Friday, April 10, 2015

"Your Thoughts Define Me."

I know, I know, I should be writing about my trip...but I'm not. Last week when I got back into the states I had the sudden realization that it was Easter week. For the last 3 years now I've either been traveling home from, or have just gotten back from traveling on Easter week. This year was no different.  Good Friday came and I worked an 11.5 hour shift on a jet lagged brain. Not incredibly enjoyable or meaningful.

Sunday. Sunday I was captured by a lyric of one of the songs we sang in church. "Your thoughts define me. You're inside me. You're my reality."

It's true that His thoughts define us. It doesn't matter how we feel about ourselves or what other people think of us...it's His thoughts about us that not only matter but are the truth. That's why taking our thoughts captive is so vital as a believer, so incredibly important. My Pastor often says: "We cannot afford to have one thought about ourselves that He doesn't have."

My question that day to the Lord was this, "When you were going to the cross for us, what were you thinking? Were we worth it? Was I worth it?" Because ultimately...at that moment that's what was important, and that's what defined the gospel. He answer of course to if we were worth it was a resounding, "YES!"

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

For the JOY set before Him, He endured the cross. He chose to go to the cross, He wasn't forced. He made a decision for us, so that we could be restored to full right-standing with Father God. How incredibly beautiful! I would like to think that as Christ went to the cross He was consumed with the picture of the joy that the Father would have as He got His kids back in the fullness we were designed to have. That we would be restored as joint heirs, powerful and free, a people that would be not only able to give love but also be able to fully receive the love that God had longed for generations to give us, but that sin had prevented us from having.

I hope that wherever you are today, and whatever circumstances you are consumed with today that you will stop and let the resounding "Yes" of the Lord wash over you. His thoughts define who you are, and in the moments of His darkest hour before His death He decided that you were worth it all. Stop. Remember and allow His extravagant love and "yes" wash over you afresh today.

Much Love,
Lara

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Song of Identity

So many people that I know, myself included, are walking through a season where God is working on their identities. While it's beautiful and wonderful it can feel as if all that we know is shaking. For myself, it's been a needed process. It's hard to realize that there are things in my life that have been keeping me from the fullness He has. In many ways it can feel like failure because while I know I've come so far, I'm now made aware of how far I have to go in specific areas. It can feel like He's uncovering us and exposing us and if we're not careful it can feel overwhelming. It can leave us feeling vulnerable and if you're like myself, like we have failed Him in some ways. 

But the reality is that we are so safe. He is completely trustworthy and He holds our hearts so carefully. He knows what we can handle and He also knows how much He longs for there to be nothing blocking our connection not only with Him but with those around us. As I've been processing through this journey there have been moments where I've been tempted to stay in fear, to stay in pride and to stay where I am. I would encourage you to read the following if you find yourself in a similar position. Remind your heart, your mind and your spirit that He is so trustworthy. I pray that our identities become even more firmly established in who He is. Knowing we have nothing to prove and nothing to hide. He is good and even when we are not, He is pursuing after us. May He melt away our fear, silence our pride and comfort our hearts.

Blessings,
Lara
When I look into your eyes,
I see what you think about me.
When I search your heart,
I discover how you feel towards me.

So of course I feel free.
Free to be who you've made me to be;
Reflecting your nature,
Reflecting your glory.
Redeemed. 
Annointed.
Free.
So lock me in firmly.
Solidify my identity.
Hold me close and don't let me go.
Tuck me up under the shadow of your wing and draw me to you.

And as you remain with me:
Melt away my insecurities,
Soften my hard edges.

And sing to me, once again.
Sing the song of my salvation,
The song of my deliverance,
The song that is the source of my strength.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The fight for 2015

2015. The New Year came and went seemingly unexciting. Generally before a New year I've gotten a new anticipation of new experiences and encounters that are to come so to crack into a new year without the expected hope and joy was a little concerning.

New rule #1: never, EVER leave your family on the very first day of the new year. Especially when you already do not look forward to your return 'home' and if you have no plans for when you are going to see said family next. It's not a good plan. It sends you into a tailspin of frustration and grumpiness that I am embarrassed to have been fighting the last week.

2015 has not necessarily greeted me on the most friendly of terms. I am absolutely in love with everything that I'm doing. I love my internship. I love my missions training. I love my friends. I love how beautiful and warm it is here. I love that I attend such a crazy church that enables me to meet and know people from all over the world. I love the fact that I am pursuing what I love and finally believe that God will provide enough for me to do it with all of my heart.

