3/31/15 Morning Musing – Prophesy and Hamster Wheels?

Exhortation…Pastor/Shepherd…Teacher…Prophesy…seriously?  I only fully understood the meaning of one of these and these were what the test said my Spiritual Gifts were.  Well, that must be a mistake.  I should take a different test.  Same answers.  Hmmmm…must be my state of mind at the time…I’ll take the tests at a different time of day and when I’m in a different mood.  Same answers.  *Sigh*  Ok…ok…I will study up on these and figure out what they mean (since they supposedly add up to mean…well…me.)  Exhortation seemed to mean cheer-leader…that bugged me.  Pastor…ummmm…not interested in that job!  Shepherd…I live in Flower Mound?  Teacher…done that…I get that one…and I really liked it.  Prophesy…ummmm…as in “the end of the world is near!”??????  

Needless to say, I was seriously disappointed in the results of the test (ahem…many tests.)  Like I said, I understood teacher.  I felt fulfilled and joyful when interacting with those wacky middle-school students.  I so deeply enjoyed it when a lightbulb would go off in their minds and I could see their expressions go from confused to happy and craving more knowledge.  But the other gifts…those were a bit of a mystery.  Many sources kept defining these incredibly complicated qualities with one or two words:  Exhortation = encourager.  Pastor/Shepherd = parent (the descriptions all sounded this way to me.)  Prophesy = counselor.  So, I went deeper.  Turns out, these short descriptions don’t even come close.  

Exhortation is not simply an encourager: (an encourager doesn’t have to understand or identify with the encouragee (is that a word?))  It is the ability to counsel or challenge others toward a healthy relationship with Jesus and is often utilized to motivate people to make God-honoring choices. Exhorters regard trials as opportunities for growth and sympathize with the suffering Christian, but see the pain through the lens of God’s sovereignty rather than through the lens of suffering.  Exhorters express love through availability. (Ok…yep…that is me…add feels a deep need to feed people and you would see my picture with this definition!)

Pastor/ Shepherd is not simply two very different job titles, as it turns out:  Apparently, the word pastor is related to pasture and the Greek word for it means “herdsman.”  So, like actual shepherds, these people have a great need for long-term relationships and will sacrificially give themselves to other people in such a way that they are built-up in their faith.  They are concerned with the health, growth, and well-being of those that they are committed to.  (Ok…yeah, that one sounds like me too…I don’t just want relationships…I need them…and I get a bit protective of those people…but I’m more comfortable with the word shepherd than I am with the word pastor…so we’ll just go with that one.)

Prophesy, as it turns out, is not just for nut-jobs:  Apparently, it is a deep-rooted calling to expose sin…not for the sake of punishment…in order to lead to restoration in relationship with God and to bring unity to people.  (Ok, yeah…that is absolutely my heartbeat!)  Also, people with this gift are quick to repent of their own sin when confronted with it but can be crushed by this too because they see the depravity in that sin.  (Yes!  That is me!  When I realize I have wronged someone…even just a little…I am devastated by it and have a hard time getting past it.  (Just ask Stan.  I know it sometimes wears him out!))

So, what in the world is the point of me writing about this?  Well first, some of you may not be familiar with your spiritual gifts and I would encourage you to investigate them and learn about them.  (You can google free online spiritual gift tests…I really like the one at churchgrowth.org…good descriptions that also touch on your potential pitfalls and strengths.)  Next, I would urge you to look at what areas of your life feel the most fulfilling and see if there is any overlap between that and the results of your tests.  Why?  Because that is where you will be the most energized, the most effective, and the most…”you.”  I have gone through long periods of time where I didn’t feel like “me.”  I felt almost like a visitor in my life.  But last year, when I started musing…I became more “me” than I have ever been.  (I didn’t do any of this intentionally…I just felt like I should start writing…although I had no agenda and have never been a skilled writer…so I did.)  I feel closer to God and am more energized by this aspect of my life than any other.  Since I started writing, I have had countless conversations, lunches, and meetings with people I didn’t know before…because I was able to somehow touch some part of them through this…it is uncanny and still blows my mind every time it happens.  It is encouraging to see ability in me to bring about something positive for other people and it not wear me down to a nub because it is so exhausting…if anything, it energizes and excites me.  Finally, I would ask you to invest in your giftedness.  Find some way to give space and time to explore your giftedness so you can see yourself and God more clearly.  (Know that anything you sacrifice in pursuing this will be worthwhile because this is your actual calling…your purpose.  I never have enough time but I am spending about 1.5 to 3 hours per day writing.  I don’t miss whatever I was doing before because whatever it was is so much less valuable to me than this.  I will also say that it has freed me up to say no to more things as well because I know where my purpose is so, I consequently, also know where it is not.  Other things aren’t bad…they just aren’t MY things.)

