66 in 52 Challenge, Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Poured Out – A Reflection on Mark

As I get back into normal routines this fall that were obliterated during the summer, blogging is one thing I hope I can create space for in my schedule. As I sat down to “get back in it” I found myself skimming through various drafts of blog posts that never made it to the ‘publish’ stage. Some were so incomplete I couldn’t even figure out where I was trying to go, but one really struck me. It caught my attention because the lessons I was wrestling with years ago when the draft was created, are things I find myself continuing to wrestle with now. It also talked about a scripture in Mark which we’re studying this week for the 66 in 52 Challenge.

For the sake of keeping the flow of the words, I left the timing in the rest of the piece as it was originally, so just know that “this morning” or “last week” actually refers to some time in my life a few years ago, but I pray the lessons remain relevant for us now.


Do you ever have those days or seasons when God is clearly trying to tell you something?  For example, a few weeks ago John chapter 17 was the topic of conversation or study in 5 completely different settings over the course of only 6 days.  I think God was trying to tell me something.

More recently the lessons came in Isaiah 58.  Specifically verse 10 popped up in two places one morning before 6:30 a.m.  I think God wanted to set the tone for the day.   Here’s the passage:

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free,  and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.

Pour yourself out.

Other versions translate it as “spend yourself”, “extend your soul”, “give yourself to”.  No matter how you look at it, the message is clear: there is sacrifice and there is a stretching involved.

Something I’ve struggled with for a really long time is the balance between giving sacrificially of myself to serve others and caring for myself.  We all know (whether we act like it or not) that self-care is important, but it can also feel very selfish.  Satan gets us all kinds of confused when we start to figure out how to make a decision in this area.  If we feel the pull towards “spending ourselves” on behalf of someone in response to God’s call, he works hard to tell us that we deserve a break… that we need to think about ourselves more.  And in moments when self-care is exactly what we need to better be equipped to “extend our souls” when the necessary times come, he makes us believe we’re worthless and dumb for not being a “good Christian” who would help anyone.

While this is something I think I will likely continue to wrestle with the rest of my life, a little hint of clarity came through a session at the conference I was at last week.  To summarize, the presenter talked about both selfishness and selflessness.  When those are the only options, it seems the only “good” option to choose is selflessness; who wants to be know as being selfish?!?  However, she presented another option: self-interest.  Here are some of the ways she described these options:

  • Selfishness denies others.  Selflessness denies self.  Self-interest looks at myself in relationship to others.
  • Selflessness and selfishness both creates victims (like what I was explaining above in the temptations of Satan).  However, self-interest takes into consideration both myself and others and builds leaders.
  • Selfishness leaves no room for you. Selflessness leaves no room for me. Self-interest looks at we.

She explained that the word self-interest comes from the Latin words “inter” and “esse” which means “to be among”.  Basically self-interest could also be communicated as “self-among-others”.

Even Jesus wasn’t 100% selfless, at least not in our limited definition. Rather, He had a very clear purpose and self-interest.  There were times when people wanted Him to stick around and teach more or heal more or do more for them.  In our limited view, a “selfless” person would have given in and done what they wanted.  But He saw the bigger picture; He saw the other people that needed to hear of His love. He saw even at times His own need to get away and be alone with His Father.

This concept of self-interest doesn’t solve all my struggles with trying to balance “pouring myself out” (Isaiah 58) with “come away and rest” (Mark 6), but it comes a little closer.  I don’t deny self or others, but rather process each situation with God looking at the fact that I am constantly among others. God created me, and everyone, with the desire and need to be in relationship.  We need each other!  God also has a clear vision on our lives and as we seek to live our lives neither entirely focused on self nor on others, that path becomes a bit more clear.

