spend our whole entire lives inside of a temple. We can’t leave it even if we want to – after all, it’s not like we can step out of our bodies.  We can’t say “Today my body’s a temple but tomorrow I’m hanging out with my friends and I think there’s gonna be a cute guy there so I’ll wear clothes a little tighter so I look good.” That’s not how it works. Our bodies are temples all the time. They were created for that purpose, and 1 Corinthians 6 is very clear about that. The question becomes this: in this moment, is your temple consecrated or desecrated? Are you worshiping Jesus or have you invited in an idol? You can’t leave your temple ever, so all you can do is either keep it clean and polished or let it get dirty; you can either serve Jesus in its altar or serve something else. And truth be told, every thought in your head, action you take and word you speak serves something. You are serving something in every second of the day. Today I ask you, who?

So clearly, Jesus is calling me to walk more intentionally in Him, not just in thought but in my actions as well. I trust Him that the healing will come in time. Meanwhile, I have some cleaning of my temple to do.

This is the time, readers, to reflect on your daily habits and your lifestyle and see if any of them are in fact less than godly. This is the time to pray for strength and make some changes so that you, too, can polish your temples and let God’s light shine out in all its glory. I wish you luck and am keeping you in my prayers. As always, write to me with specific prayer requests at being.rebekah.a@gmail.com.

God bless!

~Rebekah A

Getting Closer to Him

As Christians we must learn to walk in spirit and truth. A Christian cannot stand in one place; we are either moving closer to Him or further from Him. Therefore, it is vital that we never stop growing in God. In my own life, these last few weeks have been a wonderful time of restoration and growth in Him. There is nothing like kneeling down in prayer and not just hoping or wishing or thinking or feeling, but truly knowing you are connecting with your Creator.

God desires a closer relationship with each one of us.  It is essential to remember that God supplies the spiritual fire, but we must tend to the flames. A campfire needs kindling to be started, and logs to burn. If we do not keep watch and add wood as the fire burns, it will go out. It is like that in the spirit. It’s not enough to have a one time spiritual experience with God and expect the flames to continue to burn indefinitely without any input from us. A relationship is a two way street; even with God. We give what we can, and God supplies the rest. Do not be mistaken, God provides far more than we ever could and more than we deserve. Salvation is a free gift and there isn’t anything in this world we could do to deserve it. But a relationship takes two individuals being committed to do what is necessary to maintain it. If we do not do the things we know to do to keep the spiritual fire burning, it will perish. In my personal walk, I have been leaning on the things I know to do to grow in my relationship with Him. These are simple things that we all know to do, but we can get lax in them at times. If we put these seven suggestions into practice, God will reward us by giving us deeper insight into who He is, and greater understanding of His unending love.

Seven Steps to a Closer Relationship with God:

  1. Continue regular fellowship with other believers and attendance of church and church related activities. The bible is clear that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together and He has set leadership over us for a reason. It is very difficult to navigate this journey alone. God designed us to be part of the Body of Christ.
  2. Make reading, studying and memorizing Scripture a priority in your life. This is an area where a lot of us could use improvement. I know personally, I am not disciplined enough with my bible reading. The written Word is the known will of God! If you are wondering what God’s will is in your life, reading His Word is the perfect place to start.
  3. Commit to deeper prayer. To know God, you must be in communication with Him. In my own life there is not a day that goes by where I don’t pray. Yet, If I am honest I have to admit that there are many days where my prayer is very “surface”.  As Christians we need breakthrough prayer to be the rule and not the exception.
  4. It is time to start fasting regularly. If you want to be open to God’s leading and open to Christian growth, you will need to weaken the flesh and strengthen the spirit. Fasting seems to be one of the best ways to do that. My ability to focus on Him improves dramatically during times of fasting.
  5. Minimize ungodly influences from the outside world. By this I mean consuming less television, secular music, movies, video games, facebook etc… The bible says we are in the world, not of the world.
  6. Live more Christlike. One sure way to get to know Him better is to model yourself after Him more. We need to give like He gives and love like He loves.
  7. Never never forget what He has done for you. Always come to Him with praise and thanksgiving in your heart and above all else seek Him first!

