In the wake of a ROAR

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In the wake of this past weekend, my head can’t stop spinning.

It’s as if Aslan arrived with a roar, and his daughters heard and came running. Only five days later, I can’t shake the sense that what has begun, cannot be stopped. This awakening, this revelation, this hunger for more and more and more, of him.

May we fall on our face each morning in unity, all around the world, with whispers of confession and yearnings of righteousness. For his marching orders. For his plans. For his purposes. Because it’s coming to a head sisters. The groaning of the earth is getting louder, our lament and our cries of what is lost. What is broken. What is torn. May we intercede with in ways we can’t even understand because HE’S SETTING US FREE. Yes??

Two weeks ago my entire community of Trinity Grace Church came together in Union Square for the very first time under one roof. Every parish planted in the past eight years: Chelsea. East Village. Park Slope. Astoria. Long Island City. Upper West Side. Upper East Side. Midtown. Washington and Crown Heights.

The first member of the church stood and shared how the church began. How a relentless band of brothers arrived with their families, so poor that they had to keep passing money back and forth between bank accounts just to qualify for a two bedroom apartment for each of their families. While we lifted hands in worship and praised God for his faithfulness, I suddenly envisioned Christ walking the streets of my city. Of Jesus turning the corner in a darkened Times Square and every path his robe touched turned to white.  People in his wake were falling behind him in worship. I know, crazy. Right???

I’ve lived in NYC for 4 years, but I’ve NEVER believed revival could birth in our city. I’ve never imagined that 8 million people in the span of 11 miles could fall on their face before the risen Christ and bow down in the darkest corners of the world. Can you even imagine it? Romans 14:11

Sunday night when I returned home from IF, Kennedy said at bedtime tuck-in, “Mommy, I’ve been praying to find a Christian friend in my school for the past two weeks, before I fall asleep.” Turns out her prayer has already been answered, through Cate on her swim team. May the faith of our daughters build ours.

I’d like to end with the prayer at the end of my talk, one that keeps surfacing in my heart these past days.

* * *

“Please God, heal our heart, every broken part, don’t just rescue it, but HEAL it FOR GOOD and set us free. Because we don’t want to keep coming back to fighting the enemies lies, that we are still broken and wounded.

Can you make our heart NEW? Not just mended, but actually NEW? As if there were never any brokenness or hairline fracture?

Can you take our heart back to the way you created it and it was good? Blazingly good? Where it pumped with fevered intensity and life-giving boldness surged through its veins? Where it was free and alive and so deliriously joyful it could burst?

 THIS is the healing we are asking for. Not a patch job, not a steri-strip, not stitches, not a hairline fracture, but please give us a heart that can only come in YOUR power of healing and anointing.

A heart that prays bold prayers and believes for bold things. One that is consumed with passion and purity and pursuit of all that is Holy.

There are many of us in bondage with a broken heart, so many captives that long to be free. But we can’t always see our captivity, may we waken to our captor and cry out, ‘no more!’ May the earth shake and the mountains tremble and jail doors open, so we as a nation, An army of women can be set FREE.

May we reject the things that numb us of our captivity, of our pride and arrogance and self-promotion. Come in Spirit and power O Heavenly Father we implore you and we will not be silent about this rescue, we will not be silent about this healing, we will declare from the rooftop, that your name is great, your mercies are ever new and your grace and goodness extends to all generations.

We love you, we worship you, we declare your name righteous and we receive the power and resurrection of your mighty hand. In your name demons will shudder  so we ask you to go before us and take us where you want us. We are ever surrendered and ever grateful. In your most precious, compassionate name, JESUS, we ask all these things.

Amen.”

To the Mister and His Calling

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I don’t usually talk about Q Ideas here, but God’s used it to do massive work in my heart in the last decade, and I feel it’s time. Because women, we sit at a crossroads in our nation, where we must also lead, and we must be equipped. Plus, today is Gabe’s birthday and I’d like to honor the man I love and the calling God’s burned in his heart.

I’ll never forget our beach trip to Amelia Island in 2001, where Gabe inhaled “How Now Shall We Live” by Chuck Colson in four days. Not exactly your average beach read, at 600+ pages. He was almost giddy about topics like, how we “ought” to love and lead in our post-Christian, secular culture as Jesus followers.

Yet it wasn’t a tension I really felt.

At the time, our lives were pretty safe. Most days were spent in our Christian jobs with our Christian friends in our Christian neighborhood in our Christian city. I’m half-kidding. We knew few people that felt differently. It was popular to be “Christian,” those days, wasn’t everybody??

