66 in 52 Challenge

Philippians – Week 43 {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 will focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought 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!

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Week 42 - Philippians

The Big Picture of Philippians:

If grace seemed to be the theme last week in Ephesians, joy and thanksgiving seem to be the theme for Philippians. There are at least 15 specific references to the topic of joy (maybe more depending on your translation) in these 4 short chapters. Paul was thanking the church at Philippi for their partnership in the work he was doing and encouraged them to continue serving and sharing Christ. It is likely that Paul wrote this letter while He was in prison in Rome around AD 60.

Things we learn about joy from Philippians:

  • God brings joy when we work together well (1:3-5, 2:2)
  • When Christ is shared it is cause for joy and celebration (1:18)
  • True joy comes from God alone (3:1, 4:4)
  • Joy is not dependent on circumstances (1:12-18, 2:17-18, 4:11)

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. 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.

  • “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14
    REFLECTION: What is something you need to leave behind this week to be able to move forward toward what God is calling you to?
  • But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Philippians 3:20-21
    REFLECTION: What evidence do you see in your life or the world around you that this world is not our true, forever home?
  • “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  Philippians 4:8
    REFLECTION: Make a list today of at least one thing that fits each of the categories: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise.

4:8 Your Brain

Here’s a list for my own life recently based on the last reflection option.

  • True: God loves me. He’s been reminding me a lot lately of this simple truth.
  • Honorable: Some of my teenager friends doing the right thing even when it’s hard
  • Just: following a process
  • Pure: the laughter of little kids
  • Lovely: the chance to visit my exchange daughter in her country
  • Commendable: friends who show up when you need them and celebrate life with you
  • Excellent: my teammates at work
  • Worthy of Praise: God, for the beautiful creation he’s made!

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

Ephesians – Week 42 {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 will focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought 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!

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Week 42 - Ephesians

The Big Picture of Ephesians:

Ephesians is a letter from Paul to the believers in the city of Ephesus. One summary of the whole book might be this phrase at the beginning chapter 4: “live a life worthy of your calling”. Throughout the book Paul paints this beautiful picture of what life in Christ is like. It is a life of freedom, faith, unity, light, peace, and more. He doesn’t say it’s always easy, but he does say it’s worth it. It’s a big calling to live as God’s children, but it brings the most abundant, fulfilling life we could imagine. He also talks of the tools and resources God provides for the journey including the armor of God and the Holy Spirit himself. Throughout the book we see what life practically looks like in families, churches, jobs, etc. as we follow after Christ.

Our Identity in Ephesians 1:

The first chapter of Ephesians is packed full with statements about our identity in Christ. Here are just a few:

  • Holy people (1:1, 18)
  • Faithful followers (1:2)
  • Blessed (1:3)
  • United with Christ (1:3, 11)
  • Loved (1:4)
  • Chosen (1:4, 11)
  • Holy and without fault in His eyes (1:4)
  • Adopted (1:5)
  • Purchased to be His own (1:7, 14)
  • Forgiven (1:7)
  • Showered with kindness (1:8)
  • His own (1:13, 14)
  • Called (1:18)
  • Filled with His power (1:19)

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. 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.

  • “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same might power that raised Christ from the dead…”   Ephesians 1:19-20a
    REFLECTION: Who can you pray this over this week? Who needs to know the incredible greatness of God’s power?
  • “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”  Ephesians 4:16
    REFLECTION: Where have you seen this lived out well in your community of faith? What’s your “special work” that you can do well as a part of the body?
  • “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”  Ephesians 3:18-19
    REFLECTION: Why do you think Paul suggests that we must understand God’s love in order to live a full life in God’s power? What might the connection be?

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, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Yes, Please!

One of the books I recently finished was Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. I think it might have been a better fit in a different season of life, but I still enjoyed her spunky spirit, honesty, and vulnerability that came across so well in the audio-book version I listened too.

While I finished the book a couple weeks ago, suddenly a passage of it came to mind last Saturday night.

I was texting a friend about other stuff and mentioned how tired I was. It had been a good day, but a long one and body and brain were maxed out. She offered to drive over and do a simple task for me.

I turned her down.

