66 in 52 Challenge, Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Reflections on Exodus

It’s easy for me to read through a book like Exodus and kind of wonder: “How couldn’t they see it?!?” God’s provision, protection, and guidance are so clear chapter after chapter. From protecting Moses as a baby to grand things like splitting a sea in two or food appearing out of thin air day after day, God’s action on behalf of the Israelites is obvious. Yet, they complained constantly, thought going back to slavery would be better for them, made idols while God’s presence was still on the mountain in front of them, and blamed God instead of praising Him. How could this be? Couldn’t they see what God was up to?

But when I really stop to think about it… some days I’m no different. God performs a miracle, but we miss it because we were expecting something different. God figuratively splits seas or thunders from a mountain and the next day we’re so caught up in daily life we forget His power. We become immune to daily ‘manna’ falling from the sky in the form of food and shelter and friendships and His love and start to complain. I’d like to think that if I saw some of the miraculous things the Israelites witnessed I would never stop praising, but I’m not so sure I’d be any different.

One verse that struck me came right as God was enacting this great plan to lead them out of Egypt. Pharaoh had finally worn down and they were on the move. Passover had been instituted and God’s people had been spared the death of the firstborn that plagued the rest of the land. They had not yet come upon the Red Sea, but certainly had plenty to praise God for already.

So Moses said to the people, ‘This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the Lord has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand. … On this day in early spring, in the month of Abib, you have been set free. You must celebrate this event in this month each year…” (Exodus 13:3-5 NLT)

Reading this translation struck me… REMEMBER… YOU HAVE BEEN SET FREE… CELEBRATE! It goes on to explain how God wants them to celebrate but the party stops pretty quick as they approach the Red Sea and see that Pharaoh has changed his mind. The army is approaching quickly from behind and the body of water ahead has them trapped.

As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (Exodus 14:10-12)

Suddenly they wanted to go back. Their current situation seemed worse than slavery, but that’s because they forgot the powerful mighty hand of their God.

Earlier this month I attended a conference. One of the hosts said this as he wrapped up one of our sessions:

Sometimes we feel like: “God you’ve led me to a place where there’s no where out.”
God says: “That’s only because you haven’t seen a sea parted.” – Ben Stewart

As I thought about this story that I’ve heard many times, as well as my own tenancies to complain and forget what God can do, I wondered if a key piece in all of it was the celebration God instituted the chapter before.

When Moses told the people to remember the day they had been set free, he said, “you MUST celebrate it”.  One way to read this Scripture would imply a focus on trying to please God and so we must praise Him because He deserves it. It’s true, God does deserve our praise, but I wonder if the “must” here is more about God knowing our nature. He “demands” celebration in a sense because He knows we need it. He knows that we MUST celebrate or we will forget. We must celebrate or we will worry. We must celebrate or we will feel trapped and see no way out. We must celebrate because we are free. Without celebration, we find our souls enslaved again.

I don’t know what celebration looks like for you, but find a way to party today. God has done everything to secure our freedom. May we never be slaves again!

2018-01-13 09.05.07

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Bonus Thought: Music is one way I choose to celebrate. Maybe this song by Ellie Holcomb can help you live free today!

So we will sing, to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There’s a red sea road
When we can’t, see the way
He will part, the waves
And we’ll never walk alone
Down a red sea road” – Ellie Holcomb “Red Sea Road”

 

Devotional

Hide-and-Seek

Every kid I know loves the game hide-and-seek, whether I’m babysitting for some friends or hanging out with my nieces, it’s one of the first ideas that comes to their minds when brainstorming how to spend our time together. Even just the other day I was talking with my nieces on the phone using FaceTime when my youngest niece, Maddie, suggested we play hide-and-seek. I love her childlike heart that still thinks anything is possible, even playing hide-and-seek despite being over 1000 miles away from each other. So we did. Grandma helped a little bit by scanning the room until I “found” her. She was so excited!

The enthusiasm for this type of game continues for older kids as well. Even my high schooler students at church beg to play Sardines every chance they can, a reverse game where one person hides and everyone else seeks them out. They clamor to be the one to hide.

But I don’t think it’s really about the hiding that makes this game so appealing. Perhaps we all have this innate desire, even from young ages, to be found. We long to be noticed, to be sought after, to be seen. Being pursued shows value and worth… to a toddler… to a teenager… to us adults, too.

