Monthly Archives: August 2009

Courage: In our calling and in our pursuit

Update: this is exciting–i wrote it for Pierre Du Plessis, my pastor at http://www.tfhny.org , sorry it was protected initially–wanted to make sure he liked it before we went live on it :D.  He posted it again on his blog, which was awesome: http://02cbec7.netsolhost.com/blog/?p=864 . :D.

When was the last time you needed to use courage?  Maybe you addressed an audience, or you did something that was physically difficult.  Maybe you moved someplace new or shared a big secret..

Looking for examples in Scripture has seemed like a practical way to get courage in my life so far—at 23, I’ve lived in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East–and currently, in a low-income,  often violent, inner-city neighborhood (Dorchester, MA).

If you don’t have time to read the whole Old Testament, Hebrews sums up several courageous heroes’ lives in chapter 11 beautifully.  For this post, however, I want to focus on one Person.

Jesus: Our Perfect Example

People seem to think that Jesus had an easier time accomplishing his calling than the rest of us do on earth, because “He was GOD!”.  But here’s the thing: according to himself, Jesus was fully man and gave up all his God-power when he came to earth.

In John 5:19, Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

Getting practical: What this means for us in our own calling

Jesus’ courage—to come to the earth, to live as a homeless man, to move around constantly to new places, to speak to the masses, and to eventually die willingly—all of this courage came from the Father, not from deep inside himself.  Understanding that he could do nothing by himself was the key to his courage.

When I lack courage in a calling or mission, I try to check my heart to make sure that I’m understanding this fact: I can do nothing on my own.  At first it sounds like it would add fear to the already bad situation—but really, it takes it all away.

Pursuing God requires courage too

Hebrews 4:14-16 says,

14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,[a] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

When God sees his small, weak, human child come in with confidence to enter his throneroom, he remembering Jesus’ love, obedience and unwavering courage. Because of what Christ did for us, we can enter into God’s presence.

It takes courage to pursue God even when we cannot see him and especially when others come against you.  It’s harder yet when a wall of silence awaits us or when demonic forces insert lies in our minds as we wait for Him.

But because of Jesus’ humility and courage, we can still access the Father, knowing that without Him we can do nothing and with him, “all things are possible”.  If you’re lacking courage, it might be time to check where you’re drawing it from—from deep inside you, or rather, from our Dad Himself.

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It’s all about You–

On my way up Mount Washington, I had an epiphany.  I hopethink (i made that word up myself) that it was from God actually.

There are a lot of weird creatures at the bottom of the ocean that only God can see.  He made them to enjoy and watch and check out whenever he wants to.  Like the birds of the air, he can make sure they get enough food (or whatever it is those weirdo creatues eat).  I think he likes to watch the stuff he makes.

All this time i thought God made, for my enjoyment and pleasure, the mountains i enjoyed so much on my way up.  I was praising him for his love for us and falling into a moment of praise because (a) he is awesome and (b) he loves us enough to make these great mountians (for people like me to hurt our knees on)…

Then i realized that God made the earth for HIS glory.

He put us in the world to care for it, and he gave us what we needed to be quite happy here during our short lives  (all the ingredients for ice cream for example)–he wants us to love it as he loves it and stand in awe at waterfalls and sun and animals (including the moose i saw over the weekend while hiking)…but it’s not about us, it’s about HIM.

Psalm 65:

9 You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it. [c]

So my original thinking was “dude!  God made stuff for ONLY HIM TO SEE”.  those weird creatures and animals deep in the woods that no human will ever lay their eyes upon– i guess all of creation was about HIM!  not us!  HIM!

This was really a big thought: huge for me.  Then i wanted to back it up with scripture and I found the above verse in Psalms.

I think i had it 1/2 right.  He certainly put creation here to enjoy for Himself and to glorify His name, but now he does things to take care of us (like water the ground for us).  Cause he really loves and enjoys watching and caring for us.
:).  it’s definitely all more about him than us though–wow–i wish i didn’t have to still be learning stuff so basic at age 23.

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Mount Washington

This weekend my roommate Theresa and I joined 4 friends from Rochester to backpack in the white mountains of NH.

