Bekah's Heart, Devotional, Family, Joy

A Lovely Day! {A letter to my niece… and myself… and every one of us}

2017-11-22 14.25.42Dear Maddie,

I loved spending this Thanksgiving week with you. At two and a half years old your joy and passion for life bring me so much joy and teach me so much. Just this morning I heard you waking up in your room, calling for your mom who was still asleep. When I walked in, I expected a somewhat groggy toddler, sad that it was not actually “Mommy” who responded to your cries. Instead I suddenly saw this beautiful, smiley face (with some typical Maddie bed-head) pop up above the railing and declare boldly:

“Aunt Bekah! Look! The sun came up today! It’s a lovely day!”

You have astounded me with your joy this week. You remind me to be thankful for the little things, like a friend coming over, the sun outside, a bowl of mac-n-cheese, or a Mickey Mouse Christmas tree ornament. You feel so deeply every little thing.

I see also in you that these honest feelings aren’t always fun. Your pure joy at the simple fact that the sun is shining took a drastic turn one evening when it took us an extra 20 minutes to get out the door to go somewhere because you were sobbing (real, giant tears) because “the sun went away”! I love this about you, too. You’re not ashamed to feel what you feel.  While I pray you never lose the ability to feel things deeply and honestly, unfortunately I fear as you grow up that will change. Whether literally or metaphorically, I think some day the fear that “the sun may go down” may keep you from rejoicing in its rising in the morning.

As we grow into adults we fear risking loving the people around us because we have been hurt when we’ve loved in the past. We don’t let ourselves hope in anything because “what if we’re let down again?!?” We don’t trust anyone or even God because our trust has been broken. We don’t let joy in because we also know that feeling anything allows for the potential to feel hurt.

People will disappoint you, Maddie, and you may not always get what you want. At some point in your life it will feel safer to shut out difficult people or situations, refusing to trust and never getting your hopes up. But Maddie, I pray you have strength to fight against the fear and keep feeling deeply.  While it seems safer, it also keeps us from feeling the joy that I see you experience so fully right now.

Here’s how an author, Katie David Majors put it in an a book I read recently called “Daring to Hope”:

“…the world would teach us that pain is what ruins us. We are trained and conditioned to run from pain at all costs. … Only the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit can override this fear of pain with a love that is greater. The world would teach us that once we are broken, we cannot be used, we cannot be strong, we cannot be happy. But this is not true. In the greatest miracle of all time, our Father resurrects His son Jesus out of the dark tomb and conquers death. After the brutal beating and scourging and mocking that is a direct result of the ugliness of my sin, Jesus whispers, “Father, forgive them.” And He does. Out of the black of the tomb, new Life emerges and new Light shines forth.” (pg 61)

Maddie, our God is in the business of making beautiful things come out of brokenness. He longs for us to experience true love and with that comes risk. He risked that in giving us free will to be able to love Him and others. We messed that up and now live in the pain and consequences of our rebellion. But our God doesn’t change! He remains good! In Zephaniah we read that: “Each new day He does not fail” (Zeph 3:5). He sent Jesus to take all the brokenness, hurt, distrust, hopelessness and restore our hope again. He came. He died. He rose from the dead. He will come again.

Whenever you feel sad that the sun has gone down, or something hurts you, or you lose someone, go ahead and feel that sadness. Grieve. Hurt. Feel. But never lose hope, because the sun WILL rise again. Jesus will come again and He promises us this about that day:

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5)

“And there will be no night there–no need for lamps or sun–for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5)

2017-11-22 20.16.36Oh what a lovely day that will be, Maddie! So go ahead and get your hopes up, girl! Feel deeply. Celebrate life. And when the dark nights come, because they unfortunately will, remember, a day even more lovely than you can imagine will come and when that day does come, the light will never fade again!

Look Maddie! The sun is up! It’s a lovely day!

Love always,
Aunt Bekah

 

Devotional, First Trinity

Truth IN Love

One technique our church has taught for studying God’s Word is to look at each word in a verse, emphasizing it and seeing how that gives insight to the verse as a whole. One place I love to use this study tool is on verses that seem well known to me already. When “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) popped up as the verse of the day during our recent Miracle of Mercy study I decided to use this technique.

