66 in 52 Challenge

Hosea – Week 29 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I am focusing in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will post a summary page with some thoughts about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey! Click here to see where we’ve been so far!

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Week 29 - Hosea

The Big Picture of Hosea:

Hosea was a prophet for the northern kingdom. His prophecies spanned 6 different kings over 45 years. The general summary of the book is that God asked Hosea to marry a prostitute. As Hosea continued to seek out Gomer and take her back despite the ways she ran away, God was showing His people that they are like a prostitute running after other gods, yet he pursues them still! We see that general storyline in the first few chapters. The last two thirds of the book goes through a cycle of unfaithfulness, some kind of correction, and then restoration. Ultimately the message is that God is faithful even when we are not!

Names in Hosea:

The names in Hosea have important meaning as God compares Hosea’s family to the people of God. Here are some of the names and meanings:

  • Hosea – Salvation
  • Gomer (Hosea’s wife) – Completion; complete wickedness
  • Jezreel (The First Born) – God scatters or sows
  • Lo-Ruhamah (The Middle Child) – not loved; no mercy
  • Lo-Ammi (The Baby) – Not my people

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • The Lord has brought charges against you, saying: “There is no faithfulness, no kindness, no knowledge of God in your land.” (Hosea 4:1)
    REFLECTION:  Where do you see this true in our culture today? What do you think our response is to be?
  • For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)
    REFLECTION: What does it look like to offer mercy over sacrifice and knowing God over offerings?

  • “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.” (Hosea 14:4)
    REFLECTION: What does it look like for us to love freely despite anger being our first reaction to a situation or person?

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

66 in 52 Challenge

Daniel – Week 28 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I am focusing in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will post a summary page with some thoughts about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey! Click here to see where we’ve been so far!

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The Big Picture of Daniel:

I bet when most of us think of the book of Daniel two main stories come to mind: Daniel & the Lions Den and The Fiery Furnace. Perhaps you’d add the feast with the hand writing on the wall (yes that’s where that phrase came from), but mostly narrative historical stories come to mind. It’s easy to forget that a whole chunk of this book is prophesy as well. In the bigger context, this book takes place during the Babylonian exile. Daniel and some of his friends are chosen basically to be indoctrinated into the ways and teachings of the culture at that time. They find ways to do this while still remaining true to God and He shows up in some pretty miraculous ways in the process. God continues to have favor on these faithful young men and others discover the One True God through them. The last have of the book includes many prophesies including some about the Messiah. Many of the prophecies in Daniel are echoed in Revelation.

Themes and Big Ideas in Daniel:

  • God’s got this! He’s in control and won’t let us down!
  • Even if things don’t go as we imagine, God is still good and we will still follow Him.
  • Suffering and persecution should be the expectation not the exception.
  • We don’t have to give in to culture or to fear in following God. He is bigger than all of that and will help us stand firm.
  • Jesus is coming and will make all things new!

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • “At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” (Daniel 1:15)
    REFLECTION: Do you have any examples from your life where following God turned out to put you “ahead” in the game even if it didn’t seem to make sense on the surface?
  • If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[ from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 10:12)
    REFLECTION: Where in life are you at a moment that calls you to say “But even if he does not…”?
  • “Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” (Daniel 10:12)
    REFLECTION: Where have you been waiting for answer to prayer but the answer seems delayed? How can this story be an encouragement to you?
  • “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:1-2)
    REFLECTION: Who are the people in your life who don’t yet know Jesus? Spend some time in prayer for the names of those you long to see written in the Book of Life.

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

Bekah's Heart, Devotional

CONSTRUCTION ZONE!!!

So there’s a common joke around here about how Buffalo only has two seasons: Winter … and Construction.

It feels especially true this year. Everywhere I turn another road is closed, a bridge is being worked on, or it goes down to one lane. It’s constantly changing in some spots and in others it’s just constantly closed. A few weeks ago my mom was visiting and we were trying to go to the library and to fill the car with gas. The two locations are each less than a mile from my house and yet it took us over an hour to run those two errands because of so many road closures.

You know those signs that say the road is closed except for local traffic? I have to drive past at least one every day just to get home. I’m the “local traffic” living inside the construction zone.

Lately, that feels true on more than one level.

As I stumbled upon even another road closure the other day I found myself pondering this even more. It’s not just life right now that feels like a construction zone… it’s some what of a constant state we’re in our whole lives.