It felt ridiculous. It felt dumb to let her stop what she was doing to come do something so simple for me. I couldn’t shake the thoughts of “Seriously, Bekah, just get up and do this task that literally will take less than a minute.”

She wanted to help. She wanted to serve me. She wanted to love me in this tangible way, even if it seemed silly to me.

But I said no.

Long story short, she came over anyway. (Because when you have friends that are like family, that’s just what you do for each other.) While I had already done the task, she showed up “just to give me a hug”. She lingered. She sat with me and simply was the friend I needed that night… the friend I almost missed out on because of my own stubbornness.

As she left, suddenly a section from that book popped into my mind. I didn’t process it too deeply the first time I heard it, having been framed in the context of motherhood. After this experience with my friend I realized that while I’m not a mother, the general concept still applies, especially in this current season I find myself in:

“Find a tribe of people who are in a similar walk of life as you are. Once you find them, be honest about where you are and what you’re struggling with. Learn to ask for help, and when someone offers help, accept it! Accept any and all help you can get and consider it a gift from God! I cannot tell you how many women ask me how I “do it all,” and when I tell them that I’ve learned to ask for help, they look at me as if I’m an alien.

“Like, help with what?”

For example, when your mother-in-law says she’ll come for the afternoon and entertain the kids, say, “Yes, please.” If your husband offers to fold the laundry (even when you don’t think he’s good at folding towels), say, “Yes, please.” If your girlfriend says she wants to bring you dinner but you feel bad that you’re putting her out, say, “Yes, please.” Or if your elementary school offers afternoon classes that will occupy your rambunctious boys for an additional hour and a half, say, “Yes, please.”

What can give you more time, more space, more freedom to find your center? Whatever it is, say, “Yes, please” to that!” – Rachel Hollis – Girl, Wash Your Face

When talking about self care and boundaries, we often talk about how the hardest but best thing to say is “no”. “No” to extra commitments. “No” to social engagements that aren’t fun for you. “No” to tasks and to-do list items.

Perhaps another favorite phrase should actually be: “Yes, please.”

I am WAY better at receiving help (and sometimes even asking for it!) than I used to be. I learned even more after my surgery in May when I had to depend on those around me for everything. However, it’s still easy for pride to slip in from time to time and I push away help in the process.

Just because I’m technically capable of doing something doesn’t mean help isn’t valuable. I may not NEED it, but perhaps help is a gift my friends (and ultimately, my God) want to give. So, my prayer is to be come more of a “Yes, please” person.

If someone volunteers to do something for me at work, I pray I will simply say, “Yes, please”.

If a friend offers to plan the details of an outing I initiated, I’ll ignore the nagging voice that nags: “You should be responsible for following through on this” and simply smile and say “Yes, please.”

If a family member or mentor or friend offers to spend time to talk and encourage me on a good day or a hard day or just any random day, I hope I’ll quickly say, “Yes, please.”

I’ve always found joy when others let me serve them. It baffles me that I can’t seem to remember the reverse is also true: maybe others find joy in serving me.

So, if my best friend wants to come put my groceries away or do my dishes or just stop by to give me a hug at 8:30 on a Saturday night because she loves me and wants to serve me… I pray next time I won’t turn her down, but instead will unlock the door and text back: “Yes, please!”

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Other Books I’m Reading or Finished Recently:

66 in 52 Challenge

Galatians – Week 41 {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 will focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought 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!

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Week 41 - Galatians

The Big Picture of Galatians:

Galatians is another letter written by Paul. This one was to the believers in the churches of Galatia (1:1). The purpose of this letter is very clear: Paul heard that the people in Galatia has been wandering away from the truth of the Good News about Jesus. Verse 7 of chapter 1 explains that they were being “fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.” Before going into details about the grace and life in Christ, Paul reminds the readers how he used to be among those who were fighting actively against Jesus and those who followed Him. This, in essence, is Paul’s testimony of God’s grace in His own life. As the book goes on he outlines the gift of salvation and the freedom we have as God’s children. Freedom is actually a huge theme in the whole book and Paul longs for the followers in these churches to understand and experience the good news that Christ brings freedom.

