Monday, October 29, 2007

I Corinthians 13 - Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. O God, I so easily speak the truth and the facts without love.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. God, I seek knowledge for knowledge’s sake, yet there is no love there.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. I have not given all I possess or surrendered my body, what have I to give?

Love is patient – O God, I am not.
Love is kind – kindness is not in me.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. But God I do envy, I envy those with money, I envy those with physical prowess, I envy those who have what I lack. And I am proud.

It is not rude
It is not self-seeking
– but I want it my way
It is not easily angered – yet I am angry
It keeps no record of wrongs – yet I so often count the wrongs done to me

Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth – still the forbidden seems so sweet

It always protects – I have not protected
Always trusts – I do not trust
Always hopes – Do I dare hope?
Always perseveres – how can I persevere?
Love never fails – yet I fail continually

Father, only You can fulfill the definition of love. And You love me… that is beyond reason, beyond knowledge, beyond hope. And You give it to me, You enable me to return Your love, to love others. No, not enable, You actually love through me. And because You are Jehovah God, I can trust and hope and persevere in You. And You will protect me. You will speak love into my knowledge and my words, You will breath love into my body and my actions, You will draw expressions of love into my attitudes and my desires. Please Lord, show Your Love in me!

Rebecca A Givens

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Psalm 18:16-19

Psalm 18:16-19
He sent from above; He took me,
He drew me out of many waters,
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from them that hated me; for they were too strong for me.
They came upon me in the day of my calamity,
But Jehovah was my stay.
He brought me forth into a large place,
He delivered me, because he delighted in me.

Here we go back to the imagery of the drowning swimmer. God reaches down through the flood and pulls David from the water. David would certainly have perished had God not pulled him from the current. Then David talks about an enemy that hates him and is too strong for him. King David, who killed Goliath as a young man, who faced Saul, who victoriously led his army in battle many times, admits that this enemy is too strong for him; but there is no enemy too strong for God, and God delivers David.

The last line of this section has been my life verse for the past 6 years. "He rescued me because He delighted in me." NIV. I struggled with this at first, because I didn’t feel like God had rescued me from a physical perspective; but then I finally realized the spiritual rescue of God. When I saw the reason for God’s rescue of me, I was awestruck. God delights in me. He didn’t rescue me because He had to, or because it was His duty to. He did not do it grudgingly or unwillingly. He didn’t do it for what I could do for Him, or because He owed me anything. He did it simply because He loves me and likes me; He enjoys my presence. Do you understand that? God, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, the Author of Salvation, the Sustainer of life, delights in His children and looks forward to spending time with us. Doesn’t that make you want to rush into His presence?

Oh God, it is incomprehensible that You should delight in me. But I will take You at Your Word and believe it and love You back! Forgive me when I forget or neglect You. Please give me the joy in my soul that comes from Your delight in me!

Rebecca A Givens, 10/25/07

Friday, October 26, 2007

Saving Money - Angel Food

I have found an organization that has saved me a good bit of money, and so I thought I would pass along this information. Over in my "links" box on the right side of the page is the link to their web site. If any of you know of any ways to save money, please share with me!

Angel Food Ministries. The following description is from their web site:
Angel Food is available in a quantity that can fit into a medium-sized box at $25 per unit ($30 in California and New Mexico, due to transportation costs, $28 in Kansas, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee). Each month's menu is different than the previous month and consists of both fresh and frozen items with an average retail value of approximately $50. Comparison shopping has been done across the country in various communities using a wide range of retail grocery stores and has resulted in the same food items costing from between $42 and $78.
Generally, one unit of food assists in feeding a family of four for about one week or a single senior citizen for almost a month. The food is all the same high quality one could purchase at a grocery store. There are no second-hand items, no damaged or out-dated goods, no dented cans without labels, no day-old breads and no produce that is almost too ripe.
Also offered are specialty boxes such as steaks, chicken and pork. Many participants in this bonus program appreciate the expanded choices. Additionally, there is no limit to the number of units or bonus foods an individual can receive, and there are no applications to complete or qualifications to which participants must adhere. Angel Food Ministries also participates in the U.S. Food Stamp program, using the Off-Line Food Stamp Voucher system.

