Advent, Devotional, Joy

LAUGH!

I wake up one morning and lay there in bed a while. I had been working for 6 months or so to get the iron levels in my body back up to normal and now, most days, I didn’t even notice it any more. But this day, I noticed; there is still a ways to go. With the stores of iron depleted, strength and energy can be depleted too. While it’s not a big deal and soon will be resolved, a lack of iron can inhibit a body’s ability to carry oxygen throughout, making the act of getting out of bed on a cold December morning an undesirable task.

Considering this, my hand slides toward the night stand and pulls back a book. And these words catch my attention from an Advent devotion I’m reading the fourth year through…

“Laughter… oxygenated grace.”

Like iron-filled, oxygenaged cells are needed for my heart to pump and my body to live, laughter fills up grace, gives it life and strength, so my soul can live. Anemic souls, like cells, need oxygen too.

When God’s breath of grace fills our lungs, we can choose joy over fear. We choose laughter, because in these hard, uncertain times— in health, in families, in marriages, in our country, in our world—grace is what we need and sometimes it’s laughter that makes it possible. When the tears flow and our entire soul feels lacking in iron-like strength, we laugh. Because God is still good and God is for us and God longs for us to enjoy life, to enjoy Him. Perhaps that’s one way we are able to get out of bed another morning, putting one foot in front of the other.

Laugh!

And suddenly I’m reminded of a moment from earlier that week standing at the front of the church. Bowing in reverence, contemplating the seriousness of my sin and the beauty of my Savior’s sacrifice, I prepare to recieve the beautiful gift of Christ’s body and blood. Something happens and suddenly a giggle starts; it can’t be contained. My Pastor and I try to keep it in, control it, but we

can’t.

stop.

laughing.

It seems so irreverent, so inappropriate even by some. But there, in God’s presence–receiving this gift of Christ’s strong and powerful blood in me–I think God smiled and laughed with us. When amazing grace overcomes us it often overflows. And as that oxygenated grace (a.k.a. laughter) filled my lungs and snuck out in uncontrollable giggles, hope awoke, joy flourished, and all seemed well with my soul.

The world remains in shambles around us, uncertainty lingers awaiting what will come next in our lives, and who in this whole wide world even knows what this day will bring. But, as one proverb says:

“[A noble woman] is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

Proverbs 31:25

So find a reason to laugh a little today. No more fear! Only dignity and nobility! Only strength!

Let the corners of your mouth creep up when the world pushes you towards a frown. Don’t ignore the hard, but stare it in the face, fill up your lungs with that “oxygenated grace” and laugh. Offer that strong grace to others as well.

Perhaps the opposite of fear is laughter itself. And there is nothing to fear… in this day, this week, this life. His love is faithful… and because of the Lord’s faithful love, we are not consumed by the anxieties of this world (Lamentations 3).

Sliding the book back to the nightstand and my feet to the floor, these words from the author’s heart echo in mine:

“There is nothing left to want. There is nothing left to fear: ‘All fear is but the notion that God’s Love ends.’ And His love for you never will. So loosen up, because the chains have been loosed, and laugh the laughter of the freed. Laughter—it’s all oxygenated grace.”

– Ann Voskamp

Breathe it in deep today! Be strong!

LAUGH!

Lent

Giving Up Guilt

Sorry for the silence over here on the blog the past few days.  I was away at a middle school retreat and then ended up super sick and in bed most of the weekend unable to even hang out with the awesome youth. Between all that and other factors, blogging just didn’t happen.  It actually seems quite fitting that I had planned to blog today about giving up guilt.

While there are good and healthy places for guilt, like when it convicts you of sin, I often find myself struggling with unnecessary guilt placed on my shoulders most often by myself. This weekend had potential for a lot of that…

… Potential to, as I mentioned, get stressed about the things that didn’t get done, like not getting the blog up or things at work that didn’t get done before I left. 

… Potential to feel bad about not being able to be a part of the retreat and potentially getting other people sick.

… Potential to block out those who wanted to care for me while sick.

… Potential to see necessary self-care as selfish

But you’ll notice that in all those things, and many more I could have listed, I used the word potential.  I saw this weekend the work that God has been doing in my heart the past few weeks in this process of “giving up”.  Each of those were areas where I could have found myself overwhelmed with guilt and frustration. Yet, by God’s grace, somehow that wasn’t the case.  Before I even declared in my mind to give up that unnecessary guilt about things outside of my control, God was already working that in my heart.

He drew me into grace that things that most needed to be done would be, and the world would go on without a few dishes done or blogs posted.

He helped me see his hand of provision and protection instead of wallowing in pity or self-preservation.

He has surrounded me with awesome people who care about me whether I ask for it or not and brought me to a place of gratitude instead of guilt.