In general with this verse, I feel like each part is one over which I could stumble when it comes to living it out.

SPEAK: I hold back and stay content to “let my actions show” when really I may just be afraid to speak up.

THE TRUTH: Other times I may speak, but what comes out isn’t truth or is only partially truth, not THE truth. Rarely is it a flat out lie, though we can all say that’s happened too. Rather, I’m tempted to beat around the truth or hide the truth in wishy-washy thoughts. If I’m going to speak truth, it needs to be the whole truth, unhidden.

IN (love): This is where the rubber hit the road for me in my recent reflections on this verse. To be in something meant it’s completely surrounded by something else. If I’m IN a house, from the outside, you’d see the house (and perhaps me peeking through a window). If an ingredient is IN soup, you may taste the individual ingredient, but overall, you just taste soup.

I think sometimes I serve up truth WITH love, as a side dish or a house with a garage. It’s much harder to speak truth IN love. When I can do that, what the person on the receiving end sees most, is love. When it’s serve as a side dish, I have a much higher chance tog hurting the other person, but if it’s all wrapped in love, the truth still gets communicated but in a way they can receive. Maybe it’s like parents who hid medicines in foods their kids enjoy.

LOVE: Lastly, love. I can stumble to love out this verse when I don’t have a heart of love. This means I have true and honest unconditional care and compassion for the other. I’m willing to sacrifice. This is where the shift can happen from “setting someone straight” and walking with a brother or sister into a better way of living. This is the place to stop and do a heart check.

Questions I want to ask myself next time I need to “speak the truth in love to someone”:

  • Am I actually speaking up?
  • Is the truth I’m speaking THE truth that needs communicated or just A truth?
  • Am I sharing the whole truth or hiding being some lies? Am I adding a bunch of caveats?
  • While getting straight to the point, is that truth also completely wrapped in love? How will the other person receive that truth… with a side of love or seeing love as the main dish cooked with truth all through it?
  • What is my motivation? Is it simply to set them straight? That’s not love! Love requires sacrifice. Does this require me to give of myself? How might I be able to sacrifice lovingly to walk with this person into truth?

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.”

Devotional

Blessed are the merciful…

Mercy is undeserved, unmerited, unwarranted. It’s compassion inexpressible, grace unimaginable, love unconditional. 

Mercy is holding a door, holding a hand, holding a heart.  It’s that extra step or extra mile to show someone they matter.

Mercy doesn’t just “look past” our differences and our quirks, our idiosyncrasies or our weird behaviors, but celebrates them, respects them, forgives them.

Mercy is never just for “them”, we all need it in abundance.

Mercy is seeing the big picture and choosing grace over condemnation, respect over judgment, and people over all.

Mercy is strength to get through each day, because we know we need it daily, hourly, maybe more. 

Mercy, God’s mercy at least, is new every morning. There’s never a drought or shortage; it’s meant to be given… And recieved… in abundance.

Mercy doesn’t ignore wrongs done nor condone sin, no mercy triumphs over it all. 

Mercy is hope given in a hopeless situation, kindness to the undeserving, life to the desperate.

As our world seems to keep getting crazier and crazier… I find myself crying out more and more simply, “Lord, have mercy!” Sometimes it’s all I know to pray.  Earlier this week as I prayed this over my life, my friends and family, our country, and this world, I sensed God whisper back: 

I will and I am… and it starts with YOU.” 

It starts with one caring action that brings a little light into a dark room.  A candle lit that then lights others… That’s how mercy spreads… not just to our friends or family, but to the undeserving and yes, even to our enemies.  It’s possible not because of what any of us do.  No, justice was necessary, but Jesus took care of that.  So instead of pointing fingers or pointing guns, why don’t we start by passing on the mercy we’ve been given.  We are God’s hands and feet in this world and he wants to use us to pour out His mercy in this world and in the process carry out His promise that He is making everything new (Rev 21:5).

Let’s let mercy triumph! 