 So, how are you doing with this?  Do you know what your giftedness is?  Are you using it?  Do you know how to implement it in your life?  How can you bring truth, healing, and love to others through your gifts?  What might you need to sacrifice in order to be obedient in this area?

My prayer today is that we would not just go through life aimlessly, running along like a hamster on a wheel, without a purpose…but that we would determine where our gifts and passions intersect so that we can be tools in the hands of an amazingly loving and creative God.  Much love friends,

Beks

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3/25/15 Morning Musing:  Super-Heroes Don’t Always Wear Capes.

I was blown away!  This man was making such a generous gesture…I know it wasn’t purely selfless…but it certainly was generous and the reason it spoke so clearly to me…it was to benefit my kids.  (If you ever want to love a mother well…just be kind to her children.)

I had this under control.  My friend’s car battery was dead in the Kroger parking lot and I have a “dummy-proof” jumper cable kit.  (It labels exactly how to jump a car with pictures and everything so that you don’t do something stupid and electrocute yourself…perfect for a distractible gal like me!)  But before I got the first clamp on the dead battery, a man that I didn’t know walked up and began to help.  And then another man walked up and began to help.  And then another!  In under a minute, my friend’s mini-van was up and running and then all of the men just sort of disappeared…not in a mystical way…but they quietly left as suddenly as they had come to help.

“No, no.  That is a mistake.  I didn’t pay you that $800 yet.”  What?!  I sat there staring at him.  He is a man who struggles quite a bit financially (is currently working several jobs to support his family) yet, when I made an $800 error in his favor on a transaction, he very quickly pointed out the error and made sure that I didn’t give him credit for paying more than he had.

These three events all happened Monday afternoon.  Some of these people I know and some were strangers.  Except for one, I don’t really know much (if anything) about how they view God.  Yet, all three events were ways that God breathed life and love into me:  

– Finances…there aren’t many topics that people find more personal than finances.  How much money we have (or don’t have) affects almost every aspect of our lives and allows (or limits) the choices we get to make.  Finances impact us strongly because we are confronted with them several time per day.  There really isn’t much in our lives that isn’t touched by our current financial situation. 

– Kindness…I honestly had the battery-jumping under control.  I’ve done this before and, those of you who know me, know that I really pride myself on being an independent and strong woman who loves an opportunity to shock people by defying expected gender roles.  (For example, just this week, I worked on projects that required all of these tools:  a crochet hook, a power saw, 3-foot long bolt cutters, an impact drill, yarn, a sewing machine, multiple drill bits including several spade bits, and countless other things.)  All that to say, I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to do things myself (kind of like a toddler.)  But when these men appeared out of nowhere to help jump my friend’s car, all I could think about was how kind they were to help…not because I needed the help…but because they were willing to offer it so readily.  (Think about it…there is no way they were all hanging out in the Kroger parking lot with nothing to do.  They were certainly all moving about through their busy day when they saw us and offered help.)  These men allowed themselves to put their days on hold just to offer kindness to a stranger.  

– Character and Honesty…I had made a large ($800) mistake in this man’s favor. (While this could be grouped with the first occurrence (finances), what touched me the most, was how this man’s character was unwavering.  That $800 would have meant a lot more to him that it did to me and he still went out of his way to correct my mistake.  (I’ve seen people sell their character cheaply…compromise their values for tiny monetary gain…it seems such a waste to me.)  “Your character will always go ahead of you and speak words – good or bad, words will be spoken.”  – Gladys Lawson

The point?  Well, first, as I have said many times:  What you do and think matters.  How you treat people matters.  AND when you have opportunities to invest in someone else, I think God multiplies your efforts.  None of these people were personally costed anything huge.  The first and last didn’t take money AWAY from anyone…it just didn’t GIVE them any additional money.  The second scenario only cost those men about 60 seconds…but the impact on me was huge because I was so touched that they were willing to stop their day…they SAW us and responded to a perceived need.  

