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.

31 Days of Imperfection, Music

What if? {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 7}

I found myself at the kitchen sink last night, finally giving in and doing the dishes that had been staring at me all night long.

Music always makes cleaning more exciting, but in breaking out itunes for a little inspiration, I never expected it might break me. Not in a bad way, but more in the “I think God just punched me in the gut” kind of way. If it hadn’t been for that “revelation” earlier in the day the one about fake imperfection and living in God’s dreams for us rather than the expectations of the world (yea, this one) I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  itunes confirmed that I had heard the song before, but as these words came out of the computer, I think they bypassed my ears and went straight to my heart:

What if you lived like you were loved?

What if you did all the things Your heart’s dreaming of?

What if you sang your song at the top of your lungs?

What if you lived…

Like you were loved?

It struck me…  that’s all I’ve been called to do:

To live loved.

And yet, I complicate each day with so many other things.  The question never was, never is, and never will be, “What if I were loved?”  Because WE ARE LOVED.

Yet, we make it the question as we compare ourselves to others…”What if I were like her? then would I be loved?”
We make it the question when we seek approval, we long to be noticed, “What if I wear this outfit or do my hair that way? Then would I be loved?” 
We make it the question when we long for more, “What if I got that new toy or what if I made a little more money?  Maybe THEN I’d feel loved.”

And we forget that WE ARE LOVED! In forgetting that, we struggle to live out the dreams God has for us, we struggle to sing the unique song he’s created our lives to sing.

Dream for a minute, just what might life look like if we truly lived loved?

What kind of chances would you be taking?

What sort of difference could you make?

Would you let go of the secrets that you’ve been keeping,

If love was your shield and strength?

What are you waiting for?

There’ll never be, never be a better time.

No one could love you more than He who gave His life

Join me today in answering these questions.  In the comments below, in conversations with your family and friends, in your journal… wherever… answer the questions and then ask God to give you grace to understand YOU ARE LOVED and strength to live like it!

What if you lived like you were loved?

What if you did all the things Your heart’s dreaming of?

What if you sang your song at the top of your lungs?

What if you lived…

Like you were loved?

(What If? by Scott Krippayne)

Bekah's Heart, Crossroads

Persecution of A Different Kind

Our prison simulation for the high school students ended over 65 hours ago… yet my mind and heart continue to process that experience.  I wasn’t even one of the prisoners, but it had a great impact on me.  The struggle I’m having is in asking myself the question: “HOW is this going to impact me?”  I know that it has, but I also know that it would be easy for me to push the experience away and just slide right back into everyday life. I don’t want that.

At the end of the 12-hour simulation we revisited a passage that we also started the day with from Hebrews 11-12.  At the end of chapter 11, the writer of Hebrews talks about various forms of persecution that people of that time were experiencing… jeers, flogging, chained, put in prison, stoned, sawed in two, put to death by the sword, and more.  Heading into chapter 12 we see a very big word: “THEREFORE”.  That means… as we read these upcoming verses, keep that persecution, and those people in mind! It says:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix out eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb 12:1-3)

Therefore… as you consider all the people who have suffered …. throw off what hinders and run the race.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.

As we wrapped up the long day, I spoke of how we may not experience the same kind of persecution that over 200 million Christians in the world experience, but as we run our race… we run with them.  We too are called to throw off the things that hinder us and step up in our own worlds.  I truly believe we face persecution of a different kind in our culture.  We face the persecution that says “STAY QUIET” and “KEEP YOUR BELIEFS TO YOURSELF!”   We may not be beaten into submission but the call is clear to BE TOLERANT… that you can believe what you believe and I’ll believe what I believe and as long as you don’t get too loud about your beliefs, it’ll all be peachy.

Now, I’m not saying that we need to go crazy and I’m DEFINITELY not saying to disrespect others and their beliefs.  I am saying, though, that if we don’t use the freedoms we actually have in this country to believe what we want and to speak about it, soon those freedoms will fade away.  It reminds me of some verses we discussed at the Short Course last night that talk about “grace and truth”.  This is definitely a case where both are extremely careful.  We can slide to one side and get so wrapped up in speaking truth that people get pushed away from Jesus instead of drawn to him through his love and grace.  Or, we can focus so much on loving everyone that we forget to speak truth and they sadly never meet the real Jesus who IS the Truth.

