Bekah's Heart

Choosing Failure

The title of this blog post alone is enough to send some of our hearts racing and palms sweating (mine included). We live in a “Failure is not an option!” world, but I’m starting to think maybe it is. Even more, I sometimes wonder if it might be the BEST option.

We live in a go-go-go, get it all done, add one more thing culture. Success is often oddly defined by who got the least amount of sleep, pushed the hardest, and checked the most boxes. Failure then becomes anything less than perfect. But maybe there is something better than perfect.

A few days ago a woman at my church randomly mentioned a book she was reading in passing. We don’t talk much and I’m not sure what prompted her to stop and tell me about this book but it was just the reminder I needed. The title, “Present Over Perfect” is one example of why sometimes choosing “failure” might just be the best way to live life. Do I want to spend all my time time and energy perfecting this this life or actually living it?

This month is crazy busy for me. I knew that heading into it and, at first, had a mindset to “buckle down and get through it.” As I thought about it more, that just sounded exhausting and joyless. In praying about that a few days ago, my prayer shifted to ask God to help me actually enjoy this month. Most events will stay on the calendar and the to-do list is still long, but my mindset has shifted to one that desires to be present this month. Some of that will happen by choosing failure.

At a conference in February I heard a woman speak about being “in the clear” and “out of the woods”. Normally, we feel we must be out of the woods before we can be in the clear. Her proposal was that we don’t have to exchange one for the other. What would it look like to be mentally “in the clear” even if we’re not “out of the woods” yet?

One of her talking points was: “Failure is completely inevitable, but fear doesn’t have to be.” Long, long story short, I’ve realized that failure really is inevitable (or at least something short of perfect). Failure will come, but perhaps by choosing it, I don’t have to live in fear. So as I head into this month, a month in which I know the boxes won’t all get checked, expectations won’t be met, and people will likely be disappointed, I’m intentionally choosing some things to “fail” at in order to succeed at the most important things.

I know I need to pass off some things at work or even just cross them off the list completely. I want those things to happen. Other people want those things to happen. But there are some tasks that are just more important to make sure happen.

As I prepare for surgery at the end of the month, it is important for me to take care of my body and soul. If I have to choose, I want to succeed at eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep even if that means failing at keeping a clean house. (I’m pretty sure paper plates were made ‘for such a time as this’, right!?!)

On Saturday morning, I planned to spend 2 hours working toward a writing deadline. When that time came it was so obvious that the biggest need was to rest. So, I made the hard, but good, choice and probably will not meet that deadline.

Do I want to let people down? No.

Do I enjoy not following through on a commitment to myself or others? Of course not!

Do I use “failure is inevitable” as an excuse to slack off or just give up? Never.

But sometimes, a well-placed “no” or “not right now” leads us to a deeper, more fulfilling life than we could ever imagine. Not to mention potentially freeing others to do the same.

In the book I mentioned above, author Shauna Neiquist says: “People called me tough. And capable. And they said I was someone they could count on. Those are all nice things. Kind of. But they’re not the same as loving, or kind, or joyful.

I choose joy.

I choose love.

I choose a spirit that is kind to those around me.

And, at least in this season of life, that means choosing a little failure.

66 in 52 Challenge

Reflections on Job: Yet I will trust Him

Trust.

This is the word that rises to the surface as I read through Job.

It takes trust to fall to your knees in grief and worship there after receiving the news of the death of your children.

It takes trust to get up and move forward each day after that.

It takes trust to appeal to what you know about your God when those around you encourage you to give up and curse Him.

It takes trust to stay confident in your identity and convictions when those closest to you question you all the way.

It takes trust to appeal to God knowing how powerful He is but believing that whatever He could do to you would be better than giving in to what you know isn’t true.

It takes trust to humble yourself and admit where you didn’t live up to a perfect standard.

Trust.

Trustbelieves: “Even now, God in heaven is my witness and my protector.” Job 16:19

Trust remembers: “You, the source of my life, showered me with kindness and watched over me.” Job 10:12

Trust stays humble: “What you say is true. No human is innocent in the sight of God. Not once in a thousand times could we win our case if we took him to court. God is wise and powerful— who could possibly oppose him and win? When God becomes angry, he can move mountains before they even know it.” Job 9:2-5

Trust is not afraid to ask the hard questions: “Why should I patiently hope when my strength is gone?” Job 6:11 “Why is life so hard? Why do we suffer?” Job 7:1

Trust helps us remain faithful: “In spite of everything, Job did not sin or accuse God of doing wrong.” Job 1:22

Trust proclaims: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” Job 19:25-27

Trust stays focused on what’s most important: “Let God All-Powerful be your silver and gold.” Job 22:25

Trust does not depend on sight: “I cannot find God anywhere— in front or back of me, to my left or my right. God is always at work, though I never see him.” Job 23:8-9

Trust relinquishes perceived or desired control: “From the very beginning, God has been in control of all the world.” Job 34:13

Trust leans in when it doesn’t make sense: “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him…” Job 13:15

Jesus, on the best days and the worst, may I trust You and You alone. Teach me to trust. Teach me the humility and peace, the patience and focus, the determination and proclamation of trust. Always. Amen.

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

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

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”

 

Joy, Lent

Sunday Joy: I Choose Joy

Joy is a facinating thing to me.  I don’t quite understand it and am thankful that it is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in my life and not something I have to muster up on my own.