Just because the potholes are fixed and the streets get repaved today doesn’t keep new cracks from popping up when a new winter of freezing, thawing, salt, and plowing comes through. Next summer the orange cones will be up again. Just because we find healing or restoration in our lives today doesn’t mean hard things won’t come and break us open again.

Another interesting thing is that the streets around my house were actually in pretty good shape. No, it wasn’t the roads that have caused me to live in a construction zone for over a month already. Rather, the giant sewer system that was underneath the road was in major need of repair. In order to fix it they had to tear up the entire main intersection closest to my house (and will eventually work their way down the road) in order to get at the issue underneath.

This too mimics life. Sometimes life actually is pretty good on the surface. However, I’ve found lately in my own life, that when I’m in a healthy and good place, God knows I’m able to let Him do the good hard work of digging up some of the things underneath that could use another layer of healing. It feels so wrong to dig up a perfectly good road/life when it seems it’s all going fine, but He knows that dealing with the problems underneath will actually make for a smoother ride.

What type of construction zone are you in right now? Where is God building, filling in holes, repaving, or perhaps tearing things up in your life? Where could you use some repair work?

As you ponder that, ponder this promise too: One day the construction will finally all be over, but God won’t stop until it’s time!

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6)

66 in 52 Challenge

Ezekiel – Week 27 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I am focusing in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will post a summary page with some thoughts about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey! Click here to see where we’ve been so far!

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Week 27 - Ezekiel.png

The Big Picture of Ezekiel:

Ezekiel (the person) was a prophet and a priest during a pretty hard time in Judah’s history. He was among the Jews that had been exiled to Babylon. At that time there was hope that perhaps they’d return soon and all would be well. As he lived among his fellow exiles Ezekiel was called by God to tell the people that was not the case. Jerusalem would indeed fall and be destroyed. Once that happened then Ezekiel’s message was able to shift to words of hope and peace.

Dates and Facts about Ezekiel:

  • Ezekiel’s call – 593 B.C. (1:1-2, 3:16)
  • Jerusalem’s destruction ~ 586 B.C.
  • Ezekiel’s last prophecy – 571 B.C.
  • While other prophets mainly talk about Israel’s sinful idolatry and all the ways they have fallen away. While some of that is in Ezekiel it seems he is more focused on reminding God’s people who they are, a people set apart and made holy by God. It’s almost as if He’s reminding the people who they really are beyond and behind the choices they’ve made.
  • Holiness is a big theme in this book, both the holiness and power of God and His need for His people to be holy.
  • From a literary standpoint Ezekiel is a fascinating book as it has many different genres involved including history, prophecy, apocalyptic sections, and even some parables.

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • “He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.’ As He spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard Him speaking to me.” (Ezekiel 2:1-2)
    REFLECTION: One fascinating thing about these two verses is that God commands something (to stand), but then He actually does it. Have you every seen this in your life, where God calls you to something but then also is the one providing whatever you need to actually do what He says? Where do you need Him to cause you to act this week?
  • “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19)
    REFLECTION: What seems to be “dividing” your heart? What is stealing your attention? Spend sometime in prayer asking God to UNdivide your heart and give you a new spirit that seeks Him and Him alone!
  • “I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…” (Ezekiel 34:16)
    REFLECTION: God is and always has been on a search and rescue mission. He longs to bring healing and strength to His people. How might He be calling you to join in His work this week?
  • “He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.'” (Ezekiel 37:3)
    REFLECTION: What feels dry and dead in your life? Where does renewal and restoration feel impossible? Where do you need God’s Spirit to breathe new life?

God’s Grace in Ezekiel:

I have always loved the story of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. It also creeps me out a little but that’s beside the point. In this story God takes Ezekiel to this valley full of bones. He makes him walk throughout it as if to really grasp the deadness in that place. Then God poses a question: “Can these bones live?” I’m not sure how I would have responded, especially to God. It seems like a trick question almost. Ezekiel’s response is not only brilliant but also declares His faith and trust: “O Sovereign Lord, only You know.” He sure didn’t know. These weren’t just dead bodies, these people had been dead a while, everything has decayed all the way down to bones. From that place God lets Ezekiel be a part of His restoration as He invites Ezekiel to prophecy to the bones. As He does Scripture says, “… and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army” (vs 10).