Angel Food is hosted by churches around the country. You can search their web site to see the current month's menu or to find a location near you. Our family has been getting Angel Food boxes for several months. My kids always look forward to "Angel Food Day", it's kind of like Christmas unpacking the food boxes! We get 2 boxes to feed our family of 6 (including 3 teens), this ensures that we have enough of each item to have meals together, and some of the convenience type items I put back for the kids to fix when they are on their own for a meal. There are three families in our area who take turns picking up and delivering the boxes to each other, so I only have to drive every three months. This has been a real blessing for us!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Belonging to Jesus

O Heavenly Father,

Teach me to see
that if Christ has pacified thee and satisfied divine justice
he can also deliver me from my sins;
that Christ does not desire me, now justified,
to live in self-confidence in my own strength,
but gives me the law of the Spirit of life
to enable me to obey thee;
that the Spirit and his power are mine
by resting on Christ's death;
that the Spirit of Life within answers to the law without;
that if I sin not I should thank thee for it;
that if I sin I should be humbled daily under it;
that I should mourn for sin more than other men do,
for when I see I shall die because of sin,
that makes me mourn;
when I see how sin strikes at thee,
that makes me mourn;
when I see that sin caused Christ's death,
that makes me mourn;
that sanctification is the evidence of reconciliation,
proving that faith has truly apprehended Christ;

Thou hast taught me
that faith is nothing else than receiving thy kindness;
that it is an adherence to Christ, a resting on him,
love clinging to him as a branch to the tree,
to seek life and vigour from him.

I thank thee for showing me the vast difference
between knowing things by reason,
and knowing them by the spirit of faith.
By reason I see a thing is so; by faith I know it as it is.
I have seen thee by reason and have not been amazed,
I have seen thee as thou art in thy Son
and have been ravished to behold thee.

I bless thee that I am thine in my Saviour, Jesus.

taken from:
The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Scottish Harp Competition

I spent this past weekend at the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Georgia. We went for my daughter to compete in the National Scottish Harp Competition. She won 1st place in the Apprentice Catagory! She is now planning to build a repetoire of sacred and classical music, as well as her favorite Scottish music. Can you say weddings... and getting paid to play? It's something to think about for the future anyway.

The Journey Continues

I wrote this a while back and entered it into the Inspirational Writing catagory of the Writer's Digest Writing Competition... and won an honorable mention! That means I was in the top 100 of my catagory. In about 10 catagories, there were over 19,000 entries. Yes, I am excited. No, there is no prize money and my story is not published... but maybe God will be able to use all these words that circle around in my head...

The Journey Continues

I have an old pair of hiking boots. They are scuffed and scarred, covered with cuts and nicks. The soles are worn nearly smooth and are beginning to separate. There is a big gash in the back of the left one. No amount of polish can make them look good, they are no longer waterproof, and they don’t get good traction. Yet I have hesitated to get new ones and part with them.
New boots require shopping, spending money, wondering if the new boots are going to be what I really need, and then breaking them in… and I do not look forward to those things. But even more than that, when I lace up those old boots I am reminded of all the places they have taken me. From trails at Oak Mountain across town to the mountains of Transylvania across the world. From the good old American mall to the downtown shopping district of Budapest. From group hikes with my karate friends or mission teams, to hiking with a friend, to hiking all alone. From hikes filled with joy at the company I am with or the country I am seeing, to lonely hikes taken in times of great stress and heartache. From motorcycle rides to family camp outs. I love each of these memories, and those boots are a symbol of them all for me.

