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Being Isaac: Bill from Unshakable Hope “More than Just a Dream”

Editor’s Note:  Our weekly guest spot is our effort to help our reading community connect with each other.  “Being Isaac” is in response to our growing number of male readers. We think it’s important that there’s a male reply to our female’s call to live in passionate pursuit of Christ. Thanks Bill from Unshakable Hope for submitting an amazing post that reminds us that heaven is our destination and it will be more than just a dream. 🙂

I had a vivid dream last night –  In this dream I was completely healed and whole.

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The dream began with me simply stepping out of bed, which is something I haven’t been able to do in over 15 years. I could walk, talk, eat, dress myself and do everything else that I was once able to do. Mary and I were so excited that we began calling all of our family and friends and then we began visiting people at their homes and offices (Mary drove the car because I don’t have a driver’s license and the only thing I’ve driven in last 15 years is a wheelchair).

The dream was so real-to-life that I was telling Mary all the places I wanted to travel to and all the restaurants I wanted to try. I was even making practical plans like getting a driver’s license and making an appointment with the doctor to have my feeding tube removed etc. As you can probably imagine, this was so exciting; more so than winning a billion dollar lottery! But that incredible excitement soon turned to great disappointment when I awoke from this vivid dream at 4:15 this morning and realized I couldn’t even uncross my feet, let alone get out of bed.

1335964_sunsetThen my great disappointment turned back into incredible excitement when I remembered that, regardless of what happens in this life, one day I KNOW that I WILL be healed and whole! One day “…there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain…” (Revelation 21:4)

There was a time in my life that I feared death and the unknown in general. I later found out that these fears are quite common. But, as strange as it might sound, ever since I committed to following Christ and began believing the promises of God’s word, my fear of death has been replaced with an excitement of what lies in store for me after this brief and fragile life is over. Christ died and rose again to free us from sin AND from the fear of what lies ahead – “…only by dying could He (Jesus) break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT)

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his Unshakablehope blog he shares a message of hope in Christ.

See the original post at http://unshakablehope.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/more-than-just-a-dream/

Published with the permission of the author. Submit your own post at beingrebekah@outlook.com.

Just a Blink

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” ~2 Corinthians 4:18

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A few years ago, I had a friend go into the hospital with a heart scare. Like several of my friends, he had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). In this particular case, he had a defibrillator implanted in his chest. And his heart rhythm spiked, triggering the machine. So he sat there, fully conscious, getting more than a dozen electric shocks to the chest. I visited him the day after he got home from the hospital, and needless to say he was scared, anxious, and drained. I had nothing to offer him long-term to cheer him up and provide a distraction (I did make him a care package based on Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1. It included the horse Miracle). So, I told him I’d run the half marathon in Walt Disney World in his honor that winter. I know that doesn’t seem like much of a distraction for him. But trust me. I was athletic growing up, but sometime in college got out of the running habit. I’d never run more than a 5k in a race (3.1 miles – a half marathon being 13.1), and right then I wasn’t sure I could run more than a mile. If nothing else, he’d be amused at the ongoing absurdity of my attempt.  True to form, he was, and we share some laughs as he continued to deal with his bad heart and I continued to rack up the running miles on his behalf.

I registered as a runner on team Run For Our Sons, which raises money for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (they fund research and advocacy for DMD). I mentioned my racing inexperience and within a day, someone had reached out to me. His name was Brian, and he was an amazing runner. He was injured and still running the goofy challenge (a half marathon one day and a full the next). But as good and ‘elite’ as he was, he was totally fine with coming down to my level, meeting me right where I was at, and guiding me forward. He had tips on form, clothes, nutrition, training schedules…you name it, he helped me with it. He even had encouragement for the days that I didn’t want to go out the door. And even more encouragement on the days when I didn’t go out the door. Without him, I definitely would not have been ready for that run.

With his help, I prepared the best I could. The friend I was running for passed away a month before the race, and just like that I went from running in his honor to running in his memory. Brian was there for that too. He had his own family, his own life, and his own sons to run for. But he still invested himself in my dream, and never gave up on it. When race weekend arrived, I had the chance to meet Brian and his whole family – his wife and two teenage sons (both with DMD). The eldest, Matthew, was a junior in high school and trying to choose what college he wanted to go to. He planned to be an engineer.

