1/30/15 Morning Musing: “Here’s To Not Being Exhausting!”

I have a lot of back-story…a ton! I’ve shared a good portion of my story here: poisoning and the resulting bitterness, anger, and health damage from it, my personality flaws and how I developed some of them, my spiritual journey including some periods of crisis, all about my family who get named in nearly every post…all kinds of stuff. There is a lot to my story and to spend much time with me requires understanding of a lot of my story in order to not get offended (For example, with the brain damage, I forget things…people who are close to me have to deal with re-telling me stuff all the time…can you imagine how frustrating that is to them?!)

A few months back, I was dealing with something in the middle of being just…beat. I don’t remember exactly what the issue was but I needed to talk to someone who already knew me and my entire back story without me having to retell it all…I needed someone that would already understand the significance of what was going on. So, I called my girl, Lesley. We talked and came to some sort of reasonable decision together without me having to catch her up to speed on the weirdness that is me. At the end of our conversation, I told her about how I chose who to call for this issue and you know what her response was? “Well…Here’s to not being exhausting!” In my mind, I could see the smile on her face and maybe her even holding her glass up in the air in a toast. I have thought back on that conversation many times over the last few months and can’t help but get a goofy grin on my face every time.

Why in the world am I talking about that? Well, I think that my friend, my Lesley, models friendship in such a beautiful way…a way that many of us could stand to learn from. She invests in people and honestly wants to know their stories. This gal has very patiently taken the time to really get to know me on a bone-deep kind of level over the last several years. She shares some of her own story too (not everyone is quite as revealing about their “stuff” as I am *makes mock shocked face*) so I find her authenticity really refreshing. She is a compassionate encourager and an amazing combination of sweet (where you almost think it can’t be real…but it is) and spit-fire. I love the combination of tenderness and grit that she has. But most of all, when she is talking with me, she is completely present. She was tracking right along with me when I called her that day and didn’t miss a beat or an opportunity to encourage. She also was able to insert humor in just the right place to make the conversation not get too heavy.

I really do have a point here…I’m getting closer and closer to making it. I am wondering how you are doing in this area. Statistically, 9% of people feel that they do not have even one close friend…I’ve been there before…it’s a dark and scary place. So, my question is how are you doing with this? Do you feel like you have friends? Do you feel like you are a good friend to others? If you have struggled making friends, how open and authentic have you been with people? How present are you with them? Could you improve on your current relationships by going deeper with those people? **Warning! Don’t get all saran-wrap-clingy-crazy on people and just walk up to them and emotionally vomit on them…going deeper takes time…it’s a ramp…not a cliff…besides, crazy is best served in small portions so that it’s a bit more subtle…use finesse, so to speak…so that, by the time they realize you’re a total nutter, they are already hooked! 😉** If you don’t have close friends, what steps can you take toward entering into meaningful relationships? What investment can you make today?

My prayer today is that we would invest in relationships with people and that we would prioritize people over things in our lives. I am praying that we would be Jesus to the world around us and love each other well. I am praying that we would invest enough that it makes us able to say, “Here’s to not being exhausting!” Much love friends,

Beks

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1/29/15 Morning Musing: Here Is My Mess…What Will You Do With It?

I’m messed up. When I say this, I don’t mean it in a funny way…I’m seriously messed up. There are things about me that I have known were wrong with me for years and even decades but I wasn’t joining the pieces together to figure out what was going on: When I was in middle school, I found that I started getting really nervous before tests…you could just say the word test and I would have to go to the bathroom and throw up. I started getting referred to the school counselor every year because someone would witness it and, being super-skinny, the assumption was that I was bulimic. I would explain to the counselor and she/he would always tell me to settle myself down and not get so worked up about things. That’s a bit easier said than done…I mean, if I could manage to not throw up, don’t you think I would? It’s not like it’s a fun party idea. This trend in me went on all the way through grad school. Still vomitting my emotions which were just so overwhelmingly big! Anytime I had a confrontation or some sort of performance, off to the ladies’ room I would run. I was fast to have confrontations with people which made me think of myself as unkind and impatient…the truth was, I would just rather get the confrontation over with than drag on anxiety over the potential future moment because the anxiety was so much worse. Even in Tae Kwon Do, I became known as the girl who would bring her “fun flask” to testing and tournaments because I would get so wound up at the idea of people judging me…for the record, they are called judges and I was paying them to judge my abilities…but no matter, I would freak out and have to run to the ladies’ room again. I know, I know…you wish you could be me…we can’t all be that lucky though. 😉

What in the world is my point? Well, several things honestly: For one thing, I think that we grossly underestimate the power of our body chemistry. I received a life-changing diagnosis last week from two separate doctors…I have an anxiety disorder. At first, I blew them off because “I’m a very happy person.” Turns out, it is not the same as depression…it also turns out that the chronic pain I’ve been living with for the past 8-9 years is from constant muscle spasms due to my body’s inability to release tension properly. Oy! I minored in chemistry and have a master’s degree in physiology! I should know this! But when the chemical imbalance is in you, it is much more difficult to see it objectively.

Secondly, I think we have some misconceptions about what weakness looks like and what strength looks like. For example, I think that we should recognize the less obvious forms of strength…things like choosing your battles so that you are able to value relationships over winning a debate, serving in an area where you are unlikely to be noticed, or taking the time to study those around you and discover what ways make them feel the most loved…the most seen…and love them in that way…in their own way.