But the old boots no longer serve their main purpose… protecting my feet and giving me sure footing over rough terrain. It is time to move on from the past and look to the future, time to hike and ride, not just remember past hikes and past rides. And so last week, with my Christmas money, I bought a new pair of boots. I tried on at least a dozen pair before bringing one home. I rubbed mink oil into them. I started wearing them for short periods of time. I began thinking about a long hike in the spring, and a long motorcycle trip. I am looking to the future.

Philippians 3:13-14
Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. NIV

In this passage Paul says to forget what is behind. I don’t think he means to not remember the past anymore, if you take the entire Bible in context you see constant reminders of what God has done in the past and admonitions to remember all that God has taught us and done for us. But Paul doesn’t strive for the past, he doesn’t live in past defeats or glories; he reaches for the future. He looks to God, he focuses on Christ. He lives each moment now, knowing that the past led him to where he is and that God will take him to heaven in the end. And in this moment, he has a job to do. What an awesome outlook on life!

I look at my boots and I remember where I’ve been. Those boots have taken me many places where I have learned many things. But where will I go now? That is what I have to decide. The past is back there somewhere, the bad cannot be changed nor can the good be re-lived. Now it is time to continue the journey.

Rebecca A Givens

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thoughts on Prayer

Several years ago I wrote on an index card a list of character traits or attitudes that I wanted to see in myself. I made this card part of my prayer list, and over the years I have added notes and lists to it. This morning as I prayed I decided to share these things with you. I apologize for not having scripture to back it up, perhaps I will go back and add that when I have more time.

The attitudes that follow apply both internally (who I am), and externally (what I do). They apply in all areas of my being: physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. Here's the list.

Intimacy (open myself to God, my husband)
Trust (again God, my husband, the right people)
Respect (authority in my life)
Approval/non-critical (of others)
Adventure (seek it in God)
Newness (His mercies are new every morning!)
Mercy (toward others)
Confidence (in God and myself)
Vulnerable (it's ok to need others)

Some of the notes I have added to my card are:

I am a Warrior and a Saint, a daughter of the King! (act like it!)
Always behave with integrity, honor, and respect.
My "jobs" have a priority: God, husband, kids, church, karate class.

Rebecca A Givens

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Driver's License Goddess

This was written by my daughter Hannah after a trip to take her driving test...

The clock ticks loudly, over and over and over again. When I look at it, the hands don’t seem to have moved an inch. The room is cold, like any waiting room, and just as impersonal. These plastic chairs were designed by chiropractors without enough business, I can tell. But all worship has to have an element of sacrifice. I don’t look over my shoulder, that would be too irreverent, but I know what’s there. A series of windows, behind which the priests and priestesses scurry about like roaches, dealing with the poor souls the Goddess herself hasn’t deigned to deal with.
The Goddess sits in the center behind her desk, her sheer bulk attracting everyone’s respect and her sheer disdain for anyone else’s relevance only driving her own further home. Her beady eyes squint out from behind ample, pockmarked cheeks, ready and more than willing to condemn.

I shrink down in my chair, not wanting her gaze to touch the back of my head. I clutch my thin, ragged piece of paper between my fingers - fifty! It screams at me every time I look at it. I sneak a look around the room at the others, craning my neck low in an attempt to see their papers, but we are all hunkered down over them like threatened animals over a meal. I crinkle my paper between my fingers again. Fifty!

A few wide-eyed, shrinking teenagers slink out of the room behind me as quickly as they dare, murmuring "I failed again..." in tones of abject terror. They gather up their belongings and entourages and hurry out, the sound of their quickly flapping footsteps echoing long after they disappear. The rest of us clutch our numbers tighter, hoping and pleading for better luck than those poor souls. A few make covert glances behind, desperate attempts to find reassurance in the priests’ unsmiling faces. They all cower again at the sight, the priests plodding along with scowling, disdainful expressions while the Goddess surveys the hopefuls.