Issues and Themes Discussed in Galatians:

  • Grace and legalism
  • Unity in the Body of Christ
  • Righteousness doesn’t come by the law but rather by Christ
  • The Holy Spirit and His gifts/fruits in our lives
  • Identity as God’s Children vs slaves
  • Freedom
  • Not giving up when things get hard

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book or books each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse per book. 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.

  • “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”  Galatians 1:10
    REFLECTION: Where are you most tempted to seek the approval of others instead of God? What does God say about that area of your life?
  • “But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace.”  Galatians 1:15
    REFLECTION: Spend some time in prayer asking God to show you some of the things He’s chosen and called you to by His grace in this season of your life.
  • “And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”  Galatians 4:6-7
    REFLECTION: What does it feel like to be called God’s child? Where are you still living like a slave?
  • “So let us not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9
    REFLECTION: How can you plant seeds in faith today, knowing the harvest will come in the right time?

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

Redefining Productivity

On Tuesday I got to have dinner with a dear friend. We always love any time we can get together; this time felt extra special as she prepares to move to another city soon. As we cooked together, ate our meal, and then grabbed some blankets and headed toward the living room, life poured out of both of us. We shared updates on what’s going on in our worlds but also processed some things out loud for the first time, discovering more about ourselves along the way.

As the evening came to a close we decided to spend some time in prayer with each other. One of the things this friend prayed for me has lingered with me since. She asked God to open my eyes to a new way of looking at productivity… that when He is calling me to do good work while at my job or home, I would be productive in that, but that sitting on the couch and doing nothing while my body heals might also feel like productivity. She prayed that when He calls me to the traditional concepts we think of with productivity that He would provide the energy, but then kept coming back to examples we would normally label “unproductive”.

The awesome part is that even as she prayed, God began redefining this word and concept for me. It struck me in that moment that the word “productive” has as its root the word “produce”. Even with this in mind, I might default to asking “Jesus what do you want me to do, or ‘produce’, in this day that can bring you glory?”

However, on that night, Jesus flipped the question. My prayer suddenly became, “Jesus what do You want to produce in me?”

Productivity isn’t bad, but I’m learning that God cares more about the fruit He’s producing in my life than the efforts of my labor. And our Master Gardner can bring fruit out of any situation. Perhaps productivity, in this season of rest and healing, looks less like getting things checked off the to-do list and more like producing peace in my heart. Maybe He’s less concerned about the fruit of my ministry and longs to produce more patience and dependence on Him.

A while back I shared a passage from Jeremiah as a defining scripture for this current season of life. As my friend prayed the other night it came suddenly to mind again:

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (emphasis added)

Trees don’t have to “work hard” to produce fruit. The fruit comes because that’s what they were created to do.

An apple tree doesn’t stress and toil over how to make the apples come. No, if it’s rooted in the soil, receiving the nutrients it needs, protected from elements or creatures that may try to ruin it, it just produces fruit. Related, an apple tree will never succeed at producing oranges; it’s just not designed for that.

Productivity does not come from the work I put in. Instead, it comes from where I’m rooted.

I know that my life as a human is not meant to be literally as passive as that of a tree. All the way back in Genesis, before sin entered the world, we were designed for work. However, I must keep in mind that whenever the work feels forced or pressured, it might not be the kind of productivity God desires. It won’t always be easy (and often it will be hard), but if it’s not coming from my identity in Christ and and purpose God has on my life, it’s likely that I’m trying to produce oranges as an apple tree. (And that just leaves everyone with unmet expectations and a bunch of wasted effort.)

Also, this verse doesn’t say that there won’t be things threatening that production. The heat and drought come. However, rooted near the river of living water, trusting, and letting my roots draw nourishment from this never-ending stream means that whether I’m “at the top of my game” or “laying on the couch” (as my friend prayed), production never stops. The fruit keeps coming because it was never up to me in the first place. Jesus said it this way:

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. … Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. … When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” John 15:1-9

Jesus, produce Your fruit deep in my soul. Keep me rooted near the river. Amen.