One last story that seems to tie this all together. In Mark’s version of the feeding of the 5,000 we see some important context we don’t necessarily get in the other tellings. John the Baptist (Jesus’ relative) had just died. Jesus and the disciples were so overworked they hadn’t even had time to eat. He was leading them to what He thought was a secluded place so they could rest a while. They all knew some time away was needed, yet, when they arrived, a mass of people had ran ahead to meet them there. Tired, hungry, and grieving, this would have been the perfect space where we’d expect anyone to be a little more “selfish” and pull away. However, Mark describes Jesus’ counterintuitive response:

“Jesus saw the huge crowd as He stepped from the boat, and He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34).

He responded with compassion.

As the story continues the disciples tell Jesus the people are hungry and they end up feeding 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. While it doesn’t tell us for sure, when it says “they all ate as much as they wanted”, my guess is that the disciples and Jesus were included in the “all”. Sometimes God works this way too… He feeds us or gives us rest right in the middle of our being poured out. The disciples are so busy they don’t even have time to eat, and right in the middle of their work God feeds them. What a clear picture of  this concept of self-interest… “self among others”.

Also, just to note, after all of that was over, Jesus did sneak away and went up into the hills by himself to pray. We need both times but there might not always be a clear rule to follow when deciding which which. May we never stop wrestling, never stop being poured out, never stop drawing near and letting God speak into our lives! He’ll lead the way!

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Bekah's Heart

Exhausted Yet Pursuing…

It’s no secret that my summer schedule was a little crazy. (I mentioned a few of the big things in a post last week so we won’t belabor it.) As I “re-entered” to “real life” the last couple weeks (and keep moving into the start of a new ministry year), a phrase from a Bible verse in the book of Judges came to mind:

“… exhausted yet pursuing…” (Judges 8:4)

That’s how this whole summer has been… one thing after another and longing for rest while knowing God was calling me to press on. This phrase comes in a situation where Gideon is leading an army into battle after battle. One fascinating fact I learned is that in Judges 7:9 God tells them to go down into the enemy camp because he “HAS GIVEN” them the victory. It’s past tense. Victory was secure. YET, they still had to go down to fight… to live that reality and destiny. How easy it would have been for them to get discouraged in their exhaustion and give up. Instead, they pressed on to see the victory.

It reminds me a little of the book of Esther as well. At one point God, through her relative, calls Esther to make a bold move that would either end with her death OR with the rescue of the entire Jewish race at the time. When she hesitated at first, her relative basically said that God would rescue them with or without her, but perhaps God had uniquely positioned her to get to join in on His work. She could be part of something great, or not… either way God would save His people.

The same is true for me. God will do what God will do whether I choose to join in or not. But for some things, He WANTS to use me. He’s made some specific things clear over the past few weeks that were unique opportunities that I knew were chances specific for me to join in. There were other things I realized were things I didn’t need to take on or keep doing because they WEREN’T my things to do. Sure, I could do them and God could use me, but He also could and wanted to use others too. My job was to invite them in. Either way, He has the victory.

So whatever battles you’re facing right now. Whether it’s battles of busy schedules, health challenges, broken relationships, financial hardships, or something else, know this: God already has victory in those areas… so “go down” and fight. Yes, you’re probably exhausted… keep pursuing… keep pressing in… keep resting in the promise of victory until it becomes reality. Just like God sustained Gideon and his army, just like He sustained me through the insanest of summers, He will sustain you.

Bekah's Heart

Defragmenting My Soul

A week or so ago I posted on social media about how I felt like God was “defragmenting my soul” like someone might defragmenting a computer harddrive.

Caveat: I’m depending on my memory from a middle school science project to explain what defragmenting is so hopefully I’m somewhere close to making this understandable:

Defragmenting is a process of cleaning up the space used on a harddrive, getting everything back in the best place. For example if you save 10 things on your computer think of them as going one after another in a row. If you then delete the second, fifth, and ninth things, there is space now available, but it’s all spread out. When you go to save “file 11” it will start saving in second spot but may end up spilling over into the empty space from what was originally file five.

