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the hope adventure LAUNCHES!

Hi friends –

Do you ever get to the end of a journey (which is really just the beginning) and wonder how you got there? I’m in that place right now and the only-sometimes-obvious answer is, “by taking one step at a time.”

Really that’s the only way we can do it. And I’m thankful, because otherwise, life would be too overwhelming!

But speaking of journeys and beginnings… I want to announce to you that I launched my podcast today! It’s called The Hope Adventure and is a place where we’ll explore the truth that The Greatest Adventure is His Presence.

I travel a lot. When I do, my parents always bid me adieu at the airport or in the driveway with the same encouragement, “Go find another story.” ⁣⁣

This podcast is a culmination of those stories and the deep spiritual meaning that can be found in a simple story.⁣⁣

I believe that God is always speaking to us if we would just tune our hearts and ears to listen. My prayer is that this podcast helps us do that together. ⁣⁣

And if nothing else, if you just want someone to pray over you weekly. Listen in. There will always be a moment for that.  ⁣⁣

[To listen, click on the link above or visit iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, or Stitcher, and search The Hope Adventure.⁣]

Please subscribe and leave a review so that more people can join us as well! ⁣⁣

Let’s adventure together…

x Bethany

I Am the Bird.

bethany-kiwi-again

Back in November, I had two unforgettable bird encounters.

After a morning of leading worship at church, I headed back to the campus to connect with a friend. When I arrived at the church, the door was locked. I stood outside debating how I was going to get in, and a flicker of yellow caught my attention on the cold concrete below my feet. It was an odd sight to behold. There, one foot from me, sat a precious little Chickadee bird. I stared at it, pondering how I could help this helpless creature.

I knew I couldn’t pick it up off the ground with my bare hands, but I had to do something for this bird. It was suffering, and my heart was breaking.

In a moment of “oh yeah,” I dug into my Whataburger sack and pulled out a pile of napkins. I gently wrapped them around my bird friend, who was now opening and closing its beak as a sign of distress. I carefully carried the bird up the steps and placed him on a pile of leaves at the base of a tree. I felt this was a safe spot for the bird to recover since there were several other birds flying in the trees nearby, which outlined the parking lot.

As silly as it may sound, with tears streaming down my face, I leaned down and asked Jesus to help this struggling bird.

When I was driving later that afternoon, Matthew 6:25-24 came to mind:

“Do not be anxious about your life… look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” 

chickadee

In that moment, I realized I am the bird. God’s love is all-encompassing and His heart breaks when I am suffering. In that pain and suffering, He loves me and provides for me. 

My drive took me to the house where I was petsitting two dogs and one tropical bird. As is habit when I’m there, I fed Kiwi and then let her out of her cage to fly around the kitchen while I fed the dogs.

At one point, I left the kitchen to walk down the hall and she flew from her perch and landed on my shoulder. She rode there as I went about doing other things through the house. I realized she was being very quiet and still, which isn’t always her “norm,” so I looked into the mirror to see what she was doing on my shoulder.

The scene caught me by surprise. She had nestled her miniature green body into my hair, just behind my ear, and was sleeping peacefully. She can be a very finicky bird, but she clearly felt safe enough with me in that moment to relax in my presence. I had fed her, and now she rested with me. bethany-kiwi

Then it hit me again: I am the bird. God feeds me and cares for me, and because of that, I can nestle into Him and rest in His Presence. 

I am the bird, friend. And so are you.

God’s heart breaks in your suffering, but He loves you and will provide.

God feeds you and cares for you, and because of that, you can nestle into Him and rest in His Presence.

x Bethany

 

 

 

The East Wind.

IMG_1679One of the circular patterns of learning in my life always happens around this little (yet violently powerful) thing called ‘control.’ I wouldn’t exactly label myself as a ‘control freak,’ but like many, I definitely have my major control ‘tendencies.’

The category of my ‘life/future’ is the biggest see-saw area, in regards to this topic of ‘control.’ Recently I was told that I’m like Mary Poppins, blowing in & out of people’s lives with the unpredictable change of the East Wind. So on one hand, I see myself as very easy breezy. But on the total opposite hand, I am magnetized towards that which I (think I) can control.

And here’s the striking thing; I repeatedly keep having to learn the SAME lesson: I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

So who is?

God.

And though this may be a subtle revelation, it is by no means a small one. It actually affects every single beautiful & wretched fiber of my being.

Say it with me, “I AM NOT IN CONTROL.”

Something about this revelation thrills me. (Though, yes, that may sound opposite to what I should say.) I find it extremely freeing, releasing, & empowering.

Case in point, very recently I’ve been in a situation where all aspects of my life have stared me in the face like insurmountable tasks chuckling at my incompetencies & failures. My dreams have been dangled before my dazed gaze, taunting me with screams of “you’ll never accomplish me; you’ll always fail!” Questions of ‘what if’ have filled my ears resulting in unbearable noise.

All this to say, lately I’ve been trying to control my life yet again. I’ve put myself under loads of pressure to make decisions for my future, not because circumstances dictate them, but because my piddly little self needs to figure out a way to control something right now. And when everything around me seems like it’s spinning, I tighten my grasp and yank things into order.