But there are a few things...feelings of being stuck. Feelings of frustration. Feelings of just needing a whole lot of new. Feelings of anger. Resentment. Feelings that have made me feel, at times, like this year was out to get my happiness. That, in combination with being dizzy and slightly nauseous this whole first week back have made me want to curl up in a ball a good majority of the week.

Going into a new year it's extremely common for me to have spent a day dreaming about what God can do. To set not expectations, but anticipations of His goodness. 4 days in I still hadn't even thought about it. I was walking around aimlessly and hoping things would change. But around day 4 after sitting down with a very good friend and processing both on paper and out loud I finally felt like I had gotten my head around the fact that it was a new year and that it was time to take it by force.

I felt ready to fight for all that I know that God has for me. I started writing declarations of things that I wanted to see. I started fighting because suddenly I became very aware that God wanted me to. This year has such promise but I feel like it's going to take a level of determination, grit and even aggressiveness that we have not had to tap into before. 2014 was a year of rest. 2015 is the year we come into our Promised Land. It's time to fight. It's time to stand against anything that does not line up with the word of God and all that blocks all that we have access to as children.

Please don't hear me saying that the time for 'rest' is over. Rest is vital to the life of a believer. But rest is, and never will be the lack of activity. When we truly know how to rest we are empowered and equipped to do more than we think is possible. It's in rest that we are (in the words of my mentor) re-created so that we can then live out all we are created to do.

So, what does He have for you in 2015? What is the Promised Land you are about to walk into? What do you need to say 'no' to so that you can say 'yes' to what He's saying? What are the distractions you need to walk away from so that you can walk into His fullness? What part of your life do you need to 'get aggressive' in so that you can see His fullness in? It's time to focus in and take 2015 to get all that He's placed in it for you.

Like me, I pray that He gives you declarations for the year that empower and equip you to receive the blessings 2015 is carrying for you and yours. I pray that you stand boldly and fight out of the deep awareness that you are His child and all you have access to. Some of you are going to need to change location. Change jobs. Walk away from things. I pray there's grace enough to say 'yes' knowing that you are walking into something different. Something greater. Something Kingdom.

2015 is mine. 2015 is yours. 2015 belongs to the Kingdom.

With Love,
Lara


This song has become my declaration as emotions have been trying to steal my hope and anticipation.
Diamonds
by Johnnyswim
In the wake of every heartache, in the depth of every fear
There were diamonds, diamonds 
Waiting to break out of here.

Don’t you think I hear the whispers

Those subtle lies, those angry pleas
They're just demons, demons
Wishing they were free like me.

We’re the fire, from the sun

We’re the light when the day is done
We are the brave, the chosen ones
We’re the diamonds, diamonds
Rising above the dust.

Oh oh...rising above the dust


All your curses will surrender. Every damning word will kneel.

They’re just mountains, mountains who about to turn into fields.

We’re the fire, from the sun

We’re the light when the day is done
We are the brave, we’re the chosen ones
We’re the diamonds, diamonds
Rising above the dust.

Oh oh...rising out of the dust


You’ve taken down so many others

Oh but you’ll know my name when you see
That in these ashes I’m stronger still
You’ll learn to fear my pain, yeah you will.
You'll learn to feel my pain, yeah you will.

We’re the fire, from the sun

We’re the light when the day is done
We are the brave, we are the chosen ones
We’re the diamonds, diamonds
Rising above the dust.
Rising out of the dust.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Christmas and my Quest to Never Miss the "Seemingly Normal"

I confused a lot of people this past Sunday when I decided to put my Christmas decorations up and listen to Christmas music. Typically I am not an overhyped, Christmas fanatic and I definitely have been known to roll my eyes when people play Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Most of the time I'm just sick of it by the time Christmas actually comes and so I have been known to wait till the last minute to 'join' the Holiday fun. While I still hate commercial Christmas and the consumerism that has seemingly consumed people; I would be lying if I said that I haven't genuinely, myself, instigated Christmas early.

For the past 2 years I had the honor and the torture of working retail. I've seen people act more crazy than I thought was possible. I've been yelled at, sneered at and also, treated as a savior when helping people find gifts during this time. It is remarkable how close I was to just wanting to boycott Christmas altogether the last few years when thinking about Christmas being associated with the person who just walked away from me, having been so degraded simply because something was out of stock, which is totally out of my control.

