Heroes

April 16th, 2005

Despite all its obvious defects, Perfect Princess did get me thinking. What are the things that I use in defining my heroes? Why do I consider some people worth emulating and others not?

Sometimes I fear that my heroes and role models are based more on a fascination with greatness than anything else. When I look back over the course of history, what makes me admire the people I admire? I have long been interested in First Ladies–my favorites are Abigail Adams, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Laura Bush. Yet they couldn’t be more different, could they? I love Abigail Adams for her deep devotion to her husband, their beautiful correspondence. I love her for how she managed her family’s estate in her husband’s absence, how she begged her husband to remember the ladies, how she encouraged her nephew in his education. I love Jacqueline Kennedy for her PR, her ability to make everything look perfect. I envy her ability to make people love her, her innate sense of how to be different, to be beautiful, to be fashionable. I love her for her public life, and the privacy she clung to. I love Laura Bush for her gentleness, her deep care for what she really cares about–the children. I love her for being a good wife to President Bush, for caring for him, for their daughters, for the nation. I love her for taking delight in cloroxing bookcases, her love for reading, her personal decision to take the path of traditional womanhood. I love her for not lobbying, choosing instead to earn respect.

The great heroes of my reading life are so varied, I wonder if they can meet up. Since I first read Emily Dickensen in sixth grade, I have been infatuated with her grasp of poetry. I want to someday see with such keen sight. Walt Whitman, I adore for changing the face of poetry in the nineteenth century. I admire him for his brilliance, yet I sorrow at his lostness.

Book characters also have their role on my list of heroes. Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice has always been a favorite. She had a scathing tongue, a ready wit, and the ability to laugh at everything. I love Sara from A Little Princess because she insisted on being a “beautiful person” whatever her circumstances–something I fail miserably at. Sam in The Lord of the Rings encourages me with his faithfulness as a friend.

Bible Characters? Priscilla is a favorite. We don’t know much about her except that she and her husband Aquilla worked together tentmaking with Paul. They brought Apollo under their wing when he was teaching false doctrine. They are regarded as fellow workers with Paul.

Enter into the current world, my real world, and again, the people vary widely. Malinda Hinrichs, a woman from my church, is skilled in just about everything–she paints, she does calligraphy, she bakes, she gardens, she quilts, she travels the world on mission trips, she’s learning to play the piano by chords–despite being over 65. Cindy Slocum, our church’s women’s ministry director, is wonderful at making things beautiful–tea sandwiches, a table setting, a bathroom cabinet. She is also one of the most amazing prayer warriors I know. Paula Welter, who disciples me, is marvelous. Two years in a row, she welcomed 3-4 College students into her home. She’s down to earth, not fussy–but she is welcoming and always encourages me in my walk. Barb Calcara always has somebody visiting–missionaries for the missions conference, college students on break, friends of her daughters’ (even though the daughters aren’t there), a family from the mission that her husband brought home. She welcomes people eagerly into her home, truly seeing it as an opportunity to serve God. The LCPC ladies with their fancy outfits and time to serve drive me nuts. How I wish I could be them–classy, friendly, laughing and serving.

And then there’s my most recent hero-crush. Condoleeza Rice is amazing. She is easily the most powerful woman in our nation–but no one deserves it more than she. Excelling in everything she does, fighting for her rights from early on. Concert pianist. Expert on Soviet Union Politics. Graduated with honors. Provost of Stanford for six years. This woman is astounding. I hated when the media jumped over her boots in Germany. They were trying to reduce her to Madelyn Albright’s level. But she doesn’t even fit into that sphere. Condoleeza Rice is a capable, intelligent, amazing woman. I love her.

As you can see, I have quite a few heroes (and these are just a few–mostly just the female ones.) But is there a common thread in my chain of heroes? I don’t know. And perhaps it doesn’t matter.

On Book Reports and Learningbo

April 10th, 2005

Why do they make kids write book reports? I had to write at least one a year for the first six to eight years of my academic life–and I’ve never written one since. They’re useless, pointless, an exercise devised by sadistic teachers trying to impose petty rules on defenseless children, stifling their creativity. Or is that what book reports are all about?

On further reflection, I can see some good in book reports. They forced me to read–a skill that serves me well now, both at school and in leisure. They gave me practice with grammar and spelling and sentence formation–skills I use every day while writing notes, e-mails, and letters. And, those book reports tried to teach me the concept of a short summary, and not giving away the end of the story–skills I appreciate the most when someone who doesn’t have them tries to recommend a movie.

The seemingly pointless book report apparently does have a point–not in and of itself, but as a tool to develop students as people.

There are a lot of things in life that I think of as pointless–many of my classes, group projects, certain deadlines. But perhaps, like my book reports as a child, these too have their purpose. I am learning promptness, patience, “interpersonal skills”, communication skills,
problem solving skills.

I begin to think that the subject matter might be the least important part of the college experience. Intrinsically, it has little value–unless, of course, the “real world” is consumed by equations without applications, five minute PowerPoint presentations, and interviewing your grandparents to learn about your food heritage. Rather than those things, the skills that college teaches are not taught in a classroom–at least not by being lectured in the classroom. Instead the skills that college teaches are the skills that can only come through trials.

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

Speaking of Book Reports–check out my “Book Reviews and Notes” section

It ends at Your feet

April 5th, 2005

A million things to do
My heart races–
And stops
My brain is filled
With a thousand questions
Too many processes–
Shut down.
Running all the time
Up against a wall
Weights on my back–
I collapse.
It ends at Your feet
On my knees
Not a thought in my head
Not a beat in my heart
No strength to move
It ends at Your feet
And You’re more than enough

A Great Invitation

March 29th, 2005

Matthew 22:5 “But they made light of it and went their own ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.”

The king arranged a wedding for his son. He sought for someone to celebrate with him. He sent his servants to issue an invitation to all he esteemed. “Come, I’ve prepared the feast, I’ve readied the entertainment. Come, enjoy the wedding of my son.” But those he had invited, busy with their farms, their businesses-her hall, her church work, her hobbies-didn’t recognize the invitation for what it was.

Given the choice of going to the White House to be President Bush’s honored guest or of sitting around my room all day–I’d choose the White House hands down. Given the opportunity to go on a trip to just visit the White House on a tour and maybe catch a glimpse of the President–I’d jump at the chance. But the King of the Universe invites me to THE event of the ages–the unfolding of His romance with mankind–and suddenly sleep and facebook and eating and ideas become more important.

Where in the midst of my daily walk did I lose that excitement-that spark of recognition that reveres God? When did I stop standing in awe of Him? When did I start seeing myself as an equal–as though I could just enter His presence on a whim despite having earlier refused His summons?

Don’t get me wrong–I am not denying the grace and the forgiveness of God–but when did I stop believing in His greatness and His holiness? When did I stop standing in awe of the simple fact that the King of the Universe has invited me to be a participant in His grandest love story?

Standing on the edge of a cliff

March 23rd, 2005

Have you ever felt like you were teetering on the brink of something huge? I know that’s a cliched expression, but it describes what I’m feeling well.

I’m standing at the edge of a cliff. I can feel the wind blowing against me–my hair is flying, my skirt pasted to my legs. I reach my foot forward just an inch and I can feel the sand move beneath my touch. When I listen closely, I can hear the sand rattling down the cliffside. If I take one more step, I will jump off the cliff. There will be no return. If I stand still, erosion will take me down the side within hours. I can’t move backwards, there’s nowhere else to go. I must move forward or remain still–either way, my future is uncertain. I am blindfolded. I can sense the change that is taking place, but I can’t see. I don’t know what lies at the bottom of the great avalanche I will soon find myself within. Then a bird twitters and I know for certain–whatever else may lie at the bottom, life is there–and I am at rest.

My church’s pastor resigned publicly this Sunday. He will remain as Senior Pastor until the end of the year, but that entire time will be one of great transition for our church. So much is unknown–who our next senior pastor will be, what that will mean to the congregation; how various ministries will change, where God will take us in fulfilling His vision. I’m a ministry leader–coordinating the Nursery. I’m a youth sponsor–how will this effect them in the long run? It’s too early to know, but I sense that the impact will be great. So much change, what will it all mean? I only know one thing–that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.

God’s been convicting me a lot lately about my priorities. We did an exercise in Home Group on Sunday–compared our listed “priorities” to the time we actually spend pursuing those things. Our topic was the cost of discipleship. The cost of discipleship has been slowly taking on a new meaning for me. What is to be my priority? God’s glory. What does that mean? For right now, spending time in the Word, putting priority on my schoolwork, letting some priority shift from church work to Nav fellowship.

My sister will be moving home next year–I’ll be on my own at the hall next year. I’m a bit apprehensive. I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life sharing almost everything with Anna. We were roommates for 17 years–even now, with my own room in the hall, Anna and I visit in my room several times a day. She’s my best friend. We read in the crack of the door together when we were in second and third grades. A year later we thought we would trade homework for the day. The envelope I drew on a piece of paper didn’t quite satisfy the instructions to “address an envelope” to such and such a person. As we grew, the distance between us shrunk and we took Chemistry together in high school. Our majors are similar, despite our differing career goals. We’re even taking Anatomy together this semester. But God is preparing me for whatever He has for me–
and He’s preparing Anna for the next step in her dream of doing humanitarian aid. She’ll graduate next year and leave for Med School. She’s frantic with tests and thoughts of applications. And every change for her means change for me.

These three things are but a sampling of the cliff I’m standing on. Learning to be content with resting is tough for me. Resting in the midst of this turmoil is almost impossible. But I want my cry to be like Paul’s when he said: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Whatever the change, He is the bird whistling in my ear: “I will never leave you or forsake you. I have good plans for you. Enter into the adventure I have in store for you.”

Rest

March 18th, 2005

“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:2-3)

“See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place…So the people rested on the seventh day.” (Exodus 16:29-30)

“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Why do I find rest to be such an elusive thing? God created it; He commands it; He equips us for it. So why do I rebel against rest?

In order to truly rest, I must learn to truly trust God. As long as I go on believing that I have the answers and that I must have my hand in every pot, I will never learn to rest. Until I come to see my contributions as worthless, I will never learn to rest. As long as I think I’m strong, I will never learn to rest. Instead I will charge ahead–thinking that my input is necessary.

In reality, God doesn’t need me. No one else needs me. If I weren’t here, the earth would continue to spin. The church would continue on. Love Memorial Hall would make it through. Sunday School material would be found somehow; the Nursery would be run somehow; the Middle School girls would somehow make it through; the FoodNet would still get done. They don’t need me.

Until I come to see the worthlessness of my flesh and my utter dependence on God, I will never rest and nothing will ever be accomplished through my life. My righteousness is but filthy rags, my striving is for nothing, my serving is only a distraction. It is in my weakness, rather, that Christ is made manifest in my life.

So, I must die to myself–recognizing that in my flesh dwells no good thing. I must recognize the great power of God available to every believer–without my help. I must take God at His ord–and rest. And what a rest that is. For when I rest and in my weakness die to my flesh, God’s power is made manifest through my life. And I am most satisfied when God is most glorified.

My Grace is Sufficient

March 9th, 2005

The Scripture that never ceases to be on my mind: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9)

A test is coming up–“My grace is sufficient…for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” I wonder whether that means I’ll fail in order to display my weakness, or pass in order to show God’s strength. I learn something I never wanted to know. Is it a test? Is it temptation? I want to know. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

The problem with my questions is simple–Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” I cannot know the mind or purposes of God in the minute details I wish I knew. All I can know is the great mystery–God choosing to use my weakness to accomplish His glory.

I went on a whim to GreekSide last night. Chase Pettis said something that resonated with me. He mentioned the apparent contradiction in Psalm 43:3-5. The Psalmist starts off saying that God’s presence is his greatest delight–then turns around to say, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” Chase said he identified with this passage as being part of the human condition–knowledge reaching from head to heart. I identify too.

Too often, this is the story of my life. Even this morning, I struggle with the paradox. I know that God is perfecting His plan in my life–but I fear to step out in obedience. I know that God will never allow me a temptation I can’t andle–but I despair in my situations. I can feel so close to God, but still a part of me resists His dwelling place. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

Such an easy answer, yet so hard. Hope in God. Hope in God. What is hope? It is looking past the circumstances at the one great goal. It is seeing beyond the darkness and looking to the Light of the World. It is not giving in to despair, but seeing Christ as above all. Hope is recognizing who God is and placing your trust in Him.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?…Hope in God.”

Teach me to hope, moment by moment.

Spring Break Plans

March 8th, 2005

I’m super excited–my Grandma just e-mailed me back about spending Spring Break with her and Grandpa. She wrote, “Grandpa says, ‘tell Rebekah we would be honored if she would spend her spring break with us instead of going to Florida.’ I second the motion.” So, I’ll go up on Monday morning and stay until Wednesday or Thursday. I so need the opportunity to rest, to focus on Christ, to get away from everything. Traveling, in and of itself, isn’t enough. I don’t need to get away from a place. I need to get away from doing. I need to go to a place where I can just be. Grandpa and Grandma’s is that kind of place–as Grandma said in her e-mail: “Life here gets pretty boring so you should be able to do a lot of reading, tv, walking, cedar tree cutting, and maybe even a scrabble game or two.” There’s nothing I’d love more.

Distracted

March 6th, 2005

I have some serious thinking to do. The Key Laborers Retreat I didn’t attend impacted my life greatly. The speaker talked about how any goal other than Christ’s glory is an idol. Talk about immediate conviction. As my small group shared their thoughts and recollections, I was struck to the heart. I do so many things–so many good things–but all too often, my goal is to fulfill myself or to “do something for God” rather than to truly worship God with all I do.

That was Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday night after Z-360 (the youth group I sponsor for), Jason (the youth pastor I serve under) approached me. He shared that he felt like God was telling me to slow down, focus–gave me a few sheets of questions and Scriptures he thought God wanted him to share with me. I got home and studied them–ouch. Martha and Mary–how long must I study those passages before I learn something? Luke 10:40 says, “But Martha was distracted with much service.” Ouch. How often am I distracted by all my service? Z-360, Nursery, Food Net, Sunday School, Discipling and being discipled–Driven to make something happen; forgetting to sit at Christ’s feet. Jesus’ response is so fitting, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” In reality, my service is filthy rags–it will be destroyed. Yet there is one thing that will not destroyed, and that is what is done in Christ. Lord, give me the grace to not be distracted with much serving and rather to sit at your feet.