5/30/14 Morning Musing: Big Enough

I’ve encountered a lot of people who have been burned by Christians and the Church and now avoid churches and religion at all cost and I’ve been thinking lately about the things that Christians tend to be known for: anti-abortion, anti-gay, being judgmental, and hypocrisy. It makes me so sad to think that this is what the name of Jesus has come to mean to the world…and the world has a legitimate reason to believe that this is true of Christians and, by extension Christ, because this is the message that they hear screamed out and acted upon by the Church. I wonder if this incorrect message is being portrayed because the motivations of Christians have gotten wonky.

First off, I think that we should be known for what we stand for…not against. I know many of you have heard this thought before…but I want to break it down a little bit for those who haven’t. Regardless of your stance on subjects like abortion and homosexuality, Jesus is not pro-hate. Jesus loves everyone and it is his wish that every single person on Earth, regardless of where they are in their spiritual growth or state of sin, would enter into relationship with him. Every single person. Soak that in for a second. That means that he loves and pursues the liars, cheaters, adulterers, murderers, rapists, child-molesters, gossips…he pursues caucasians, hispanics, asians, africans, and every other people group or mixture of groups, he pursues women, men, children, cross-genders, and every sexual orientation…he pursues EVERYONE and he does it because his love is BIG ENOUGH for everyone. That is why he is a God worth worshipping…He is BIG ENOUGH to handle our stuff. So, as a follower of Jesus, my love should also be big enough for everyone and that should be my motivation when I interact with anyone.

Secondly, we’ve all heard “Love the sinner…hate the sin.” Well, yeah, there is truth to that…but we don’t tend to study what that might look like. First off, every person on Earth is a sinner. So, again…all inclusive here. But what does hating sin look like? Well, for one thing, it is understanding what sin actually is…it’s not a list of “wrongs.” Sin means, basically, missing the mark. Think of a target and the goal is to land your arrow in the bullseye…sin is when the arrow lands anywhere other than the bullseye. God has a perfect plan for our lives…a plan that leads to life and growth and beauty. When we veer off of that plan…either by doing something harmful or neglecting to do something beautiful…we have missed the mark. Human nature is to categorize those sins or weigh them…and if we are honest, we try to minimize the weight of our own sins and maximize the weight of the sins of others so that our stance looks better…but truth is, missing the mark is missing the mark…whether you are an inch outside of the bullseye or aiming in the wrong direction all together. So, what does hating sin look like? I think that it looks like loving the sinner (read every person you interact with including yourself) so much that it breaks your heart to see them receive anything other than God’s very best for their lives. Hmmmm…the motivation is a bit different than hating something isn’t it? I do this with my kids all the time…I tell them “I simply love you too much to let you do things that will harm you or others in the long-run. I love you too much to let you continue down a path that is dangerous for you…so I must speak and demonstrate truth and love into your life.” Hating sin does not mean standing in righteous indignation while looking down your nose at someone else…because your sin is just as big and God’s love has to be just as big to cover your sins as it does to cover anyone else’s sin.
(So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:7, 10, 11 KJV))
Understand, Jesus didn’t tell the woman to continue in her sin…of course he didn’t…it wasn’t a healthy path of life full of beauty…it was a damaging and painful path…he simply loved her well and encouraged her to pursue God’s best for her life instead of continuing to pursue brokenness. Also note, Jesus did not enter into debate about whether the woman was participating in sin…deep down, she knew…she didn’t need those un-loving people to tell her it was sin…she knew…and we know…we know when we feel distant from our Lord and we know that we are the ones who choose the distance. So, what does hating sin looks like?…it looks an awful lot like loving the sinner.

For those of you who have been injured by the Church or by individual Christians or be me specifically, I would like to officially apologize. I am sorry for the pain and brokenness. I am sorry for our lack of love and compassion. I am sorry for not identifying with your plight. Like you, I am still growing and still get it wrong. But I would love to walk this path of growth with you…I would love to continue to pursue Jesus with you…I would love to learn from you and with you. I would love to hold hands on this journey and, in doing so, help each other stay on our feet and keep our feet closer to the path of beauty and life and joy. So, how are you doing with this? Is there a group of people that you are unable to love well? What can you do to learn to love them better? What can you do to pursue God’s best for them? Do you find yourself entering into debates about whether or not something is sinful? How could you better approach things?

I’m praying God’s absolute best for all of you. Much love friends.