Devotional, Lent, Random

A “State of the Heart” Address

Typically every January, our president gives the State of the Union Address.  While of course at times politics can be involved, in general, it’s kind of neat concept to pause and look around and see where we are at as a country.  Today, as I was reading Luke 3:15 we get a similar “state of the union” type address from John about God’s people at the time right before Jesus came on the scene in public ministry.  Before Jesus had been born, there had been 400 YEARS of silence from God.  Oh, He was still working, but the people hadn’t heard from him in centuries.  With that context I find this verse interesting and refreshing:

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. (Luke 3:15)

So, they might have been a little off about WHO the Messiah was, but I love that after all this time, they were still “waiting expectantly” for the One God promised to send as a Savior.  This was a collective thing, but only because individually their hearts were, as another translation put it, “in expectation”.  It’s almost as if this is a “state of the heart” address about the people of God.

As we prepare to enter into the season of Lent, maybe it’s time for us to stop and figure out what we would say if we were to give a “state of the heart” address.  So often questions like “How are you?” elicit vague responses, if any, and perhaps even lies as we brush people off with “fine” and “okay”.  We avoid the extremes like “I’m doing awesome! God is doing amazing things in my life” as well as being honest when we’re not fine or not okay.  What would you say is the state of your heart today?

The great thing is that God welcomes us no matter what the state of our heart is.  It can be joyful, hurting, broken, doubting, skeptical, grieving, shameful, or at peace.  No matter what the state of our heart, God simply says, “Come”.  The only thing he asks is that we’re honest.  Hebrews 10:22-23 puts it this way:

“let us draw near with a true heart…”

And verse 23 tells us why this is possible:

“…for He who promised is faithful”

We serve a faithful God, one who is not scared about what we might say about our hearts… he knows it all anyway!  May we come to him today with a true heart, in honesty before Him.  May this Lenten season be one in which we can continually examine our hearts in light of God’s Word and God’s grace that we may grow closer to Him and more confident in the truth that He is faithful to all He has promised!

IMG_4742 - Copy

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!

  

Devotional

One life…

I almost missed it there in the introductory verses: Luke’s account of the good news of Jesus wasn’t written to the masses as it seems Matthew, Mark, and John’s accounts are.  No, Luke put all of the effort to make a detailed account involving interviewing and collecting stories from eyewitnesses all for one man named, Theophilus. He describes it as an “undertaking”, a word that usually implies a lot of work.  He “carefully investigated everything” and he started at “the beginning”… all… for Theophilus.  While he might have known or perhaps hoped others might benefit from his work, it was enough to do it, for the one. 

And here we are thousands of years later and can clearly see that what Luke did for one, has impacted millions, perhaps even billions, as we continue to read his words today.  What I love most is the seeming connectedness of doing it for the one. So often we feel the pressure to make a BIG impact in the world and figure out how to reach as many as possible and sadly this so easily can leave us paralyized and doing nothing at all.  I’m thankful for this reminder this morning that one is enough.  And that God can do more through my faithfulness and obedience in impacting the one life He puts in front of me at any given time, than anything “huge” I might try to dream up on my own. 

It seems like Luke could have easily jumped on board with the mission statement at the church where I serve: 

Transforming our world, one life at a time, through the power of God’s living word.

Jesus, help me today and every day, be joyfully obedient to whatever you call me to do… knowing that you have the power to truly transform the entire world one life at a time, beginning with mine!  Use me today… for the one. Amen!

  

Uncategorized, Wonder-Full Wanderings

A Light in the Darkness {wonder-full wanderings}

A pretty common childhood fear is the fear of the dark.  As we grow up, the actual anxiety of being in an unlit room typically lessens, however fear of other kinds of darkness only increases. 

We’re afraid of the darkness of tough situations in life.

We’re afraid of the darkness of sadness or depression.

We’re afraid of the darkness we see in the world around us.

We’re afraid and often when we’re afraid then we are ashamed of that fear and end up hiding in the darkness. 