Books

Resurrection Year {What I’m Reading Wednesday}

A friend recommended the book “Resurrection Year” by Sheridan Voysey a while back and I finally got around to reading it last week. This is the story of Sheridan and his wife Merryn who tried for years and years to have children. They dreamed of welcoming children into their home whether that was through biological birth, foster care, adoption, or other means. They prayed. They waited. They wrestled with God. This book outlines their story along with a year they now call “Resurrection Year”, a year in which they began to find healing from the hurt they experienced through this journey.

While I finished the book over a week ago, I’m still not completely sure what my own thoughts and reflections are. I loved the book, but it also is forcing me to consider and process some things in my own life and faith.

I will say this: I appreciated reading a book that ended without “the bow”. So many stories try to make it all pretty by the time you flip the last page, Voysey didn’t try to do that here. Loose ends still remained. Questions still lingered. Hurt still needed healing.

And that’s how life works.

Reading this challenged me to consider some of my own dreams and how God works in them. It strengthened some things I already thought and made me question some other assumptions I had about life and faith. It pushed me to lean in and trust on a deeper level. Seems like perhaps it did just what the author hoped.

Other Books I’m Reading or Finished Recently:

Mental Health, Youth Ministry

3 Situations, 3 Observations, 3 Questions, 3 Ideas

Three Situations:

  1. When I asked my high school students recently to list the top three emotions most teenagers probably feel, happy/joyful made that list, but “anxious” took the number one spot.
  2. Our church hosts a weekly conversation cafe focusing on a variety of topics. Normally, a handful of people show up each Monday. Last week, the topic was anxiety and the room was packed.
  3. On this little blog where I post about random life and books I’m reading and what God’s been showing me, most posts get read by a few friends and family members. I posted the other day about mental health and mental illness and there were over 450 views and dozens of shares.

Three Observations:

  1. These issues are real and relevant in our lives.
  2. People are longing to talk about these issues that impact them and those they love.
  3. While a stigma unfortunately remains, people are more open to sharing mental health challenges than perhaps ever before.

Three Questions:

  1. What does it look like to seek, and help others find, peace in very anxious times?
  2. How can this be obviously such a huge topic in people’s lives and there still be crazy stigma about it all?
  3. How do we keep the conversations going?

Three Ideas:

  1. Give each other grace.
    In addition to learning more about mental health recently, I’ve also discovered a lot about the fact that people are around us are dealing with things we can’t see. After sharing an update from a recent doctor’s visit, a coworker (who I see basically every day) texted to basically say “I had no clue you were still dealing with the impacts of your surgery or that this would be such a long ordeal.” A friend who actually had the same surgery as I did and is keenly aware of the challenges it can bring stopped me on one of the hardest days to say “You’re looking great! Your thyroid must be kicking in just fine.” It wasn’t.
    All that to say, what we see is not always what’s really going on. Whether it is an illness, stress at work, a sick family member, parents going through a divorce, or one of a million other things, we each have stuff we’re dealing with. And while we can’t miraculously know someone’s struggling if they act like life is fine, maybe the better assumption is that everyone is dealing with some kind of struggle in a given day. Let’s lead with grace instead of assuming the worst.
  2. Speak only words that make souls stronger.
    If it’s true that we’re all dealing with hard things mixed among the good things, let’s speak life and hope into people around us. Call out the good you see them doing. Thank them for being brave enough to face this crazy world. Speak well of them in front of them and behind their backs.
    Kid President has a lot to say about this like. My two favorite quotes of his are,
    “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, you’re not thinking hard enough.” and
    “Give people high-fives just for getting out of bed. Being a person is hard sometimes.”
    Sometimes hard or challenging words are needed especially with those closest to us, but this lens from Ephesians 4:29 is a good one as we sort through what is appropriate… will these words tear others down or make their souls stronger?
  3. Take care of yourself.
    Our world of anxiety and fear, depression and suicide, is also a world that pushes us to go farther, do more, work harder, be perfect. I’m sure there’s a correlation in there somewhere. It’s hard work to stand up against those pressures, but it is necessary. We must care for ourselves if we’re going to be able to care for others and do all the crazy awesome things God has called us to do in this world. I am so thankful for the many people speaking this truth into my life right now. The specifics of this look different for each person and each season of life, but do something today to take care of yourself. Your future self, along with all those around you, will thank you.