…on our Royals

I have thought over and over today about how proud we are as Kansas Citians for our Boys in Blue – that was evidenced by spending the day with 800,000 of my closest friends.  We celebrated not only a world championship, but the ways that this team came together and worked hard to accomplish their goals.  It’s easy to watch the games and believe that the team is simply the players on the field.  Today’s parade was a great reminder that the team is the entire franchise – from the front office staff, to the marketing folks, to the guys on the field, their coaches, and their managers.

Not only did we celebrate our beloved baseball team today, I believe we celebrated ourselves.  I heard several times that “no one expected the Royals to win the World Series.”  And while perhaps that is true outside of KC, those of us who live here KNEW we would.  We celebrated the belief we have in ourselves, in our confidence to rally, in our confidence to show the world what our little city is made of.  We cancelled work.  We cancelled classes.  We rearranged our lives to show the world how proud we are of our home.

We had zero arrests and zero violence during any of our celebrations.  People were being kind to each other, making new friends with those standing in line around them, offering to give up seats on buses so others can sit.  There were police officers throwing a football with a kid in the crowd, and babies being entertained by the young girls behind them.  We were able to show our country that we can celebrate with class and dignity.

I heard an interview clip by Sports Illustrated saying that our Royals set a new model for how the game of baseball should be played. While the whole interview hasn’t yet been printed, I can only imagine it has something to do with not only their determination, but their class on and off the field.  These guys haven’t let their fame get to their heads, and they tend to play better baseball when they remember their love for the game.  We knew their ultimate goal this year was to win the World Series, but they had fun doing it – and it was evident throughout the season.

Today, as a city, we came together to celebrate this.  And to learn from them.  To remember that if we want something, we have to work for it.  It may not come easy, we may come up short a time or two, but if we set our minds to reaching our goal, we will.  It is the way our Royals work together and unite as one team that reminds us who we are as people – created to be among others, always working for the better of those around us.

Thinking about how we’ve come together as a city over the past few weeks brings tears to my eyes.  In a time where so much of the world is in utter chaos, it was our pride today that captured the attention of our nation.  It was the humility of the best team in baseball that covered printed media.  It was our united front as a city that won the hearts of America.  Because of one little game we like to call baseball.

Congratulations, Kansas City Royals.  You deserve this honor, this celebration, this attention.

(now rest up.  Spring Training is right around the corner, and I expect to be at your championship parade again next year!)

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Taking on the Controversy

I’ve been avoiding writing or saying much about the topic of marriage equality, simply because I wanted to give it a lot of thought.  Which I have, every day since the SCOTUS decision.  And honestly, part of why I’ve been really quiet on it is because I know that with anything I could possibly say about it, I’m going to offend people on either side of it.  And the more I see being posted about it, the more I realize that I don’t care what people think of my opinion, because it’s just that: my opinion.  So here it goes.

I know where I am with marriage equality.  I know where I’m not.  I’ve been thinking about a song we used to sing back in my church camp days that went “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  And in the last few weeks, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  From the things I’ve heard come out of the mouths of Christians, the line should be “they’ll know we are Christians by our hate.”  Yep, I said it.  I know it’s strong, but if there has ever been a time I wanted to disassociate from being called a Christian, it’s been in the past week.  We are called to LOVE.  And we’ve done nothing of the sort.  And obviously, I’m generalizing here.  There have been some pretty bold Jesus followers who have made their love clear as the daylight.  They have taken the stance of love, and it’s been downright beautiful.  It makes me wonder how the last week would have gone if we truly lived out of Christ’s love for us, rather than our personal disagreeance for  a Supreme Court ruling.

I’m sure if anyone has continuing reading past the last paragraph, you might be wondering how I could say these things when the Bible makes it very clear that homosexuality is a sin.  But guys – and this is a big deal to me – we have chosen to live by those rules by professing our faith and belief in Jesus Christ. If someone hasn’t professed their belief in Jesus, those aren’t their rules.  Those are the laws of our faith, but if my faith isn’t your faith, then the laws I live by (faith speaking) aren’t the laws you have to live by.  We are offended when people of other faiths try to make us follow their rules, but we are doing the same thing here.  And if we’re talking about rules to live by as Christ followers, what about this one?

“‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ ” – Matt. 22:36

Everyone is quick to quote the verses on homosexuality, but I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen Christians quoting one of the MANY verses about loving others.  And in case you need to be reminded of that again, check this out:

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” – John 13:34-35

Oh, and how about this one?

” Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” -Romans 12:10

Marriage equality affects multiple people that I dearly love.  I’ve heard stories and seen first hand the ways they’ve been discriminated against for choosing to love the way they have.  Is it the same way I have chosen? Nope.  Does that make them any less of a human, or deserving to be treated like second class citizens, though?  I mean, seriously.  We all are human beings, and I think it’s about time we start acting like it.

So there it is.  My thoughts.  We’ve been so wrapped up in forgetting to love, that we’ve forgotten the love and grace that has been given to us.  We are ALL sinners in need of a great, great God.  Lest we forget the love He has for us, we must remember the great love He also has for every.single.one of His creations.  End of story.

And if we needed one more reminder, Jesus said “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.”  (John 8:7)

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On Healthy Marriages

Disclaimer: I completely understand that this post is probably easier for me to write as I sit on the sidelines of marriage, only watching, rather than being an active participant. I’ve been debating whether or not I’m “qualified” to enter into such a topic because I am single.  I pray that my observations will some day help me to be a better wife

There are a lot of wives who seem to love making their husbands look bad to other people.

Can I be that honest?  I’ve been part of or overheard too many conversations where this is true.  And let me be clear – there is no one group that’s better or worse at it.  It’s just women in general.  To be fair, it’s not ALL women.  I know some of the most amazing wives who truly do respect their husbands, even when they do less than pleasing things in the eyes of the wife.   But overall, ladies, we need to step up our respect when it comes to our significant other.

Yes, I’m sure husbands have their flaws – after all, WE aren’t perfect, how can we expect them to be?  But when we look for their flaws instead of all of their awesomeness, we are asking for trouble in ways we don’t expect.

It starts out as simply venting our frustration – but then we realize that we get something from that – maybe attention he isn’t giving us, or a laugh that makes us feel good about ourselves – and it begins to snowball into something so much more, creating a toxicity in our marriage that becomes easier to live with than to fix.  I’ve been there in relationships – instead of talking to the guy about it, I went to friends.  Soon, my venting became stories, and I realized that I talked to my friends more about my relationship than I did with the guy I was in it with.  Our relationship become toxic, and ultimately ended.

In Ephesians 5, husbands are told to “love their wives as Christ loved the church (v 25),” but Paul uses the word “submit” in reference to wives.  There always seems to be some controversy over the word, but The Message puts it this way: “Wives, understand and support your husband in ways that show your support for Christ (v 22).”  If we think about the word submit simply meaning understanding and supporting, why WOULDN’T we submit to them?  In fact, I think The Message is perfect and beautiful for this passage –

 “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.  Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.”  (Eph. 5:22-28)

Here’s what I’m trying to say, ladies.  If we are frustrated with our husbands, we need to talk to him about it.  If we have a problem with the way he cooked dinner, or didn’t cook dinner, we need to talk to him about it.  If he didn’t fold the laundry in just the right way or he shrank our favorite sweater, we need to talk to him about it.  If we can’t be honest with him about the little things, how do we ever expect to be able to be honest with him about the things that actually matter?

I pray that if I have the joy one day to become a wife, our marriage is modeled after this passage.  I clearly understand that it’s not going to be roses all the time, but if we are cherishing, understanding, and supporting each other every single day, we’ll get through the thorns that will come.  The words I speak about my husband should encourage others that marriage is beautiful, and sometimes beautifully hard, but our love and support for each other and our love for our Creator is all we need to get through.

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on dreams and passions

You guys.  You’ll never guess what I’m about to tell you.  Actually, you probably will.  Most of you probably already know.

I’m heading back to South Africa! In June, I’ve been asked to lead a small team of amazing women to see what God is doing in a small school community outside of Port Elizabeth.  This is the same school where I’ve been able to teach,  with the same organization I’ve been working with over the past year.  I’m so excited not only about the opportunity to head back, but to be able to show others the beauty of what’s happening on the ground, and the work that One Life is so diligently doing.

We will spend 14 days in South Africa, really spending the majority of our time at the school and in the communities the students live.  We will walk alongside the students and staff bringing them support, encouragement, and love.  One of the things that excites me most is to be the support the teachers already there – I’ve seen the challenges they face, and the love they have for the jobs and students, and to be able to be there helping and supporting them excites me!  We will also be exploring different ways our community back in Kansas can continue to work alongside the community, and how we can continue the work that is being done.  We will walk alongside families as they live day to day, experience their struggles and celebrate their joys with them.