5/28/14 Morning Musing: The Ministry of Accepting Help

Last fall, I was sick and feeling terribly with some sort of throat-nastiness (I think that is the medical term for it) and my sweet girlfriend brought me all the stuff to make a yummy and boozy hot apple cider (apple cider, honey vodka, the works!) Anyway, this sweet gal is always the first one to volunteer to help others but she won’t let anyone do anything to help her out. Right now for instance, she is in terrible pain with her back and waiting to get in for an MRI and she won’t let me bring her dinner or take her kids or anything. So, it got me thinking about this in a different kind of way.

I think that God impresses on our hearts when we should be doing things to help others…I know that he has gone to great lengths to have me help people at various times…sometimes I have been obedient and other times I was left wishing I had been obedient: paying for someone’s groceries when they were short money in the grocery checkout line, helping someone who’s car has broken down, catching a dog that is running loose through the neighborhood and trying to find the owner, offering drinks or lunch to delivery people or people who are doing work for me, etc. I think that we are supposed to respond to those urges…not only with obedience…but with quick obedience before the opportunity is lost. My girlfriend that I am writing about is quick to do that…and I love her deeply for it…honestly, it’s one of the most beautiful things about her! But, sometimes, I wonder if she understands that others are divinely called to do this as well. God lays things on our hearts and there is great joy to be had in obeying his requests. There is great fulfillment in being where God would have me be and doing what he would have me do.

My point? Glad you asked! I think that many of us recognize when we are supposed to do these acts of kindness or obedience or however you want to think about it. Whether we respond appropriately to that is important and we should all be evaluating whether or not we are screaming “No!” to God. But, do we realize that accepting help can be an act of obedience as well and allowing others to say yes to what God has put before them is really important too? I know that I don’t want to be responsible for squelching the Holy Spirit’s work in someone else’s life. So, how are you doing with this? Do you hear God prodding you? Do you obey when you do? If you are obedient, are you obeying quickly so that you don’t miss opportunities? How are you doing with accepting help? It’s hard, isn’t it?! Are you able to allow others to use their giftedness in your life?

I am praying that you all have the kind of people in your life that you can both give and receive help from. Have a lovely day friends!

5/27/14 From Morning Musing or Afternoon Muttering: “You’ve Got To Fight…For Your Right…To Party!

Lately, I have noticed something in my children that has been bothering me a little bit. They (and probably all kids) both want everything to be fair in the eyes of others but more beneficial for themselves in reality. Take last night, they were playing war and somehow, Michaela talked Caleb into giving up half of his aces in order to make things fair but when she had more aces, she was unwilling to give any up. As usual, it got me thinking again…sorry folks!

See, I think that people tend to ride a pendulum swing in this area…I think we gravitate toward either neglecting ourselves completely (this is sin because we are creations of God and thus, inherently valuable) or spending all of our time “demanding our rights” (also sin because we aren’t thinking about the rights of others.) For the sake of this musing/muttering, I am just going to tackle the latter…otherwise, it will be longer than anyone is interested in reading.

So, back to my kids…what bothers me is that they are so busy demanding fairness in their own favor. What I would like to see in them, and in myself for that matter, is more outrage in defense for others. Instead of spending our mental energy in being disgruntled over someone “wronging” us or things “not being fair”…wouldn’t it be more beneficial, uplifting, loving, and ultimately satisfying if we purposely “made things not fair”…but in the other direction…if we intentionally submitted ourselves for the benefit of others? I’m not saying being a doormat (remember, that is the pendulum swing in the other direction.) What I am saying is trying to serve others so well, that we could never keep track of “what is fair” and we all could never repay what we have done for each other. I feel that this is Biblical. (giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:20, 21 NKJV)) Stan and I do this and it works out beautifully…I never have to “watch out for number one” because he already is watching out for me and “doing” for me and at the same time, I am doing that for him. It is beautiful! So, why should that just be in my marriage? Why shouldn’t that be with everyone I have a relationship with? After all, I think that the best way to show Jesus to others is to actually emulate Jesus to others…and what better way that to do that than to voluntarily defer to each other? It paints a pretty different picture from demanding things from each other doesn’t it?

As far as my kids go, this is going to be a major topic of discussion for Team Massey for the foreseeable future…we are all going to practice deferring to each other. What about you? Do you feel like you have to demand your rights? If so, how do you think it might look if you quit keeping track and just voluntarily deferred to others?