Finally, and please please hear me on this, do NOT assume that because someone’s health struggle is mental/psychological that they can/should just pray their way through it. A simple chemical imbalance can make basic, every-day functions nearly impossible to handle. When a person with the imbalance hears you say something trite like “Oh, well, you should just hand that over to God.” it not only alienates that person from you and warns them that you are NOT safe for them…but it also can damage their relationship with God and their view of themselves. If you have not struggled with something, don’t give advice as though you have. (Now, before you get all up-in-arms, I am not speaking against the power of prayer…not by a long-stretch…I think prayer is huge…I am just saying that maybe you should learn from your friends about their struggles and walk with them as opposed to judging their struggles from your protected position where you don’t experience it.) If you want to love your friend well, get into their mess with them and walk out with them instead of standing on the side and giving directions.

So, how are you doing with this? Is there something that is “off” about you that you have chalked up to quirkiness for too long? Is there something you are avoiding talking to a doctor about because you don’t want to hear the answer? Are you afraid of what people will think of you? Do you have someone you love who is struggling to keep their head above water? How can you extend love, grace, and hope toward them? Are you afraid of getting dirty in their mess? Jesus wasn’t afraid of getting messy with people: He spent time alone with a disreputable woman, allowed an “un-clean” woman to touch his garments, spent time in the company of a tax collector, and took the attention and scorn of a woman caught in the act of adultery onto himself in order to provide her with a little bit of dignity. He got messy with people instead of standing safely off to the side and saying “What you ought to do is…”

My prayer today is that we would take an objective look at ourselves and those we love. That we would make steps toward health and be willing to get messy with and for each other. I am praying that we would be willing to be utilized for good by God. Much love friends,

Beks

1/27/15 Morning Musing: Live Your Story!

When I was in high school, there was this really adorable couple…you know the kind…they were so into each other and so singularly-focused that you just knew that they were going to always be together…not because of PDA…just because they treated each other with complete tenderness and respect. (I didn’t know them personally, this was my observation from afar…in fact, right now, I can’t even recall their names.) But, one day, everything changed. See, where I grew up, there weren’t a bunch of big gangs like you hear about in a lot of inner-city areas…but there were punk gangs that were trying to prove something (which, in my opinion, is actually worse because they were doing horrendous things so that their names would get out there.) As the story goes (again, I didn’t get any of this information first-hand) the adorable couple was at a park one afternoon when some of the wanna-be gang-bangers attacked them. The boy was beaten up and then held at gun-point while his girlfriend was repeatedly…um…sexually assaulted in front of him. If that weren’t enough, it came out later that the gun was empty. As the rumor goes, one of them committed suicide and the other moved away. If you are like me, hearing this story makes you want to throw up. I can tell you that just writing it down all this time later makes my heartbeat race and my breathing rate rise…it is so awful. But the kicker in the whole thing is that sentence about the gun being empty. Why does that make it worse? And why on earth am I writing about this topic?

Gang activity is not my subject today. Adorable couples are not my subject. I’m not writing about crime and punishment or justice. Today, it occurred to me that we crave a reason for enduring things…a mission. When reason is removed from a situation, we feel like the pain is wasted…and that somehow makes it a heavier burden to carry. An easier example to handle was something I saw on Downton Abbey last night. Ms. Patmoor’s nephew died in war as he was running away from enemy fire (at least that is what I am able to gather through all of the weird phrases and talk of “spotted dick.” I get confused a lot when watching this show.) It doesn’t change the fact that he volunteered for battle when others had to be recruited. He served well…and when things got scary, he (reasonably) got scared…it happens. But his name is being left off of a monument for fallen soldiers and her claim is that it makes his death a waste. It takes away from the fact that he voluntarily signed up. It tarnishes his name. The thing is, getting his name on the monument would NOT bring him back. It doesn’t change the circumstances at all. But, it somehow lends purpose…mission…to his sacrifice…it would somehow ease Ms. Patmoor’s heavy burden of continuing on without her nephew. It would lend reason and dignity to the suffering.

So, my question to ponder today is this: Why do we mainly apply the need for mission or purpose for these extreme cases that result in death and/or devastation? Why do we put our purpose out there as a future event? It seems to me, that we only get to die once (and how we do that is important…don’t get me wrong) but every day is an opportunity to live. Should we not approach each day of life with the same desire for mission and purpose as we would if we knew it was the day we were to die? That may sound a bit heavy or dramatic for you but, honestly, it’s easy to say “I would die for you” to someone you love (not only because it is theoretical…but because it would only happen once.) Me personally? I’d rather hear from Stan that he would live for me. (Don’t get me wrong…I’m not trying to replace God in his life…I’m saying that it holds more meaning when you have to re-commit yourself to something each day and actively choose it.)

So, this was a bit heavy and chaotic but I’m going to ask you anyway: How are you doing with this? Do you see purpose in your daily life? Do you love people so deeply that you would die for them? Do you love them even more deeply so that you would live for them? Jesus did both and I think we are called to do both as well. This life we get…this time here…it’s short and it’s precious. Sometimes, it feels like a prison sentence…but it’s still a gift…a gift right now…right where we are at this moment. How is God asking you to use your gift right now? I’m not talking about your 5-year plan where you will eventually go into ministry or eventually do something selfless…I mean, right now. What are you called to live out today? (Because that 5-year plan leaves it wasted if you die tomorrow.) Where do you derive your meaning or value? Don’t be conned out of living a life of purpose!

My prayer today is that we would live out our purpose each day. I’m praying that we would ask God to help us tell the story that only our own lives can tell and that our lives…our stories…would matter. I’m praying that we would start this today and not put off our purpose for tomorrow.