Some things we have no control of in lofe. Let’s give up the guilt that Satan tries to use to steal and kill and destroy our lives.  And for the things where we really ARE guilty, we can give up that guilt too as we run to the cross and find our amazing God ready and waiting to exchange it for His grace. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

“Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

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Lent

Giving Up Self-Deprecating Words

When it comes to giving up useless words (my theme for the week) Ephesians 4:29 remains one of my favorite passages:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

It’s easy to read passages like this and see the implications for how we interact with people. It’s actually super clear: speak only words that build people up rather than tearing them down. Speak life-giving, grace-filled words as we interact with others.

The hardest part though, is realizing that nowhere in that verse does it limit our life-giving words to OTHER people. This verse must also impact the way we are called to speak to ourselves. Sadly, the challenging task of speaking grace-filled words to others actually can seem easy at times compared to speaking those words to ourselves.

Let’s take worry for example.  We talked about it back in the first week of Lent. It’s one of those things for many of us that seems hard to kick to the curb. We encourage other people not to worry. We point out one of the hundreds of times in Scripture God reminds us we have no need to worry.   We walk with them and help them figure out the uncertainties of life giving grace for their worry.  And yet, when it comes to us… we ignore all that and just worry!

The way we think and the words we tell ourselves get our hearts all in a knotted mess of anxiety and fear. The things I say often is evidence of what is in my heart and how I talk about the tough or uncertain parts of life impacts where my heart is at as well. Speaking words of worry does not give myself, the hearer, grace.

Or what about the other ways we tear ourselves down? We tell ourselves we’re not good enough, smart enough, then enough… just not enough. We berate things that we feel we messed up and down play the times when God’s work shines brightly in our lives. We struggle sometimes not as much with “not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought” (Romans 12), but rather more so with thinking of ourselves LESS highly than we ought. Are the things coming out of your mouth building YOURSELF up? Are they offering grace to YOURSELF? Often, I think we’d all probably say no.

At first it seems like the antidote to these self-deprecating words is to just start talking better about yourself.  However, I’ve found that typically doesn’t work or swings me completely the opposite direction on the pendulum from insecurity to pride.  No, I’ve found the best component of giving up negative self-talk, is actually through talking more highly of God!  It’s through worship.

First, back with our worry example, as I try to change worry words into worship words, I find my anxious knot begin to unravel. I remember that while life isn’t always easy, I serve a God who has dominion and power and authority over EVERYTHING. He’s got this under control and as I worship him, my worry fades.

Also, worship helps me get a right view of myself. It allows me to keep God in the #1 position and therefore, I can see where I fall. I am not the center of the universe, but I am also not just some gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe. I am a beloved, treasured, child of the Creator, Savior, and Sustainer of the Universe! I have value! I am accepted! I am enough! I am chosen! I am sent! Worshiping my God reminds me not only of who He is, but who I am in Him.  Only because of who He is do I have value.

So today, let’s exchange our worry for worship. Let’s give up self-demeaning words, and speak words that build up and affirm our identity in Christ. Let’s give ourselves the same grace we might desire to give others.

Speak life… yes, even to yourself!

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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, Devotional

Resting in Grace

Bloggers Note:
Yes. It’s been too long since I wrote a blog post.
No, I’m not promising to get back on to a regular posting schedule, but I sure hope that happens!

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I’m currently reading through the book of Hebrews (which happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible). I always especially love when I get to about chapter 4 because it gives such beautiful pictures of what it means to draw near to God and rest in His presence.

This week as I read through that chapter again, this passage struck me in a new way:

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)

Because of my perfectionistic tendencies, one of my biggest temptations in life is to try to do things in my own strength or wisdom, (which are not really strength nor wisdom at all) instead of trusting God. As I read this verse, that is referring to God resting on the 7th day of creation and inviting us into that rest, I was reminded of God’s call to give up striving. As it talks about the one who has “entered God’s rest” it goes on to say that those are the people who have rested from their works.

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing,; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9

And here we are back to grace.

We truly enter the rest of God when we give up the works and trust the grace. It seems easier to try on my own. Easier to keep on striving and mark off all the check boxes and try to do things my own way. But how beautiful the peace when we simply stand in GRACE and let Christ’s works be enough, because unlike mine, they actually are!

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace…” (Hebrews 4:16)

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Bekah's Heart

It’s all grace…

All the “stuff” around me … good stuff… bad stuff… in between stuff… threatens to destroy, distract, and derail. Frustrations are high, and blessings are too. I see God in it all and yet find myself overwhelmed in just about every way.

So when she said those words, I knew the tears that had been hiding just slightly below the surface wouldn’t stay there much longer.

“And maybe that’s not something to deal with today.”

I don’t think either of us realized it at the time, how profound, how freeing, those words were. The flood of tears that followed was not even really connected to the conversation we were just having. They were were not because of grief or frustration or sadness or loss or realization of hard times ahead.

GRACE.

The tears came as I remembered grace.

And in that moment I remembered… I re-learned… the simple, but sometime hard lesson: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mt. 6:34)

In that moment, though weary, I was renewed. (Isa. 40:29-31)

In that moment, I trusted His care. (1 Peter 5:7)

In that moment, I gave back the burdens that he never asked me to carry today and let him lighten my load. (Mt 11:28-30)

And it’s all grace.