He did this as a representation of what He was going to do for the people of God in exile, yet this wasn’t just figurative… people really did rise that day in that valley. It would have been amazing just for one of those sets of bones to be restored to life, but God raised the whole group, a vast army. I think that’s such a great picture of God’s grace, always abundant, always going above and beyond. We often want him to fix this one little part of our life and He wants to overhaul it completely. We just want to feel a little less depressed and he wants to bring us deep and lasting joy. We would be okay with just a little fixing up and, as he mentions many places throughout the book, He wants to give us a complete heart transplant. Abundant grace indeed.

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

66 in 52 Challenge, Bible Journaling, Devotional

Things Worth Lamenting in 2018

Reading in the book of Lamentations this week has me thinking about what it even means to “lament”. As a noun, the first definition that comes up in a google search is: “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.”  I’ve been pondering throughout this week what is worth lamenting over in our own world. Instantly, that thought alone brought tears to my eyes. It feels there is much to lament and yet it’s something we don’t often do.

To be honest I didn’t want to write this post (let alone post it) because it feels like everything gets so politically charged and what follows is not meant to be political at all. It simply feels like some lamenting is necessary when I look around at our world and my heart breaks. I know there are many complicated sides to all of these issues. I ashamedly have to admit I haven’t done enough research to comment intelligently about most of them. BUT no matter what my opinions or beliefs about any of them, I feel it is worth expressing grief and sorrow on behalf of the people impacted by these issues, situations, and struggles. I may not agree with those impacted or those making decisions or maybe I do. That’s not what this post is about. It’s about looking around this world and weeping with a God who is saddened to see those He created so broken and hurting.

So, for a few moments, I’m going to set aside arguing, debating, and even healthy discussion and simply lament. I invite you to join me and take just a few moments to stop, let yourself have some compassion, and perhaps even cry a little.

Things Worth Lamenting in 2018:

  • Hundreds and hundreds of people dying each month as a result of their drug addiction
  • The 44,400 people a day forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution in their country
  • Depression rates at an all-time high
  • Nearly a half a million of kids in our country alone orphaned and in need of a home, millions around the world living separated from their parents whether from the poor choices of their parents, because of death, due to poverty, or countless other reasons
  • Hundreds of people who die daily because they feel they have no other choice but to end their own life … to escape the terror of war that haunts them after fighting for our freedom in the military, in response to bullying about their sexual orientation or gender, because of financial or marital crisis, or simply because they believe that no one would even miss them
  • The fact that racism is real and many of us who perpetuate this in our culture don’t even know how racist we really are
  • The estimated 40 million human beings on our planet in slavery today
  • Wars around the world that never seem to end
  • The fact that I’m glad it summer because it hopefully means we’ll get a break for a while from what became weekly school shootings

Unfortunately, this isn’t even half of the list I came up with. When thinking of a Biblical lament like those in the book of Lamentations, it isn’t just enough to “be sad” about what’s going on, the grief leads to repentance and action.

I obviously can’t bring world peace, solve all the hunger and slavery issues around the globe, take in every orphaned child, or single-handedly get rid of all government corruption worldwide.

BUT there are things I can do.

There are ways I can bring light to darkness and hope to despair in the lives of those around me. I can inform myself about issues and reach out to those who do have more power than I do to bring about change. I can offer a listening ear to a struggling friend and welcome people into my home. I can advocate and speak up for those who can’t do that for themselves. I can open my life to refugees and orphans and the lonely.  I can repent for the times I’ve judged others and seek reconciliation.

It’s easy in the face of so much hurt and suffering to turn to God and ask “WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING!?!?” But, as Matthew West wrote in a song a few years back, we have to ready to hear what often is His reply: “I did, I created you.”

Some people say that grieving over the hard things in this world is pointless and a waste of time… that “praying isn’t enough.” But, at least in my life, what I’ve found is this: when I allow myself to fully experience the grief and sorrow for the hurt and pain others are suffering in prayer, it WON’T stop there. True lament always eventually leads to action.

It’s not comfortable. It’s not fun. But may I challenge you to join me this week and spend some time in lament. Pour out your heart and then be still and listen. Ask God how He wants to use YOU to make change.

One last thing: When looking at a list like the one I made above, it can also lead to despair instead of action. That’s where these words actually from the book of Lamentations refresh my soul this week:

“Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!'” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

We lament… and we hope.

Bekah's Heart, Thyroid

Not Even THAT!