We couldnt have picked better weather if we’d tried–after a rocky start (trying to find a place to put a tent on the side of the road at midnight), we got up, ate the world’s greatest trail mix (including Swedish fish) and started up the supposedly more gorgeous than the others trail–boot strapp (on Mount Washington).

I guess we figured it was a “go big or go home” decision and forgot that our packs were ridiculously heavy.  We struggled, but made it up the mountain, down into a valley, up another mountain and into a valley to sleep in the hermit lake shelters.  To pay for 60 dollars of accommodation in a lean to (dont ask), we picked up trash for 30 minutes.  stefan and theresa made us chicken, rice and mashed potatoes, and it was beautiful fellowship.  Then there was weird snoring at 2AM, people hitting their heads, extreme dehydration, and coffee flavored oatmeal.

Today we climbed to the summit of washington, minus our packs.  It was amazing to see how obvious the trail looks from far away (like a huge rock river up the side of the mountain) but once on the trail, how confusing it is.

I hated coming down–so much–i can’t even describe it to you.  i really didnt expect to make it down ok (no lie) cause i tripped and rocks slid so many times. i’ve never hiked up anything like that in my life, and down was 100 times harder (all rocks for miles).  it was scary and i’ll never do it again, but i wouldnt trade this weekend for any other weekend.  strange, right?

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a brief debrief on beaches and trampolines.

Oh guys.

For those of you praying for me to adjust well to my new “stay in one place for a year” job, coworkers, apartment, etc…it’s going great.

I miss some of you badly–most of you know who you are—and some of you i’m used to not seeing.  I wish i could get a micah hug, but can wait until he visits me.

In the meantime, ive had to hang out with cousins who remind me of micah.  This past weekend was a blast with relatives on cape cod–hadnt seen them in years but went for a visit with my new apartment-sharer rachel.

We caught up on the past few years, ate seafood, went swimming, gokarted, jumped on AMAZING trampolines (multiple) that are built INTO THE GROUND,  went swimming AGAIN, caught weird crabs, grilled a feast outside, went kayaking, went swimming again, and went to the beach at night.  we also watched the office (the kids were having a marathon) and hugged goodbye, then emily drove me home (rachel had already left) so she could watch the italian job for the first time–since she drives a new cooper mini with racing stripes on it.  :D.  we listened to Paul Simon’s new cd and caught up on life, love and environmental engineering.

RIGHT, SO.  this week is going to be another busy one (hence the posting monday morning).  sometimes i get home and just cant look at a screen anymore.  boot camp sorta got expoloded into nothing over the weekend but at least i got exericse in beach walking, swimming and kayaking (so its not a total loss).

i need to make more time for important things.  time management has been going well, but at the same time, things are getting crazier and i need to prioritize my mornings so i spend the time the right way and:

pray/read/exercise/pack for the day/shower and email the people i need to email in africa BEFORE getting to work–which i think means i need to get up earlier.  yoy.  shout out and thanks to aunt bern and the cousins for a weekend of memories!

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TechMission.

So I’ve been vague concerning my new position and what is i’ll actually be working on.  Check it out in this posting if you’re interested.

I work in Dorchester, MA, in a house/office environment as one of TechMission’s volunteer coordinators and online editors.  I will be learning to use Drupal to manage a website called UrbanMinistry.Org.  This website has been growing and growing (500% last year!) and has more people click to it than Salvation Army and World Vision.  And when people click to it, my team’s work involves  making sure they’re able to find what they’re looking for.  If they’re using ChristianVolunteering.Org (another site we manage), then they’re probably looking to get a volunteer or be a volunteer.  In 2008, the site Matched 5,981 volunteers through ChristianVolunteering.org.

If they are on UrbanMinistry.org, or UrbanResource.org, (our non-faith-based website), chances are they need resources to help their community or nonprofit to grow.  in 2008, the website served over 1.3 million unique visitors to UrbanMinistry.org & other websites, connecting them with articles, documentation, software, blogs and other people passionate about service.