I bonded with the whole family instantly. About a month later, I got to see them again during an advocacy conference on Washington DC. Once again, Brian (this time with his whole family) was there to guide me as I went to meetings on Capitol Hill, advocating for DMD awareness and research. We connected over being from New England (they from Maine, me from New Hampshire). We connected over college applications and high school English class (my favorite subject).  By the end of one day with them it felt like we’d been friends for years – and that was just day 1!

Over the past few years, we’ve kept in touch. He’s kept me posted on how his boys have been doing, and we continue our support of PPMD. Then this morning, I got the sad news that Matthew died last night, of heart failure, at age 20.

Yes, it’s sad. Tragic even. My heart breaks for his family as I think about the dreams and plans that won’t be realized, his presence and smile that will now be missing. There’s no pattern to DMD death. Some people defy their lifespan and live long past the age doctors predict. Others fail to even reach it. The doctors, despite all research and medical care they can currently provide, still don’t have a way to control life and death.

To me, that’s evidence that we as people aren’t doing the picking and choosing here. We’re not meant to. God is. And He does. We are all made in love, with a specific purpose. Everything, from our flaws to our strengths to our circumstances, comes together to help shape, guide, and qualify us to fulfill our respective destinies. At the helm of that is God. And in His perfect love, when our purpose here is done, we are brought back to our true home.

So I know it’ll all work out. Matthew is ok, and no longer hindered by a failing body. His family will be comforted during this time, and as sad as the situation is they won’t be forsaken. They’ll see him again, in a place where they can enjoy him and not be constantly fighting for a cure. It’s sad, yes, but…..I can’t really say it’s a bad thing. I know where he is, and I’m happy he’s there. I’m pretty excited to be there myself, someday when the time is right. When I am, I’ll see Matthew again, and for that I have no cause to cry – just to rejoice. Our time here is so temporary anyway. A mere instant compared to our eternity. One person’s eye blink might be longer than someone else, but when it comes down to it, it’s still just a blink.

God bless!

~Rebekah A

It’s the End of the World and I’m Feeling Fine

All day have been rejoicing over the idea that it was the end of the world.  I loaded the R.E.M. song on my phone and used it as both my ringtone and my alarm clock.  It just amused me to no end that this could be the end.

With all my heart I say:

COME QUICKLY LORD!!! I long for heaven. I long for no longer fighting with sin. I long to walk the streets of gold with the One I love more than anything.  

Before I mess up again, before I do something wrong… just come Lord come! 

But I know… You keep me here for a reason, You have a purpose and a plan for my life so I say- whether I live or I die-

I. Am. Yours. 

Even still… come quickly Lord. 

Rebekah M.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” ~ Ephesians 3 20-21

This past Tuesday, as we do every week, my roommate and I went to the nursing home in Manhattan to see his mother. Upon waiting for our ride home, I had a chance to read about the history of the home, and I share it with you. Once upon a time, a wealthy and philanthropic couple had a daughter Isabella whom they cherished. Isabella showed great compassion for the poor and infirm from an early age. When she passed away while still in her twenties, her parents honored her memory by establishing a house for poor, elderly, and infirm residents. And so, Isabella House was born, and now functions as a nursing home, senior housing location, day care center for adults and children, rehab hospital (both short and long-term), and home care center. Services are extensive and affordable, and many, many people benefit from them.

But none of it would exist today had it not been for that one initial tragedy of two parents losing their daughter. Now I know this is a touchy subject, with all the tragedy, violence, and destruction we’ve seen on the news lately. But I just want to remind you that in this world, there’s a plan. Nothing happens in vain. God is at work all the time even when it seems like our hours are darkest.

We get so stuck in the tunnel of our own lives, and all we see is our immediate surroundings and events. In reality though, we are but a small part of a greater plan, one that’s vast and intricately balanced. And sometimes it seems like things are terrible. But God has a way of coming through.

