66 in 52 Challenge, Bible Journaling, Devotional

Things Worth Lamenting in 2018

Reading in the book of Lamentations this week has me thinking about what it even means to “lament”. As a noun, the first definition that comes up in a google search is: “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.”  I’ve been pondering throughout this week what is worth lamenting over in our own world. Instantly, that thought alone brought tears to my eyes. It feels there is much to lament and yet it’s something we don’t often do.

To be honest I didn’t want to write this post (let alone post it) because it feels like everything gets so politically charged and what follows is not meant to be political at all. It simply feels like some lamenting is necessary when I look around at our world and my heart breaks. I know there are many complicated sides to all of these issues. I ashamedly have to admit I haven’t done enough research to comment intelligently about most of them. BUT no matter what my opinions or beliefs about any of them, I feel it is worth expressing grief and sorrow on behalf of the people impacted by these issues, situations, and struggles. I may not agree with those impacted or those making decisions or maybe I do. That’s not what this post is about. It’s about looking around this world and weeping with a God who is saddened to see those He created so broken and hurting.

So, for a few moments, I’m going to set aside arguing, debating, and even healthy discussion and simply lament. I invite you to join me and take just a few moments to stop, let yourself have some compassion, and perhaps even cry a little.

Things Worth Lamenting in 2018:

  • Hundreds and hundreds of people dying each month as a result of their drug addiction
  • The 44,400 people a day forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution in their country
  • Depression rates at an all-time high
  • Nearly a half a million of kids in our country alone orphaned and in need of a home, millions around the world living separated from their parents whether from the poor choices of their parents, because of death, due to poverty, or countless other reasons
  • Hundreds of people who die daily because they feel they have no other choice but to end their own life … to escape the terror of war that haunts them after fighting for our freedom in the military, in response to bullying about their sexual orientation or gender, because of financial or marital crisis, or simply because they believe that no one would even miss them
  • The fact that racism is real and many of us who perpetuate this in our culture don’t even know how racist we really are
  • The estimated 40 million human beings on our planet in slavery today
  • Wars around the world that never seem to end
  • The fact that I’m glad it summer because it hopefully means we’ll get a break for a while from what became weekly school shootings

Unfortunately, this isn’t even half of the list I came up with. When thinking of a Biblical lament like those in the book of Lamentations, it isn’t just enough to “be sad” about what’s going on, the grief leads to repentance and action.

I obviously can’t bring world peace, solve all the hunger and slavery issues around the globe, take in every orphaned child, or single-handedly get rid of all government corruption worldwide.

BUT there are things I can do.

There are ways I can bring light to darkness and hope to despair in the lives of those around me. I can inform myself about issues and reach out to those who do have more power than I do to bring about change. I can offer a listening ear to a struggling friend and welcome people into my home. I can advocate and speak up for those who can’t do that for themselves. I can open my life to refugees and orphans and the lonely.  I can repent for the times I’ve judged others and seek reconciliation.

It’s easy in the face of so much hurt and suffering to turn to God and ask “WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING!?!?” But, as Matthew West wrote in a song a few years back, we have to ready to hear what often is His reply: “I did, I created you.”

Some people say that grieving over the hard things in this world is pointless and a waste of time… that “praying isn’t enough.” But, at least in my life, what I’ve found is this: when I allow myself to fully experience the grief and sorrow for the hurt and pain others are suffering in prayer, it WON’T stop there. True lament always eventually leads to action.

It’s not comfortable. It’s not fun. But may I challenge you to join me this week and spend some time in lament. Pour out your heart and then be still and listen. Ask God how He wants to use YOU to make change.

One last thing: When looking at a list like the one I made above, it can also lead to despair instead of action. That’s where these words actually from the book of Lamentations refresh my soul this week:

“Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!'” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

We lament… and we hope.

Lent, Prayer

Giving Up Complaining

Lord,

Forgive me when my words are filled with complaints… to You, to others, to no one in particular. Forgive me when I get focused on the things that aren’t going the way I would like or imagine and get my heart focused instead on the many ways in which you have blessed me.  Forgive me Lord when my words which express desire for more or different get in the way of showing the world your abundant grace and joy.  Forgive me for the ways these complaining words have damaged relationships, hurt people, or given an inaccurate picture of You.

I can’t help but be reminded of the Israelites who grumbled their way through the wilderness, longing to go back to Egypt… forgetting the slavery they endured there. (Exodus 16, Numbers 11) Your provided freedom and they grumbled that it took so long.  You provided food and they grumbled that they wanted something different.  You lead them and gave them guidelines to help them live the best life possible and they grumbled.  Lord, I confess I do the same. Forgive me of my grumbling.