And I literally almost cried when I found out that said retail store was opening at 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving day this year. I can't describe how sick this is. You see, when a store opens at this time, this means that most likely the people who unload and stock shelves will be there all night (we already were last year when we opened at 10pm) But then the people who have to set up all of the Black Friday (though now it's THURSDAY!) displays will most likely be working all of Thanksgiving day. So...no Thanksgiving for them. For me, this is a tragedy for Americans. We are teaching the next generation to devalue this day and the purpose of it. We are teaching them to replace being Thankful for all of the MANY blessings we've been given as a nation with consumerism, chaos, discontentment and displeasure. I've worked retail one Black Friday and it is literally the craziest thing I've ever encountered...and I've seen crazy things overseas.

Something is broken in our society. We are no longer teaching future generations the values of kindness, gentleness, thankfulness, patience, responsibility, etc. Sure, you might be within your home...but not society at-large. I don't mean to guilt anyone who goes out on Black Friday...that's not my intent. There are good deals. But think about what you're buying into, and think about how much you are encouraging these stores to just eat more and more into Thanksgiving. As I think about all of my co-workers who are still working retail, I just get sad. Sad that they will not have a Thanksgiving; many of them working just to get by and make ends meet for their families. More and more people are not getting holidays off simply to feed our consumeristic wants.

So, Christmas. I guess somewhere last year in the midnight shifts of retail I started losing the magic that Christmas brings. The wonder and the joy, the passion and the hope. Last year there were no decorations until December 8th. No presents bought, and no peppermint mochas until December 16th. I love giving gifts. I love dreaming about what I can do to bring someone joy and yet, I struggled last year just to get myself to a store. I guess this year I've just started to be determined to experience all that I know that God has for me in this very precious season. I don't want to miss the seemingly ordinary moments of beauty that He has set aside. I refuse to get caught up in all that Christmas shouldn't be (the consumerism)  and to focus in on the preciousness of what it is. A time to slow down, to celebrate deeply, to richly experience the preciousness of the gift that Jesus is to us.

When you think back to the birth of Christ...it was seemingly normal. He was born in a stable surrounded by animals to a probably poor family who was certainly disgraced because of Mary being pregnant outside of wedlock. Shepherds came. It was normal, if not a little pathetic. And yet, it was in this event that the very Savior of the world came to be with us. It was the most profoundly 'normal' moment that ever was.

Let's not miss any 'seemingly normal' moments in this Christmas season. Let's work to prepare our hearts for however He would want to encounter us in this time. Of course we work to do that in all seasons; but especially in this season let's take some time to just reflect on what it's about apart from the consumerism, apart from the business. Let's celebrate life. Not just His, but our own. If you have kids, take time to marvel in their little (or grown up) lives. If you have a job take the time to be thankful for what that's adding to your life. Let's not miss anything in this season...allowing ourselves to celebrate down to the last strand of tacky tinsel.

That's why my Christmas decorations are up. I'm working to rediscover the wonder, the joy and the delight we ought to feel as God's kids. I'm trying to slow down and to allow myself to be encountered by the reality that I am thankful for every seemingly normal and mundane moment. I'm thankful for my family, for the life I get to live. I'm thankful that I get to encounter Christ every day. I'm thankful for Christmas, and the rediscovering of it's beauty.

So as I sit drinking coffee, listening to Christmas music, staring out into the California "cold" I'm praying that this would be the most blessed Christmas season of your life. I pray that you would rediscover the wonder and the joy. The hope and the passion. I pray that you would be overwhelmed by God's goodness in every moment. And that you would truly be able to encounter His presence in the 'seemingly ordinary.'

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sound joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders and wonders of His love

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Responsibility. What's that?"

It's Tuesday. I'm sitting on my couch, in sweat pants and the work that I'm supposed to be doing is sitting besides me in a nice, neat stack. This morning I've been successful in washing my sheets and blankets, cooking delicious food, updating my finances, writing a few emails, getting my winter clothes out and putting my summer clothes away (finally!!) and yet I feel like I've done absolutely nothing.

About an hour after eating lunch I started to feel the Lord wooing me to come away with Him, to read His word, and to just be before Him. I felt the urge to write because that tends to be one of the most powerful ways that I connect with Him. I am sick to admit it but my thought was, "Oh, but I need to be responsible and get my class work done. I have too much to do and it needs to get done. "In that moment, I heard the Lord ask, "But what are you responsible to?"

Ooo, dang. I wish that I could explain the conviction I felt at that moment. I am all about responsibility. It's actually a strength of mine, to be 'responsible.' If I say that I'm going to do something, I do it. When I don't do something to the standard that I know I can do it, I feel it and it haunts me at times. But since when did it become ok for me to not be responsible to obedience? Since when did I become 'too busy' or 'too grown up' to be wooed away by God, Himself? Since when did my own agenda become more valuable or validated than His?

