Lent

Giving Up Always Looking at What’s Next

“I can’t wait for this weekend!”

“I can’t wait for summer to get here.”

“I can’t wait for winter to be over.”

“I can’t wait for my next vacation.”

One thing I find facinating about our culture, including myself, is that we so often are looking to whatever’s next. Whether it’s “getting through” the workday or “surviving” another college semester or being able to celebrate that “finally” spring as arrived, it seems like we very rarely express our contentment for what is right here and right now. 

I really have been thinking a lot lately about things coming up.  Just talking about travel, I was sharing with a friend last night, I am in NE right now, next weekend I’ll be in Ohio at a middle school retreat, in April I’ll be traveling out of the country for a couple weeks, in July I’ll be in TN with my high schoolers and at the end of the month leading 19 high and college students on a mission trip to Belize. Throw in other events, daily life, and 8 concerts plus weekly rehearsals between now and May for the choir I’m in and there really is A LOT for me to both look forward to and prepare for.

Today, I’m giving up always focusing on what’s next; I don’t want to miss the blessings of today.  Sure, I don’t always enjoy the things of “today”… For example, I’d be okay with living in a place where there really wasn’t snow and winter and cold.  70 and sunny all the time would suit me well.  But if I’m constantly complaining about how cold it is, I’ll never see the beauty in the winter.  The tough seasons of life are, well, tough… But by just trying to ignore the hard parts long enough to get through that season takes away potential for growth that comes through facing trials head on. 

It’s true that there will often be some things I need to do in “today” in order for all of those things to happen.  (You can’t just “show up” in Belize with 20 people without any planning and preparation.) But at least for today, I’m focusing on TODAY.  I’ll enjoy the blessings of today, and thank God for the hard parts too. 

“… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”  (Philippians 4:11-12)

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭6:33-34‬)

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Lent

Giving Up Looking at Other People’s Grass

Okay, so I agree today’s blog title is a little weird, but stick with me.  How often have you found yourself in a situation where you were looking at what other people’s lives looked like and either:

 1. Wished your life looked more like their’s or

2. Were secretly thanking God your life doesn’t look like theirs.

We often hear the phrase “the grass is always greener on the other side” and find ourselves jealous over our neighbor’s “green grass”.  Or maybe, we’re the ones with green grass casting judgment on our brown grass neighbors.

While we may actually do this with lawncare habits, the list goes on and on. We compare jobs.  We compare homes.  We compare lifestyles and budgets. We compare hair and clothing. We compare marriages and parenting techniques.  We compare relationships. We compare the cleanliness of our homes. We compare and compare and compare.  And then we either end up hating our lives or hating God or hating our neighbor. 

Let’s give it up! 

While listening to a webstream of a conference a couple weeks ago, one of the speakers, Eugene Cho made this statement that I can’t stop thinking about:

“Maybe if I keep finding noticing someone else’s green grass, maybe that’s the Holy Spirit reminding me to water the grass I’m standing on!”

Maybe we’ve been so busy looking at everyone else’s grass that we haven’t even thought to water our own… To water our homes, our singleness, our marriage, our kids … To pour life into our workplaces… To give sustenance to our neighbors … To refresh our spirit. 

Today I give up looking at other people’s grass and choose to water the ground I’m standing on. 

From one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.  For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:26-28a)

God, help us stop comparing and judging our lives with the people around us. Let us find joy in watering the places you have us standing in this moment, trusting that You have us here so that people, including us, can know You more. Show us practically what it looks like to invest more in watering the ground we’re standing on, to water our homes, workplaces, and communities. May contentment come as we see our own green grass! In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

  

Bekah's Heart, Mission Work, Poetry/Songs

But, God?!?

I’ve been reading through some of my old journals and thought I’d share this prayer/poem from the Summer of 2009 while I was the Site Coordinator at a camp.  May it remind us that we are not fit to serve God, but we are called and he’ll give us all we need to do the tasks he sets before us.