I have to look behind again, I can’t help myself. She is drumming her large fingers together slowly, her cheeks pulsing in an approximation of a thin smile. Like a fat spider in her parlour, I can’t help but think, before hushing my own thoughts hurriedly. The Goddess might hear them. Her eyes are glinting in bitter delight as she reaches for her microphone. My eyes widen, the words "Fifty! Fifty!" hammering and screeching in my brain. I cling to the number in a panic. The speaker grill above my head scratches itself to life tiredly. "Forty-nine."

Hannah Givens

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The American Way

Today I am going shopping – I love to shop! I just love new things – out with the old and in with the new! I am so tired of my chairs, I need new colors. And the carpet is so worn, I definitely need new carpet. A new sound system would be great, along with some new music to go with it. I think while I am out shopping for new stuff I’ll get some new friends too. I’m tired of my old friends. They just don’t understand me. One of them really hurt my feelings when he ignored me yesterday. Now that I think about it, I’ll get new family too. I’m just tired of them. They don’t like any of my ideas. And they have terrible, disgusting habits. They have bad breath in the mornings, can you believe that?! They leave messes all over the house and they expect me to work for them all the time – always wanting meals and clean clothes. I think I can find a better family, better things, a better house, a new life! Yes - I’m going out to find a new life!

Americans today have no commitment to job, friends, church, or family. They can go shopping for new ones any time they get tired of them or mad at them. America has become one gigantic shopping mall, where you can buy and then discard any aspect of life you choose. We no longer need to work through our problems, we can simply walk away from them. We have become a nation of shallow, self-centered, wealthy, proud and arrogant individuals.

Is this what it means to be an American? Freedom from commitment? Freedom to have whatever I want? Freedom to do whatever I want? Is this what our founding fathers had in mind when they began a revolutionary war with England and founded our country? What is freedom?

This attitude even exists in the American church. People hop from church to church. The divorce rate in the church is the same as the divorce rate outside it. Does going to church make any difference in people’s lives? What does it mean to be a Christian? Are we any different from the rest of the world? Are all these church people who look like the world Christians? What does it mean to be a Christian?

Is my church about me and my preferences? Is my marriage about me and what I want? Is life really about me? I submit to you that if you are a Christian, life is not about you. Church is not about us at all, it is about God. My marriage is not about me – it’s about being a picture of Christ and His bride, the church. My life is not my own at all, it belongs to Christ. I ask you to look at your life. Does it look like the world out there? Does sin rule your life? Do you expect life to revolve around you? Do you expect your church to revolve around your wants and desires? Do you expect your marriage to be about you? If so, maybe you need to evaluate yourself. Are you in a life-changing relationship with God? Is your life about Him? If not, then you should ask yourself if you are a Christian. If you are a Christian, maybe you should check in with God. Christianity is more than a name, or a title, or a church, or a religion. It’s a real relationship that changes your life. Let it change you.
Rebecca A Givens, 10/11/07

Sunday, October 7, 2007

2007 Fall Karate Clinic

Yesterday I hosted the Shingo-ha Yoshukai Fall Clinic. What a great day we had! Twenty-two adults and teens and eleven children from Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama gathered to train and fellowship. Upton Sensei, my teacher, arrived friday night and we trained with my brown belts. I cannot describe how wonderful it was to train and do kata with Sensei again. Tomlinson Sensei arrived Friday night and joined us as well. Then we spent some time visiting with Doshu, the head and founder of our organization, at his hotel. Saturday morning the official clinic began. Doshu had a great time with the kids. I wish you could have heard their giggles! They will always remember the time that a 10th degree black belt invested in them. The kids also did kata for the adults. I was very proud of what they did! The adults had a great day of training as well. We did weapons basics; I always enjoy having time to go back and practice basics, and I enjoy watching someone else teach beginners; it helps me be a better teacher later on. And of course, we worked some great self-defense. I am sure we all came away a bit sore and bruised and tired, but as always I have a wonderful feeling of well being as well. What I have written here does not do justice to the day's events. There were jokes and laughter, yelling and berating, hard work and kiai(s). There were punches and kicks and bruises; hugs and a hand up from the mat. I was overwhelmed with the family of our group. Here are a few pictures...