I am asking you all right now…”What are you about?”

Much love friends,

Beks

1/20/15 Morning Musing: “And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K. Rowling

It was a morning that had started out like every other morning during that life stage: kids waking me up at precisely oh-dark-thirty (because that is what 1-year-olds and 3-year-olds do), me changing a bunch of diapers and thinking sarcastically to myself “Yep, that master’s degree in physiology sure is coming in handy now!”, me getting a load of laundry going and unloading the dishwasher, and me trying to figure out what I will be allowed to eat that day…this was the aftermath of the poisoning (an extremely difficult and bitter time for me not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually.) See, during this time, my immune system was (for lack of a better word) wonky…I couldn’t fight off what I should so I stayed sick all the time (kept getting pneumonia) and I was fighting off what I shouldn’t (I became allergic to everything…including about 90% of my diet: soy, sugar, every single oil that I tested for, apples, cherries, peanuts, all tree nuts, yeast, wheat, oat, milk, cheese, broccoli, green beans, and pretty much everything else you can think of) so my doctor had me doing a rotational diet (really complicated but basically, if I ate an ingredient of something that I was not allergic to, I had 1 hour to eat it in and then I could not return to that ingredient for four full days (or anything related to that ingredient for two days…see picture) in order to not over-expose myself to this “safe” ingredient and turn it into another item that I was allergic to. Meanwhile, to try to regain the items that I was forbidden from, I was giving myself 9 antigen injections in my stomach every 4 days as well as having to occasionally test allergy ingredients to see if I was gaining any headway.) Glamorous, I know…try not to be jealous.

As I continued on this diet, I lost a lot of weight (as you would expect when it is that difficult to find food that you can eat.) The problem with the weight loss is that the toxins in my body were fat-soluble toxins (they lived in my body fat) which had to go somewhere as I was quickly losing that body fat. Science geek-out alert: I don’t know if you know this or not, but your brain is actually made primarily of fat (about 60%!) As I was losing body fat, the toxins that I was not able to expel from my body were going to my brain and causing me lots of issues.

Anyway, back to this typical day that began like every other: Caleb was in his crib and Michaela was in her room. I was trying to get some baby oatmeal out of the pantry when it happened. I lost my balance when I reached in, and fell into the pantry striking the side of my head on the shelf as I fell. I didn’t lose consciousness…but I couldn’t get out. What I mean is that I was aware of where I was and what position I was in but I couldn’t control my limbs. I would try to put my hand against the wall that I was folded up against, but my arm would flail around instead of doing what I was telling it to do. My legs were almost useless in that cramped space and I was feeling a lot of pain (the recycle bin was shoved into my back on the right side and my head throbbed from hitting the shelf and wall.) That is when panic set in. I couldn’t get out! I couldn’t get out!!!! The flailing increased as I struggled to get up…to move…to control anything about my body. My vision blurred but that was just because hot, wet tears were streaming down my face. I felt hot and my heart was racing as I sucked in ragged breaths…this was heading toward a full-on panic attack…and then I heard him…Caleb was crying and expecting his mama to come get him from his nap…and I couldn’t get to him. I listened to him cry while I cried and flailed in the pantry. Some time later, Michaela started banging on her door and yelling for mommy as well…and I couldn’t get up. Those poor babies were probably so very confused and feeling abandoned. “Oh God! Where the hell are you?!?!”

That’s when he showed up…God…by bringing some calm to this chaos. Instead of continuing to struggle, I yelled at God in that pantry…I told him about everything that I had lost because of this poison and how angry I was about it. In that pantry, I grieved the life that I had lost and finally came to terms that life was going to look different from now on. It was time to accept it instead of just being bitter about it. I was a different person than I had been: with this brain damage, my skills had changed…my thinking had changed…I was still analytical but less so than before…I started becoming more artistic and less rigid…I had a hard time with my memory (it was really embarrassing because I would be talking to someone and just stop in the middle and stare at them…it was like my brain had re-set and I lost the last 10-15 seconds…so I thought they were talking instead of me.) So much had changed and I had lost most of my relationships because people just didn’t know how to comfortably be around me…it wasn’t their fault really…they couldn’t understand…but it was so isolating…and now, I was isolated in the pantry with just Jesus…but He showed up…and that is something…I guess it’s not isolation if Jesus is still with me. With that understanding came peace despite my circumstances and a little while later, I noticed that my hand was on my head where the big knot had formed. How had I gotten my hand there? I tested it and was able to move it…I was shaky…but the connections were there…I was able to move my body around and control it some. I crawled out of the pantry and used the kitchen countertop to help myself to a standing position. A short time later, I opened Michaela’s door and told her to follow me to Caleb’s room where I sat on the floor with both of them and just enjoyed the ability to put my arms around them. We sat there and nuzzled each other for a long while.

Why am I telling you this? Well, for one thing, I think that we all have a deep desire to be known. This is part of me and part of my story. It is when this control-freak, type-A, uptight gal hit rock-bottom and learned, without a doubt, that control is only an illusion. I have fought writing about this for some time now and it kept coming to mind because, for some reason, I needed you all to know about it…so here it is…here is my mess…take it all in…know me.

I also learned that we are dependent on God for everything…EVERYTHING…right down to each breath, the ability to move, and each hug. He was with me and calmed me and that is no small thing. (I was in that pantry for 2 hours and I kept it a secret for several weeks (even from Stan) because I was processing what I had been through. I didn’t want anyone else’s take on it until I knew what my take was.) God knew me well enough to know how to calm me, distract me, and encourage me and the reason he could do that is because he is actively present and invested in my life.