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I sit once again at the end of a day.
Content.
Yet heart burning inside.

God is big.
He does not fail.
I fail.
Often.

Each day, I wake up… by the grace of God.
Each day, I screw up… by my own sinful nature.
Each day… I fail.
Each day… He doesn’t.

Situations come.
“You’re in charge! Make a decision”
I don’t want to.

My final decision: Pray for wisdom.

Wisdom like Solomon.
Great insight.
A breadth of understanding.

Like Solomon, I too pray…
“I am only a little child, and do not know how to carry out my duties.” (1 Kings 3:7)

Lord,
“… give your servant a discerning heart.” (1 Kings 3:9)

I don’t understand why you’ve picked me, but here I am… called to serve… SEND ME!

Equip me! Strengthen me! Use me!

I am Yours!

Amen.

Blessing

In the Little things…

Last night at the Short Course Bible Class on Psalm 34 we talked about noticing (tasting) God all around us, even in the little things.  Here are just a few little (and big) places I’ve tasted and seen God the last few days (in no particular order):

  • A fixed closet door
  • New fun colored pens to write letters to my friends
  • Singing and learning about God with the preschoolers in Chapel
  • Observing 22 youth go without so other could have
  • Beautiful women to share life with
  • Answered prayers
  • Communion Sunday… the body broken. the blood shed. for forgiveness. for all.  for each.
  • Sunday Wanderings through the blogosphere
  • Sharing and receiving “words that make souls stronger” (Eph. 4:29)
  • Cinnamon Graham Crackers with Peanut Butter
  • Cleaning my apartment one room at a time, knowing that God is doing the same in his house, my heart
  • A candlelight dinner in my PJs with Jesus
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Opportunities to practice giving myself grace
  • Brownies and a fun card from dad
  • An extra 15 minutes of sleep due to no school for the preschool this week (though I did miss praying with all the teachers this morning)
  • Laughter with staffmates
  • Connecting with other interns
  • Coming home to a clean house
  • Homemade chicken fingers and fries

So what about you?  Where have you tasted and seen that God truly is good recently?

Bekah's Heart, Blessing, Joy

Vacations are for Detours

I come ‘round the last curve in the road.  A smile grows on my face as contentment grows in my soul.   If I wasn’t sure before, I’m now convinced that this impromptu detour down “J-Hill” road was a great idea.

I can’t wait to get down the drive and park the car, quick turning off the radio allowing for the silence this place demands. 

I look around for a rock to carry up. Unsuccessful, but decide the rocks don’t have to be literal, my figurative ones will work just fine for today.

The ascent begins and I ponder… Was it really nearly 10 years ago that I made this climb for the first time?  I also recall some of the “rocks” I laid down here nearly a decade ago… some of the same burdens I’ve come here to lay down again today. 

I pass the crossbar and continue the hike, thankful that the frozen ground makes this journey a little easier than the typical summer day with shifting dirt and sliding rocks.  Near the top, I finally turn around.  The awe-inspiring view steals my breath once again.  

As if there were an automatic recording, the familiar tune and words begin to come out of my mouth…. “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary…”

I ponder again… how many times have I climbed this hill?  How many times have I sung that song?  How many rocks have I laid here… my sins, my burdens, my hurts, my joys.

I linger for a while but eventually begin the hike down to the car… hearing in my head the instructions that for many years came out of my mouth… “If you turn your feet sideways it makes it easier to get down without slipping.”  (As this thought passes through my head, I also slightly regret not changing into the gym shoes that were in the trunk.)

On my way down I pay specially attention to the names that remain on weather-worn rocks.

Luke.

Kylie.

Trina.

Julius.   I pause a little longer here.   

I wonder… What burdens or pains or hurts or sins might he have left there with his rock only weeks before he left every burden behind forever and went to the place of no more tears. 

Luke.

Anneka.