We get so stuck in our earthly problems – our problems, our passions, our achievements and struggles, our lives – that we forget how insignificant they really are. Sure, they’re important today. But tomorrow? Not so much. And once we’re in heaven the most major events of our lives will be a distant memory. No, I’m not saying that the lives of the nursing home residents are more important than Isabella Ottendorf’s life. But if life on earth is so temporary and quick, and heaven is such a better place, and she was already going there….I’m sure once she got there and saw how amazing it was, she didn’t mind going there a few years early.

It’s easy to get bogged down in our day-to-day lives, but our focus should be on eternity. In my growth group at church, a girl spoke about the loss of her brother. It was sad, she misses him, but through that grief her parents found God and were saved. Through pain came salvation. And we humans are a stubborn group. Sometimes we need the pain to push us forward to salvation.  We need to remember to keep praying for perspective, that this too shall pass and that no matter how tragic the circumstances, God will work it out. I invite you to keep this in prayer with me, and to use this mindset to strengthen our gaze on the Kingdom.

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

Strength in the Struggle (Daily pt. 2)

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness.” ~Romans 6:12-13

Before I get into this post, I have to say something: I love Rebekah M and Rebekah L. I love them for their insight, and also for their transparency and courage in putting their own lives, circumstances, and struggles out in the open that others may be encouraged through their blog posts. And lately the theme of all of our posts has been that of a daily struggle – to daily choose God in favor of the world. It’s a struggle I sincerely relate to, and I’m sure you do too. We may not all share the same sins (though we probably share more than you think!), but we probably do all share that underlying fight to choose God in all things.

According to Romans 6, we should be able to overcome sin. We should be able to live free of its hold…and yet, look at us. Our flesh is indeed weak. Even Romans 6 mentions human limitations. It also mentions something else: “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).Clearly, we are given a choice. Yes, a daily choice. We are given a choice of whom we shall serve today. And sometimes we even choose God for the entire day. Sometimes we choose sin. Most often, we choose a mix of both – there are 24 whole hours in a day, after all.

Luckily, Romans 6 offers us one last bit of hope in this earthly struggle we face: “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). The meaning here is pretty simple. We are saved by grace, we live eternally under grace, and so we should be impervious to sin. The kicker is, we’re not. We all know that. And the reason is pretty simple: we didn’t save ourselves. We didn’t find our own righteousness. We didn’t grant ourselves eternal life. We are not the ones with the grace. We merely benefit from it. 

The One who has the grace offers it to us freely. It is ours to take it, if we only choose it. Day by day, moment by moment, if we choose to walk in that grace it is ours. With the grace comes strength. Yes, we are made of flesh and flesh is weak. Flesh will ultimately decay. But the grace from which we claim our salvation came from Jesus Christ, the One who defeated flesh. For Him, there was no decay. For Him, there was death, and it was conquered. He was powerful enough to conquer death itself, and had the grace to save us too. And that’s the cool part. As He gave us His grace, we can also access His power. And that power does indeed help us conquer sin.

Yes, flesh is weak, and we have a daily struggle. The fact that I’m writing a post about this certainly doesn’t make me any more righteous. All I’m saying is that Jesus knows we have a struggle. And He knew it 2000 years ago. And He gives us access to Himself so that we don’t have to struggle alone. Through Him, we have grace to live eternally. Through Him, we have the strength to win the fight against temptation and sin. So often, we find ourselves tempted by sin, and we find ourselves turning away from God. It’s kind of like the child raiding the cookie jar. If Mom doesn’t see us in action, we don’t get caught. Trust me: mom noticed. Whether you were in trouble or not, you were most certainly caught.

There’s nothing we can truly hide from God. We have His full attention all of the time. So when we hide from Him or stop seeking Him out so that He doesn’t see our impure thoughts….we aren’t blocking His view. We’re blocking ours. We’re preventing ourselves from accessing the one source of strength that’s powerful enough to help us defeat this temptation, instead of giving into it and repenting later. The moments of temptation are expected. The draw of sin and the struggle to defeat it is expected. And God has mercy on it, and will help us through it. But we have to let Him.