Chuck became a mentor to Gabe in his later years, and ultimately a dear friend. A comrade of sorts that sought to impart what He saw coming ahead in the church. They wrote long letters back and forth in Chuck’s final days, cementing in Gabe’s heart the idea that…

Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals.

This all sounded exciting and yet WAY too macro for my engagement. I was ready to pop with my second child and spent more energy on whether I should buy airplane or train sheets for Cade’s big boy toddler bed. But Gabe wouldn’t be deterred, and although it was still murky, he resigned his current job as Vice President of a great company, and came home to work from our couch. And then at Starbucks. And then back to our couch. Our savings drained to zero while Gabe met with mentors that year, anyone twice his age that offered their time. He even crafted a two -hundred page business plan by years end. (I’m not sure where that plan currently is, as I’ve not seen it since.)

Because it wasn’t about the plan, it was about rooting something in his heart.

We hosted small gatherings the first few years on the east and west coasts, welcoming and serving Christian leaders in their respected industries: Songwriters, Filmmakers, Fine Artists, Scientists, Journalists, Fashion Designers, Government Officials, Education Reformers, Policy Makers, Hedge Fund Investors, Social and Global Entrepreneurs, Justice Fighters…and Pastors.

In due time, we realized God had laid the table for these friends with incredible influence and favor on the front lines, yet they felt isolated and alone. Many remained silent. One wouldn’t begin to talk about Jesus on Wall Street, or at Vogue, or at Fashion Week. We realized the church must do better at equipping and enlarging this conversation of what a faithful presence looks like. How not everyone is called to “Christian Ministry.” But MANY are called to enemy territory, where allies are required to survive. How a grain of salt needs other grains to actually season the meat. And an ember needs other flames to lighten the dark.

So we launched our first annual Q Gathering at The Tabernacle in Atlanta in 2007. We were committed to spanning the U.S., meeting in a different major city each year, and convening in that city’s cultural center. It’s the most expensive way to go about it, but it was worth it.  We could have met in churches for free, but our conviction was to go to into the dark and illuminate the light. After that, New York’s Gotham Hall, Austin’s Paramount Theatre, Chicago’s Civic Opera House, Portland’s Crystal Ballroom, Washington D.C.’s Andrew Mellon Auditorium, and LA’s Nokia Theatre followed suit.

Those early years, there were hardly any women at Q. I felt alone, at the table in the front corner feverishly taking notes, hearing things that blew my mind, and yet I had no context for how to take it back to laundry and diapers. I didn’t feel smart enough to be there. Like somehow I got a free pass as Gabe’s wife, but I’d yet to discover my own calling. In essence, I was piggybacking on Gabe’s vision, as if that was enough. But it wasn’t enough.

As the years progressed, I began to feel EVERDAY tensions that were discussed at Q. When I started having panic attacks, I wanted to know how to think about medication. When Pierce’s friend (a girl) told him in elementary school that she had a crush on another girl, I wanted to dig into gender and sexual confusion in adolescence. When the shooting happened in Newtown, CT, I paid more attention to the gun debate. When I learned that 92% of children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are terminated, I began to volunteer at my city’s Pregnancy Support Center. I learned that abortion in New York City is double the national average with 40% of pregnancies are terminated!

Suddenly, I felt thrust to my own front lines, in desperate need to learn from credible thinkers on how to thrive in New York City, our new home. Suddenly I felt like I was the TARGET MARKET for Q, as a woman, as a leader, as a friend. After Bobette Buster led a 2-day intensive Q session on waking to your story, it clicked. I felt something, deeply, that was my own. Turns out, I had a few thoughts about things. So I wrote, “Why are Women Fading.” My very first words in print.

I learned I wasn’t alone. It gained the most online traffic of any article that year, bringing light to a part of Q that had gone missing. Women. So I began to advocate for women’s voices to be heard in this space, far and wide. Because we can add much to this dialogue.

We humanize it.

We popularize it.

We activate it.

I’m not sure if the tensions are increasing, or if the Church is finally waking to what’s already there.  But either way. I want to stay in the game. I want to be diligent. And women, it’s so important that you are there too. Because God is doing something in our generation, in our time, and He’s using women who’ve got nothing to lose, who will stand on the front lines and say “YES” to whatever he asks. He’s calling us to be bold and lead and rally, single, or with our husbands, because the flourishing of our faith depends on it.

This year, at Q Nashville, I’d love to have women take up half the room and offer special rates for first timers.