I know that I have a job that I do have to do, that I have classwork that has a deadline but doesn't God know that? And isn't coming into His presence and encountering Him the most important and valuable thing that we will ever do in our lifetime and for all of eternity? It grieves me so much to say it, but in the midst of life I have to schedule times for Him, and it could never be enough. I do know and recognize that His presence is with us wherever we are, that we can encounter and talk with Him in every activity. But are we so busy that we miss the small whisperings or the special moments where He wants to tuck us up under the shadow of His wings and love on us, and encounter us?

There is nothing more important that I will ever do on the face of this earth; nothing of more value than to hear Him, to recognize His voice, and to respond to it in obedience. So today, I slowed down. I'm sitting on my couch, encountering His presence and trying with all I have to hear His voice. My work is sitting beside me, right where it ought to be...2nd in line. I am responsible to respond; to His voice, to His wooing, to His romancing and the moments He has set aside for us.

Slow down.
Take some time to ask these questions for yourself. And with no shame involved answer honestly. I pray that these questions lead you into a deeper encounter with the one who loves you more than you could ever fathom. May He woo you away, today, and may you allow yourself to be loved by Him. He doesn't want you just surviving...rushing from one thing to the next. He wants you thriving, and fully alive in a love relationship with Him. He wants to hold you, to beckon you to a freedom you can only dream of. Oh to be free, and oh to be "response-able" to Him.

Am I responsible to obedience? 
Or am I content to just do my own thing? 
Am I ok with making my own way and not to being in tune with Him in every moment? 
What is the balance of being free and the recognition that I cannot and do not want to do anything apart from Him? 
How does He try to woo me, and how have I missed it?
What does responsibility even look like to you, Lord?
What can I lay down and what is not mine to carry or do, that I have made mine to carry?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mozambique 2015

To Africa!
As you all know, I am in my 3rd and final year at the Bethel School of Ministry in Redding, Ca. One important part of our experience, and for me personally is the opportunity to go on missions trips with 1800 other students from all over the world. The heart and passion of the Bethel Mission Trips Department is to see the sons and daughters of God in all the nations awaken to His goodness and love. As children of Heaven, we have access to His Kingdom and demonstrate His love, glory, and power in all aspects of society. Our strategy is to raise up a generation of world changers in their own nations to begin to run with their God-given inheritance to bring heaven to earth and transform their nation. This trip, through Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), ultimately reflects the vision of the Bethel Mission Trips Department.

This year, I am excited and honored to announce that I will be traveling to Pemba, Mozambique to serve Iris Ministries. Iris is an amazing ministry with bases all over the world. Established by Rolland and Heidi Baker; they focus on serving the poorest of the poor, establishing churches and training and discipling leaders. Since around April I have felt the need and desire to go see how Iris functions at some point before I begin my own journey in missions. Through prayer and discussion with the leaders of this trip, I decided that now was the time to do so. I am so excited to continue my missions experience here and am blessed to continue to serve Iris in a different and deeper way. (last year in school I helped in their office on their U.S. base, which happens to be in Redding)  Check out Iris Global at: www.irisglobal.net

Below is a short description of the trip written by our leaders:
“Love must look like something”, Heidi Baker. We will join Iris Ministries in Northern Mozambique, to bring transformation to a nation, one child at a time. We will stay at the Pemba base, home to the children rescued from the streets. We will feed, hug and hold the children, love the widows, travel to the bush bush, invest in local Pastors and encourage and lift up the local missionaries. This trip is about becoming a tangible expression of the love of the Father to the people of this nation.
My trip will take place March 18-March 31, 2015. I ask that you please pray for my team as we begin to plan and prepare our hearts for this journey. There are 22 of us including my leaders and we are from all around the world. This will be like no other trip I've ever been on as we will be traveling to the remotest villages and will be living without most common amenities. I'm excited to join with Iris' vision in bringing love to the hearts.

I appreciate your prayers and interest in this part of my life. I will be experiencing a lot of new things with vaccinations, malaria pills and all that comes with traveling to Africa. If you would like to partner with me in any way, please let me know. I would love to hear from you!

For the glory of His name,
Lara Hochstetler
larahochstetler@gmail.com















Financial gifts can be made online at https://missiontrips.ibethel.org. If you wish your gift to be anonymous, please check the anonymous box. This will allow you to receive an end of year statement, but will not allow the student to see your name. This is a non-refundable donation to the Bethel Church Missions Department for the benefit of the trip specified. 