Don’t we often play our own games of hide and seek? Whether with other people or with God, we hide behind busyness, behind masks of “fine”, behind Pinterest-perfect snacks for kids’ classrooms or behind instagram posts that only show a small sliver of the reality of our lives. We hide, and yet, it seems no one really wants to be stay hidden. No child enjoys it if they hide too well and can’t be found. It might be fun at first, knowing you did a good job, but then doubts creep in wondering if you will ever be found. Again, this mirrors real life.

Has anyone even noticed that I haven’t been around church for over a month?

Will anyone see that I’m not really “fine”?

I know my life is a mess but sometimes I just wish they’d find me out so I wouldn’t have to put on the show anymore.

I know I SAY I don’t want anyone to know what’s going on, but it’s actually pretty lonely.

Oh yes, we know how to play hide and seek, perhaps all too well. While, according to the Encyclopedia of Play in Today’s Society traced the origins of this children’s game back to at least the 2nd century, we’ve really been playing for much longer than that.

“When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.” – Genesis‬ ‭3:8‬ ‭‬‬

Shame was what caused these two, the very first humans–and probably many of us–to hide. They had done the one thing God has asked them not to do, they broke the one rule that He knew would keep them safe and free and full of the most abundant life. They had stepped over the line and now their relationship with God was different.

Instead of delighting in joining God on an evening stroll through the literally PERFECT garden, they hid. Behind some trees they went. Like a two-year old who hides practically in plain sight, God wasn’t fooled when He came to find them. “Where are you?” He called. Knowing what I know about God through Scripture, I imagine His tone was much like that of mine when I wander around the house searching for my nieces even when I know exactly where they already are, “I wonder where Maddie could be? Could Karlie be behind the curtain?”

He, of course, knew what had happened. He also knew exactly where they were. He didn’t need to ask them their location when “Where are you? came out of His mouth; He needed them to hear that despite what they had done, they were worth seeking out, worth finding. There, in the middle of the mess they’ve made, He would not leave them in hiding. He would come, that day, and He would come again, in the form of a baby, who grew to be a Messiah, a Savior on a seeking mission:

“Jesus responded, … For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke‬ ‭19:9-10‬ ‭‬‬

So whether we’re hiding in shame of what we done like Adam and Eve, or hiding from the hurt of what’s been done to us in this broken world… if we’re hiding in “bushes” of perfectionism, pain, pressure, or pleasures… whether we’ve been here just a short time or if it feels like we’ve been waiting forever to be found, Jesus comes. He’s on a mission. He knows right where you are and He doesn’t just seek you out to shame you more or tell you what you could have done differently. No, our God rejoices and celebrates when you are found!

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’”Luke‬ ‭15:4-6‬

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” Luke‬ ‭15:22-24

Like a lost sheep found by a shepherd or a lost son found by a father, our God delights in finding us. Come out of hiding today, you have been found!

Olly Olly Oxen Free! You can come out of hiding and not lose the game! God has made a way to cover the shame and heal the hurt. Save the hide-and-seek games for fun Saturdays with the kids. Live as God’s child, found and free today!

Bekah's Heart, Devotional

Freedom in the Father’s Love

Wednesday night the new LifeMatters Lifegroup started at First Trinity geared towards those in the 18-35 range. We started a series looking at who God is in our lives specifically through some examples and stories in the Old Testament. Our study on Wednesday focused in on Psalm 103.
I encourage you to read the whole thing because it is AWESOME, but for the sake of this post I want to focus in on verse 13 which says

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him

Now I realize that for some reading this, it may be difficult to understand from your personal experience a father having compassion on his children. It’s perhaps hard to see God in a Fatherly role and not cringe. But in His fatherly role, God is anything but harsh or demanding. Sure, discipline is a part of being a father (see Hebrews 12:3-11), but more than anything it’s a loving, compassionate role. So, if you don’t have the best example of a caring, gracious father, I ask you to try to set that aside and stick with me for a moment.

As we went through the study, the author shared the following concept that really stuck with me:

“Fatherly love has a God-given ability to create a sense of security in children. Children who feel safe are more confident and move about more freely. On the other hand, fear and insecurity create paralysis. As God’s children, trusting His love completely can give us the freedom and confidence we need to live by faith.”

I think this is something any of us can understand no matter how amazing or not our own earthly father was. When we feel safe, we are confident and free. When we live in an environment of fear and insecurity, well, we don’t truly live at all.

This really caught my attention and stuck with me because of how true I see it in my life. When I let myself get caught in Satan’s lies of comparison and insecurity, I hide. I’m paralyzed. I’m stuck. BUT when I remember who I really am and how much my Heavenly Father loves and cares for me, I breathe more freely. I stand up boldly. I communicate more clearly. I live more passionately.