If I’m honest, there were days I didn’t appreciate Gabe’s leadership. Days I didn’t share in his conviction. Days I questioned the tough calls He continually made. But as I look back over this past decade, I’ve become stronger. He’s asked me to face terrifying places, and that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.

As I wrote in his birthday card, I have more respect for him today, than I’ve ever had. Perhaps I’m just catching up, but God has aligned our hearts in new ways and I’m full of hope for what’s ahead.

 

 

 

What if we lived our callings without fear?

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The new year is well underway, though I’m still sweeping fir needles and re-stocking the fridge. Replacing lost socks and digging out of my inbox. But I don’t mind the space for rhythm after the celebration of Christmas and New Years dies down. The cold is even a welcome friend, remarkably, offering permission to wear jammies a bit later, drink that extra cup of coffee, and plan and prepare for the coming year.

This week, exactly one year ago, I met Jennie Allen. Little did I know how much I would grow to love her heart in the months that followed. Each time I visit Austin, we stuff ourselves with chips and queso, and become quite animated when we talk about women finding freedom.

Her latest book Restless: Because You Were Made for More released this week, and in it she writes:

“We are called to dream but we’re afraid to. But because we are called, when we don’t act on it we become restless—restless to find purpose, to make a difference in the world, to matter.” What if discovering God’s unique calling for your life is your greatest responsibility, second only to knowing and loving God? Your restlessness may very well be a divine invitation to purpose, calling and life.”

Jennie’s invitation to calling reminds me of a quote I read a few short years ago when I was in the height of my own restlessness. I’d beat my head against a wall with questions like, “What is it God? What would you have for me? Just ask and I’ll obey.”

Marianne Williamson writes, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world…We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” 

Imagine your journey becoming a catalyst for others? If you are in the midst of restlessness and fear, please keep going. It matters. Not only for yourself, but for the lives of others. Never underestimate how your life becomes a light magnifying God’s faithfulness and rescue. Along the way, Jennie’s words will be a comfort and a reminder that you are not alone.

I’m inspired by women who have written me their story of perseverence this past year. Those that have traded comfort for God’s call to so. much. more. When He offers “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” Do we dare believe it? Yes. “according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” Eph 3:20-21 

A New Year. A New Word.

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A few years ago, our dear friends began a New Years Eve tradition. We gathered round the dining table munching on bacon wrapped dates, sea-salted chocolate with almonds, and raised questions that marked the finale of a year. Reflecting on days gone by with mixed emotions, we toasted those that held rejoicing, and confessed others that held regret.

These measured moments stir something deep within all of us. Perhaps the reflection causes us to consider ways to start fresh. A chance to begin again.  I used to mask my perpetual longing for a clean slate, but the longer I know Jesus, I embrace this internal desire to be made new. Our time concluded with my favorite part, naming our year with a word. Three hundred sixty five days summarized in a single word. The art of writing has taught me the weight of words, how each one must count. That’s all editing is, really, deleting the words that don’t count.

In 2011, my word was RESCUE. It fell off my lips, without a second thought. The friends that walked that year with me looked back across the table with understanding. For it was the first time I’d experienced rescue in the thirty years I called myself a Christian.

In 2012, my word was RETREAT. I’d escaped the city for the summer months and journeyed to the Connecticut woods to write that same story of rescue in my first book, Freefall to Fly. I saw more animals than people that summer. That first morning, my daughter woke to a deer looking into her bedroom window, and the weeks that followed revealed rabbits, frogs, bats, and even a black bear carrying off our trash by summer’s end.

January 2013 dawned with the word OPEN bursting from my heart in a prayer, “Whatever doors YOU open, I’ll walk through.” In God-like fashion, He’s done exactly that. I’ve been terrified of what many of those doors held. The first time I was asked to share about Freefall, I began with the sentence, “This is the first and last time I will ever speak in public.” After the audience’s gracious laughter, the subsequent months has shown God’s sense of humor. Never say never.

For 2014, my word is LIGHT. Coming off recent years of anxiety, I often feel overwhelmed by how heavy the darkness truly is. I see fear in faces I meet on the road and in my city. Our eyes often connect with empathy and understanding. Yet He calls each of us to keep telling the good and gracious news of rescue, of salvation, of a hope reborn. “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

When He calls us to bring light into the darkness, He will also make it feel light. Hard to grasp, yet I will cling to this promise in 2014.

What’s your year in a word? What was it for 2013? What do you imagine it might be for 2014? Grab your loved ones and ask them this week. Words tell us so much about each other.