Well, at least I try.

And after all the exhaustion this has caused in the last several months, I awoke today to a reminder that I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

You see, after a string of heavy conversations with those nearest & dearest to me recently, I decided to ‘throw in the towel’ of trying to control. I took a self-proclaimed hiatus from decision-making. I declared that I wanted to learn to live in the now & not worry about my tomorrows (dreams), learning to enjoy & be content with what I have.

It’s like a flip switched in me. All the blur in my head cleared away.

And this morning, I received a phone call from someone who represented the very dream that I had been trying to control.

So what’s my point? LET GO.

I finally came to the realization that I needed to ‘let go’… I needed to just live & be & love & enjoy life in the exact place that I am. My motive was simply to stop fighting to control, because I absolutely had no physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual strength left. I was compelled to stop grasping my dream so tightly because in reality, I was choking it. And I was choking the very breath out of my own life.

So I did. I let go.

And just 2 short days later, the dream presented itself again in an unexpected, unpredictable way.

I’m not saying that all my challenges at the moment are solved; I’m not even saying that my dream has now come true. I’m simply saying that when I ‘fessed up to the fact that I AM NOT IN CONTROL & when I finally let my stingy fingers loose of my dream, it came back.

It came back like the East Wind.

Beacon of Light in the Night Sky.

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After calling Europe home for so many years, I often get a little riled-up when people make blanket generalizations about the spiritual state of such a diverse & complex region of the world.

I’m no stranger to these all-too-often words rattling off the lips of well-meaning Christians: “Oh, Europe is a VERY dark place spiritually.”

The reason this lights a fire in me (pun intended as you’ll see if you keep reading…) is because actually Europe is a place of dark AND light. Just like America.

But from my own experience working in a breadth of denominationally different churches across varying regions of Europe, I find the difference between European & American spirituality to be subtle, nuanced.

America is like one giant beam of light & color… so much so that oftentimes the bigger picture of the gospel & true Christianity gets distorted into one mega light which at a distance can actually seem faded, colorless, & bland. Sometimes from afar it even seems grey.

But in Europe, the light places shine out as beacons in a dark sky. Where there is light, it is very light. There is a huge & dynamic contrast of dark & light, as opposed to a numbing palette of grey.

So my passion in mobilizing people to serve & build God’s Kingdom in Europe is not from an angle of “Oh, Europe is a very dark place spiritually.” My aim is to gather more people in the light places to diffuse light in greater ways. The more we empower those light places (churches that are thriving, alive, & well), the more ground the light covers because the beacon becomes a stronger, more intense wash of light in a night sky.

“The light shines in the darkness, & the darkness has not overcome it.” ~ John 1:5

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That I Might See…

This season is one that is trying my patience (waiting on God, not to wait, but to change & stifle my impulsivity in the waiting) & with that, convictions are slowly solidly emerging as the boundary stones in my God-given field – protecting purpose & color, fruitfulness & providence.

Upon waking my spiritual eyes are weary, but as my eyelids flicker away the dust of foggy vision, I begin to SEE what’s ahead of me. Not because it’s clear & precise, but because I SEE the hands that are holding me, the hands that are guiding me, & the hands that are tightly cusped in mine as we stroll deeper into the meadow of divine blooming.

In these moments my mind turns to reflect on one of my favorite themes in life: seeing beauty in everything. On the human body, the eyes draw my attention first. I’ve always said that beauty is found in the eyes. Culture labels some as ugly. Look into their eyes because that is where beauty abounds.

This theory can be applied to our ‘ugly’ circumstances. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball, things are tough, things are challenging, things are not as you thought they might be.

OPEN YOUR EYES.

Blink until the dust dissipates & peer into His. Peer into His to see the beauty, which swallows the ugliness.

For God is a God of redemption. He specializes in making ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him. That’s not a promise for an easy life, but the gift of seeing life as He sees it.

He’s working on my sight today. He’s been working on it for a long time now, but somehow today, my eyes are celebrating that I see light & not darkness, that I see purpose & not worthlessness & that I see Him, rather than just seeing me.

See.

Fireflies in London.

Prayer walking on the village green

There are little moments in my life that bring shimmer to my soul like flickering little fireflies. Of course we can’t live our everyday lives in hopes that they would always feel like that. But we can live in hopes that those little moments would give us the spark that’s needed to once again awake our sleeping passions & inspire us to BE as we were created to be.