This is the Father we are called to trust in… one who “forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion” (Psalm 103:3-4) A Father who “is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (vs 8) “From everlasting to everlasting” is this Father’s love! (vs 17)

Now that’s a love worth trusting in! May you find freedom today in Our Father’s love to be exactly who He created you to be!

31 Days of Imperfection

Saying No: When Perfection is Imperfect {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 9}

Exactly one year ago today I returned to Buffalo from my first trip to Haiti.

 

Exactly one year ago today, I also was proposed to by one of the most amazing, godly, wonderful men I’ve ever met.

 

I can only imagine the reactions of some of you reading this right now…

Say, WHAT?!?

You’re engaged?

How didn’t I know about this?

What’s going on?

Did I miss the invitation to the wedding?

 

I guess I should continue by saying:

Exactly one year ago today, I made one of the best decisions of my life this far and said, “no”.

 

 

The story of how Isaac and I met (in Uganda) and the journey leading to a proposal is a great one and I’d be willing to share it with anyone who wants to hear about it.  But for today, the ‘no’ is the important piece of the (extremely long) story.

 

As I said before, Isaac truly is one of the most amazing, godly men I’ve ever met in my entire life.  He is passionate about sharing Jesus with others.  He is well respected  by the people in his family, at his job, in his town and by everyone who meets him.  He cared for me and made sure I was protected while in some possibly dangerous situations in Uganda.  He encouraged me in my calling to ministry and my calling as a child of God (and continues to do so as an amazing brother in Christ).

 

By now some of you are probably wondering why in the world I said “no”.  While there are many reasons, one of the biggest reason is that I simply wasn’t in love with him.

 

Throughout the discussions about marriage that we had, and despite the fact that HE truly WAS in love with me, I slowly came to realize that one of the only reasons I continued to consider the prospect of getting married to Isaac was because I thought maybe that’s what God wanted me to do and I needed to prove my willingness to sacrifice for God.  Sure, Isaac had many of the characteristics of the man I hope one day I get to call “husband,” but to move forward in a big life decision like this simply out of duty is NOT the life God has called us to.

 

In my striving for perfection, I set aside one of the most important gifts God desires to give us: JOY.

 

In the weeks and months of me seeking God for wisdom, guidance, and direction, I realized that if I stepped forward in this relationship and it really WAS God’s plan, he would bless it with joy and peace.  Yet, as my heart leaned that way, there was nothing but confusion, duty, and sacrifice.  I’m not saying that God’s plans for our lives don’t involve sacrifice, because they often do, but in my trying to follow God perfectly, I had forgotten that following God is just as much about finding joy in our lives (IN HIM) as it is sacrifice.

 

Another big issue was that God gave me my passions, gifts, desires, and talents for a reason.  At that point in my life, I didn’t know where I was going to end up after my internship, but I could sense God’s calling loud and clear that I was supposed to be in America.  Throughout the time I knew Isaac, I could tell that his passions and gifts were rooted in ministry in Uganda.  As I said before, God’s plans for us are often different than our own and often include sacrifice.  However, nothing I read in God’s Word points to a God who creates us with unique desires, passions, and gifts for ministry in His Kingdom only to tell us to ignore it all.  Instead, the God I know and love gives us opportunities to use all that in a way that brings Him glory.

 

In my striving for perfection, I lost sight of this truth:

My God loves me.

He doesn’t love me because I was willing to give up everything and marry a guy (I didn’t really love) and move to Africa. He also doesn’t love me because I stayed here in America to serve him.  He doesn’t love me BECAUSE of anything I do.

He just simply loves me… imperfection and all. No ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, or ‘buts’.

He LOVES me!

 

Sometimes recognizing that love, joy, and peace comes … in saying “no.”

Poetry/Songs

FREE!!!

Oh that nasty Satan
So good at telling lies
That bind, constrict, destroy, and kill
So many innocent lives

 

He tells you you’re not good enough
But yet builds you up with pride
Insecurity overwhelms your heart
Makes you run and hide

 

The chains wrapped tight around your soul
Getting tighter and tighter each day
But there’s one thing that is stronger still
Love alone breaks chains away

 

It starts as just a whisper
One Satan tries desperately to end
But slowly it gets louder still
A simple "hope" points ’round the bend

 

Around that bend you swear didn’t exist
Despair blocked it from your view
But as light broke through your darkened heart
You realized that hope really is for YOU

 

It’s not just for those "other ones"
"For anyone but me"
No, truth be told, Jesus loves all
And love … has set you

 

free.