We will also be spending some time in another community where One Life is present.  We will see what it looks like to be fully present in a community for years – the stability, the depth, the lives that are being changed.  This is a community that One Life has fought hard for, and the effects of that fight are present – the students have an education that is being changed because One Life is providing quality teachers in the schools.  The families know they have an advocate through One Life because they can see these changes happening in their neighborhoods.  Kids are being fed nutritious meals, and they are being fed spiritual meals through their Bible studies and youth groups.  Older students are being taught how to be a leadership skills so that they can one day be the ones who change the face of their community, their city, and their country.  Students are receiving medical and mental health care that no one else deems as important.  We get a three hundred sixty degree view of the level of care that One Life is committed to.

Probably most important to me, however, is getting be with the One Life staff, being THEIR cheerleader.  One Life works very hands on with their communities, and sometimes, it gets difficult to remember that there are people outside the organization who believe in what you’re doing.  This is our time to stand beside them, pom-poms in full motion, cheering them on.  Encouraging them, loving on them, giving them our full support for fourteen entire days.  Allowing them to passionately explain their work, their dreams, and their visions for the community we are partnering with.  And then – ya’ll, we get to clap.  And I’m not talking about a polite golf clap.  We get to whoop and holler and stand up on chairs and with energy we didn’t know we even HAD, and we get to tell them “WELL DONE!”  and “WE SUPPORT YOU!” and “WE STAND BESIDE YOU!” and “WE LOVE YOU!”

And then? We get to come back and share our stories.  And we get to share the passions, and the dreams, and the visions for the community we are partnering with.  We get the opportunity to gather together people who want to hear these things.  We get to set people on fire for the work that God is doing in South Africa through One Life.  We get to see THEIR dreams become OUR dreams.  We get to see THEIR passions become OUR passions.

And as for me, I just get to make sure all these women find their way through several international airports.  God is going to do the rest of the work.

(if you’re interested in being part of this work financially, I do have to raise support.  Please email me at jenabek@gmail.com if you are interested in giving)

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all the lies

This past weekend, I had the amazing opportunity to be part of a gathering of women called IF.  The leadership of this organization is comprised of women I could only hope to be half of one day.  These woman lead faithfully and fearlessly.  I was challenged in so many ways, and I’m sure as time goes on, I’ll continue to post about those challenges, and the invitations that came with them.  There was one challenge, however, that has seized most of my thoughts since we talked about it around our table.

“What lies are you believing, and where are they coming from?”

Believing the lies the enemy tried to feed me used to be one of my biggest struggles.  As  I grew in my faith, it became easier to fight those lies with the truth of God’s word.  But, as this question was asked, I was able to recall multiple things that I’ve found myself believing recently.  And never once did I recognize them as lies.  I didn’t necessarily think they were truth, just more “the way things were.”  Which has caused me to realize how easy it is to be fooled when I’m not in the Scriptures on a daily basis.  These things that I’ve been believing are contrary to the promises and truth of God’s word, and I didn’t even recognize it.

And where they’re  coming from – don’t even get me started on this topic.  I sat around the table yesterday blaming a very real enemy, and a very real, very broken society.  And hear me say that 100% of the lies we are told come from the enemy, and we also can blame a lot of our issues on the fact that we live in a very, very broken world.  But ya’ll – I am to blame as well.  I have convinced myself that “it’s just the way it is, and it’s okay.”  IT’S NOT OKAY!!! Never is it okay to stop believing God’s promises just because I can’t see them being fulfilled.  Bianca Olthoff  (stop reading. go check her out.  please come back.) brought so much beautiful light to this yesterday.  She taught and reminded us truth – that just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean God didn’t promise it.  Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean He isn’t working to fulfill it.  The tag line from her talk (and I’m absolutely, totally stealing this as my life line) was “walk it out, even when it isn’t working out.”  

I mean, come ON! That’s beautiful truth right there! She talked about how there is ALWAYS a problem between promise and possession, and right now, I’m in that problem. Shoot, I may even BE that problem.  While I can’t say I know with any accuracy what the exact promise is, the lies I’ve been believing  about myself are definitely well within the problem category – and potentially keeping me from taking hold of the promises God has for me.  And I don’t want to miss out on anything that my Creator has for me.  Not one single thing.  So what does all this mean? For me, it means I have to put on my big girl pants and STOP BEING MY OWN PROBLEM! I have to get back into the truth of God’s word and believe it.  ALL OF IT.  Problem solved.  It sounds so easy.  If only it were as simple as typing out some words and calling it good.  The good things are always the things we have to work the hardest for.  And whatever will come, it will be so good, my socks will be blown off.  That much, I know.