One of my very favorite parts of the Christmas season is the fact that there are lights everywhere… Lights on trees, lights on houses, candles, and more.  A moment I treasure each year is at the end of the Christmas Eve Candlelight service when everyone holds their candle high in the air and Pastor reminds us of the verse we speak at each baptism:

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven. Matthew 5:16

This moment is just so beautiful.  People recount it with joy and awe. Last night I had a chance to witness this from the balcony… watching one candle, Christ’s candle, was passed from person to person and soon lit up the entire room.  And isn’t that how it’s supposed to be when we face the darkness in our world?!? The Light came into the World on Christmas and it began to spread… From Mary and Joseph … To the shepherds who began to tell others… From the 12 disciples who told others who told others… Generation to generation the light has been passed.  And now, it’s our turn. 

May we hold our light high, because it truly is a beautiful thing to watch the light overtake the darkness, overtaking our fears.  The great thing about it all is that while darkness may be scary, light always wins! 

Shine your light bright today! 

Merry Christmas! 

  

Advent, Wonder-Full Wanderings

A week of joy… {wonder-full wanderings}

Week 3 of advent complete and we’re heading in to the final stretch. Anticipation building on this last day of only lighting 3 candles on the advent wreath.

This week we got to add the joy candle.  It’s probably my favorite!  The pink standing out against the purple.  Bright against darkness.  To be honest I’ve spent a lot of time this week wondering what I would put in this week-end post about joy. I struggled not because there was no reason for joy in this week but because I began to realize how these blessings of God, these fruits of the spirit … Hope… Peace… Joy… How they all just kind of blend together.

For example, I think we might be able to argue that it’s impossible to find yourself in a place of true joy without God’s peace. And can you have peace without hope in our Savior? It seems unlikely. 

Despite how much they blend together, here were a few special moment of JOY this week:

  • Witnessing a beautiful young woman I know join God’s family forever through baptism. 
  • Worshipping with the youth band on Sunday morning. Sitting there with some amazing youth, using the gifts God has given them to enter into true worship of our King and through their song, inviting a couple hundred people to join them in the throne room.
  • Time spend with children, especially my awesome goddaughter and her two siblings… Experiencing Christmas through the eyes of children I think automatically brings joy.
  • Dinner with one of the most amazing women I know. 
  • Little kids giggling in my backseat.
  • Laughter with teammates
  • Answered prayer

And the list goes on and on… The big things… The little things.  Even if happiness eludes us, joy remains and the hymn reminded us to keep speaking joy over and over: “Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy.” 

And repeat it we do because there we remember the love of God.

“The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father, not the fears. All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends. WHEN DOES HE EVER END!?!” 

– Ann Voskamp 

No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in this season, Joy HAS come to our world because the Lord Jesus has come. May we receive Him with glad hearts! 

  

  

Advent, Wonder-Full Wanderings

A week of Peace {wonder-ful wanderings}

Peace.

The second candle lit on the advent wreath… A call to be still and know God is God and He is in control. 

Unlike with hope last week (where the theme seemed plastered all over my life) peace was a little harder for me to come by.  In fact, I may or may not have had a texting conversation with a friend earlier this week about being frustrated with God that despite asking (maybe even begging) for peace it seemed my prayers in that situation had fallen on deaf ears.  I had found myself accepting that for some reason our good and faithful God saw it fit to not change a situation right now, okay. But couldn’t He at least come through with the peace He promises all throughout Scripture!?! Was that too much to ask?

Like a child with a parent, demanding typically doesn’t produce the desired results and I found the same to be true of my heavenly Daddy.  It seems maybe He was actually LONGING to give me peace but He knew I wasn’t able to receive it until after I finished my “temper tantrum”.  

As I continued to wander through the week, eventually peace settled in. 

My Prince of Peace sent me a note through these words written on the bottom of a Christmas card:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

He sent a faithful friend to encourage me and challenge me. 

He showed up in little kid laughter and a gorgeous sunset and in staying up way too late reading by the Christmas tree.

I just needed to remember that our Prince of Peace is also the Emmanuel, God with us… Always…Whether I sense his nearness or not, He never leaves. 

Unlike princes in fairy tales, I don’t have to sit around waiting for my Prince of Peace to come riding in to slay the dragon and rescue me… He already did that. And this Christmas, if I let myself, I simply get the joy of anticipating the day when there will be no more tears or pain or suffering or death..(Rev 21:1-5).

Only peace. 

Come, Lord Jesus.

Come Prince of Peace.

Come!