Replace my complaining spirit with a spirit of praise… a heart that longs to bless Your name and the many ways You provide for me, lead me, care about me, and use me.  May I not be conformed to the complaining pattern of this world but may my mind be transformed and renewed (Romans 12:1-2). Like Paul, may I learn contentment and praise in every situation, coming to you with any worry, concern, or fear, presenting requests with thanksgiving to Your glory by your grace (Philippians 4).

In the Mercy and Name of Jesus,

Amen… let it be so!

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Lent, Prayer

Giving Up Half-Hearted Prayers

A couple weeks ago I was in the store and decided to buy a baptism card.  That might seem totally normal, except I don’t know anyone being baptized soon.  In short, buying that card was a way to trust that God was going to answer one of my prayers for 2016: that I would get to see the salvation of souls… that I God would make me a disciple that makes disciples. Buying that card was a way for me to tell my heart to trust God that He will answer my prayers for new people to know the love of Jesus this year.

So often we I pray for something to happen, but then don’t actually expect God to come through. Sadly, at times, I pray for things and then find myself shocked when God actually answers.

Today, I give up half-hearted, unexpectant prayers.  When I pray, I’m not checking something off my list… I’m standing in the very presence of the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe!  I’m bringing my praise and my petitions before the One being in all Creation who really can make things happen and LOVES to do it.  I want to learn to pray with persistence and passion, but most of all, with expectation. While God may not come through in the WAYS or the TIMES I might desire or expect, He WILL come through; I can count on that! It’s in His very nature to be faithful to His children even when we’re not.

“…if we are faithless, He remains faithful—
for He cannot deny Himself.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:13

My God will show up and I don’t want to be left surprised. I want to be able to jump up and down, celebrate, saying,
“I knew You’d come through. I knew You’d show up. I knew I could count on You!”

… because we can!

prayer

The 3: What I'm Learning...

The 3: February Edition – Be Bold

There is great value in occasionally stopping and reflecting on all I’m learning. Whether in my professional life, in my relationship with Jesus, in how I interact with people around me, and more. Here’s February’s Edition of “The 3” … three things I’ve been learning lately.

1. Pray Boldly
Whether I’m praying for my students, or asking God to work in my own life… whether lifting up family and friends from afar or seeking God with a friend on my couch in the living room… whether the prayers are ones I’m asking just for today or if I likely won’t see answer for years… I’ve been learning to pray boldly. As I see God’s answers to very specific and sometimes large prayers, it encourages me even more to seek Him constantly. I have chances in every moment to converse with and seek the help of the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe… He’s got the power, why not tap into it?

2. Love Boldly
I’ve also been learning about what it means to take risks in loving the people around me as well as those I don’t know that well. To be bold in seeking to grow new relationships and be fully present in the midst of them. To set aside fears and situations from the past that perhaps would have kept me from caring about the people God’s placed in front of me and trust HIM to provide protection, wisdom, and courage. He’s let my heart be broken over hurting people in the world, and the next step after brokenness, is action… it’s to love boldly.

3. Live Boldly
I guess this kind of could be the umbrella over the first two, but it is unique and different from them. This is the place where I’ve been re-learning what it means to live in such a way that brings great joy to myself, to others, and most of all to God. That when God asks me to do something, and I trust him, and just do it, the joy is so great I can’t even describe it. It’s choosing joy even when circumstances wouldn’t normally seem to lead to that reaction. It’s setting aside what others may think or desire of me in order to please the only One whose opinion matters.

So what are you learning this month? My three all seem pretty “serious” or “deep this month, but it can be anything… have you learned a new skill? Learned something new about yourself? Learned a cool fact? What are three things you’ve learned in the last month or so?

Lent

Lenten Prayers, Dangerous Prayers

I love lent. Whether I choose to eat only rice and beans for 40 days, don’t give anything up at all, spend more time in prayer, bury the “hallelujahs” or let them ring loud, or even, like two years ago, give up LENT altogether for lent, these 40 (47) days each year always prove to be ones in which God draws me deeper and deeper into who He is and how big His love is. This year, I can tell, will be no exception.

Back in college, a friend introduced me to the concept of “dangerous” prayers. I’ve occasionally found myself praying one or more of them, but through some things God’s been doing in my life lately, I decided that perhaps Lent would be a good chance to pray through them again. The prayers are:
Search Me, Break Me, Stretch Me, Lead Me, Use Me, Cover Me, and Restore Me.

Already, in these first 7 days of Lent, I have found myself blown away by the ways in which God has answered these prayers in my life. Today, as I focused in on praying “Stretch Me Jesus,” God did not disappoint. One thing he made clear this morning was that by praying this prayer He would take me outside of my comfort zone. You can only imagine my reaction when I got into worship tonight, flipped over the bulletin and discovered that the sermon was titled: “Out of My Comfort Zone.” Haha, God… you’re a funny one. (I literally laughed out loud in my pew.)