What lies are you believing? What can you do about them?

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On Life

I’ve been thinking about life a lot lately.  Mostly about how short it is {can be}.  How quickly things can go from planned to unexpected, and how the unexpected always leaves us feeling short of breath and completely out of control.  As I’ve been thinking these thoughts, I’ve been praying for a word or theme to encapsulate this coming year.  A few hours ago, these two thoughts collided, and I’m pretty sure that I know what 2015 is about.  But first, let me back up a few weeks –

I used to work part time at a local restaurant – my adult time, if you will.  I loved being in the classroom with kids all day, and a few nights a week, I really enjoyed meeting new people and having conversations with adults.  I’ve done this for about six years, until very recently.  I went from a few nights a week to only working when they needed an extra hand.  A few weeks ago on one such night, I walk into the restaurant to be greeted by very solemn faces, and was pulled aside and informed that one of our most beloved servers had died earlier that morning.  While this was an absolute shock to me, I saw on the faces of those who spent so much time with him that it was more than shock to them – they were utterly devastated to lose one of their dearest friends.  And here, several weeks later, I still wonder why, at twenty two years old, Jeff’s life ended so quickly.  That’s not supposed to be how life works.

While I know that life doesn’t have any particular method of how it works, I know that the great God of the universe works and moves and keeps the pieces of our lives moving.  He is holding pieces of my own life together right now that I don’t even know exist.  I see on people’s faces and hear in their stories that they don’t truly know why their feet are planted on the ground.  They wobble and make their attempts to live this life, but for nothing more than the next blow they might be dealt.  If I’m honest, I’ve been there.  More times than I care to relive to count.

This is where my prayer for the new year is becoming more clear.  I don’t want to wobble.  I don’t want to attempt to live my life.  I want to undoubtedly stride with confidence in each day I’m given breath.  If my life is cut short by the world’s standpoint, I want to know that each day I lived, I lived it breathing deeply, walking confidently in the direction of my Savior.  I don’t want to attempt to live life, I want to live it fully to the maximum capacity.  I’ve seen a few photos around Instagram in the last twenty four hours  about how today starts page 1 of a new book and we have 364 more pages to write before it ends.  What a beautiful image to view our year – as the story that God is telling through our lives this year.  Live each day with purpose, with as much Jesus as can possibly fill it – and as little of you as can be taken away.  The book that is written from this kind of life is the kind of book I want my own to be – and the kind of life that God wants us to live.

Today is the first page of your new book – how is it starting out?  If it’s not how you’d like for it to read, what can you do to change how it’s being written?

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…on being single

As I was talking with a co-worker today, we stumbled upon the conversation about my being single.  Several years ago, I would have cringed at this conversation, instantly feeling sorry for myself, wondering what was wrong with me, and/or what I could do to make myself more attractive.  You see, I was convinced that being 30 and still single was completely my fault.  While all my friends around me were popping babies out (I love all of you, and your babies.  Really.), I wondered what my life was going to hold, because apparently, it wasn’t a husband.  Or kids.  And these thoughts for so long left me paralyzed – in pity, in sorrow, in fear.

As the  conversation continued today, I assured my co-worker that I was in no way in “need” of a husband.  Yes, it would be great to have someone’s side to be at, someone to come home to at night, someone to keep my cold feet warm – I want all of those things – but in all honesty, my life is pretty great as it is.  A husband would be an awesome addition, and an incredible gift, but I don’t “need” someone to complete my life.  My life is absolutely complete because of my relationship with Jesus.  I’m not saying Jesus is my husband, or that I’m married to Jesus – what I am saying is that He is all I need.  And to those of you that scoff at me over this sentence – I wish you knew Jesus the way that I’ve gotten to know Him over the past few years! He is so much more than I could ever express in words.

To those of you that might be in this place of wanting, desiring nothing more than a husband – desire Jesus in such a way, and your life will never be the same.  You’ll find that He never leaves you wanting, never leaves you unfulfilled.  When we allow the pity and the sorrow to paralyze us, we let fear win.  And fear has no place in our lives – it should have no value.  “Perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:18)  The love of Jesus is perfect, and it’s for us – no punishment, only love.

An old friend of mine once said that Jesus is passionately pursing a love relationship with us – will you let Him be the one who chases your heart?

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