Again, I’m trying to figure out what this really means… not just on a general, “all of us Chrsitians” level… but on a personal level…. a level that says what am I doing to stand up and speak boldly about what I believe?  What am I doing in the face of cultural persecution?  What am I doing when what I believe clashes with what the culture around me is saying?  Will I just go along with it and keep what I believe to myself or will I stand up and speak? How am I living in grace AND truth?
I pray that we’d all have discernment to know how to react in the face of persecution of any kind and that when it comes down too it, that our whole lives would simply be all about Jesus.  I pray that our ONLY goal would be to fix our eyes on Him and run the race He has marked out for us.  If that path includes speaking up, I pray I’d have boldness to speak up.  If it means staying quiet, I pray I’d have the grace to do just that.  If my race calls me to physical suffering at any point, that God would be my strength and if the race leads me through times of relief from persecution that I’d rejoice in those moments.  But I can only discern what action (or inaction) is needed when my eyes are firmly fixed on Him.  Most of all, in EVERY moment, I pray that I would remember the God who came to earth and found it JOY to suffer for me… because he loves me that much…. and that His great love would flow out of me to all around me.

Bekah's Heart, Music, Poetry/Songs

The Walls that Divide

This afternoon, I found myself thinking about a lot of things.

Mostly… about the walls that often divide us… walls in schools, homes, churches, friendships, and more.

These walls often come from areas of pain in our individual lives.

Following is a musical response I wrote this afternoon… not perfect… recorded only on my computer in my spare bedroom… voice cracking at times due to the cold I think I’m starting to get… but for whatever it’s worth… here’s my prayer that God would begin to restore our lives and as he does so, restore some of the brokenness in our relationships and in our world.

(If you’re reading this in some kind of blog reader, you’ll likely have to go to my actual website to listen.)

 

 

 

The Walls That Divide

Verse 1: The rain outside my window
Echoes rain inside
Of souls I walk past
Each and every day
Their storms of life
Overwhelm
Darkness looms
Shame destroys
Lord, please shine your light

 

Chorus: Break through the walls ’round our hearts
The hurt and the pain I see everyday
Restore our lives, I pray
Break through the walls that divide
Teach us to love, to care, and to serve
Restore our world today
Please break through

 

Verse 2: I am so frustrated by all the hurt I see
People caring less and less about humanity
How did we get so rotten?
How did we get so mean?
Gossip and lies
Please, open our eyes
Lord, please make us clean (Chorus)

 

Verse 3: Alone we are so powerless
Together we are strong
And with God on our side we will be defeated no more
Let us stand up and fight the enemy that seeks to destroy.
Instead, Lord, restore. Please have your way in me. (Chorus)

 

Bridge:
Break through.
Break through.
Break through, today.
Break through the hate
Break through the judgement.
Break through the walls that divide.  (Chorus)

 

 

Life Lessons Learned in the Kitchen

A Need to Be Kneaded

After my post about making bread last night, I decided to investigate WHY bread needs to be kneaded.  As I did a google search and read what www.wisegeek.com had to say about it, I was amazed at how God was STILL speaking to me through the simple act of baking bread.

 

Check out one of the reason behind kneading:

“One of the most important things that takes place during the kneading process is the development of gluten. As the flour that makes up the dough is moistened and stirred, the gluten begins to form and also gains in strength as the dough is subjecting to the kneading process. Gluten can be thought of as the binding agent within the dough, allowing the loaf to take on a cohesive texture that will allow the substance to not fall apart during baking.”

Do you see it?  Do you see the connections?!?

 

Yesterday in my post I was talking about God kneading truth into my life.  As this happens… I get stronger. 

 

As I submit to the kneading process… something that would probably be labeled as “weak” in this world… I actually gain strength. 

 

That truth works with the other ingredients that make up everyday life and becomes the binding agent that holds my life together and allows me to not fall apart when the tough times occur.

 

Bread of Life, knead Your truth into my life every moment of everyday!  Remind me to submit to this process, that I may gain strength to face whatever comes my way.