Romans 8:35-39 is one of my very favorite sections of God’s Word.

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? …

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:35, 37-39 NLT)

I love to think about this verse in the mornings. How powerful it is to start a day knowing that there is nothing that can happen in that day—nothing I do or nothing done to me—that can keep me from God’s love. It is still there waiting at the end of each day.

These really are some of my favorite verses. So, when my cousin was posting pictures of these shirts (pictured below) she was selling a while back to support a student at their church battling cancer, I knew I wanted one. What a cool message in a season of sickness and uncertainty that not even those trials could separate someone from God’s love.

2018-02-17-10-54-07.jpg

I got a shirt from my cousin when I was visiting Kansas back around Thanksgiving time and excitedly wore it home on the airplane back to Buffalo. It prompted conversations throughout the day including one with my teammates at work about how neat it was.

Little did I know that within 24 hours I might need that message for myself.

The next day at my annual routine physical, my doctor discovered something in my neck, specifically on my thyroid, that seemed a little “off”. She reassured me that many people (over 50%) get a thyroid nodule at some point in their life and less than 5% cause issues or contain cancer. My doctor was not at all concerned but wanted to send me for an ultrasound and lab work just to make sure. The ultrasound led to a biopsy which led to a six-week wait before another biopsy, both of which came back “indeterminate”.

Basically, they had no clue if I had cancer or not. The cells just didn’t give enough information.

After meeting with a surgeon in February, we made the decision to move forward with surgery. Six months after discovering the nodule, on May 30, I had the right half of my thyroid removed, along with the nodules.  Thankfully, recovery is going well and I’d say I’m about 90-95% back to normal 4 weeks post-op. Even better news: the third and forth biopsies (during and after surgery) seem to indicate the growth was NOT cancer which means a second surgery is not necessary at this time.

I still remain thankful for the reminder my shirt proclaims:

Nothing can separate me from God’s love.

And this is not just a truth for those battling cancer… we can all cling to God’s never-ending love. Whatever we’re walking through, it can’t keep us away from it!

No sickness. No brokenness. No guilt or shame.

No school shootings or political debates.

No family fights or drama with friends.

No anxiety.

No worry.

Not even that one thing you have in your mind that you’re certain is the exception.

NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

NOT. EVEN. THAT.

What a beautiful truth we can live in today, tomorrow, and every day!

66 in 52 Challenge

Lamentations – Week 26 {66 in 52 Challenge}

 

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I am focusing in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will post a summary page with some thoughts about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey! Click here to see where we’ve been so far!

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Week 26 - Lamentations

The Big Picture of Lamentations:

The entire book of Lamentations is in poetic form. It compiles various individual and community laments. Laments like these are found in Psalms as well as almost every other prophetic book (except Haggai) but this is the only book in the Bible that contains only this type of writing. We can’t really tell who the author is though some attribute it to Jeremiah.

Fun Facts about Lamentations:

  • Each of the five laments is 22 verses (except the 3rd one which is 3 sets of 22).
  • The first four are acrostics from the Hebrew alphabet, each verse starting with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet.
  • These laments are primarily about the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • See, O Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious. (Lamentations 1:20)
    REFLECTION: When was the last time you were “distressed” and “in torment”? What was it about? When was the last time you were that distraught over your sin? What might the benefit be of lamenting our sin before God?
  • “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:21-22)
    REFLECTION: What threatens to consume you this week? What is overwhelming and stressful? Spend some time “calling to mind” God’s love and ask him to use that to help you be “not consumed”.
  • “I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.’ You came near when I called you and you said, ‘Do not fear.'” (Lamentations 3:55-57)
    REFLECTION: What in your life or world around you is worthy of some lamenting right now? Get our a piece of paper or a journal page and write a lament of your own. (If you want to get fancy like the author of Lamenations you can even use the alphabet to guide you.)

God’s Grace in Lamentations:

As I skimmed through the book preparing to write this blog what caught my attention wasn’t any specific words on the page, rather, it was the concept of the book itself that almost brought me to tears. So many ‘gods’ in our world are impersonal demanding you to meet some impossible standard and walking away when you don’t. But our God, the hearer of these laments and our own, He leans in even closer in those times. He not only hears our laments but listens and responds. Whether our hard situations are our own fault, at the hand of someone else, or just the reality of living in a fallen world, He stands ready to listen and pour out His love. That’s grace right there!

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!