Finally, I learned contentment…true contentment. I still have days where I am in a lot of pain or periods of time where my brain isn’t functioning quite the way it should, but those days are the exception now…and that is something to be grateful for…now, the bad days just show me how far he has brought me! Do you know that I had quit praying for healing when God decided to end my suffering with food allergies? I had come to a point of acceptance that this was my lot in life and then he gave me more. It felt lavish!

So, your story, in all likelihood, is quite different from mine…but how are you doing with it? Are you suffering under (or perhaps relishing in) the illusion that you are in control? Why do we tell ourselves this lie? Do you realize how loved you are by a God who wants an intimate relationship with you? Do you have any concept of what he could accomplish through you if you would only let him? What is holding you back? What keeps you holding him at arm’s distance? Is it pride? Anger? Bitterness? Doubt? Fear? (For me, it was all of these!)

My prayer today is that we would all allow God to point out tender parts of ourselves that we are with-holding from him and that we would offer those precious and vulnerable parts to God as an act of worship. Much love friends,

Beks

1/16/15 Morning Musing: Today, You’ll Either Be Tracking Right Along With Me or Calling the Folks With the Butterfly Nets!

I was getting my things together after Bible Study and my mind was already on the leader meeting that I would be quickly transitioning into. I certainly had a busy afternoon scheduled with no room for playing around. “Go stand next to her.” Huh? It wasn’t audible but this thought came to me out of nowhere. I immediately started to reason it away: “I don’t want to be late…I have so much to do…I have nothing that I need to say to her…” “Go stand next to her.” Seriously? “She is going to think I’m crazy…she is in the middle of a conversation with someone else. I have nothing to say. This feels foolish.” Again. “Go stand next to her.” *sigh* With resignation and, admittedly a bit of frustration, I went and stood beside this woman that was engrossed in conversation with someone else. When someone does this, it is usually because they have something to say and they are just waiting until your conversation is finished…except I didn’t know what I was going to say. It didn’t matter though because she finished her conversation with this other woman, turned to me, and then her eyes got as big as saucers as she exclaimed “I’ve been wanting to talk to you!” She continued on with an entire conversation that, of course, drew me in. I missed most of my meeting that afternoon and the world did not end…but you know what did happen? That woman prayed to receive Christ right there in that room.

Why in the world am I telling you this story? Glad you asked. Over the last few years, I have become more and more aware of the Holy Spirit. Now…hold on…before you write me off as a mental-case, let me back up. I grew up in a good Southern-Baptist home with a pretty firm grasp of who Jesus is and who God is…but the Holy Spirit…he was more of an enigma. The thought of him wasn’t as concrete to me so I sort of thought of him as “Uncle Spook”…you know…that relative that everyone knows about but doesn’t talk much about because he (or we) are thought of as a little bit crazy. (A bit blasphemous…I know…but…I’m being painfully honest here…I just didn’t get it.)

Then, through a Bible Study that walked me through the Trinity, I began to unlock glimpses of understanding. I went home and talked to Stan about it and we decided that year to make an effort to quiet ourselves enough to hear some of what he is trying to tell us. Once we began trying to hear him, we started hearing him better and discerning which thoughts were our own and which were divine…that led to us deciding to try to obey when we would hear him…and that led to us trying to obey him immediately when we would hear him. This was a several year process: At first, we started with trying to discern between our own voices and his…that actually was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Honestly, my own voice is rather selfish and manipulative (I know some of you won’t believe me…but I am a natural-born con-artist. I read people extremely well when I’m face-to-face with them (which may be why I want to be around people so much) and my sinful side knows exactly how to exploit people.) But, my “conscience” is extremely strong…over-powering even…and I began to realize that it isn’t my conscience as much as it is the Holy Spirit. I can not bear to violate his voice. (As it turns out, my giftedness is Pastor/Shepherd, Teaching, Discernment, Prophesy, and Exhortation. What that means in English? I love people, read them well, advise well, can explain things in terms that they can understand, and love to encourage. I know that sounds braggy…but it’s not me as much as it is the Holy Spirit in me. BUT, when I am not obeying God well, those abilities in me look different: they look like manipulation and selfishness…and I don’t think that anything could be uglier.) All that to say, when I have thoughts that seem out of context, are good in nature, but make me a little uncomfortable…I now know to give some room to that thought…let it grow…because it probably isn’t coming from myself. (Much like the story at the beginning of this musing.)

Once we learned to hear the Holy Spirit talking, Stan and I had to work on obeying him and then we had to work on obeying him more quickly. This revelation came to us as we would have separate opportunities to bless people. For example, Stan was at Kroger and there was a man in the checkout line in front of him who was pointing to an ad and trying to get something for his sweet little daughter who was with him. Stan was hurting for the man. It was obvious that he had misunderstood the ad and didn’t have enough money to get what he had promised his little girl. Stan wanted to buy the toy for the daughter but felt weird about it…felt like he was intruding and maybe would hurt the man’s pride so he kept silent and ended up leaving with regret. He had lost his opportunity…he never saw the man again…he came home and told me about it and how he felt like he heard the Spirit but didn’t obey. The next day, I was at Wal-mart and there was an elderly woman in line in front of me at the checkout. Her debit card kept not working and the cashier looked a little closer at it…it wasn’t her debit card…it was her sam’s club membership card. She was deflated. She asked the cashier to put her things aside while she figured out how she would pay…she told me to go ahead of her. With Stan’s story from the day before in mind, I made eye contact with the cashier and quietly told her to keep it totaled and add mine to it (The woman kept rummaging around in her purse looking for payment.) I then paid for the woman’s items as well as my own. The cashier handed her the bags and the woman was confused. When she realized what happened, she was in tears…she kept telling me that she was independent and would handle things and I agreed with her (turns out, she was a recent widow and was trying to learn how to do things on her own that she had done with her best friend for decades. She was trying to prove that she could handle things well on her own.) I told her that I didn’t doubt all of that for a single moment but that “maybe God was just trying to tell her in that moment that he loved her, that it’s okay to depend on community some, and to just let her know that he is here and he sees her. Also, it could one day be my mom in that position…how would I want her treated?” Eventually, we parted ways and went about our lives. The greatest part of this? The cashier was in tears as she witnessed the whole thing and she was impressed with God…not me.