The names and rocks continue, some more familiar than others.  Each name representing the same thing…  a life changed in this place.  Each rock carries a story… one often known by God alone.   Each rock left there together forms a certain shape reminding… We are free.  Over the last decade, hundreds have made that same climb leaving behind their “junk.” And now, collectively, that “junk” is somehow able to point to our risen Lord.  To God Alone be the Glory!

Thanks God for today… for that spontaneous voice in my head that prompted my journey to 7821 Lyons Creek Road… one of the places in this world that has the label “home” in my heart … a place that gives a little glimpse into what our forever home will be like.

Bekah's Heart, Internship Highlights

‘Tis Good, Lord, To Be Here

Today was a beautiful day.  I’m currently back at school in Nebraska for a Mid-Year Conference with all of the DCE interns from all over the world. These few days back on campus are hard to describe.  Most of us interns have used the word “weird” in that description more times than we probably can count.  It’s this interesting dynamic of loving this place but not really fitting in… at least not in the way we have in the past.  Our roles have shifted, and that’s okay.  In the midst of this awkward, indescribable, mid-way check point, it has been such a blessing to just see God presence everywhere I turn.  Here are just a few examples of where that was found today alone:

  •  A conversation with a beautiful woman with whom I’ve literally had one prior face to face conversation with before, yet somehow our hearts just know each other.  I don’t get it, but was so thankful for our time together this morning and God’s presence there.
  • Chapel.  I miss chapel.  What a wonderful REST was found in the very SIMPLE yet profound proclamation of the Gospel today as it was describe as a song, a melody that can, in a way, be the “background” music to our life.
  • Lunch (at Dragon Palace) with fellow interns, talking about anything and everything and nothing.
  • A chance to share with other DCE students our experiences and where we’ve seen God at work through our internships.
  • Being able to “pick up” friendships where they left off and just get straight to what really matters… to know and be known.  

As corny as it may sound, I really felt like the last verse of a hymn we sang in chapel today encapsulates this trip back to Concordia for me.

’Tis good, Lord, to be here.
Yet we may not remain;
But since Thou bidst us leave the mount,
Come with us to the plain.

It is so wonderful to be able to reflect and see all the many ways God has blessed my life through Concordia… to be able to come back and be overwhelmed in a good way… to realize the number of people through whom God has blessed me and made me who I am.  But now, as good as it is to be here, it’s obvious that this is not where I belong right now… and God comes with me to what’s next.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lord, ’tis truly good to be here… to behold Your beauty… to see You at work in my life and the lives of others… to hear and remember your gospel melody that accompanies my life.  And now, as I prepare to wrap this time here up, may You remind me of your promise to go with me and continue to open my heart and ears to that beautiful melody of Your love.  ‘Tis good Lord, to be Your child.  Thank You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Music

The Stuff God Uses…

On my way to work this morning, I heard a new song I hadn’t heard before.  At first I thought it was just one of those goofy “morning” songs the announcers sometimes sing as it talked about lost keys and cell phones.  But, as it went on I realized it was a real song about the sometimes simple things, “little” things, that God uses to get our attention and teach us what he has for us.  Check out “This is the Stuff” by Francesca Battistelli: 

I lost my keys in the great unknown
And call me please ‘Cuz I can’t find my phone

This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that’s getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I’m blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I gotta trust You know exactly what You’re doing
It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use

45 in a 35
Sirens and fines while I’m running behind  Whoa

This is the stuff …. It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use

So break me of impatience
Conquer my frustrations
I’ve got a new appreciation
It’s not the end of the world

This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff
Someone save me
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I’m blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
And I’ve gotta trust You know exactly what You’re doing
It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use

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Lord, in the middle of my mess, remind me how much I’m blessed!  Use whatever it takes. Amen!

Bekah's Heart

Content to Linger

As I opened my Facebook page this afternoon, the first day of 2011, my eyes fell upon these words in the status of a friend:

We’re in no hurry, God. We’re content to linger in the path sign-posted with your decisions. Who you are and what you’ve done are all we’ll ever want. – Isaiah 26

I was struck by these words and began to wonder how many of us could actually say this is true about our lives… that we’re not in a hurry?… that God is all we’ll ever want?  Yet… this is the beautiful life God desires for us.