Bekah's Heart, Life Lessons Learned in the Kitchen

It’s Kinda Like Making Bread…

Upon returning home from work today, I decided I would NOT try to go out to volleyball tonight.  The roads weren’t too bad but after almost getting stuck 3 times going in/out of the church parking lot today, I decided not to press my luck (for lack of a better phrase).  Instead, seeing multiple unused yeast packets in my fridge, I decided to make some bread. 

 

As this process has gone on this evening, I’ve realized that sometimes what God is doing in our life is kind of a lot like making bread, especially the process of kneading the dough. 

 

There seem to be a rhythm to it… a process… repeated… necessary … for the bread to turn out.  

 

Knead.  Rest.  Rise.  Knead.  Rest.  Rise.

 

I feel like we’re constantly somewhere in this process as God shapes us into who he wants us to be.  As I look back over the past few months, I see God working in my life like a baker works with dough.  There have been some areas of my life where God has come and said, “Let me knead some Truth into that, Bekah.”

 

DSCF9213But kneading it’s not always a pleasant process.  Some descriptors in the kneading section of the recipe I used tonight were “punch,”  “squeeze,”  “stretch,” “pound,” “twist”.  When we think about the possibility of God doing these things in our lives… to our hearts, it does not sound like a very fun process.  

 

Oh, but God understands the need to knead. 

 

He’s got to work that yeast, His Truth, through our whole lives.  Sometimes that truth comes like a punch to the gut.  Other times he needs to stretch us out of our comfort zone.  Sometimes it comes as a pound on the door of our heart simply saying, “Something’s not right here. Let me fix it.” 

 

As God continues to knead our lives, it hurts, but it’s good.  It also takes time.  Those 10 minutes (or 10 hours, or 10 months, or 10 years) seem like forever, but God knows the perfect amount of time needed to knead. 

 

I also realized that the process isn’t exactly the most exciting for the Kneader as well… the punching, the squeezing, the stretching, the pounding, the twisting… it’s hard work.  And maybe that’s what it means to know that we are His “workmanship”. 

 

DSCF9214 And then, in the perfect time, the kneading ends, at least for a while, and the dough is shaped and placed in a ball in a bowl, covered with a towel and left alone. 

 

Sometimes when God’s been working on us for so long… for those 10 days or weeks or months or years, it kind of seems weird for the kneading to stop.  I mean it seems in my life that just when I get used to the kneading, and finally believe the Baker for its necessity, that’s when He says, “Okay, now it’s time to rest.”  Sometimes it even feels as if I’ve simply been beat up and left alone.  But God does not leave, he only knows our need to rest and let His Truth do its work… to rise up in our hearts and bring healing to the areas where he’s punched, squeezed, and stretched us.

 

But again, that’s often not the end of the process.  After the certain time… known by the Baker alone, the process begins again…. the punching, the pounding, the twisting, the shaping.  Again, it’s crucial, it has to happen.  There is a need for our lives to be kneaded… shaped again and again by the Master Baker.

DSCF9215 

And then He tells us to rest once more, letting Truth rise up in our hearts.

 DSCF9216

Again and again this process takes place.

 

Knead.  Rest.  Rise.  Knead.  Rest.  Rise.

 

Through the process we just have to trust that He knows what He’s doing.  The dough doesn’t knead itself… the dough doesn’t know how long to wait in the resting period… the dough doesn’t know how many times it needs to be kneaded before going to the oven.  But the Baker does. 

 

Lord, teach me to give in to Your kneading… Your pounding, Your twisting, Your stretching and squeezing… and help me to rest when I just need to let your Truth rise up in my soul.

DSCF9223

Poetry/Songs

Perspective

5:01am

Sitting at the gate at the Wichita airport.

 

 

10 feet away

A uniformed man holds back tears

As his parents say “goodbye”

Hopefully not for the last time

They leave

Embraced in each others’ arms

He fidgets .

Alone

Adjusting his uniform

Glancing around nervously

Trying to be strong

 

 

Seconds later

One more comes around the corner

This one with a wife

Her shoulders already shaking with grief

57 minutes till our flight departs

57 minutes of agony

Followed by months, maybe more

Of separation

 

 

And my biggest concern on this snowy day is whether or not I’ll make it to Buffalo or will have to work from Wichita, around my family, in a safe, warm house, for an extra day or so.

 

 

Perspective.