I know this musing sounds rather braggy and touchy-feely: “These are my gifted areas. Let me tell you about how charitable we are.” Please don’t read it that way. That is not my intention here and honestly, sharing this makes me really uncomfortable. I’d much rather get my reward from God than put this out there for you to read and probably judge. The reason I am telling you all of this is because I have been completely changed by the decision to listen to the Holy Spirit. My life is better and more full and less ego-centric…and it’s all because I decided to have less of me and more of him. I have had so many people ask me how I hear from the Spirit and this is my way of sharing it. (It’s not a big voice that is booming and clearly “the voice of God!” For me, it comes more in the form of weird but kind thoughts that spur me to do something (or not do something…I’ve even heard the Spirit tell me to shut up before!)

If you are a Christian, you have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit…so how are you doing with this? Do you ever hear the Holy Spirit? If not, do you ever quiet the noise enough to hear him? What can you do to be close to him? (I have a special spot that I go to…it’s weird…I know…but the picture for this post is my “Musing Spot.” I go here each morning (that I am able to) and quiet my brain and pray that God would use me to speak or that he would shut me up. Now, I hear him all the time and it isn’t nearly as weird for me…it’s more exciting.) How does the Holy Spirit sound to you? Do you have a different experience than me? I’d love to hear about it! (I get a more-complete picture of God when I gain the perspective that someone else has of him.) Have you ever missed opportunities to obey him? How did you feel and did it change you?

My prayer today is that Christians would be truly changed beings…from the inside out. That we would pursue less of ourselves and more of him. That we would love others well by being obedient to God with our gifts that he has given to us. I’m praying that we would quiet the noise in our lives enough to hear the God that we tend to crowd out of our lives. Much love friends,
Beks

1/15/15 Morning Musing: I Don’t Want a Make-Over…I Want to Actually Be What I Present to the World!

“The floor looks like it is covered in blue jewels Mama!!!!” little Caleb came running out of the bathroom of our hotel room excitedly. “And I want to go down to that huge hot tub!” Michaela said hopping up and down and grabbing her swim suit from our overnight bag. “How in the world do they see things that way?” I wondered. We were staying the night in a hotel that we found on hotels.com on our way home from our ski vacation. This hotel had gone through a lot of effort to shine the place up a bit…you know…try to make it look nice…adding a lot of flashy amenities while still neglecting the basics. When I went into the bathroom, I saw the tiny blue tiles that Caleb thought looked like jewels…but I also smelled the strange smell (the P-drain on the sink was installed incorrectly) and saw the tile that had fallen off the wall in the corner near the shower…and why was the grout around the toilet that color???? Meanwhile, I hear Michaela talking about the hot tub while I’m looking for an outlet for all of our many electronics…only to find one behind one of the beds with no cover on it and random wires sticking out…and what is that discoloration on the blanket? Ugh…ok…nobody touches anything but the sheets (which do look perfectly white I must admit)…and let’s pray that we aren’t exposed to something that would give me nightmares for life…like bed bugs. I looked over the railing outside our room at the indoor pool and hot tub that Michaela was so excited about…did I mention that the water in the hot tub was green? What the heck had happened? Bait and switch??? When we walked in, there was a big chandelier that made Michaela go bonkers and start dancing…have I mentioned that she is just like me? (She likes shiny things and is easily distracted by them…Stan says I’m a trout that will follow any shiny lure (like a spinner) and Michaela is my clone. But when things settle down, I begin to notice the stuff I didn’t notice before.) At this point, it’s too late. We have schlepped all our stuff in from the car, gotten warm (snow and ice storm is expected that night) and paid. We are going to power through this.

But, as usual, this got me thinking (in two different directions…probably because my adderall was wearing off and it is hard to keep my brain on any one topic once that happens.) My first thought was “When did I lose that sense of wonder?” My kids saw this dump we were in as a palace. They could not be happier with our surroundings. Stan and I, on the other hand, both knew that this was a mistake we would not be making again…we were grateful for shelter and warmth…but we would not be taken in by false online reviews again. But as I watched the kids running around excitedly, I wanted what they had. They saw everything with young fresh eyes…when had I lost that? Is that an age thing? A type-A thing? A protective parent thing? Or…was it a heart-space thing? Was I becoming so entitled that I was ungrateful or snooty? (You know that phrase “Keep Austin Weird.”? Well, I’ve seen stickers in Flower Mound that say “Keep Flower Mound Uptight and Paranoid.” I thought those stickers were funny until this moment when I thought it might be true…)

