A Repeated YES

pc: Andrew Menage/flickr.com

pc: Andrew Menage/flickr.com

By Carey Helmink

I love the phrase “heart of my own heart whatever befall” from the song Be Thou My Vision. I take that to mean that no matter what happens my heart desires the same things that God desires. I wish that were always true, but in reality my choices don’t always support that desire.

I was reading in the book of Luke last week and was struck again by the heart of Mary – Jesus’ mother. She was just a girl of maybe 13-14 years of age, in the presence of Gabriel, hearing the news that she was going to give birth to the Son of God, the Savior of the world. I’m sure she had more than one question at this moment, but she only asked one– “how in the world is that going to happen?”. Gabriel answers her and her response is staggering – “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

In the most unbelievable of circumstances, Mary says a resounding YES to God and his will for her life. I do think she was a remarkable young woman. You can tell from the things that she says in her discussion with Elizabeth that she loves and honors the Lord, but I have to believe that when she said YES that first time, she couldn’t have known all that that would mean.

Mary’s resounding YES had to become a repeated YES as the drama of her life played out.

What would it have been like to be pregnant and unmarried, particularly in that culture?

What about that first conversation with Joseph, who was already legally bound to her?

Or how about giving birth to the Son of God in a barn?

Or running for your life . . . repeatedly?

Did Mary have to say YES again?

What would it have been like raising a perfect child? And dealing with his siblings? “How come JESUS never gets in trouble?”

How much pressure would she feel knowing God was living in her house, watching her every move and word?

Or what about the prophecy that Simon spoke to her:

“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thought of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Put yourself in Mary’s sandals. What would it have been like to say YES to that?

How many times in Mary’s life did she have to say again – “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true?”

The resounding YES of her early years had to be repeated over and over.

When she stood at the cross with John, watching Jesus die, did she still say YES in the midst of that horrific scene?

We see Mary in Acts 1:14 meeting with the disciples, some other women and Jesus’ brothers – who also believe in him at this point – and it seems logical that she was there when the Holy Spirit came – the Spirit of her Son (mind-blowing) and that she continued to be a part of the early church. All of this because she continued to say YES.

I don’t know what circumstances you find yourself in this morning. But YOU know. And I ask you, where in your life do you need to say YES to Jesus today?

Here’s the deal, some of you are in the midst of something you can’t change. You can say NO until you’re blue in the face, but when you come up for air, your circumstances will be the same.

OR you can say YES Jesus. Tell Him, “Whatever you want from me or for me, I will do my best to submit to that.” So hard. But in the end, it’s the only choice that changes anything. It might not change your circumstances, but it will begin to change you.

Take heart, girlfriends. Let your resounding YES become a repeated YES and in the words of Tim Keller:

“God is handling your life well

Your bad things will turn out for good

Your good things cannot be taken from you

And the best things are yet to come.”

Snow Day Throwback

DSCN3094.JPGThis blog post by Shereen originally was posted on February 3, 2011 after our Tuesday Morning classes had been cancelled due to snow. Here we are five years and one day later and the message is still as relevant. Enjoy this throwback with me today.

The one thing I love about living in Nebraska is a snow day—you know, the day after the storm when everything shuts down, and all the plans you thought were so crucial just got cancelled. It’s a gift!

After the storm comes a “free day.” A day to play. Hopefully, the sun is shining on the white-covered ground as you bundle up and head outside for snowmen and snow angels, snowball fights and sledding.  Then everyone tumbles back inside for hot cocoa.

Sure, the storm interrupted plans and added some new clean-up responsibilities, but how else would you ever get a day like this?  God loves us enough to bring the storm.

He takes us out of our hectic, urgent, down-to-the-minute lives and heaps on something new that gives us a different view and a deeper experience with Him.

Drifts of new perspective,

a covering of brightness,

and a calm assurance that—after the storm—comes a stillness.

There’s just no substitute for the danger of the storm followed by the wonder of a snow day. God waits for us to take our lives of service off the shelf and willingly risk safety for the reward of His presence. For God is wild and free and those who would be set free must know the truth of who He is . . . and who He has called them to be.

“Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit”. Galatians 5:16, The Message

Finding our Way through Prayer

One of the many things I love about our opening times on Tuesday Mornings is the opportunity to meet new women and hear how God is working in their lives. This past Tuesday, Jenee Harmon shared with us her experiences with prayer, both today and during her years in Madrid. Here’s what she had to say.