But until recently I think that’s how I treated it…as something I must make happen.  People would say something like “choose joy”– a phrase I’ve heard, loved, and even used for years–but sometimes I wonder if my “choosing joy” really was more like “acting-like-nothing’s-wrong-and-putting-on-this-happy-Christian-face”.  (Which, by the way is not really joy at all.)

I knew I had experienced joy–true genuine joy–before and I knew I wanted more of it in my life, however I think a few weeks ago I finally understood it a little more.

In talking with a friend about a certain situation throughout the course of a day, my attitude had much improved about this situation from earlier in the day.  She commented, “You sound happy.”

I knew what she meant, but it still didn’t seem quite right. In fact I was anything but happy about the situation, and I suddenly realized, I wasn’t happy, but I WAS joyful.

I began to wonder if maybe “choosing joy” isn’t really a choice between “joy” and “sadness” as I had always supposed it to be.  No, more often than not, that just ends up with the fake smile plastered on your face.  Maybe, the choice is rather between joy and HAPPINESS.  Those are really the things that are at times in competition with each other.

As I talked about earlier this week in the post about giving up the pursuit of happiness, my definition of what will make me happy in life is first of all very unlikely to actually come through. More than that, the pursuit of happiness often ends up stealing my joy not fulfilling it.

Joy and sadness or pain or struggle on the other hand I’ve found often go well together. Because joy is not dependent on circumstances but rather on Jesus, our Joy-Bringer. And from what I’ve come to learn about this amazing God is that He loves to bring joy in EVERYTHING.

Habakkuk said it this way:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk‬ ‭3:17-18‬)

So, as I told my friend the other day, at least in that situation: Happy? No. But by God’s Grace, I’m was filled with joy and for that I’m thankful!

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!

  

Lent

Giving up the Pursuit of Happiness

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

The American Dream, right?

While I am so thankful to life in a country with considerably more freedom than many in the world, I sometimes wonder if our lofty ideals actually make us sell ourselves short.  What I find most interesting about these “rights” found in our Declaration of Independence is that life and liberty are rights, yet only the pursuit of happiness.  

What I’ve come to realize is that it’s actually quite fitting, for happiness seems to often be one of those things that we love to pursue but never quite seem to attain.  The grass is always greener on the other side, right? (another blog post about this coming soon).  We pursue and pursue and pursue and often are left coming up short.

Oh how easy it is for me to get caught in this pursuit.  If this happens in my life, then I will be happy.  If I had that item, then I would be happy.  If I didn’t have to do this, then I would be happy.  

It never really seems to work out that way, does it.  So today, I pray I would be able to give up the pursuit of happiness and simply pursue Jesus. He provides something even greater…. He provides joy. And it comes with no “pursuit” involved.  It comes simply in abiding.  John 15 puts it this way:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. … By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love…. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (‭‭John‬ ‭15:4-5, 8-9, 11‬)

Teach me to abide, Jesus.  Teach me that You are more than enough.  Teach me to bear much fruit and bring glory to Your Father.  Teach me to be and make disciples. Teach me to abide in your love that Your joy may be in me and that my joy may be full!  Teach me to pursue You and You alone! 

  

Bekah's Heart, Devotional, Hope Restored

Repeat the Sounding Joy

I have a lot of friends who are hurting this Christmas season. Broken…abused…challenged…confused. Each day as I am reminded of their situations and prompted to pray, one thing I pray for, is joy. We hear that word through many Christmas songs… especially “Joy to the World” but what about when joy doesn’t seem to come to our world.

While reading my Advent devotion this morning (which I LOVE by the way), I was a reminded of this great passage in the little Old Testament book of Habbakkuk:

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
And there are no grapes on the vines;
Even though the olive crop fails,
And the fields lie empty and barren;
Even though the flocks die in the fields,
And the cattle barns are empty,
Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

Perhaps the friends on my heart might say it this way…

“Even though the job opportunities don’t blossom,
And I see no fruit from my labor,
Even though friends fail me, and family fails me, and I fail me,
And my home is empty and barren,
Even though my loved ones have died,
And my heart is empty,
YET, we can rejoice, we will rejoice, we must rejoice.”

And even when that seems impossible, I’ve been reminded that joy doesn’t come in any of those things. Joy comes from the God of our salvation, alone, no where else, no one else. That God is One who is always blossoming, never failing, abundant and full, never empty and barren.

And the joy comes when we shift our focus to Him… And, as the songs says, we “Repeat the sounding joy!”… When we choose consciously to remember and repeat, again and again, the Sovereign One who reigns and is in control even when our lives feel wildly out of control. That joy comes when we remember and repeat His love that comes to us in those moments of need, that came to us as a baby this Advent. We remember and repeat, to ourselves and to each other because we all need reminding. We find joy not in our circumstances, but in our cross-bound, infant King. And with that joy, comes HOPE! Hope that we are not forgotten in this crazy world. HOPE that gets us through each day. HOPE that whether better days come here on this earth or not until we’re in Heaven with him, they WILL come, just as sure as He came that first Christmas.

So even if your life is falling apart this Christmas… We can still rejoice! We can join with the “fields, floods, rocks, hills, and plains” to repeat that joy over and over and over again reminding ourselves and each other of the God who Saves, the God who reigns, the God who alone brings joy and restores our hope.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

IMG_1787.JPG