**Photo of Connecticut woods in winter taken by Josh Kill.

A Call for Peace this Christmas

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Merry Christmas Eve dear friends! Here’s a post I wrote for Qideas yesterday, around a topic that’s been weighing on my heart these past few months. May we be quick to listen and slow to speak as we engage those we disagree with. We have MUCH to learn from each other.

On another note – I pray you have the Merriest Christmas with loved ones. In the quiet, early hours of this morning, I’m reminded of God’s astounding love for us – To give His most precious gift so that we might have LIFE. Abundantly. Praise HIS name!!!!

Much love, Rebekah

***

After yet another social media uproar—this time over the antics of Duck Dynasty’s patriarch Phil Robertson—it would seem to me the polarization in our country is reaching new heights. Words are casually tossed to and fro. Everyone fighting to be loudest. Twitter—the new microphone for thoughtless casualties—leaves the hidden and silent observers reeling.

In reality of course, we are all reacting. Claiming perspectives developed through our own time-tested study and reflection, in the privacy of conversations and whispered prayers. Defending points of view we arrived at through the nuance of loving debate, pain, loss and heartache. Deeply held conviction doesn’t come easily. But friends, this is too much for 140 characters or buried Facebook comments. It’s going to require more.

Debates over whether enough women hold positions of power, or a prominent pastor fudged his source material, or Phil Robertson’s careless words—or what exactly? It seems we care more about calling others out than our own confession.

Instead of waiting to celebrate the Messiah these final moments of Advent, we’re crafting our next sound byte. Waiting for the chance to pounce, leveraging the moment to Keep. Up. The. Ratings. Better yet, to keep up our reputation as justice fighters. In the end, it comes off very angry, very aggressive, very defensive, very hurt.

If the bride of Christ can’t show we are Christians by our love, who will?

Paul’s questions from a Philippine prison feel pressingly poignant,
“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

then…

Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ had” (emphasis mine).

Christ’s attitude is simply this: To give up divine privileges, to be born human, to humbly obey his Father, to die a criminal’s death on a cross.

All this … for the salvation of the world. So that every knee would bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So we might be redeemed and made new.

Shall we we turn the tide? Who will join arms as comrades saying, “As Christ’s death and resurrection was for us, we are for each other.” Even when we don’t share the same opinions, even when we interpret scripture differently, even when our hearts have been broken on both sides of an issue.

It’s not self-affirming, not eloquent, not re-tweetable. But we are starved for it.

We are starved for someone to sit across the table, look us in the eyes and ask, “Why?” Because when the audience fades and words are found, what eventually pours out is grief. This is the kind of painful confession that unites us.

Our culture’s response to conflict is to put each other in Time Out. What would it mean for the Church to say, “We see these issues differently, and it only makes us love each other more”? What if such conflict made us press in, engage more, ask questions more? What if it made us choose to trust the Spirit is at work in each of us working for our good?

Dare we expect more? If we drop the ball as peacemakers, unity is impossible. Perhaps this idea is too much to imagine, but it only takes a trusted few. Isn’t this what we ought to crave? Are we crazy enough to imagine unity might be possible?

As Rupertus Meldenius, an obscure 17th century theologian famously wrote, “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty, in all things, charity.” A challenging reminder to the Church in an era fueled largely by religious tensions.

We are starved to be understood.
We are starved for generosity of spirit.
We are starved for a humble response.

As we end 2013, how about we end the strife? How about we become radical messengers of love and grace like my dear brothers and sisters Ann Voskamp, Jen Hatmaker, Bob Goff and others. I believe there are many of us who want to go back to fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

This doesn’t dismiss the desperate need for thoughtful, earnest dialogue on all things that polarize us. But this will never happen as long as we stay in a mode of public defense. Let’s put down our digital weapons. Lets decide not to cut with words and instead find each other in real life. For what have we gained to build up our perceived following by cutting another’s? Let’s start each conversation with, “Help me understand why you said/feel/reacted…”

As Bob Goff states, “It’s hard to hate someone you’ve shared a meal with.” So let’s begin there. Find someone you debate online and reach out to him or her. Ask for time together in real life. This requires humility and a willingness to listen.

Lest we forget, the enemy rejoices when the gospel is thwarted by conflict. He dances when the good news is buried by condemnation. He laughs loud when we tear each other down.

May we see this distraction for what it is and confess. May we come back to the center as messengers of peace. May we receive, and therefore extend, Christ’s gracious love.