Many of you don’t know me and I know some of you go to different churches, so I wanted to give you a little background on my story. My husband, Ryan Harmon, is on staff here at Berean with Global Outreach. We have 2 kids, Sam who is 5 and in kindergarten, and Lucia who is 21 months. We also have another child on the way.

previewBefore Ryan worked with global outreach, he was on staff here as the young adults’ pastor. This was before we were called to church-planting with Avant and moved to Madrid, Spain. We took a team of 6 others, 2 guys and 4 ladies. Sam, my 5 year old, was 9 months at the time. We left January of 2011 and lived there through the summer of 2014, about 3 1/2 years.

I was asked to talk about what my prayer life looked like through our time in Madrid. First of all, I want to say that I am not an expert. I am still learning and growing in prayer. I will say that I did learn to explore prayer in new ways through the unique challenges and opportunities that life overseas can bring.

Solo prayer

One thing I often have to be reminded of is that prayer doesn’t have to be something we just check off the to-do list. When it becomes another task for me, it often goes neglected.  It really helps me to think of prayer as relational time with God.  Sometimes, when life gets stressful or hectic, the best thing we can do is try to sit and be quiet–still before God–maybe even just 5 or 10 minutes (setting a timer can be helpful!). This will require you to be intentional about finding a space/time that can be quiet, so you can remember that God is with you.

Moving to Madrid was a huge transition for me, exciting and terrifying. During the five months before we left Lincoln, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, had surgery, and began treatment, and my younger sister was going through a divorce. I definitely had moments of doubt in leaving my family and following this call to Spain. So even before we left, I had to exercise my faith and trust in God’s good plan.

Many of you who have moved or experienced major changes or losses in your life can understand that it rocks you. You are forced to redefine yourself and find your bearings in a new place or circumstance. I had to keep seeking God and looking for glimpses of Him in this big new city, or I wasn’t going to survive. For me, that came through finding little times of quiet, solitude, and journaling.

Praying together for each other

One of the blessings of going to Madrid with a team was that I was never truly alone. There were 7 other people (Nebraskans for that matter) who could relate to this transition I was going through–culture shock, language learning, missing home, etc. Our objective was to start a church community there, so we had to practice being a small model of community or church ourselves. We met formally a couple of times a week that first year, one meeting being more “business related” and one being kind of a church service. In this time, we were able to share personally and pray for each other.

One of my favorite Bible passages about prayer is Philippians 4:4-7:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is writing from prison and is telling us to “Rejoice in the Lord!” I think his words there were only possible because he had developed his relationship and prayer life with God. He was secure in Him, and therefore could have joy in major trials. He then reminds us to not only pray, but to be thankful. Practicing thankfulness is such an important part of our lives with God.

I’m sure some of you read 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I read this book while I was in Madrid, and I loved the challenge to write down every little gift from God we can think of, no matter how small, and to be grateful. After a year in Madrid, I had our team write down all of the blessings and things we were thankful for in that first very difficult year. I think this is a great practice we can always use at any point in our lives.

I love that prayer groups are a key part of Tuesday mornings here. I believe God meets us in unique ways when we share with each other and pray together as community. We are reminded that our life matters. Our choices matter, and that through these other women that care, God cares. It is a huge encouragement and motivation to continue praying/talking with God on our own when we choose to come and pray with others.

Praying for others

I think when we are developing our personal relationship with God, and connecting with others, we are more motivated to be praying for those around us. We are more attuned to God’s kingdom work in our world.

When we are seeing God at work in our own lives and those close to us, it can help us to have a heart for others who are lost or not connected to God. In Madrid, we were constantly trying to figure out how to meet people and build relationships in order to share Christ. It wasn’t always easy starting at square one, not knowing the culture very well, and just learning the language. The task of starting a church seemed impossible at times. Often, our only action step was to pray and to pray continually. And prayer is active. We are engaging in God’s work when we pray and rely on Him. This was a powerful lesson we learned.

My prayer for all of the women here at Equip Her is that we will find ways to connect with God personally, continue connecting with each other, and then be able to pray for others and seek out who else we can minister to.

Sidenote: For those of you interested in finding new ways to be silent before God, I would like to invite you to an event run by my friend Anna Zach. She does these yoga workshops at the end of every month where you go with the intention of quieting your mind and body before God, and she reads scripture in the format of lectio divina. It’s really not a full yoga practice. She uses restorative poses (relaxing stretches basically).  Here is the info: 

Come. Listen. Be.
Saturday January 30th, 3-4:15pm
Lincoln Yoga Center— 2127 Winthrop Rd
Workshop Cost: $15
Facebook: Come Unto Me  ( Anna Zach )

Also, for those of you who like to download the monthly prayer verse to your mobile device, here it is: IMG_3964