Left to Right

Front row: Scott Tomlinson Shihan, Bobby Boulware Shihan, Mike Sadler Doshu, Howard Upton Shihan, Mike Sadler Jr Shihan

Middle row: Elizabeth Fisher, Robin Hamerdinger, Becky Givens, Scott Shroeder, Michael Smith, Ed Dunning

Back row: Kitt Perkins, Christine Watts, Michael Brown, Danny Amegin, Tanner Brown

Psalm 18:7-15

Remember what happened in the verses preceding this part. David has described the dangers and difficulties in his life. He has said that he calls out to God whenever he is in trouble, and God hears him. This is what happens when God answers David’s prayers!

Psalm 18:7-15
Then the earth was moved and did quake,
And the foundations of the mountains began to tremble,
And were moved to and fro because He was wroth.
There went up a smoke in His nostrils,
And a fire out of His mouth devoured,
Coals were lit by it.
And He bowed the heavens, and came down,
And thick darkness was under His feet.
And He rode upon a cherub and did fly,
And came flying upon wings of the wind.
He made darkness His secret place, His pavilion round about Him,
Dark gloom of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
At the brightness that was before Him, his thick clouds passed, -
Hail-stones and coals of fire.
Jehovah also thundered in the heavens,
And the Highest gave His voice,
Hail-stones and coals of fire.
And He sent forth His arrows, and scattered them,
And lightenings innumerable, and discomfited them.
Then the channels of water were seen,
And the foundations of the world were discovered.
At Thy rebuke, O Jehovah,
At the blasting of the breath of Thy nostrils.

I love this part! God’s child has called for help and now He is coming; and He is angry. When Jehovah God physically comes down to earth, the whole of creation trembles in an earthquake. He comes wrapped in thick, dark storm clouds, breathing smoke and fire. He arrives in the wind on the wings of a cherub, the living creature Ezekiel describes as having the form of a man, a bull, a lion, and an eagle – the animals that are chiefest in this world according to an old Jewish proverb. As God comes in this glorious way, the storm clouds that surround Him open up, and lightening, hail and water come flooding out of the skies. God has arrived. What an incredibly, awesome picture of God coming to rescue His servant.

If we could just open our eyes, we would see that God has done this for us too. No, I have not seen God arrive this way when I have prayed for deliverance; not with my physical eyes. But I know He has done so spiritually. God has moved mountains, breathed smoke and fire, and showered the enemy with hail and lightening on my behalf. He has been my avenger and my defender. He bled for me, He died for me, He went to Hell on my behalf. Yes, this physical picture that David paints for us is a very real representation of what happens spiritually when Jehovah comes to the rescue.
Lord, bring this image to my mind when I pray!

Rebecca A Givens

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Psalm 18:4-6

Last time I went through the first few verses where David introduces his psalm. These next few verses describe the battles in his life. While David is describing actual physical attacks that we may never suffer, I believe that this psalm speaks to all of life’s difficulties. Feel the emotion with which it was written and see if you can identify with it…

Psalm 18:4-6
The bands of death compassed me,
And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.
The bands of hell surrounded me,
The snares of death came upon me.
In my distress I called upon Jehovah,
And unto my God did I cry:
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry before Him came unto His ears.