My second thought was about how we do this in life. We clean up our appearances and put together our stories so that we will be perceived a certain way…but are we just adding the flashy (gaudy) chandelier to the sub-par electrical system? If people saw our real selves for what we truly are, would they respond with excitement and zeal or would their noses crinkle up a bit as the aroma of reality hits them? I know that, in this area, I’m not the average bear. I pretty much let it all hang out…and it’s a turn off to some people…I don’t do a lot of “mystery” and am not trying to protect my appearance (unless the appearance is reality and I think you’ve interpreted it wrong…that makes me lose my mind!) I wear work out gear (despite rarely working out) every day and I have zero…none at all…NO filter. This bugs some people because I guess that makes me “not classy or refined”…but you are never left wondering where you stand with me or what I am thinking. If we are going to be friends, I don’t want you to end up feeling like Stan and I did at that hotel…like bait and switch had occurred…I’d much rather you know what you are getting and actually agree to it. But, like I said before, I’m quite weird in this regard, so I’d love some feedback as to why people do that (put on appearances that are false.) How does someone who wants to truly know you, get past that pretense and get to the real person?

So, it’s a hectic musing this morning…but how are you doing with this? Do you still have that child-like sense of wonder? Do you marvel at your life and your blessings? (For example, if you are married or have a child, does it not blow your mind that you have full-access to this image-bearer of God? Isn’t it amazing that you have been entrusted with someone so valuable to the God of the Universe that he saw fit to sculpt that person in his own image?!) If not, how can you slow down and take stock of what you have? And not only can you do this…but will you do this? The second topic is appearances: Do you put on appearances that are not true? Do you understand that doing that is against what Jesus’ desire is for you? (For goodness sake, He IS truth!) Why do you feel the need to present a certain facade to the world? What are you protecting? Is it a wound from mistreatment? Is it a sin that you don’t want to give up? Is it just a habit based on the culture you were raised in? What should you do about it?

My prayer today is that we would approach Jesus with our eyes wide-open today. That we would see ourselves the way that he does. (My guess is that we would not line up with him in our thoughts about where our value lies.) I’m praying that we would approach him with excitement and zeal and wonder and that it would be real. I’m praying that we would be bold enough to be authentic people who love authentic people. Much love friends,

Beks

1/14/15 Morning Musing: The “S” Word

I know this woman. A mutual friend of ours once described her character in this way: She is the kind of person that if you were both in a body of water that was way over your heads, she would go under to lift you up so you could breathe. The only problem is that not everyone would do that back for her…in fact, I know very few people like her. When I think of the dreaded “S” word…you know…*whispers*…”submission”…I think of this analogy.

I think that, in general, we get submission wrong…we think of it as weakness or something that can be demanded or inability to think for one’s self or just plain obedience. It has become a very touchy word (especially in church cultures) because I think it has been abused for so long. I know a lot of women, myself included, who have been damaged by the mis-use of this word and I know a lot of men, who have also been damaged by being allowed to misuse the word. So, let’s take a look at what my dictionary app says submit means: “to yield oneself to the power or authority of another.” Hmmmm…yield oneself…it doesn’t say that it was demanded or forced…yield…well, let’s see what yield means: “to give up or surrender (oneself)”…Example: He yielded himself to temptation. So, submission is voluntary and not coerced…it is not powerlessness…the opposite really…it’s the willingness to relinquish the power that you have. Think about it…you have never heard of anyone submitting their weakness over to someone…that isn’t called submission; it’s called being a burden. Well, what about it being an inability to think for one’s self…for that, I would point you to the analogy at the beginning of this musing…the friend that is so self-sacrificing that she would do it to her own detriment…do you think that is without thought? I don’t. I think it is simply a shift in thought…I think that it means thinking about others instead of only ourselves…that goes against our nature…against our “survival instincts.” To go against our reflexes requires a decision. Reflex circumvents thinking…it is an automatic response of the body which bypasses the brain. To defy our reflexes is to not only to have made a decision…but to have been quite convicted about that decision.

Why am I bringing this up? Glad you asked! For one thing, we are having to skip a week in our marriage class this semester because of a scheduling conflict and…you guessed it…the topic being skipped is submission. I think it is unfortunate to miss that week because I personally know a lot of women and marriages that have experienced healing from finding out what this word truly means. I think that churches have been guilty of mis-using this word for centuries and it has had a profound effect on women, politics, marriages, and society. An example, that truly grieves me, is a very large church (that I will not name) in the DFW metroplex that has been advising women that are in abusive (physically and otherwise) marriages that they should “submit better.” Where did I get this information? From a woman who works at an amazing shelter for women and children who are escaping abusive relationships and have to go into hiding…many of these women and children are coming from this local evangelical church and are so damaged by the abuse they have endured, but further damaged by their church (and by extension…their God) because telling them to “submit better” is equivalent to telling them that it is their fault and that they deserve it. That is so asinine to me that…well…I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

I know this is long, but bear with me: “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭13-21‬ NIV)

Did you catch that? This passage is talking about how to be alive and live a life of light. It has some good ideas and some things to avoid, and then it says “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is not a gender issue…it is a heart-space issue…it’s the very thing that I have been talking to Team Massey about constantly for the last month: Be kinder than necessary! This means thinking of others and loving them enough to put them first. Sounds a lot like agape love doesn’t it? Sounds a lot like the Gospel doesn’t it? I would think that evangelical churches would be the first to recognize the Gospel…but I guess that isn’t always the case.