 

I assumed this was from the Message paraphrase of the Bible and searched quick on the internet to find out for sure.  When I did, I stumbled upon a blog post by a man named David Norman in which he said the following about this verse:

 

Isaiah spoke of a time when the people of God would find complete rest and peace and hope in God. He longed for the day when God would be enough for them. …  I wonder, sometimes, if I am obedient to the extent that I am "content to linger" where God places me. I often find myself pushing and stretching in order to accomplish these big dreams God has placed within me. Very rarely do I ever find myself in an area of rest where I am not moving toward something.

 

I’m guessing many of us (and definitely myself) can associate with David Norman in the fact that we’re always focused on the next thing.  Lately I’ve been learning a lot about the beauty of just letting something be.  Instead of just trying to plan and fix and change everything around me… I’m beginning to see what God means when he says that he want to change ME.

 

So, as I start a new year, I resolve to not have a list of resolutions to try to keep, goals to attempt to meet, or plans to fix what I might perceive as broken in my life.  Instead, God, this is what I want to be…

 

content to linger.

okay with standing still… with standing in pain… with standing in joy… with standing where you take me.

comfortable with simply being and refraining from trying and striving and pushing forward.

at ease with the path before me.

satisfied with letting You be more than enough for me.

resting in who You are and have made me to be. 

 

And in the process, this coming year will be blessed in greater ways than I could ever imagine with my own resolutions, goals, and plans.  This year… this day… this moment, Lord, teach me a way of life in which I’m truly able to say:

“I’m in no hurry, God.  I’m content to linger in the path You have for me.  Who You are and what You’ve done is all I ever want.”

Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Questions

Questions.  They surround us everyday. Some arise over trivial things that really don’t matter much.  Others pound at the door of our hearts begging for answers. 

 

Questions like “What now?” when one loses his job. 

Questions like “How long?” when a loved one hears that dreaded “C” word, “Cancer”. 

Questions like “WHY?!?” when a loved one is taken from this earth “too soon.”

 

Though, as much as we desperately want answers, maybe we’re not supposed to get them…at least not now.  In a conversation today, Sue she shared with me this quote by Rainer Maria Rilke:

"Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer"

 

I think maybe Jesus was trying to tell us something similar when he spoke these words:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  … So do not worry… but seek first His kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.”

 

Each day will have it’s trouble.

Each day will have its questions.

Maybe instead of pounding at heaven’s door

demanding answers,

we can simply

come,

rest in our Savior’s embrace,

and let him quiet us with His love.

 

 

My dear child, I know you have questions… questions that your heart longs to have answered.  In my time and in my way, I will reveal those things.  But for now, just live.  Don’t beat yourself to death trying to find all the answers … just live in me.  Live in my love.  Live in my GRACE.  And I will keep giving you more grace…. and more grace… and more grace. …  and one day, you will have lived yourself into the answers and will forever live in a place with no more questions.  I love you, My child.  Come.  Let Me quiet you with My love.

Blessing

Unable To Count That High

The leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and more fills the fridge.

Pies and cookies line the buffet table ready to be eaten as soon as our stomachs can hold another bit of food.

Bodies of friends lay asleep in the living room buried under blankets, pillows, and other remnants of last night’s sleepover.

 

I sit at my kitchen table…

overwhelmed…

in awe…

humbled…

grateful…

 

How gracious is our God!

 

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Awesome God, I can’t help but pause and bring you thanks and praise for this day. 

For a new day to be alive and live in you. 

For an amazing time of worship this morning with Your Family, focusing us as we began this day of giving thanks.

For beautiful friends to spend time with and celebrate with this week. 

For big meals… and small meals… reminders of your provision.

For a house and food and family.

For grace… freedom… life.

For the fact that as I begin to “count my blessings,” even just in today,… I suddenly realize, I can’t count that high!

I give you thanks.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.