Jesus is our everything! Keep this fire burning… dare not let it go out!

~Rebekah L.

Restoration

For the last week and half I have been in Texas for a company training. Most of my co-workers on this trip have been complaining about being sent to Texas in the middle of the summer. Indeed it has been over 100 degrees the whole time I have been here and the humidity is no joke. I, however, have enjoyed every minute of it. I’m one of those rare folks that loves hot, sticky, humid summer days. There is just something about the heat that I LOVE.

I came here on a low. I’ve been struggling with some things recently. Struggling with who I am in Christ, what I’m doing at my job, how to get the creeper guy at work to leave me alone, how to let go of the thing I should have let go of over a year ago, family things coming up, an insane desire to just run away from it all and on and on and on. I was losing my focus on Christ.

Then I got off the plane and landed in this heat and knew right away that God had purposed this trip so that I could get restoration in Him. Suddenly I knew, company trip or not, this wouldn’t be about work, this would be about Him. As I could feel myself starting to sweat in the intense Texas summer sun, it was like it was sweating all the impurities out and the heat was relaxing all my muscles and bringing me back to a place of peace. Immediately, I was in a place of praise. I was praising Him for His goodness, for His unending mercy, for always knowing exactly what I need.

Since I arrived I have spent my days in training and my nights in the Word. I’m saturating myself in it and allowing it to move me to a new place in Him. There are riches in His Word that I’ve only just begun to glean. It is an amazing gift that He has left us, it is a shame I don’t spend more time exploring it.

This past Sunday, I went to a tiny little church down the street from the hotel I’m staying in. There is a great big church not too far away that was recommended to me by my pastor, but this one was within walking distance and the big church would have cost me a taxi ride. At the little church I met the most beautiful man. His name is Justin. He isn’t physically beautiful by the world’s standards by any means; he is rather overweight and has a very distinct scar that runs all the way down the right side of his face, but none the less there is something extremely attractive about him. It is the Christ in him. He does not have an ounce of bitterness for what happened to him. Jesus shines through this man so thoroughly as to make you hunger for more of Him just by simple conversation with him.

This man has a ministry about allowing Christ to heal you. How sometimes healing leaves scars, but the scars can be an open door to lead someone to Jesus. Wow, could I relate to that! Like many, I have scars. A couple that are physical and hidden from view, and a few that are emotional, also mostly hidden from view, but they are there. Thank God, He has provided me a transformational healing in a way that only He can. Talking to this man and seeing how He has relied on Christ so completely was humbling. I rely on Christ intermittently. I stay focused for a short while and then fall off the wagon. Then He helps me climb back on and I stay focused for awhile longer before the next fall. Every time I fall, it’s because I have let go of His hand. Imagine the doors my scars could open if I was so consumed in Jesus that people saw only Him in me.

Having gone out to lunch with Justin a couple of times this week and suddenly I feel letting go of the other guy doesn’t need to be nearly so hard. I’m not saying I want to run out and marry Justin, I’m just saying that he awakened a hope in me. The hope that maybe there really is a reason God said no to the other guy and I, and that it wasn’t just to make me miserable. One of the reasons I have had such a hard time letting go of him is that I have secretly (and not so secretly) believed the report of a former person of authority in my life who told me that no one will ever love me. I thought he was the only one who could ever be attracted to me. No one will ever want this fat, ugly, old, depressing girl, I thought.

And then I meet this guy. There is nothing physically attractive about him, and yet, I am incredibly attracted to him. And it dawns on me, I don’t have to be attractive. If I am consumed in God, someone will see that, and that will draw them to me. No, they aren’t going to be drawn to this insecure, depressing girl. That girl has to go. The girl they will be attracted to will be the one who has her eye on the prize. The one who is pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:4). I want to love Jesus better. I want to become more like Him. I want to win people to Christ by being open about my scars. His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Thank you, Lord for this trip. Thank you for restoration.

~Rebecca L.