As we save, delete, add, and change files and programs over time, a computer starts to slow down. It takes longer to figure out where all the pieces of a file are in order to bring them up on the screen. Defragmenting pulls all the empty space to the end and puts pieces and parts back all together in sequence. (If you need a visual there’s a simple but great one here.)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that fragmentation really does happen in our souls and I felt it this summer. While there was often time (space) for the things that needed to happen, I was taking on and ending things at such a rate that my whole life just felt like like little pieces all over the place. Part of it was my work schedule: when one trip was over, Vacation Bible school started a day later. Six days after that I led a group of 19 on a trip to another country only to come back and help two high schoolers run a dance camp. All the little spaces in between were being used up to write grant proposals, prepare for the next adventure, spend time with family or friends, and occasionally get some sleep. Life was good. But life was fragmented.

Two Saturdays ago I didn’t have to be at work until later in the day and a slow-start morning began the process of pulling all the pieces together. I didn’t set an alarm and let my body wake up when it was rested. I spent some time in God’s Word while enjoying a warm chai latte on a cool morning. I had breakfast with a friend and then we walked around the neighborhood we were in, enjoying a waterfall, a farmer’s market, bright colored flowers and more. Leaving there, I joined another friend for a walk near her house. As I debriefed life with these beautiful friends and paid attention to the things right around me things started to come back into place. I returned library books and did a little laundry… more things back in order.

Over the course of the last week the defragmenting process continued. A day “off-the-grid” hiking and trying to camp (we got flooded out) gave my mind the mental space it needed to be renewed. Spending time with little kids restored some joy in my soul. An extra day off work brought at least a little balance to the last few weeks of overworking. Finding routines in the office and at home, cleaning, and doing laundry continued the defrag process.

There are times when God calls us to depend on His strength and do more than we think is possible. This summer was one of those times for me. Other times He calls us to stop, rest, and be renewed. He draws us close and defrags our soul.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG Paraphrase)

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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)

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.

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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!

Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Vibrant. Wilted. Shattered.

Image 1: Green and Vibrant

I walked out my front door this morning and the first thing that crossed my mind was: “Wow! When did that happen?!?”

I was caught off guard and pleasantly surprised by the way the world turned green, seemingly overnight. Grass is growing, the tree filling with leaves.

Not long ago I thought winter would never end in Buffalo. The wall of green outside my door was a great reminder for life:

In the darkest and coldest of winters, when it feels like the hard season will never end, slowly change occurs, often undetected. One day we will wake up and exclaim, “Wow! When did that happen!?!” Hope will return and new life will be vividly on display.


Image 2: Wilted and Dying

On the way to campus today I stopped by Trader Joe’s. While paying, a manager walked up, handed me some potted flowers, and told me to enjoy! Oh how this felt like such a gift, a beautiful reminder of God’s abundant grace; I think I smiled the whole way to campus. I didn’t have a chance to stop back at work or home and despite my concern for the flowers on this hot summer-like day I had no choice but to leave them in the car. I hoped that since these flowers survive just fine out in the heat when planted in gardens the same would be true in the pot.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. I returned to the car to find them discolored, wilted, dead.

Also unfortunately, it kind of mimicked how I felt at the end of my day. Nothing particular was hard about this day and lots of amazing things actually happened. Yet, I felt like these flowers were a perfect representation of my wilted spirit.

As I drove home processing it all, a comment from the Trader Joe’s cashier popped into my head: “Oh, and if you plant them, they’ll come back again.”

That’s it! Often when our hopes and dreams wilt or even die, we throw them away as useless. But, if we put in a bit more effort, aren’t afraid of getting a little dirty, and plant those dreams, perhaps they’ll bloom again.


Image 3: Broken and Shattered

Each Wednesday this month some other young adults gather in my home to explore faith and life together. We’re currently studying Psalm 31 and talking about committing everything to Jesus. Tonight our conversation centers around brokenness.