While God is definitely going to take me out of comfort zone this Lent, I was thankful for Pastor’s reminder tonight that when we’re taken out of OUR comfort zone, we are taken into GOD’S comfort zone. He never leaves us. He doesn’t push us out, say “Good Luck!”, and walk away. He’s drawing out of our comfort zone so that we can be even nearer to Himself. While these types of prayers really do SEEM dangerous to us because they cause us to have to trust and not be in control, there really is no safer place to walk than directly in the will of God.

So, as scary as it is, I ask… Stretch Me God! Take me out of my comfort zone! And whatever that means, may it lead me straight into the comfort of Your arms. Amen!

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Prayer

A Morning Prayer

Not sure who wrote this, but what a great prayer to start a new day!

“Dear Lord,
I give you my hands to do Your work;
I give You my feet to go Your way;
I give You my eyes to see as You see;
I give You my tongue to speak Your words;
I give You my mind that You may think in me;
I give You my spirit that You may pray in me.
Above all, I give You my heart that You may love in me – love the Father and love all humankind.
I give You my whole self, Lord, that You may grow in me, so that it is You who lives, works and prays in me. Amen.”

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(Photo: Easter Morning 2010 – Seward, NE)

Bekah's Heart, Devotional, The Exodus Road

But what can I do?

Tonight at a Bible Study I attend we were talking about the book of Nehemiah. One of the things I’ve always loved about the story of Nehemiah leading the people to rebuild the walls of the city, comes in Chapter 3. There it talks about how they were able to accomplish the task by simply working on the part of that wall that was right outside their home. Together they were able to complete this incredible task in only 52 DAYS!!! Even those that opposed them were scared as they realized God’s hand at work in accomplishing the impossible.

Like Nehemiah, we live in a world that is broken. Everyone can see it. And often times the issues we see in our world seem too big to accomplish and building a huge wall around a city in 52 days while being attacked by outsiders seems like a piece-of-cake compared to the enormity of the brokenness.

One of these issues is human trafficking. A few days ago I mentioned that God was calling me to “build my section of the wall” by joining “The Exodus Road Blogging Team”. At least once a month, I can use this space on this blog to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. To tell their stories and pray for their restoration.

Today, on the 20th day of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, I invite YOU to do YOUR part in building the wall and restoring the brokenness in our world. Below you will find MANY ways to join in the fight for the 27 million who can’t fight for themselves. Find a way that works for you. Together we can restore brokenness! (And let’s encourage each other in the process. Post in the comments what YOUR part of the wall looks like! How are YOU going to help restore what’s broken?)

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WAYS TO FIGHT!

PRAY!
God’s Word makes it clear that His heart breaks for the broken and oppressed. He also makes it clear that when we pray according to His will, His heart, He WILL hear and He WILL answer. Let’s bang on the doors of heaven on behalf of those who find themselves enslaved. Here are the top three prayer requests right now from The Exodus Road:
1. Safety for our investigators– especially as they start an intense month-log operation with many nights of surveillance back to back.
2. Unity among the communities where they are working. For continued strong relationships with government and NGOs on the ground so that work can move forward.
3. Hearts and healing of rescued victims, currently in after-care facilities.

PUT THIS PHONE NUMBER IN YOUR PHONE!
Human Trafficking is not just something in “some other part of the world.” Sadly, it happens in our own communities everyday. My heart breaks to think that some of the youth I work with could end up caught in some form of sex slavery, but the reality is there. Another organization that works to fight human trafficking including efforts in the US is called the Polaris Project. One of their resources is a 24 hour resource hotline. You can call this hotline to report a tip, connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, or just to request training or anti-trafficking resources. It only takes about 30 seconds to put this phone number in your phone. You never know when you might be in a position where you might need it. You might save someone’s life just by having this phone number accessible!
1-888-3737-888

GIVE!
Because The Exodus Road has had successful connections in the last few days with local police in the area of SE Asia where they are working, their anticipated workload is multiplied GREATLY. While this is GREAT news, it also means that they will need more funds in order to make the raids a reality. Here are a couple ways to give to The Exodus Road:
* Buy an awesome t-shirt. ($22.50)
* Sponsor an investigator for a night ($35)
* Donate any amount.

LEARN!
My guess is that one of the biggest ways human trafficking has become such a big issue is because we’re just uninformed. We’d rather turn our head the other way or maybe we just never heard about it. Here are some ways to get informed about the issue and begin to advocate for those suffering.
* If you’re in the Buffalo area, come to the University at Buffalo this Friday night for an event called “Unbound” that will talk all about the issue of human trafficking.
* Read the stories and facts on any of the following websites:
The Exodus Road
The Polaris Project
* Explore what organizations are fighting this issue in your own state, and see how you can get involved.

So how are you joining in the fight? Share it in the comments as a way to encourage others and to remind us all that together we can make a difference!