The bands of death here in the original Hebrew carry the connotation of waves and breakers; wave upon wave pounding the swimmer down to exhaustion, until he sinks; he is surrounded by the flood of evil. The bands of hell and the snares of death bring the image of a hunter; hell and death are hunting David down. These two verses represent the sum of David’s life. He gathers all the perils of his past together and sees them as wave upon wave of attack and suffering. Whenever David was distressed he would call on Jehovah, the God who is self-existent, self-sufficient, and eternal. From His temple, His dwelling place in Heaven, God would hear David’s cry, even through the pounding of the evil surf and the baying of the hounds of hell on the hunt. Again, as in the first section, the verbs here constantly change tense, blending David’s cry to God in the past, present, and future. Whenever David called in the past, God heard; David will continue to call and be heard in the future. Few of us live the life of constant danger that David did. Does that mean we love God less? That we need Him less? Sometimes I must think that subconsciously. It’s when I am down in the pit that I have the best view of God, because I am forced to look up. It is when I am at the end of what I can do for myself that I call on God to rescue me. When we realize this about ourselves, the trouble itself, no matter what that trouble is, becomes a gift from God. If it were not for the difficulties in life I would never have sought God at all; I would never have received the wonderful blessings that come from crying out to God and having Him answer. I just pray that I will stay in that position of calling out to God, of dependence on Him, even in times of peace; for that is an even greater blessing.

Rebecca A Givens, 9/10/07

Psalm 18:1-3

I have spent a lot of time in the past month or 2 in Psalm 18. Any of you who have heard my testimony may remember that my life verse comes from this psalm, "He rescued me because He delighted in me." When I was searching for a verse to have printed on my karate class t-shirts, I ran across the rest of the psalm, and wow, it was perfect. The shirts read, "It is God who arms me with strength... He trains my hands for battle." As I read the entire psalm, it struck such a chord with me that I began to research and to write. My husband gave me a wonderful book on the Psalms by Perowne, and I have used his translation in the devotionals that I have been writing. So, for a while, I will continue working my way through this psalm and posting what God is teaching me through it. I pray that you will be as blessed as I have been!

Psalm 18

I love this psalm! It is the theme of my karate class, specifically named in my logo. This particular psalm was written by David, king of Israel, toward the end of his life. He was a mighty warrior, single-handedly defeating Goliath (at least twice David’s size) in combat. He had been hunted by Saul before he became king, and afterwards continually harassed by rivals who wanted his kingdom, even his own son. He led an incredibly powerful army who defeated all their enemies. His word was law in his land. And he was also gifted in music, played the harp, wrote many of the psalms in the Bible. The psalms were a collection of songs sung by the people of Israel. If you research the Samurai of Japan you find that many of them were also artists. Perhaps art and music are a good way to balance the horrors and destruction of war.

Fervently do I love Thee, O Jehovah, my strength.
Jehovah is my stronghold and my fortress, and my Deliverer;
My God is my rock wherein I find refuge.
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my high tower.
I call upon Jehovah who is worthy to be praised,
So shall I be saved from mine enemies.

King David, mighty warrior, writes this song of victory toward the end of his life. The first line sets the tone. David declares his fervent love for God, and acknowledges that God is his strength. As a boy David killed Goliath. As a young man he became the king and the head of a vast army that won many battles. Yet David realizes that he has not done these things in his own strength, it was God doing them.

The next couple of verses David describes God using the experiences of his own life. Palestine contained caves and rocks, high towers (fortress) perched on inaccessible crags where he and his men often hid from the wrath of Saul. The shield covers the body and is a defensive weapon, the horn is a symbol of strength in attack (as an animal uses its horns to attack). So David is saying that he hides in God, God saves him, protects him, and gives him the power to advance against the enemy. Then he says, "I call to the Lord." This means more in the original Hebrew... it means the constant habit of my life has been to call upon Jehovah, and He has saved me; and whenever I call upon Him in the future I shall be delivered. Is the constant habit of my life to call upon God? Do I remember, and realize, that my past victories are due to God’s strength, not my own? Do I trust Him to answer my needs in the future?

RebeccaAGivens, 09/03/07

Article on Worship

I'd like to direct you to a very interesting article on worship. I have not read everything on this blog, nor have I read all the comments to this particular article. But this article drives home a powerful point. Read it to the end!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Quote on prayer

"Prayer is not a collection of balanced phrases, it is the pouring out of the soul. What is love if it is not fiery? What are prayers if the heart be not ablaze? They are the battles of the soul. In them men wrestle with principalities and powers." Samual Chadwick