The speaker describes a mirror that shattered in the house he shared with his friends back in college. In this story, some guys just left the mess, laughing about the way in which it was broken. For those that did help clean, some of the pieces of mirror were swept under the couch, others were rearranged into a collage with super glue, others were ignored and left alone.

When life shatters do we hide our brokenness? Rearrange it to try to make it look better? Ignore it? Laugh at it? Or do we let Someone, Jesus, come in and heal the broken places with hope?


What does your life look like right now?

Green and vibrant?

Wilted and dying?

Broken and shattered?

Three images. One message: Hope.

Spring is coming.

Dead dreams can bloom again.

Shattered lives can be healed.

Jesus is enough!

Bekah's Heart

Choosing Failure

The title of this blog post alone is enough to send some of our hearts racing and palms sweating (mine included). We live in a “Failure is not an option!” world, but I’m starting to think maybe it is. Even more, I sometimes wonder if it might be the BEST option.

We live in a go-go-go, get it all done, add one more thing culture. Success is often oddly defined by who got the least amount of sleep, pushed the hardest, and checked the most boxes. Failure then becomes anything less than perfect. But maybe there is something better than perfect.

A few days ago a woman at my church randomly mentioned a book she was reading in passing. We don’t talk much and I’m not sure what prompted her to stop and tell me about this book but it was just the reminder I needed. The title, “Present Over Perfect” is one example of why sometimes choosing “failure” might just be the best way to live life. Do I want to spend all my time time and energy perfecting this this life or actually living it?

This month is crazy busy for me. I knew that heading into it and, at first, had a mindset to “buckle down and get through it.” As I thought about it more, that just sounded exhausting and joyless. In praying about that a few days ago, my prayer shifted to ask God to help me actually enjoy this month. Most events will stay on the calendar and the to-do list is still long, but my mindset has shifted to one that desires to be present this month. Some of that will happen by choosing failure.

At a conference in February I heard a woman speak about being “in the clear” and “out of the woods”. Normally, we feel we must be out of the woods before we can be in the clear. Her proposal was that we don’t have to exchange one for the other. What would it look like to be mentally “in the clear” even if we’re not “out of the woods” yet?

One of her talking points was: “Failure is completely inevitable, but fear doesn’t have to be.” Long, long story short, I’ve realized that failure really is inevitable (or at least something short of perfect). Failure will come, but perhaps by choosing it, I don’t have to live in fear. So as I head into this month, a month in which I know the boxes won’t all get checked, expectations won’t be met, and people will likely be disappointed, I’m intentionally choosing some things to “fail” at in order to succeed at the most important things.

I know I need to pass off some things at work or even just cross them off the list completely. I want those things to happen. Other people want those things to happen. But there are some tasks that are just more important to make sure happen.

As I prepare for surgery at the end of the month, it is important for me to take care of my body and soul. If I have to choose, I want to succeed at eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep even if that means failing at keeping a clean house. (I’m pretty sure paper plates were made ‘for such a time as this’, right!?!)

On Saturday morning, I planned to spend 2 hours working toward a writing deadline. When that time came it was so obvious that the biggest need was to rest. So, I made the hard, but good, choice and probably will not meet that deadline.

Do I want to let people down? No.

Do I enjoy not following through on a commitment to myself or others? Of course not!

Do I use “failure is inevitable” as an excuse to slack off or just give up? Never.

But sometimes, a well-placed “no” or “not right now” leads us to a deeper, more fulfilling life than we could ever imagine. Not to mention potentially freeing others to do the same.

In the book I mentioned above, author Shauna Neiquist says: “People called me tough. And capable. And they said I was someone they could count on. Those are all nice things. Kind of. But they’re not the same as loving, or kind, or joyful.

I choose joy.

I choose love.

I choose a spirit that is kind to those around me.

And, at least in this season of life, that means choosing a little failure.