At any rate, I used to have quite a knee-jerk reaction to this topic…and I have discovered that knee-jerk reactions should be analyzed deeply because doing what we are called to do by God is not usually natural for us: it isn’t natural for us to forgive people who have deeply hurt us; it isn’t natural for us to give our money, that we work so hard for, away; it isn’t natural for us to sacrifice our time and resources for the benefit of others. So, when we have knee-jerk reactions to something, we should make sure to analyze if it is because it is gospel-truth or if it is survival/selfish instincts…is it what we really believe or is it the culture within which we were raised…have we developed our own beliefs or inherited someone else’s?

So, how are you doing with this? Do you have beliefs that are based on culture? Do you have beliefs that you believe but don’t know why? How can you explore those subject areas and look for a way to eliminate potential bias? Have you been harmed by people misusing the word “submission?” Have you harmed others? What is your church’s stance on this subject? If you don’t know, why don’t you? How could you find out? If you want some resources on this subject, I am happy to share some that I have gathered so that you can study for yourself.

My prayer today friends is that we would all live life full of light and submit to each other…that we would put each other first…that we would love like my friend described in the first paragraph. I am praying that we would all understand that submission in not a gender thing…it’s a Gospel thing…it’s a Jesus thing…and if you are a follower of Jesus, that makes it your thing. Much love friends.

Beks

P.S. I am happy to share information with anyone about scripture references, wonderful sermons to listen to, as well as how to get help if you are being abused.

1/13/15 Morning Musing: Drawing From an Empty Well

Three times in the last week, I have been asked by people that I respect spiritually, “I can see you are deeply committed in your ministry…and you are carrying some heavy burdens around for others…but what are you doing personally to commune with Jesus and refill your own soul?” Ummm…yikes! I’ve been awfully busy lately…not all difficult stuff…but very very busy. I admitted to each of these friends that I feel closest to God when I am musing…and over the last few months, I have had less and less time available to do this. For one thing, I only seem able to do it in the mornings (hence the name “Morning Musing.”) It is as if my brain turns off by about 12:30pm and the opportunity for that day is lost…bizarre…no? And of course, my mornings seem to get filled by stuff…not bad stuff…just stuff…like meetings or doctor appointments or volunteering…just stuff…and the musings have been crowded out. I don’t know why I am unable to write like this in the afternoons…but…as of now, I am unable to (believe me…I’ve tried…and failed…a lot.) Then, one of my good friends, one of the people I trust most in the world, asked me yesterday “Why is what fills us back up always the thing we think is expendable…the thing that we can afford to drop from our lives?” She then told me about one of our mutual friends who will volunteer and pour into others and get so busy emptying herself out that she quits painting…but painting is what feeds her soul so that she can pour into others…it is how she meets with God and hears him speak…so then this friend gets depleted (and I imagine frustrated because she runs out of steam on her own.) Hmmm…I guess that is why the verse reads: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭13‬ NKJV) It doesn’t say I can do all things “if I schedule my time right” or “if I try hard enough” or “if I…anything…fill in the blank.” I can only do all the things that I am called to do through Jesus.

So, I know this all sounds like I’m on a soapbox…but it is aimed at myself. Over the last few years, I have learned some things about myself: I learn primarily in two ways: through doing (kinesthetic…this is why I love science!) and through relationships (interpersonal…I never tire of meaningful conversations with people…my brain feeds off of this and I am rejuvenated by it…I know that sounds weird to you introverts…but it is true for me.) I’ve never been one who was a verbal learner (can’t just hear a lecture and learn…can’t just read and learn…that is why school was so difficult for me and why I thought for so long that I was not smart…think of how 99% of “learning” happens in American schools…no wonder I thought I was an idiot!) And this morning, it finally hit me (ok, it took this long…maybe not so smart after all) that my musings are how I have conversations with the Holy Spirit…it is how I have that interpersonal interaction with him…how I enter into relationship with him and give him the space to speak to me instead of me doing all the talking. I’ve honestly been confused for the last year as to why I feel I need to write…remember…not a verbal learner…I don’t follow anyone’s blog…I don’t learn by reading…it seems weird that I would be a hypocrite and expect anyone else to read my stuff…but this morning, through this musing, I have come to understand that it’s not about anyone else reading this…no offense, but it’s not about any of you…it’s about me prioritizing it so I can hear from Jesus…but I leave it open to be observed by y’all because I feel like I am supposed to…so if anyone else can hear from Jesus through this…then they are welcome to do so…maybe some of you are verbal learners and can learn from reading or maybe you are interpersonal this makes you feel like you know me better and like we are having a conversation. I don’t know how it all works…I just know that I must.

So, the question of the day for myself and you: How are you doing with this? How has God wired you to learn? How are you using that natural wiring to learn more about him? How are you letting God speak to you? (Are you letting God speak to you?) What impediments to your relationship with God are popping up? What can you do about those? For me, I’m going to have to prioritize this morning time. I’m going to have to re-arrange my schedule some so that I have more mornings available to sit at my Rabbi’s feet and learn from him…because I have been swapping things out…I have been giving up the best thing for some good things…and it’s unfulfilling…and honestly, it’s sinful. I welcome feedback on this. I welcome accountability…if you see me falling off the radar with these musings…feel free to nudge me gently and remind me to get back at it. If you want some accountability, let me know…we can encourage each other to pursue Jesus.