5/22/14 Morning Musing: Appreciating Successes Where They Can Be Found

You know those really annoying, type-A people who can’t do anything without a list…after they do something that isn’t on the list, they write it on the list and immediately mark it off so that they can justify something that wasn’t enough of a priority to make it on the list to begin with? Yeah, I am so one of those people! In fact, I’m so one of those people (hear this with a Chandler Bing voice) that my friend, Amanda, put the featured picture on my timeline for me this week.

So, as this type-A, annoying person, I am not generally good at moderation…for example, I just got a fitbit a couple of days ago and I’m already a bit…ok…a lot obsessive about it. I want to walk farther every day and eat less while doing it. The thing is, I discovered this morning that my walking buddy can’t walk with me tomorrow morning…and I immediately started panicking about where I am going to make up for all the extra steps that I will miss out on (because obviously, I don’t walk alone…that would be ridiculous since there is no social payoff involved for me.) When we were sitting on her beautiful patio after our walk and chatting and drinking water (so I can log it on my fitbit, of course) we started talking about not being legalistic in our approach to our new healthy lives that we are developing. Hmmm…that just hit me between the eyes…I’m not doing this for the checkmark, for the competition, or even so that I can say I did it (bragging rights.) I’m doing this because God has asked me to be a better stewart of this life he has given to me and my family. From my experiences in the past, when I approach something God has laid out in front of me with legalism or ego, I tend to lose sight of God, his blessings, and his peace.

Why do I do that to myself? When I get legalistic, I rob myself of the successes and only see the “failures” that aren’t really even failures. All I could think this morning was not surpassing my goals tomorrow…never mind that we have walked over 5 miles the last 3 mornings in a row! Why wasn’t my first thought “Wow! We have walked 15 miles this week that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten!”? So, that got me thinking…again. Why do I remember the negative so clearly and skip over the positive? Why do I remember, and hold on to with a white-knuckled grasp the insults or criticisms that I have received (or given myself) and let the compliments or touching, heart-felt words slide by? Why do I look in the mirror and immediately see a zit instead of piercing blue eyes…see precisely how grown out the highlights are instead of how healthy my hair looks…see the freckles on my nose or the creases forming on my face instead of the cupid-bow mouth? I think the answer is contentment…which shocks me because, honestly, in most areas of my life, I think I am extremely content…just not in appearance or health.

So, what to do about it??? Well, since contentment is a result of gratefulness, I think I am going to start praying prayers of gratefulness over my body. (Stan does this with the kids: He will pick a body part…say…eyes…and he will pray thankfulness for their healthy eyes, for the things that the kids see this week, what they will learn through sight, what God will let them see, how they might see the needs of others and minister to them, that God would protect them from seeing things that would be damaging to them, etc.) I think if I saw my body and goals in the light of the successes and blessings that they are, I might be a little less insufferable to be around when I get a new idea. I also think I need to do a better job of celebrating the successes. This is a new concept to Team Massey over the last few years. We want to be fun…it’s in our mission statement…and part of that means looking at our successes and celebrating them! So, I think I need to apply that to my inner self as well and not just to family life.

What about you? Do you have specific areas where contentment is lacking? Do you tend to hold on to criticisms more than praise in certain arenas of life? Do you have trouble celebrating your successes or the successes of those around you? What do you think you can do to change this?

Much love to you all! –Bekah

P.S. Anyone want to go walking around 7:50ish tomorrow?

5/21/14 Morning Musing: Hound-Dog Theology

When I was growing up, we had a beagle named Bandit and he was my best friend for years. He wasn’t the smartest dog (like I said…he was a beagle…if dumb was dirt, he’d cover an acre) but he was sweet and happy and he was a perfect companion for me. Bandit allowed me to dress him up in clothes, tie bows to his ears, and put scrunchies on his legs. He was so excited when we fed him that he would howl and it sounded like he was yelling “Bowl” over and over again. He was content to lay next to me on the floor or thrilled to go for a walk (which was usually quite a display of lack of control as I wore roller skates…the kind that would attach to your shoes…as he pulled me at full-steam down the road!) Whatever I wanted to do was the best thing ever, as far as he was concerned. Bandit had the most amazing attitude and when he panted, he looked like he was smiling! The entire family was struck by how easy-going this dog was and we came to coin the phrase “Hound-Dog Theology.”

I’ve thought of that dog many times over the last couple of decades…partly because I am better with animals than I am with people but mostly when I’m thinking of the kind of person I want to be. See, there is something very beautiful about taking today for all it is…enjoying it to the fullest while spending time with people you love and making them happy. I think it pleases God when we don’t force everyone around us to conform to our preferences…but instead, let them have the freedom to be genuine and real and raw, if necessary. I think it pleases God when we accompany each other through life…I’m not saying fixing problems for everyone…but being there…being present…investing.

Most people that I talk to feel this need…when people have community, they tend to feel empowered…and when they lack it, they tend to feel depressed and sad. The thing is, I don’t honestly see the majority of people doing what it takes to get community…putting aside time and resources to invest in people…allowing people into the house when it is less than pristine…sticking around through the inconveniences that are life. Now, understand, I am clear about the fact that I require more investment than the average bear…I’m intensely social and want to know people deeply…and I know that other people don’t necessarily have the same social needs that I do…but I put aside about 30 hours per week to invest in relationships outside of my family…It’s a lot, I know…but it’s a priority to me and I thrive on investing in others.

So, here is my question: What do your finances, time investments, energy investments, etc say about your priorities? Are you investing in other people directly or only indirectly? Do you ever slow down and just spend time with people that you love? Are you able to not always strive for “more stuff” but, instead, be content with quality time? If not, what can you do to make do-able changes or do you even want to have hound-dog theology?

I am praying that each of you can be a beagle for someone and that you have beagles in your life because it is awfully liberating to live like a beagle.

5/19/14 Morning Musing: Down With the Power Panties!!!!!!

I’m diving for the volleyball, arms stretched out in front of me and make an incredible dig. The ball goes up…and over…and lands in the back pocket of the other side of the court and that wins the game! At least, that is how it goes in my head. The reality is that the ball hits the sand before my feet leave the ground and I roll awkwardly over the ball, knocking the wind out of myself and getting sand in places where…well…it’s just oooky…and sand shouldn’t be there. The imprint that my body left in the sand is a bit bigger than I think it ought to be too….hmmmm…when did that happen? When did my dreams and reality get so far apart? I used to be able to do this stuff…now, I not only can’t execute the movements the way that I think I can…I also won’t be able to move tomorrow without crying out in pain. This is my reality. What happened????

My friends are getting botox injections, chemical peels, stomach bypass, implants, tummy tucks, and other such “Mommy Makeovers.” I think they are all absolutely beautiful as they are but totally supportive of whatever they need to do to feel healthy and happy and comfortable in their own skin. I start to look at myself and wonder if I need any of these procedures too…Hmmmm…those creases in my forehead are awfully deep and pronounced…my skin sure could use a little sprucing up…and when did my boobs get all the way down there??? Hmmm…what else has faded from its former glory???? This is my reality. What happened?????

In college, I spent all day in classes and studying, went dancing every night, got home around 2:30, and was up and showered and made up for an 8am class again the next morning. I subsisted on about 4 – 4.5 hours of sleep each night with no problem. Now, my mind turns off by about 3pm each day (nothing deep or valuable coming out of this mind in the evenings.) I take benadryl and use acne medicine every night. I put mentholatum on my lips every night (Stan refers to it as “Sex-Repellant.”) And getting up requires zyrtec, coffee, a hundred kinds of vitamins, and a construction crew to make me not scary. This is my reality. What the Heck Happened????

Aging. Aging has changed my reality in major ways. I always thought I’d be super-energetic, super-thin, and would age gracefully…that has not been how this all came together though. I don’t know if I’m the only one that prays that the Spanx or “Power Panties” as I call them won’t let me down…if that material gives way…someone could get injured from the after-shocks alone…but aging has not worked out quite the way I thought it would. And while I want to be healthy and fit…I also want to be happy…and I don’t want to compare myself to you, or women in magazines, or anyone else for that matter. So, ladies, I say we make a pact. Let’s support each other, encourage each other to make whatever decisions make us comfortable in our own skin, praise God for our bodies as they are, make changes to be happy, and cut down on the baggage. Let’s burn the Power Panties, get pedicures because they make us feel good and not because we are ashamed of our feet, change our diets because we want to and not because of shame or image, and for the love of God…let’s get verbal about how beautiful we think our friends are…they need to hear it! We all need to hear it! If any of you are nearing the ledge because of shame, or poor body-image, or just need some affirmation…let’s get together. We can work this out and feel good about this. We’ll go drink a fat-full coffee and eat french fries while we plan a do-able diet and figure out ways to flatter our figures without requiring a meat-cleaver, pills, or misery. Who’s with me?!!!!!

5/13/14 Morning Musing: It’s Chaos…But It’s My Chaos.

Yesterday, we were getting new patio furniture delivered while it was pouring down rain so I moved the mini-van out of the garage so that the furniture could be delivered to a dry space…and that sets the stage for my chaotic morning.