(If online payment is not an option, check donations can be made payable to Bethel Church and mailed to the following address: Bethel Mission Trips Department, 915 Twin View Blvd., Redding, CA 96003. Please include a note with the donation designating which student’s trip you are supporting.)

You can also send checks to World Indigenous Missions:
World Indigenous Missions 
P.O. Box 310627
New Braunfels, TX 78131-0627
Make checks payable to WIM and write “Missionary 276” in the memo or give online at
-If you give through WIM please let me know so that I know to use the funds specifically for this trip. 


Friday, November 7, 2014

Why I'm obsessed with this word: Heritage

Well, it's another 'Heritage' Friday.

I love my Fridays. As many of you know Heritage is a local coffee shop which has incredibly good coffee along with a great environment. Heritage also happens to be something that I am completely captivated by. Not Heritage the coffee shop, but heritage-the thing in which my heart is obsessed. It started last Spring. I was in a season where I was working about 30-35 hours and doing school. I was exhausted and totally in survival mode. I felt like my emotions were always fried and my capacity for deep interaction with people was at an all-time low. I found myself frustrated with life even though I was seemingly living my dreams. I was living in beautiful northern California, going to an amazing school and church where the presence of God is like no where else I've ever been. Learning from amazing teachers, living with wonderful people. Having wonderful favor at work, minus great pay. But, to be honest I was miserable.

To make matters feel worse, I have an incredible standard that I hold myself to, and I was making myself miserable. For some reason it's perfectly fine for other people to be in process and make mistakes, but oh no not me. Also my environment wasn't really helping my already great dislike of myself. You see, in my culture it is not uncommon for people to pray for the sick and for them to be healed. I've seen legs and feet grow in front of my eyes. Felt backs pop back into place, cartilage pop back into being. It's also not uncommon for deep emotional needs to get healed, people delivered, etc. But last year during school? Nothing. I saw absolutely nothing.

One night I was at my assigned service and I was exhausted. The service was going long and my 4:05am alarm was set already for the next morning. I was about to leave when the leader asked us to gather around specific people to pray. To be honest I just wanted to sneak out but something made me stay. As I approached a man who was standing for prayer I asked the Lord, "What do I pray for? What do I possibly have to give that could have any effect on him?" I honestly didn't feel in that moment that I possessed one thing that could have any positive effect. In that moment, gently and sweetly I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, "You can release to him your heritage." It was the seed I needed. I took my small seed and I laid hands on him. I started to release my heritage to Him, I started calling in every family member that wasn't in the fold of God. That man started weeping. I went to a woman and started praying for my heritage to be established within her family... the same response. I found out at that point that she had 2 children not following God.

Now, of course we don't measure things by people simply weeping but you could tell it deeply impacted the desires of their hearts. Over and over again last year after that I got to pray for people who had kids that weren't following the Lord. My dislike for myself was caused by a lack of seeing what it was that I had. I looked at myself and only saw lack. A few weeks later I was laying in bed, asking the Lord to show me who I was. It was the eve of my leaving for the Middle East for the 2nd time. I was questioning what I had to offer, what I had to give. I asked...and God responded. (I should mention here, that another thing I'm obsessed with is the idea of being in covenant not only with God but also being an actual covenant to the people)

"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands with for his law. 'I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness." -Isaiah 42
-then a few weeks later in worship:
"Thus says the Lord: 'In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, 'Come out,' to those who are in darkness, 'Appear.' They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them." -Isaiah 49

I can't tell you how much that fueled me. I have something to give. I have something to do. And more than that, this is who I am! And for me, it centers around the heritage I've been given, the heritage I've stewarded and the heritage I am to 'apportion' and establish. That started a crazy journey. I started seeing the word 'heritage' everywhere; on signs, billboards, businesses, in books and always when I least expected it. This past summer I was in California, Arizona, Texas, Indiana, Iowa, then in New York and Ireland in September and I saw it multiple times in each place...and 2 of these places I was only in the airport!

Needless to say, God is stirring something deep within me. I guess the short of it is, I've been given my heritage to give it away. My hope is to see Kingdom heritage established wherever I am, and most specifically within the Middle East.

Heritage to establish heritage.

I'm totally enthralled. And while I will visit this topic again and expound on what I think it even means and what it looks like I just thought I'd give you a peek. This is who I am. A covenant to the people, just as Jesus was, to establish the land and apportion the desolate heritages. I think it's what all missionaries are called to be...but we'll save that for another blog, too.

What is the heritage you carry? And what does heritage even mean to you? I'd love to hear!
L