My prayer this morning is that we would all look honestly at how we are designed and discover how God talks to us. It won’t be the same for everyone and that is fine…that is why we are called to be in community with one another…so that we can all share what we are learning about God with each other and gain new perspectives. Friends, I am praying that you would pursue relationship with Jesus today and that you would not sacrifice the way he speaks to you (through busy-ness or ministry or anything else.) Much love friends,

Beks

1/6/15 – 1/7/15 Morning Musing: Worship Doesn’t Have to Look the Way You’ve Always Thought

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “worship”? Is it bowing down low? Is it singing songs? Is it mind-control? A lot of people have a lot of thoughts on worship…some correct…some are sometimes correct…some are wrong altogether. At churches across the Bible Belt, the musically-inclined people who tend to sing and play instruments on stage are often referred to as “the Worship Team” and I’ve got to admit…it kind of bugs me. (Don’t get me wrong…I’m alright at singing…I’m not amazing but for the most part can hit the right notes…I’m better at deep bluesy, throaty sounding songs than the high-pitched squealing stuff…in fact, I tend to prefer the “men’s portions” of a lot of songs…but I digress.) Then, there’s my dad. I love him…deeply…but the man can not carry a tune in a bucket. So what he lacks in ability, he makes up for in volume. He can single-handedly knock everyone around him off the right notes of a song. But what I’ve noticed, when he does sing (although not often) it is full of zeal and heart. If we define worship only as music, I think we are missing the mark. It would put entire groups of people in the category of “not being capable of worship.” My dad and others like him, or people who are mute, or people who are hurting so badly that they are relying on the Holy Spirit to translate their groanings into words (I have been in this category before…it’s hard and it sucks.) The purpose of this musing isn’t just to define worship…you can use your dictionary app for that…but to make you think about how YOU are able to do it.

While we were driving home from Colorado, Team Massey had a discussion about what our talents are. Michaela, is amazing at art. She loves it and is naturally inclined toward it. (As her parent, I also want her to be able to make money as an adult…so there is a natural part of me that wants to persuade her toward an area that would be more profitable…but, that is not my job. I am not to re-form the wondrous girl that God created. I am simply to help her recognize where he has gifted her and encourage her to use her gifts to glorify him…to grow in those gifts.) So, when we were having this conversation, I told her that she was an image-bearer of God. (That was a new concept to her…we spent a bit of time there.) Then I asked her to look around us at all the majestic mountains, at all the trees stretching up toward heaven, to think about the variety of animals…God is an artist too! An amazing artist. When she uses her art to express something, she is identifying with her artistic Creator. Anything that helps us to better understand our God is good and I think that is worship!

Of course, little Caleb then said “Aww man! I’m not good at art. I’m just good at sports.” The conversation began to turn a little bit. I reminded Caleb that he, like Stan, is naturally athletic and joyful when using his body in movement (the way I used to be about dancing.) When our bodies are functioning the way they are intended and we use them for fun or healthy purposes, I think that can be worship. You may think that is a stretch but let me put it to you this way: I have chronic pain. I have good days and bad days but I go through more advil than anyone ought to. BUT…I remember when my body used to not hurt all the time…I know what it SHOULD feel like…I remember taking for granted that I would wake up and be able to do whatever I wanted to do without worry of “over-doing it and paying for it tomorrow.” I know how it should be and the contrast of my reality with what was intended is clear to me. Because we live in a broken world, we will experience pain, illness, sin, and death in varying degrees. But, when your body is working well and you use it well…in my book, that glorifies the God who created it so well. It shows his handiwork before we messed things up.

Please don’t read here that I am saying that if you experience pain, it is due to your own sin…I’m not saying that…I’m saying that when sin entered the world, God’s beautiful creation was no longer as he made it…it was no longer Eden…the Earth and it’s inhabitants began to deteriorate which was never intended by our Lord. But don’t you think that when we see someone who is extremely passionate about something and particularly gifted in that area, that we get a little glimpse of what was ‘supposed to be’? We get a quick insight into the heart of our God? We get a flicker…a quick snap shot of a small portion of heaven? I think that is why we are all made so very differently and are wired in such diverse ways. We all can offer a slightly different perspective of what God intended for us.

That said, how are you doing with this? How has God equipped you and impassioned you? What are you doing with your gifts and passions? Are you putting it off for some huge dream tomorrow or are you doing what you can right now? (How often do we trade in obedience now for “pie-in-the-sky” plans for later…and then later never happens?)

My prayer today is that we will be obedient to God. Right now. That we would allow ourselves to hear from the Holy Spirit and not “reason away” why what we hear is silly or ridiculous. I am praying that we would worship God in the way that he has equipped us to do so because he never asks us to do something without equipping us…he never asks us to go somewhere without providing a path. (Look at me. I am NOT a writer! (I’m a scientist! I much prefer bullet points, graphs, and data.) But the Holy Spirit started telling me to write things and now I’ve been doing this for over a year. I never know what I am going to write until I sit down, make space in my morning for his inspiration, and allow him to speak. What I do have is a deep love for people…all kinds of people…so out of obedience, I am being vulnerable, sharing my innermost thoughts, some of my most embarrassing moments, and my brokenness in the hope that it will help someone…anyone…to see God. Sometimes, it causes me deep anxiety…but there is one thing in this world that I can control…I can choose to be obedient to God regardless of where it takes me or what it requires of me.)

If you don’t know where your passions are, get into a quiet head-space and ask yourself what you would do if money was no object. Ask yourself, what brings you the most joy and satisfaction. Then look around at your life and see where you can start utilizing your passions today. If you don’t know what your giftedness is, take a test! Learn about how God has equipped you! I’m including a link to one that I particularly like (free online.) We aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow…but we can worship with our obedience right now. Much love friends!

Beks

Link to Spiritual Gifts Test: