Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Six Important Words

Last Saturday I spent almost an hour with my 3 year old Goddaughter wandering around our church’s annual mission fundraiser, a theme basket auction. It was great. I love this girl so much and was delighted that she had chosen to spend so much time with me despite so many other awesome people she knows and loves being around. After both of us put in most of our tickets, she decided to go back to where her mom was. However, within a couple minutes I felt those little arms wrapped around my leg again. As I picked her up for another hug she explained:

“I just love being with you.”

So many amazing things happened that day. We were overwhelmed by the donations of over 225 baskets, hundreds of people came to participate, old relationship were rekindled, new friendships were made, and that’s not to mention the $17,000 that will now make it possible for missionaries to go to Haiti, China, and Guatemala in 2018. It was a great day! As I sat at the end of it reflecting on all God had done though, what stood out most were those six little words a three year old whispered in my ear:

“I just love being with you.”

I wonder how our lives all might be a little better if we used this phrase more. Isn’t this the connection we all long for in our relationships? As humans we are created for community, designed for intimacy, made to be WITH others. All the way back in the garden of Eden, before sin even entered the picture God declared, “It is not good for man to be alone.” What might happen if we started saying … and living… these six words to the people around us?

“I just love being with you.”

Use them with friends. Speak them to your kids. Show the words to be true as you interact with coworkers and spouses, grandparents and teenagers.

I just love being with you.”

As I pondered why these six words are so powerful, I suddenly realized that my goddaughter’s three-year old voice was simply echoing another… that of our Heavenly Father.

Bekah, My daughter, I just love being with you.”

In a busy world with so many to-do list items to check off, things to clean, places to go, it’s easy to forget that we are called ‘human beings’ not ‘human doings’. Oh how easy in our relationship with God do we slide down that slippery slope of working to earn His love or prove ourselves as worthy servants. Let all that fade away today as He taps you on the shoulder, invites you to climb up in His lap, and whispers in your ear:

I just love being with you.”

AFS Hosting, Bekah's Heart

A Parent’s Heart

In just 3 weeks from today I will pick up a jet-lagged, new-to-America, beautiful young woman and take her home to live with me for the next 10 months as a “daughter”.  In terms of literal age it may not seem I’m old enough to have a teenage child, but it’s true.  As host parent to an AFS student, I’ll sign on the “parent” line for school field trips, be up late at night this fall washing sports uniforms, and spend my evenings driving all over WNY to events.  I’ll have to set boundaries and curfews and say “no”.  I’ll get to share meals and my home and life with her, say “yes” to adventures around Buffalo, and hopefully do other fun things like shopping for a prom dress.  I’ll get to learn from her and I pray she’ll learn much more from me than just how we tell time in America with 12-hour clocks not 24 (one of the things we’ve chatted about on Facebook preparing for her arrival).

Already, I can see God teaching me more about His parent heart as He prepares me to, in limited ways, have the role of ‘parent’ next year.  You see, this young woman is not really my daughter.  Her parents back in the Faroe Islands are and will always be her mother and father.  They are just entrusting me with part of that role while she studies this coming year in America.  I’ve started praying for her and her family and her arrival… as well as her departure for a few months now.  Because the reality is that one year from now, she’ll head back home… to her family… to her school… to her house.

As I thought about this more, I realized that if I am blessed at some point with children of “my own” … they really wouldn’t be mine either.  Children are a gift from God… they belong to Him alone… He just entrusts parents with their care for a while here on earth.  I pray that as I head into this year as “host mom” (and some day maybe just “mom”) God would never let me forget that I may know a lot about the children He entrusts to me, but He knows even more.  Perhaps harder to comprehend… I love and care for them a lot… He loves and cares for them even more than I do.   He knows literally how many hairs are on their head.  He knows their hearts deepest struggles even if they’re slow to share them with me.  He knows their future careers and families and lives even when THEY are clueless.

Lord, continue to show me your parent heart… a heart of love and grace and compassion.  Teach me to lean on you as you entrust me with care of those around me whether in the role of “host mom” or “friend” or “daughter” or “aunt”.   May I remember that those I love are in YOUR more-than-capable hands and You will provide the wisdom and grace and courage I need as I interact with them.  Above all, thanks for choosing me as your daughter.


Bekah's Heart, Uncategorized

Blessed are those who mourn…

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

This verse was the basis of our sermon this past Sunday.  Unfortunately, the concept of mourning also seems like it could be a theme for this week.   Just to remind us all, here are just a VERY SMALL list of the some of the things that happened THIS WEEK locally, nationally, and globally:

Even closer to home, I’ve seen families torn apart by abuse, children grieving the loss of their parents, teenagers starving themselves or injuring themselves to deal with life’s struggles, and more. 

And the list could go on and on and on and on and on.  The mourning for lost lives and lost innocence and lost hope is great.  

I’m thinking about how we learned Sunday that to “mourn” in this sense captures both mourning the loss of something but also mourning over our sin.  Both are true in my heart today.  I grieve the beautiful people this world lost this past week.  I grieve the way we all humans have such ability to hate.  I grieve the way our sinful nature pulls us apart, pulls away from God, pulls us into violence, pulls us into murder.  Yes “us” (not “them”), all of us, every single one of us.  I grieve our sinful acts and the things that happen to us as a result of sin in general in the world. 

I grieve today.  I mourn.  I hurt for all that has happened.  I’m saddened by the reality that next week the names or places might be different but the headlines likely will repeat.  I find that all I can say is Lord, have mercy and lean into the One who promises comfort for those who mourn.  May we mourn not with worldly sorrow which leads to death, but Godly sorrow that leads to repentance and life.  

And that is the key… Yes, we want justice (and God does too!) But when we grieve in our worldly, human way, “justice” can quickly become synonymous with “revenge”.  Revenge mixed with grief never seems to end well.  When we grieve in our human way, it always leads to more death.  We’ve seen it happen this week.  Yet, when we grieve the injustices of this world in a godly way, a way that starts first with us on our knees on the ground in repentance for our own misdeeds, a way that takes action but does so out of love not hatred, a way that is focused on the comfort and peace of Christ, that kind of grief and mourning leads to life

“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

This verse may be talking about spiritual death but looking at the events of this week, it seems true that it might apply to physical death as well.  Our cities, our nations, our world must grieve and do so in repentance.  And it must start with me and you.  It may seem crazy, but the truth is that we are just as capable of committing these huge acts of injustice and violence as the next guy.  And there is not one but of hyperbole in that.  Believing we are above the violence and pain and hurt we’ve seen this week makes us all the more likely to fall in Satan’s trap.  And so, on behalf of our entire world, let us come today in prayer, in humility, and seek the face of God, the only One who can lead us into true life, can bring about real justice, and can provide comfort and healing in the midst of our brokenness. 

Borrowing (and slightly adapting) from the prayers of Daniel and Nehemiah, we pray:

“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 

We have not listened but pray your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants in this world. I confess the sins we, including myself, have committed against you.

Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame — the men and women of Buffalo and people of America, and all the world, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us.  O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All have transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong.  Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the world that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.

O, Lord, have mercy. 

Bekah's Heart, Prayer, Youth Ministry

Prompted to Pray… A little closer to home

A few days ago I shared of awakening from a nightmare feeling prompted to pray for the persecuted Christians around the world.  As 4:30 this morning rolled around I found myself up once again, with people on my mind.  And, once again, I took the recent advice I overheard from a friend to her son, that if you wake up in the middle of the night with someone on your mind, God probably wants you to pray for them.  But this time, my prayers hit a little closer to home.  This time one after another God began to bring students and families to mind, students and families in someway connected to the mission and ministry God has asked ME to join Him in…

  • A family where the dad has walked out to go live with the girlfriend
  • An only child, who lost her mom to cancer a few years ago and her dad couldn’t take the pain anymore and took his own life a few weeks ago leaving her orphaned and alone
  • A girl unwanted by her mother, emotionally abused by her father, waiting through a long court process as those same people who don’t even pay attention to her for some crazy reason fight to take her from the one person who truly loves her
  • Another young woman with a similar story, only worse
  • Two siblings who just passed the one year mark of an accident that took the life of their father and left one of them fighting for his life as well
  • 10-15 kids (maybe more, I’ve lost count) who have experienced the blessing of adoption, but find themselves at times feeling unwanted, alone, and wondering where they belong, many who know little, if anything, of their biological identity and family history 
  • Students who struggle with trying to figure out what God really thinks about them as they deal with same sex attractions in a Christian culture that often unknowingly communicates that they’re the exception to the “God loves everyone” rule
  • Students battling debilitating depression, trauma, self-esteem problems, and overwhelming anxiety
  • Students crushed by the expectations from parents, teachers, coaches, siblings, or themselves, wondering if they’ll ever be able to live up to impossible standards
  • Students who get everything they want and whose lives seem perfect, yet who are crumbling inside, searching for meaning and purpose and identity
  • Young people who are bullied and belittled as they walk through school each day
  • Kids grieving the loss of friends who couldn’t take that kind of pain and chose to take their life
  • Students who struggle with thoughts of doing the same, seeing no other alternative in the midst of their pain
  • Students whose parents are absent, distant at best, whether by choice or mental illness or work-a-holism or an affair or death
  • Families torn apart by drug addiction and students on a path to do the same thing to their family
  • Families struggling to have enough money to keep the heat on and food on the table
  • Students with family members facing chronic illness or disease
  • Families grieving the death of family members, the death of dreams, the death of innocence

And the list continued on…and on…and on… 

It was in those early morning moments that I found my compassionate, tender, broken-hearted God remind me: 

Bekah, you are far from perfect… and I don’t really need you because, well, because I am GOD, and I am far more than capable of doing my job on my own. 

BUT I want you.  

And these students and families, THEY are why I’ve called you, THESE are the reasons I want you to help Me … They are the ones who need to know that 

I am real.

I am good.

I am faithful.

I bring hope and new life.

And above all, I love them.  

I know it can be overwhelming. I see the temptation to try to do it on you own.  I catch you wondering what you could possibly do to relieve their pain.  I understand your fear of failure.  I watch you try to plan and strategize, to worry and wonder what others may think.  But that’s not your job. All I need, no, all I invite you to do, is to declare the truth about the One who brought YOU out of darkness into light and has the power to do the same for them… To help them experience hope found only in my death and resurrection… To remind them that the pain they’re in is not the end of the story… To SHOW them (not just tell them) that they are loved and they are enough and they can be free … Not because of anything they could do, or you could do, but because of My grace and what I’ve already done.

So do not be afraid, My daughter, and do not give up.  Your work is not in vain. Be strong, in Me.  Work hard, in Me. Rest well, in Me.  My grace IS sufficient, and MY power is perfected in YOUR weaknesses.  Abide in Me, and I will abide in you.   THEN, and ONLY then, will you bear much fruit. Remain in My love. I’ve got this! 

Love, 

Your Father, The Almighty Father

  

Bekah's Heart, Devotional

One life … Continued 

Friday I posted about how amazing it seemed that the biblical author Luke was so focused on impacting one life at a time.  His entire book of the Bible was written for one man, though it has impacted many.  As I read on that day in Luke 1, the theme of the importance of one life continued as Luke recounts the life of Zechariah.  This time, it’s GOD who is focused on the one among many. 

Zechariah was a priest and finally after countless years, he was getting the literal once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter into God’s presence (which at that time was contained to a single location on earth) and pray on behalf of all the people as they pleaded and waited for a Savior.  Unlike many of the religious leaders we read about in Scripture, Zechariah and his wife had their hearts truly set on God.  Beth Moore described him this way:

“Zechariah is not a character in a fiction novel. He was a real man who sought to serve a real God in the midst of unanswered prayers, mystifying disappointments, personal weakness, mundane daily rituals, and anxiety-causing responsibilities.” (Jesus the One and Only, page 10)

We don’t know how old Zechariah and Elizabeth are at the time beyond being told they were “advanced in years”… well beyond childbearing age… and childless.  At this point the still had hope for a Savior but I’m sure their personal dreams had long faded.

As Zechariah took his place in the temple that day, he truly did so on behalf of all the Jews pleading for their Messiah.  What he couldn’t have expected was that God would be using that opportunity to make Himself real to one man… Zechariah himself.  An angel shows up telling Zechariah that he and his wife would have a son, and not just that, but that he would be the one preparing the way for the very Messiah he prayed for that day.  What I would assume where the two biggest prayers of Zechariah’s heart, prayed for decades, were answered in that moment! 

How beautiful that while he was simply being faithful to his duties on behalf of the many, God met him individually.  Perhaps even the lot fell on him that day specifically for the purpose of God drawing him near to speak to him.  Also, in the bigger picture I’m sure that Elizabeth and Zechariah struggled A LOT with waiting and longing for a child, but the time had to be just perfect.  This way it lined up with all the plans God would have for their son’s life, and the lives of every human ever born on earth, which included paving the way for the Savior. 

Help us trust You, Lord, that if we have to wait for any good thing from You it’s only because you have a plan for something far greater than we could ask or imagine!  Thank you that, in the crowds and crowds of people, You met Zechariah individually and You heard his personal prayers.  Just like Your angel told Zechariah, remind us each today as well: “Do not be afraid…. your prayer has been heard.” (Luke 1:13) May we cling to you with hope and joyful expectation!  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

  

Bekah's Heart, Joy, Random

Grace… To fail

I did something tonight where, walking in, the probability of failure was much higher than the probability of success. 

So the fact I did it anyway in itself is a beautiful success

You see, Miss Perfectionist in me can be pretty bossy at times.  She keeps me from doing fun things for fear of whether they are practical.  She keeps me from being spontaneous with reminders of responsibility and duty.  She keeps me from doing things I love if I think at all that I won’t do them perfectly. (She’s actually pretty annoying!)

Tonight was definitely far from perfect.

But… 

I had fun… (If for no other reason than to laugh in Miss Perfectionist’s face and say: “So what!?! I did it anyway!”) 

I tried something new…

I challenged myself…

I did something I love…  

I “punched fear in the face” (as Jon Acuff might say)… 

I perfectly enjoyed an imperfect moment…

… And that’s enough “success” for me no matter what the outcome. 
Even just a few years ago, I would have never been able to write this post. Not only would I have not tried something new, but if I had, I would have never admitted failure publicly by choice. 

But then, I discovered Grace

Grace says, “I love you as you are.

Grace says, “I know you’re not perfect, stop trying to fool yourself.

Grace says, “I came that you may have life, abundant life. Enjoy it!

Grace says, “Take a break.

Grace says, “Trying something is better than perfecting nothing.

Some might say this use of the word cheapens it. But for me it makes what Christ has done all the more beautiful.  It reminds me that God offers grace not just for the salvation moments, but for the everyday ones as well. 

Grace… Oh what a beautiful, joy-filled, freeing, amazing thing! 

Thank you Jesus, for grace!!!

  

Bekah's Heart, Books

Dinner with Jesus

Reading a book by Barbara Broncroft today, these words captured my heart:

“Being graciously received when we bring our sin to Christ strengthens our faith in the efficacy of the cross. We experience its powerful effects each time God welcomes us; we trust more deeply each time he responds with mercy and grace. As we experience his gracious welcome, we can hear Christ’s words to us without fear: 

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:19–20). 

Welcome… Grace… Trust… Mercy…  These are  often the things that come first to mind when we realize we’ve messed up or are holding onto hurt and pain.  If you’re anything like me, at the first hint of darkness or sin, my default is to either ignore the feeling or try to justify it. We do this either by distracting ourselves or by looking at all the “truly evil” things around us in the news and world and “comfort” ourselves with the lie that “I’m not really that bad.”   But the reality for all of us is that we are MESSED UP!  A speaker I heard the other day said it this way:

“The problem of evil isn’t that it is so pervasive ‘out there’ but that it’s so deep in our hearts as well.” – Ravi Zacharias

Going back to the Scripture in the first quote, I’m pretty sure I had heard both of those verses before, but never thought about them in connection with each other.  The zealous repentance of verse 19 isn’t just there to make us feel awful about ourselves.  No, it’s an invitation into the deep, beautiful relationship with Jesus of verse 20. The author of the Bol I was reading continued:

The Spirit’s work to show us our sin and need for Christ is born out of love. He urges us to be zealous when our sin is revealed. In the vernacular, the Spirit urges us to hard-core repenting. He wants us to get busy so that when Christ knocks, we will be quick to open our doors to him instead of hiding in the closet. Jesus knocks on our doors because he desires to come in and sit with us for a meal—a most friendly, intimate, and satisfying encounter. Jesus offers us himself—he wants a relationship with us.” – Barbara Bancroft

As hard as it is to let pain, hurt, and sin be revealed in the Light of Christ, I don’t want to be found hiding in the closet.  

Jesus, come in, let’s have dinner. 

  

Bekah's Heart, Random

2015 in Review

2015 had its joys and its challenges. Through it all, God remained faithful and the same will be true in every year ahead! 

Here’s a quick recap of the highlights (and some lowlights) of 2015 in no particular order! 

Travel

  • 3 amazing trips to visit my family in Kansas (including Christmas and Mother’s Day!) 
  • 2 mission trips to Florida and West Virginia
  • a chance to visit good ol’ Concordia Nebraska  while celebrating Sue’s Master Educator award
  • Wheat Ridge Young Adult conference in Chicago
  • Women’s Retreat at LCLC
  • MS retreat in Ohio
  • Vacation with Megan to Florida

Visitors

  • Mom, Dad, and Grandma Bert came 
  • Took Grandma to see Niagara Falls for the first time
  • Zack Bruick stopped through on the way to his summer internship, enjoyed a fun day hiking the Gorge and checking out the Falls

Life Events: 

  • My niece/goddaughter Madelyn Jo was born and baptized
  • attended weddings for 5 friends and had the honor of being in Becky and Benjamin’s
  • celebrating the eternal life (while grieving the loss of earthly lives of Christopher and Carl)
  • Mom and Dad’s 35th wedding anniversary