Each morning, my kids ask to take the puppies along for school drop off. It is usually not a problem, even though the pups are runners, because I park in the garage. We simply get their harnesses on them and get them in the car before I open the garage door. Problem solved, right? Sure. By the time I remembered that I was not parked in the garage this morning, their harnesses were already on them and both the kids and puppies were ecstatic to be going so I recruited Stan to help me get them into the car without chasing them around the neighborhood. (Some of you might remember me chasing them a few months back screaming their names, “Shiner!…Bock!” through the neighborhood while bare-foot and bra-less and looking like an alcoholic, crazy woman to all the neighbors…obviously starting the gossip mill…)

So, with the help of my sweet hubby, the kids and I are off to school. Everyone is happy…the kids are singing to the puppies…Michaela has composed a love song to Bock…something about kissing in the moonlight??? Caleb has heard her weird song enough times that he is joining in and singing it to Shiner. Bock is whining because he has learned that Michaela will dote on him if he does (as soon as the kids are out of the car, he is quiet and doesn’t act scared at all…but he gets a lot of attention if she hears him complain…he has trained her well) and Shiner is growling and protecting us from evil passers-by like kids on the bikes, crossing guards, and the vice principal…good thing he is there to protect us. As we pull up to the school, the kids see a couple of friends and the friends see them and the excitement level increases to bubbling-over. The friends are happily yelling to my kids through the van doors and my kids can’t wait to get out of the van and join them. Meanwhile, I am trying to grab both dog-harnesses so the kids can get out without the puppies trying to join them at school and the kids are off…like rockets! That is when I notice that Caleb looks funny…what is weird here? Oh crap, he doesn’t have his backpack on. I look in the back of the car…sure enough…there it is. I roll down the window to shout his name but it is too late to get his attention…but it is not too late for Bock to try to escape out the window! I roll the window up while grasping his back legs and basically sandwiching him between the window and the door frame. Whew! He does not escape and decides to hit reverse back into the car instead of chewing his leg off and making a break for it like the little rodent that he is.

My day is packed today and I know that I won’t have time to take Caleb’s backpack back to the school later so, I decide to park and go in. Problem? As per usual, I was busy getting the kids ready for their day…not getting me ready for mine. I am wearing workout pants, a t-shirt with no bra, I have white smears of acne medicine on my face from last night, and my hair…oh my hair…I look like a troll-doll on steroids! (Yes…Stan is a VERY lucky man serving a life-sentence of waking up to the glamour that is me every single morning.) Luckily, I happened to bring a light jacket with me since a cool-front came in yesterday. I throw it on and off I go with Caleb’s backpack. Immediately upon entering the school, I realize that the kids may not want me to be in front of their friends like this…so instead of heading to the cafeteria where all the kids are, I turn toward Caleb’s classroom. Maybe I can just drop it off in his classroom undetected. As I am walking down the hall, I notice that my pants are too loose and grab them with my free hand. (Crap! I’m wearing the workout pants with the bad elastic in them and I guess I didn’t tie the strings tight enough! Hmmm…mooning the school could be just the way to get my name removed from the volunteer email lists for all the activities at school…but, I’m not sure that my kids want to be the kids of “that mom.”) Holding my pants up, I keep going and get to Caleb’s classroom. It is locked but…lucky me…there are some teachers in the hall who choose now to talk to me about how lovely my son is. (It’s true…but I was trying to go un-detected!) That is when I notice how cold it is in this hallway and, you’ll remember that I’m not wearing a bra and my jacket isn’t zipped up…so with the hand that is holding the backpack, I squeeze my jacket closed so as again not to be “that mom.” At this point, I’m sure I look like someone trying to conceal something (like a gun) under my clothes as I am holding my pants with one hand, a backpack and a jacket with the other hand and probably have a look of fear on my face. I told the teachers that C left his backpack and asked if I could leave it there for him. They said yes (I’m sure they checked it for a bomb after I left clutching my clothes and trying to escape before my kids or their friends saw me.) And I make it out of the building! Whew!