I’ve had countless ‘firefly’ moments in the past 9 days:

  • Sitting on a train into London talking through life, culture, & spirituality with an Iranian family
  • Being exposed to patriotism & loyalty in a way that I’ve never experienced before while walking 4 miles along sardine-packed streets of millions to stand in a giant field in the freezing cold rain to watch the Queen wave from her balcony for 5 minutes (not to mention watching every other Diamond Jubilee event on the TV!)
  • Walking across the Goldhill common in my little village, praying blessing & God’s goodness over the 1000s of lives that will be attending our “Run the Race” Olympic community festival
  • Exploring the way God takes our little offering & makes it big amongst a group of diverse & international leaders across various ministry focuses in a place titled the “Grace Bar”
  • Smiling as a Latin band jumped on the underground & wooed us with their smooth sounds (apparently though normal in Paris, it seemed a rarity here because everyone pulled out their phone cameras to capture the moment)
  • Gleaning from the passion of church members & volunteers that have committed their time & energy to loving people as Jesus does, even in nations where their lives are on the line

This is one of the beautiful things about displacing myself out of my context, into a place where I don’t understand things naturally, and therefore become a keen observer. By God’s grace & strength in my life, it results in this flood of soul-igniting moments.

I’ve only been treading the green grass of this village for barely over a week now, but I am expectant for more firefly moments… more glimpses of God in this new, fresh (a tiny bit chilly!) everyday.

Praying for nations to be touched by nations

House of Parliament

Bethany

Winter of Disbelief

The unabating sounds of doubt & disbelief have threatened to steal my focus and rob my peace of mind, much like the incessant sound of the thumping trash can lid blowing outside my window.

The sounds of doubt & disbelief have reared their ugly heads in this season of change, but I have vowed that they will not crowd out the dreams and visions in my heart. They will not shift my aim nor distort my focus. Because out of the winter of disbelief comes a spring filled with potential that blossoms into opportunity and despair that fades into drive.

My winter season began as I left a 2-year engagement with an authentic community of faith-speakers, dream-builders, and hope-proclaimers. This Kingdom culture got under my skin and nestled its way into the deepest fissures of my heart. So when I ripped myself away (even though the timing of my departure was right) and landed myself as a changed person plop in the middle of a lifestyle and culture that I once knew so well, it shook me to the core.

And though there have literally been days where the past 2 years (let alone the previous 6 years of ministry abroad) have felt like a dream. There have been times where I’ve had to read through journals and text with my friends overseas to be reminded that these experiences were real, and more importantly, they were God-orchestrated and prompted.

But as I write this today, I have a deep sense that just as the trees outside are budding and blossoming in celebrations of winter’s end, my dreams, hopes, and visions are also budding and blossoming in celebration of life coming from death, hope springing forth from doubt.

God is brilliant at reminding us that there is a season for everything. For every winter, there IS spring. And SPRING IS COMING…

Ecclesiastes 3

1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you’re not careful, just like the winds of a ferocious storm will prematurely shake all the good fruit off an apple tree, so too will the winds of change snap your branches and send your fruit crashing to the ground.

Toxic Idealism.

Idealism isn’t the problem of a dreamer, but of an extremely self-focused person. I hate admitting this to myself, but it seems to be the pattern of examination in which God keeps drawing my attention.

I’m like any other person, really. I struggle with real patterns of brokenness in areas of my life that in my human strength, I cannot change.

One of these areas is the toxic disease of idealism. 

Now let me assert here that I strongly believe there is a difference between being a dreamer and an idealist. Dreaming = liberated creativity towards passions & things in which your heart burns & yearns. Idealism = liberated creativity towards passions & things in which your heart burns & yearns PLUS your linear human expectation.

That last part (‘your linear human expectation’) is the bane of my existence. I say that and mean it literally, because according to the American Oxford Dictionary, the original English word, “bana” (later translated to ‘bane’) means “thing causing death.”

Following Jesus means consciously choosing to die to yourself. Choosing to put His priorities above yours. Choosing to love others even when you don’t feel like it. Choosing to give when it’s the last thing you have. Choosing to fight culture when it’s so much more comfortable to just ‘go with the flow.’ Choosing to surrender your self-formulated hopes and desires, in order that His purposes would take precedence.

So when it comes to idealism, it is the thing that causes me DEATH literally because it is the area that keeps haunting my heart, and therefore the area that reminds me most that I need to die to SELF, in order that He may live within me.

My prayer for 2012 is that I would be able to take every single day and gird it with dreams, passion, and purpose (not spoiled by my human expectation), but marked with a sense of expectancy that leaves room for God to move and breathe and create as He pleases.

Here’s to dreaming… without limits… and without linear expectation, but God-sized expectancy…

Another World Is Possible.

Last week I found myself amidst the culturally labeled riff and raff. I ended up in the middle of a tent village just outside St. Paul’s cathedral in London, where I was enamored with the vibe and beat of a raw passion forging revolution.

As I circled the area, amongst the hand-made cardboard signs and poster drawings promoting “people over economy,” I came across a lengthy hot pink strip of tape that read in repetition: “Another World is Possible.”

I was struck by this thought: not only Christians realize the world is broken.

Really? Jesus followers aren’t the only ones who believe the world needs to change?

It might sound obvious to you, but I was caught in a stream of thought… the world is so broken that everyone sees it… 

This is massively important, because I believe that only out of the realization of our brokenness can we realize our need for redemption and wholeness. And it is from that place which Jesus, the perfect revolutionary, steps in and takes our broken pieces and glues them back together, fusing them with holiness.

Another world IS possible.