I’ve been inspired during our PSO training to rethink a lot of what i had assumed about America and stereotypes/racism/discrimination/class/church giving, and other things.  Clearly, God has a lot to show me about injustice and poverty, and about his Son.  When I read over the values of TechMission,  i truly felt amazed inside at how the organization matches my passions and desires–the “what do i want to work on now–i have such a short time on earth” question has been answered for a year–and it’s as if God created a position for me.  I’m not saying it won’t be hard.  I’ve managed to witness a man shattering a window on our train with his fist, experience a closecall car accident, get comments made left and right on my way to work, and listen to neighbors yelling outside all night long–things i am not used to in Chili, NY.

So basically, the vision and mission of TechMission is as follows:

Mission: To support Christian Organizations as they use technology to transform vulnerable communities.

Vision: To use technology to help develop community and tools to bring justice to the world in Jesus’ name.

Am I excited?  Better believe it.  Do i think these tools can help you find volunteers or a way to volunteer or a place to blog on social justice issues?  here’s the site for rochester: http://www.urbanministry.org/rochester .

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My “sermon” at IV.

My “sermon” at IV was on decision making.  when you stop laughing, read onwards.

I gave it my last night at intervarsity after 6 years of RIT.  Figured i might have some good tips and knowledge of my own mistakes to share with the people present.  Most of the people here over summer are mature Christians preparing for another year of outreach to bless others on campus.

here is is.  some people asked for it.  honestly, i added a lot more that made it sound less preachy and it made sense the night i shared it, but whatever, this is what i can do now. :D.

Hi!  I’m Becca Nelson.

Just finished my masters at RIT—moving to Boston to work for an organization called Tech Mission.

It’s a year long stint with Americorps, I’ll be coordinating volunteers and writing content for the website.

The new position is in the ghetto in Dorchester and so is my new apartment.  I’m fine with being the only white girl for miles—it’s like being in Africa!  But it will be quite humbling to be on food stamps for about a year or so with a master’s degree and other opportunities available.  You cant leave—its like the peace corps and going awol is a BIG deal—but im lookin forward to what I can do to help people in poverty and I cant wait to learn more about urban ministry.

Speaking of other opportunities being available—that’s what I wanted to talk about tonight.

CHOICES.

::dun dun dun:::

I just want to say I am obviously not an expert on these things called decisions, but I do know that they are a struggle for people our age.  It’s VERY hard to deal with the pressure of loans, the cultural norms of today, the parents opinions, true love, your own talents and desires, and God’s will.

There are small decisions (which of the 35 types of whole wheat bread should I purchase today and which shirt should I put on in the morning?  Or for some tweenage girls right now, its like, how many shirts do I put on—my sister wore like 5 yesterday under her tshirt.  Its like at the end of fiddler on the roof when the jews are driven out and they have to put on like, all their clothes at the same time :::anatevka::☺.)

ah, anyways, there are medium sized decisions (what should I take – intro to psych or intro to sociology), and then there are big decisions (like, who do I marry, and what do I want to do with my life)?

There is also one super huge decision: who to obey. Do you accept Jesus teaching, some other religion, make your own?  Who should you obey with your life?

And the super huge decision actually governs all the other decisions, from the small to the big.  You might be thinking, “I don’t obey anyone and it’s not a choice that’s a big deal for me,” but really, if you aren’t obeying him, you’re obeying you. (most likely).

So today I want to briefly tell you my past experience and knowledge ive gained with making decisions in 6 years of RIT—the good, the bad and the ugly.  And I want to discuss stuff you guys might be trying to make decisions on after we’re through and pray together about this stuff—cause no one wants to go to a prayer meeting and after someone says “please pray for my grandma who is dying” say something like “please pray I can decide where to go on coop”.  we do it, but it always feels selfish.

The first thing I want to discuss is thankfulness for being saturated in too many options daily.

Thankfulness for options.
The first thing we need to understand about decisions is thankfulness.  I don’t want to be THAT girl who comes back from Kenya and only wants to talk about cardboard boxes and skinny boney kids. We likely make 1 thousand times more choices per day than the average person in the world, from “no ill not buy that cheesecake with my frappuchino to yes I will wear my crocs today.”

In kenya, I met kids who never had to pick out their clothes for the day.  And I met kids who never had to decide which food to eat, and whether to get low cal salad dressing or not—and I met kids who never had to decide who they marry, where they work or what to do with their lives.  We get overwhelmed by decisions sometimes and can literally have a bad day cause we’re so consumed with these decisions in our minds all the time, but these people don’t get to make any.  And its not as great as it seems to have choice removed from you completely.  Just something to thank God for—the ability to make choices, help others and be overwhelmed by options.

New point: we we created for him.

This point is simple.  For me, it’s good to simplify things.  God should be the center of every decision.  OK we can go home.

Just kidding.  No, but really, God should be the center of our decisions.

We all agree that we want to make him the center.  BUT the application is way harder.  It’s not that we don’t want to, its that we don’t know how to.  I hear you on that and we’ll discuss the how later.

Still there are additional decisions that aren’t vague—I know exactly what he would have me to do and I often do not choose the way that pleases Him.

Usually the reason I choose me over him is because I forget that I was created FOR HIM.  The bible says in colossions 1:16 that all things were created by him and for him.

Can someone read Col. 1:16 for us? Col 1:16* For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

Maybe this is too basic for this group, but I just realized about two weeks ago that I am created FOR him, not for me.  What does this have to do with making decisions?

Let’s look at a small decision: What should I do Friday night?  There’s usually a “what would I do if I was created for me” answer and a “what would I do if I was created for HIM?” answer.  Sometimes they’re the same—but often, theyre not.  When I get overly stressed out about decisions that are big or difficult, it’s usually because I think if I make the wrong one, I might regret it and either not have as much fun as I could have or not make as much money as I could have—so the whole process of deciding leaves me feeling exhausted.  That is because I’ve made the whole processabout me and my future and my dreams and my happiness so I don’t want to blow it.

Sometimes I start to overthink whether or not to go Bible and Life or Basilea for example, cause theres 2 other events the same weekend, and I don’t want to miss those and and and what if I don’t go and its wicked fun but what if I miss brickfest and….i basically get paralyzed by too much happening in one weekend.  I think the point is, its about him, not us.

What if we make decisions based on God and what we can do for him?

I’m not saying that God himself is going to tell you “DO THIS” every time you’ve got to plan a weekend in week 2 or even when you are deciding on a co-op.  But there is usually a general feeling in your spirit about what would please God when deciding whether or not to stretch the truth in a situation, whether to play WOW or sleep instead of do work, watch the office vs. wash dishes for the roommates, or go party late Saturday instead of getting up on Sunday for church.

This point, that we’re created by him and FOR him can help us to chill out about our decisions, and realize that we cant ruin our lives cause our lives are actually his anyways.  It doesn’t really help with every decision because sometimes more than one choice would please him.  Those are really hard for me and take more than listening to one’s conscience.

So far my point is this: to make good decisions we need to seek God, know God, and love God.

Moving on!

Point three: Read the manual.

Some Christians say that God tells them what to buy at the store or what to wear every morning.  That’s great for them.  He doesn’t talk to me that way—and if he speaks to you that way, tell him I would like that to happen to me too!

For those of you who are like me, it gets VERY hard cause we want to obey God and we want to please God but we don’t know how—usually because, like I said before, there are many options that would all please him.

Sometimes we think “well I don’t know what pleases God”.  Well, it’s ALL in the bible!  You cant use the tip I offered above (doing what you know pleases God) unless you know God.  This is where seeking and knowing God comes in.  We seek and know him through reading the Bible.

How many people here have ever needed guidance on something, so you ask friends and family then you go to your bible and open it up and put your finger on a page and its like “THERE!” THAT’S FOR ME!”

Sometimes the verse is like,

21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.

And I sit there for a while and im like..flee, get out…hmm, the city…what does it mean?!

And then I think maybe I didn’t do it right so I flip to a different page.  And it says.

39* ¶ Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!”
40* And no-one dared to ask him any more questions.

And its like “oh.  Shoot.”. :D.

Now—im saying you’d be surprised how much wisdom the Bible has for decision making in general.

But im also saying that God has given us a way to get to know what pleases him.  HE gives it to us in our conscience and in the Word.  If you read bits and pieces of it, youll understand bits and pieces of what he likes and doesn’t like.  Reading it through really helps know more about his character and plans for earth. I recommend it.  I waited way too long before I did it for the first time, and wish I could go back to my freshman year and change things.

if you think about it, movies are similar–like, take a favorite movie…(::side note, i wrote this part on the spot at IV while i shared:::)..the PATRIOT.  Anyone watching only 3 minute clips of the Patriot would think that Mel Gibson had deep-rooted multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia or something.  “Good night kids ::kiss kiss kiss::!” then CHOPPING UP SOME GUY INTO LITTLE TINY BLOODY PIECES.  it would be confusing!  you have to watch it all the way through.

We will likely be confused about Christ if we read about him through the Bible in clips.
I don’t want to spend too long on this. The point is, if you want to know what you need to obey to please God in your decision making, read the bible he gave us as a big manual!

I regularly hear the verse we are about to read pulled out and not read with the verses surrounding it, but the key is in the surrounding verses.

2 tim 3:14-17 (can someone read it for us?)

14* But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,
15* and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16* All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
17* so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Vs. 15 says the scriptures can make us wise for salvation so that we are THOROUGHLY equipped.  If we do not read the bible, we’re only partially equipped to do well and please God.  I hate when I don’t have all my equipment.

We are created by him and for him—but we cannot choose to please God in our decisions unless we seek him and know him.  Finally, who would want to please him in these things unless we love him?

The last thing I want to say is this—we should love God and not use God.  The times when I get most frustrated in my walk are when God will not tell me what is going on.  I like to know what is up!  Especially if I’ve given up everything to follow him.

Sometimes I pray and get “disappointed” since he didn’t answer with a specific job for me to do.

:::side note::: usually when I am disappointed by God it is because I expected him to do something he never promised to do, like tell me what is going on all the time.

When we complain to him about a lack of guidance, we are not really showing love for God.  We’re actually using God.  Hear me out on this as it’s the most important part of tonights message.

I realized that for a long time, I loved that God had big plans for my life and I loved God’s will since it was always good.  But I didn’t really just love God for being God.

If I loved God I’d be happy just being with God in his presence and learning about him.  Sometimes he lets us make our own choices, right?  When I was a kid, my parents would give me money to get my dad a fathers day gift.  I’d buy him something I thought he’d like.  He didn’t need anything at all, but wanted to give me a chance to purchase him a tie or something as a way to show my love for him.  I didn’t freak out with “WELL WHAT DO YOU WANT?  JUST TELL ME WHAT IT IS CAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!” cause I knew him well and could do something based on what I know about him already.

And the stuff id give him would mean more cause it came from me and wasn’t forced.

When people accept salvation from God, some are like: “ok now what do I need to do to find success as a Christian?  Just tell me!  No matter what it is, ill do it.  Ill go to china!  Ill give all my money away!  Ill become a nun, just tell me what it is that it takes for me to do things right!  What is the bare minimum requirement for being saved?”

I think the reason islam is growing so fast is because we as people like to know what’s going on and what we can expect if we act a certain way.  I love rules.  I wish God told me exactly what to do.

But our God likes to watch his children follow him in love: He lets us make decisions and do what we think he likes.  If we love him, we’re going to continue loving him, and trusting and doing what we think our dad would like—but if we are using God, we’re going to get mad and frustrated and freaked out and question why we’re following some God who doesn’t tell us what is going on.

Its harder for us in May of our graduation year than it is for nonchristians.  They’re like “oh I have two employers and both jobs look good.  Ive got to decide.  This is hard.”  We’re like OH MY GOSH GOD ISNT HELPING ME DECIDE AT ALL!  HE DOESN’T LOVE ME”.  What an opportunity for the devil to convince us he’s left us when really he’s just given us amazing gifts and options.

If God swings open 5 doors and shuts NONE of them, all of em are good.  Go ahead and choose one!  If you think he’ll like your decision, do it!  But don’t get frustrated with him for not telling you the best one to be the most successful.  If you love God, try to please him in your choices and don’t get caught up in worrying or regrets.  Just keep loving him and serving him and working towards glory someday.

Listen for God’s voice in prayer, the word and people you really trust . And then follow what you think he would like, understanding that you are pleasing him more without him telling you exactly what to do (or get him for fathers day).  :D.  choices are a blessing not a curse, and they give us another opportunity to worship him in our daily lives.

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