It’s not just a matter of choosing daily to follow God’s will. It’s also a matter of choosing Him to move in us and help us defeat the things that would pull us away from Him in the first place. It’s a daily choice to follow God in action, and to press into Him in our hearts – to allow Him to refine us. So often we deal with the sin as it comes up. Especially if it’s habitual. We just chalk it up to having a weak moment, tell Jesus we’re sorry, and we go on with our day. And that’s ok. That’s going to happen sometimes. But what we also need to do is be inviting Jesus into the center of our hearts before the moment of temptation ever comes, to take that preemptive strike against sin and allow Him to give us a new heart that truly, truly desires Him more.

Jesus, I pray for You to move in me. Come into my heart, my whole heart, even the dark corners that are cloaked in shame from the ongoing struggles that I too have. Come into those places especially God. Grant me wisdom on why I’m tempted and grant me strength to overcome it, but most of all Jesus, I pray that you take the root of my weakness and replace it with the new heart you have for me. Remake me stronger in You. I desire to desire You. I know I will have to do work too, but I depend on You for help and strength. I praise You that You are a mighty and merciful God, and I give thanks for Your grace. I love You Jesus – help me to love You with my whole heart.

Join me and the other Rebekahs in choosing God daily, on an even deeper level. And know that I’m praying for you. And of course, if you have specific prayer requests or things you’re struggling with, feel free to let me know at being.rebekah.a@gmail.com. God bless!

~Rebekah A

Not Of the World – But Still In It

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” ~Romans 12:2

This is a touchy subject for many Christians. We like to keep ourselves separate from worldly, ‘heathen’ activities. We don’t like to go where spiritual filth and grit might rub off on us. Sure, we might pray for the homeless, or go somewhere like that specifically to minister, but when we aren’t doing planned ministry we avoid those places. We avoid people on subways who look different than us. We like our righteous, Christian, bubble and the spikes on that person’s hair might well pop it so we will keep our distance, thanks very much. We are fine preaching and ministering, but when we’re off the pedestal, brushing elbows with someone living in sin is as disdainful to us as a friendly chat with the devil himself.

I’ve been asking myself tonight if this is really what God intended for us. Jesus started His day in prayer, alone with His Father, grounding Himself in God’s word before starting out His day. But His day didn’t involve Him seeking like-minded people necessarily. There were no like-minded people. His day consisted of going to the worst places and shedding light on darkness. His day consisted of reaching people who were living in sin (not necessarily ill or down-on-their-luck people either), and giving them a change of heart. He shook everything that could be shaken, and He broke chains.
The thing is, He didn’t do it by staying in a temple, or staying in isolated prayer. He started in prayer, and moved in the world.

I think on some level we do a disservice to Jesus by separating ourselves so much. Yes, we are not of the world. We don’t have to be. Neither is the sun, and it still casts a more visible, brighter light than any earthly glow. We don’t have to be of the world in order to move in it and walk around in it. I think that’s the cool thing about having the Holy Spirit inside of us. We don’t have to view sin from afar, and then say ‘wait hold that thought while I find a church real quick’, and pray it through. With the Holy Spirit inside of us, we can walk amongst sin, and stay grounded in the righteousness God intended us to live by. The sun is not of the world, but it casts light on every part of it. In a lot of ways I feel like we’re called to do a similar thing. Not be of the world necessarily – sin is in the world, and our true citizenship is in Heaven. But we aren’t in Heaven yet. We were planted here. In order to bloom, we need to embrace where we are, without worrying about getting our hands (roots?) dirty.

I don’t have the answer to what the exact balance should be. I do know that Jesus walked among the ‘least of these’ without fear. I also know that we are inherently sinners. Yet, God has chosen to put Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit – our perfect Advocate and Counselor – right inside of us. We, in all our imperfection, house something that priceless and precious. It’s a miracle. God’s not afraid of getting dirty from us. He loves us and embraces us. The world may be a dirty place, but it and all it’s citizens were still created by God and He loves it no less than He’d love a utopia. So I feel like it’s not our place to treat it any differently. We do need to utilize this Counselor we’re given, and walk with it so that we can stay on the right path for ourselves. But since we are given the compass to navigate through, why not embrace where we are and see where our light gets cast?

I certainly don’t have the answers, so feel free to weigh in either as a comment or by email at being.rebekah.a@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

God bless!

~Rebekah A