Work Highights:

  • Kicking off the year on a mission trip in Florida with an awesome group of young adults
  • Celebrated 5 year anniversary at First Trinity
  • Began launch process for College Small groups 
  • Moved into a new office as part of the preschool renovations
  • Witnessed some youth and young adults be baptized, confirmed, or become members
  • Took an online course about college ministry 
  • Workcamp Mission Trip to Bluefield VA/WV

A Few Favorite Songs of 2015:

  • Forever Faithful by Holly Starr
  • You Fight For Us by Josh Lavender
  • Trust In You by Lauren Daigle
  • Sparrow by Audrey Assad
  • Symphonies by Natalie Grant

Favorites of the 33+ Books I Read:

  • The Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge
  • Mission at Neuremburg by Tim Townsend
  • The Dating Manifesto by Lisa Anderson
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
  • When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story
  • Joining Jesus On His Mission by Greg Finke
  • Just Show Up by Kara Tippets

Other Odds and Ends

  • Watched countless sunsets by the river (my favorite place of 2015)
  • Went Ice Skating at Canaleside (among many other awesome things) with my little sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Monday meals with friends in November
  • Meals, coffee dates, and  game nights with friends
  • Cherished moments of laughter and sillyness with awesome kids in my life near and far
  • Logged 58 miles running, 107 miles walking/hiking, 101 miles biking (plus all the miles I didn’t track) (Goal for 2016: log at least 365 miles) 
  • Started blogging again and am looking forward to keeping it up in 2016!

Tomorrow I’ll share one final list of some of the things God taught me in 2015! 

Thank you, God, for this beautiful year! 

  

      Bekah's Heart, Crossroads, First Trinity, Young Adult Ministry, Youth Ministry

      Why I Do What I Do – In Two Pictures

      Flipping through a publication quick today to see if there was anything of value to read, this page caught my eye:

        
       How true and how sad it is that this really is what “the world” communicates.

      The very next page, though, was this:  

       
      And in two pictures, I was reminded why I do what I do.  

      Because in a loud world telling us we’re not enough and no one wants us and no one cares and that maybe even God has abandoned us, I have experienced and know Truth:

      You are loved.

      You are precious.

      You are treasured.

      You have purpose and meaning.

      GOD LOVES YOU!
      Speak against the world’s lies… Share some truth today.

      Bekah's Heart, Devotional, Joy, Random

      A weary world…rejoices

      Sometimes a good day starts with a simple choice before you even get out of bed that it’s going to be a good day no matter what happens. 

      This past week has been one in which sin and its impact on the world has been making itself very clear.  From personal issues all the way up to a global level I think it’s safe to say we’ve all experienced some degree of brokenness, grief, destruction, pain, sickness, or the like. And it’s safe to say that because this past week is not unlike any week before that all the way down through human history to our very first ancestors Adam and Eve.  In a moment, they stepped outside of God’s great plan and protection for them, and the weariness of sin has been a companion ever since.

      Now, before I go on, I must say that I’m pretty much a “traditionalist” when it comes to waiting until after Thanksgiving for Christmas music, decorations, etc. However, having also been in choirs most of my life I’ve always gotten to cheat a little.  Last night, as I was in a rehearsal preparing for a Christmas Vespers concert in a couple weeks from now, this phrase struck me in a way it never had before:

      “The weary world rejoices”

      It struck me first in its description of the world and how accurate it feels right now, at least from my perspective… Weary. But what that weary world does is what’s so facinating, it rejoices!  The context of the original lyrics tells us why:

      “A thrill of hope

      The weary world rejoices

      For yonder breaks

      A new and glorious morn”

      In other words, our weary world, our weary communities, our weary churches, homes, and hearts can rejoice because this is not the end. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we can hope in a new day that is coming, a day with no more pain, war, sickness, disease, abuse, or shame.

      “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:1-5‬ ESV)‬‬

      A new weary-free world is coning! But for now we live in the paradox.  The things around us are often overwhelming. But we have a choice, and often that choice is made before we even get out of bed each day.  Things are going to happen today that will likely make me weary.  Is the weariness going to overcome me and make me go through today wishing I’d never gotten out of bed? Or am I going to take God at His Word that not only is there hope in a day coming where the whole world will be made new, but that He’s already working on it and because today is a day He has made, my weary heart can find reason to rejoice?  I don’t often get this right, but today I’ve made my choice:

      This IS the day the Lord has made, let us (even when we’re weary) rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)