So, I get in the car and drive home with the crazy pooches and then have to figure out how to get them in the house before they run away since I can’t pull into the garage. I get ahold of both puppies but Bock is a wiggly little guy…and to the ground we all go along with my coffee and purse and keys. Somehow, the coffee spills up instead of down and I am drenched in it and gone is my own little caffeinated heaven-in-a-cup. Meanwhile, to all the people walking and driving by to the school across the street, I look like I am pulling some WWF moves from the days of the VonErics on my small puppies. And…I just lay there on the puppies for a second or two…because I don’t want to pull the crazy-alcoholic-woman-running-through-the-neighborhood scene again. I decide to release everything that is not alive and wiggling and focus on the puppy harnesses. I get them and eventually get them safely inside the house. *sigh* I go out and gather my stuff and get inside before anything else terrible can happen. I look down at my coffee-saturated self and begin to cry because I really want to drown my sorrows in a diet Dr. Pepper with vanilla rum in it…but I gave up aspartame seven and a half weeks ago and if I am pretty sure that if I drink rum before 8 am, I really am the crazy-alcoholic-troll-doll-looking mom that the neighborhood is talking about.

So, that was my morning in a nutshell. I shared this with you to hopefully start your day off with a giggle. Also, if you are sad that your life isn’t as glamorous as you once dreamed, to point out that it could be worse…I could be your mother or your wife. I hope you all have a lovely day…I’ll just be here twitching and laughing maniacally in the corner…

5/12/14 Morning Musing: Don’t Waste the Pain

I remember being in the surgery room at the Vet Clinic where I worked growing up and Dr. Jones skillfully operating on a dog. He commented on how tough the tissue was to cut through and then quickly discovered that the reason was that it was scar tissue from wounds that had been inflicted upon the dog a long time ago. The dog actually had bee-bees imbedded in its flesh from someone shooting at it. What I learned in that moment is that scar tissue is really tough stuff. It is stronger than the original tissue.

We all carry scars around with us…they shape who we are, tell a bit of our stories, influence our decisions, and affect how we interact with others. How we view the world is often a result of our scars and how we view God is often affected by how we respond to our scars. The truth of the matter is, none of us are walking around un-scarred or undamaged…we all have wounds…it’s a fact of life. It’s just that some of our wounds are more apparent than others. Some wounds are visible to others…wounds from accidents, birth defects, aging, and malice that has been inflicted upon us by others. Other wounds aren’t visible but their results are still obvious: hatred, bigotry, anger…we see these often times in people who are hard to be around…we see the effects of these wounds/scars in overtly aggressive behaviors. And then there are the invisible wounds/scars…these are usually created and nursed in private: abuse, molestation, mistreatment, ostracism, loss, neglect, shame, and addiction. I believe that most of us have wounds from multiple or even all of these categories.

Regardless of how you acquired your wounds or how you wounds have turned into scars (through healing correctly or incorrectly…through neglect of the wound which turns into infection or treating it right away which tends to leave tough scar tissue) you are deeply affected by those scars and your response to them influences your approach to God as well as people.

So far, I haven’t said anything that you all don’t already know. Where the musing comes in is this: What if we have a choice between wasting our wounds and utilizing them? What if utilizing those wounds for the benefit of others and to the glory of God will be our beauty in heaven? Bear with me here. Jesus was wounded for the benefit of many…that is the redemption story…the pain is not wasted…every ounce of his suffering was for the restoration of relationship between God and mankind. He set the example of the gospel to be lived out by us. So, why wouldn’t our pain and wounds also be a continuation of that redemption story? Our suffering is meant to be restorative. Then our pain and wounds which seem so ugly here…those same wounds become beautiful in heaven. Maybe beauty looks different in heaven than the “beauty” that we value here on earth. (Wouldn’t it be just like Jesus to turn our values upside down on their heads?!) Maybe, just maybe, our scars and deformities and wounds that we used to help others here will be our crowns and the glory we can offer Jesus in heaven…our glorified bodies.

Like I said, I don’t have scripture to back up my thoughts that our glorified bodies will be scarred and ugly by earthly standards…but it stands to reason (at least to me) that it could play out that way. After all, when Jesus returned from the grave, he had scars that helped people in their faith. Also, it would answer the questions “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “Why doesn’t God just say the word and make everything perfect?” He is giving us the chance to know him on a deeper level and to become more beautiful like him.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you wasting your wounds? If we just live in pain for the sake of being in pain, we are masochists…but if we look for opportunities to redeem the pain, we become more like Jesus. How are you doing with this? Are you allowing your wounds to heal properly and become strong, tough scar tissue or are you nursing your wounds in private and allowing them to fester? Do you have scars that can help others or are you letting your wounds define you? Make no mistake about it, scar tissue is tough stuff…stronger than the original tissue. If you have been broken by life, that is a source of strength…not weakness. Don’t waste the pain.

5/9/14 Morning Musing: Loner

Every morning when I am taking my kids to school, I pass some bus stops with high-school kids waiting for the bus to come get them. There is a girl who has caught my eye repeatedly over the past year: she is awkward in how she dresses, she wears really baggy clothes to cover her slightly pudgy figure, glasses, and no make up (unlike the other girls at the bus stop) and hair quickly pulled back into a crooked pony tail. She usually is on the outside of the circle of boys and girls that are talking. She is there and observing but not really part of it…not a participant. She looks as though she wants to participate…she is definitely interested…but she is just watching…and the other kids seem content to let her exist outside of their world. Depending on how early I drive by, she may be the only one at the bus stop…she is always the first one there. She wears a scowl on her face when she is alone. I sense some deep self-loathing…although, if I were a betting woman, I would bet that she conceals it with snarkiness or sarcasm…a tool with which I am very familiar. She is a loner…and I think she hates it.

This morning, as I drove by, I saw a different scene: this time, the girl was in the circle but she made up half of the circle. The other kids were all side-by-side forming a semi-circle while she made up the other half. One girl in the middle of these other kids was talking rather animatedly, using hand-gestures, and speaking loudly. Everyone there was paying attention to her but it was clear that her speaking was directed at this loner that I have been watching. The loner had fear on her face. I am unsure as to whether this fear was because she was being picked on or if it was a fear that she was going to “blow her opportunity” to be seen…noticed. My guess is the latter because everyone seemed interested but not aggressive. I couldn’t help but pray for her. I don’t know her name and don’t know what was being said but I prayed that God would help her find her way to him…that she would not compromise herself but would be affirmed in her worth. And I prayed for the other kids there…for compassion and eyes to see a hurting girl who needs people to acknowledge her and accept her.

As usual, this got me thinking. Who do I know that wants to be seen or acknowledged but is floating around the edges of community…dancing around the outside trying to get a glimpse inside? Connecting with people comes fairly easily to me today but I still feel lonely sometimes…how could I help others? Maybe a better way to think about it is, who do I know who wants to be a part of community but is fearful and possibly carrying around their damage and wounds from trying to fit in before? (I know, I know…not everyone wants to be in the middle of the circle…but this girl clearly wanted to be a part…just couldn’t seem to get there before today.)

I looked up some stats: Loneliness is a killer. It leads to premature death, inflammation, weakened immune system, heart disease, and paranoia. The mortality risk is comparable to that of smoking and is twice and high as that of obesity. (I would bet that most of us are willing to work on our weight…diet, exercise, surgeries, etc…but are we willing to make the same investment into our spirits? Are we willing to invest in relationships? If we aren’t, we should probably re-evaluate that. If it doesn’t come naturally, I think we may need to schedule time to get to know people…find groups that we have commonality with or individuals whose personalities interest us.) I looked up another stat: suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Americans…that is heart-wrenching. What is worse is that 12 people are hospitalized for self-harm for every person that dies from a successful suicide attempt. Those are staggering numbers.

Now, I know that not every person who attempts to do themselves harm is lonely…but, it is a major factor. As someone who has considered it herself, I can tell you that there is a cost-benefit analysis going on the mind of the person at risk: does the harm and devastation left behind outweigh the potential relief of being gone and having the pain disappear? (That pain can be physical, social, emotional, spiritual, or more commonly…a combination of these things.) Having loved-ones is a HUGE consideration…whether they are relatives or not is honestly inconsequential…or it least is was to me…it was more about connectedness. Feeling a lack of known-ness and connectedness was toxic to me…it left me alone in my head…it left room for paranoia and deep sadness to take root…there was room for lies to grow and a there was a lack of voices speaking truth into my life…it is a dangerous place and once entered into, it creates a self-perpetuating pattern. And nobody wants to live there. Nobody. If you know people who are there, who are in a place of self-harm or allowing others to harm them…they do not WANT to be there…but they may not know how to be anywhere else.

So let’s get back to the root: loneliness. We are image-bearers of a tri-une God. He exists in community and we are meant to crave that and reflect that as well. When it is off, we feel it and it affects us. So, how are you doing with this? Have you ever been the person on the outside looking in? Have you been the person on the inside and unaware of those who are alone? Have you been the one to welcome a lonely person into known-ness? Are you aware of this stuff now? If you aren’t, my guess is that there is someone deeply injured and lonely near you who wants in. How could you include them in an organic way that would not draw attention to their loneliness or awkwardness? If you are lonely, how could you reach out to a safe person in a way that doesn’t feel desperate? How could you begin acknowledging your need for friends today? How could you be a good friend to someone today?

stats taken from:
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/08/dangers_of_loneliness_social_isolation_is_deadlier_than_obesity.html

http://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures

Pic taken from:
http://www.glogster.com/hoirong/my-lonely-life/g-6mjv66eroasd41pgvk94l6r

5/6/14 Morning Musing: Stream of Consciousness

*Warning: This is actually how my mind processes these musings. This is how it forms in my head as an initial thought before I mentally “clean it up” and write it down to share. (I have had some of y’all ask about these thoughts and my process so I thought I would share it with y’all this morning.) Every day, I pray and ask God “If you have something to share with people through me today, please give me the words. If you don’t, please shut my mouth and silence me. I want to be used to encourage others to shift ever-so-slightly closer to you.” Anyway, my hope is to get others thinking deeply and questioning hard so I am revealing everything that entered my head this morning without editing it out at all…please be gentle with me as you consume it…it is raw.*

Seriously? We sleep in a queen-sized bed with a king-sized bedspread and I am still not covered? *grumble* Between Stan, the renown cover-thief (who denies it, by the way) and the puppies, who want to lay on top of the covers instead of under them, I am once again only able to cover myself halfway with the blanket and can’t sleep because I have either a cold back-side or a cold front-side. So, I keep rotating in order to keep body parts from getting too cold…like a rotisserie Bekah. Ugh! And listen to him sleeping over there! I can tell by the deep breathing that he is sleeping soundly and is completely unaware of my misery. *sigh* And look at those dogs! Laying on their backs with their feet up in the air like I am not laying here plotting their deaths!!!!!

Yes, I was actually complaining about my blessings: Stan, puppies, air conditioning, comforters, a new bed, a lovely home…sometimes, I can be such an ingrate. Never mind that I could turn the thermostat up a little, pull out an extra blanket, or move the puppies and snuggle a little closer to my amazing man. Nope, instead, I somehow thought that laying there and stewing over it, while doing my finest impression of a chicken on a rotisserie, would be the best choice. *Shakes head* Maybe it was the lack of caffeine in me. Maybe it was sleep-deprivation. Maybe it was hormones and out-of-control-emotions. Maybe…well, maybe sometimes I just suck. No matter what it was, this is what I was thinking a few nights ago. I was playing the martyr and it was extremely unattractive even though nobody else was even remotely aware of it.

I am ashamed to admit that, sometimes, I am so small and ugly. I get selfish and ego-centric and it’s extremely unattractive. I know we all do it…but…well, I just expect better from myself. Is that weird? I mean, God has moved in my life in huge, tangible ways and I’m complaining in my heart about the bedspread? *exhales and rolls eyes at myself* So, what is it that I am supposed to learn from this? Is it to always be prepared (like a boy-scout?) Is it to be more aggressive and throw some elbows at those unsuspecting puppies and husband of mine? Is it to suck it up? Hmmm…I think this time, the lesson is that the sin-nature is always present. Regardless of where I stand with Jesus, I need to be keeping my eyes on Him. When I take my eyes off of him, this nasty little ingrate is right there waiting to take over.

That thought is a bit over-whelming…it seems like I will always have to be “on.” If resting or going into neutrality will make me more susceptible to my sin-nature, then I think this sounds a bit exhausting. *I’m not sure that is right and yet I’m not sure that it is not, so I am just going to keep pondering this.* God commands us to rest and observe Sabbath and he would never command us to give in to our sin nature so I think that I’m missing something here. Maybe he wants to redefine my neutral stance…maybe my neutral stance should not just be guard down and exhausted…maybe I shouldn’t be wearing myself down to a place of exhaustion to begin with. (When I am tired and worn-out, I am way more likely to be a selfish jerk.) So, maybe when I allow myself to be run ragged and depleted…maybe…that is where the sinfulness lives. Am I trying to do it all myself? Maybe taking too much pride in my self-sufficiency? *Guilty* Yep, that is it. I never really thought about it like this before…all the characteristics that I like to define myself with (independent, strong, self-sufficient, loyal, loving) have, on occasion, become idols to me. I have put those aspects of my character above the God whose character I am trying to mimic. Foolishness.

Am I the only foolish one? Does anyone else fail to keep their eyes on the One that we choose to devote our lives to? Do you ever get so busy doing things to be like him that you forget to just be like him because you adore him? Or did this stream-of-consciousness post just not make any sense at all?