All of this just gave me some hope about the state of people’s hearts.  In a world full of people who are always “looking out for number one,” it is nice to see kindness…and I would go so far as to say an abundance of kindness.  I think we can all contribute to this mission.  (Although Christians…please hear this…this is what it looks like to live out the gospel…it’s not just an event…the gospel is meant to be lived and shared through agape (selfless) love.)  You don’t have to change all the things you are doing, you just have to change your mindset while you are doing the things you do.  Look for opportunities to serve…to bless…to love well.

So, how are you doing with this?  Do you often get chances to bless others but find that you aren’t able to?  Is your schedule so packed tight that even if you were given a perfect opportunity to minister to someone, you wouldn’t be able seize that opportunity?  Are your finances so lacking in margin that you couldn’t minister to someone or…even worse…might be tempted to violate your conscience in order to make some gains?  How can you create more space in your time and finances in order to have those resources available for these spontaneous opportunities to love others well?  These things can be spontaneous or planned…or even both.  How are you loving others well in your life?

My prayer today is that we would seize opportunities to love well…that we would live outside of our own circumstances enough to see the circumstances of others…that in doing so, we would show Jesus to the world.  Much love friends,

Beks

3/18/15 Morning Musing:  Reversing the Irreversible

“Whoa!  Wait a minute!  You mean to tell me that when you are mad at someone, you don’t find the meanest thing you can possibly say to exploit their most sensitive and vulnerable insecurities?!?!”  **mind.  blown!**  Yep…sadly, these were my thoughts when I was a newlywed.  Marrying Stanton Billy was one of the best choices I have ever made…not just because he is amazing…but because he has helped me to become better.  I have often thought that he got the raw end of the deal (seriously not fishing for compliments here) because has endured quite a bit during our marriage:  the poisoning which damaged my health and our checkbook,  the resulting changes in my personality, and let’s not forget the clearly balanced and healthy person that the first sentence of this writing indicates that I was…poor guy…and he’s even done this without a straight-jacket or high-level sedatives!  

What is my point?  Well, there is a verse about how relationships are designed to help form us into better people:  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭27‬:‭17‬ NIV)  Now, I’m going to border on the blasphemous (again!  I know!)  But I see this verse differently…maybe it’s because of the word sharp…I tend to think of it as a negative.  For example, I would describe the former Bekah (before Stan (b.S as his family refers to it)) as being very sharp…not as in sharp-witted…more as in sharp-tongued.  I had very rough edges.  I was not a super-loving or gentle person.  I was damaged and harsh and calloused and I saw sensitivity as weakness.   Anyway, back to the verse.  Instead of sharpening, I think of the analogy more in terms of smoothing.  I used to do ceramics and there are different stages and techniques that can be used before it is fired in the kiln versus after it is fired:  When the piece has been fired, it is hardened and whitish in color.  This is called a bisque.  If there are flaws in a hardened bisque, you can sand them down with metal tools or super-coarse sand paper to smooth them out.  But before the item is fired in the kiln, the mud is only slightly hardened by air.  It is grayish in color and is easily damaged and is called greenware.  Greenware often has flaws in it (It has been poured into a mold which will leave lines at the seams and what not) but these flaws are easily addressed.  Instead of using metal tools or sandpaper, greenware can be “finger-sanded.”  What this means is that by ever-so-gently rubbing the greenware with your fingers, you can sand off the extra lines and smooth out the flaws.

For the love…Bekah…what is the point?  Glad you asked!  When Stan and I met, I was a bisque that had not addressed my flaws while still a greenware.  So instead of having smooth edges, I had sharp ridges…so sharp that I could quite easily cut someone.  Stan’s approach to me was as gentle as if I were greenware.  He didn’t try to harshly knock off any of my dangerously sharp points.  He gently took my hand and just started walking through life with his eyes on Jesus.  When we would encounter another of my harsh points, he would just point to Jesus again and smile.  He didn’t try to point out my damage and my rough lines…I could see them clearly enough when I looked at Jesus and then looked at myself.  This approach allowed me to want to change me (which is the only way that real and lasting changes occur.)  This left me thankful to and for the man who held my hand and walked instead of pulling out the tools to do some heavy remodeling.  This left me content and joyful instead of resentful.  And despite what science says about it, I gradually transitioned from a bisque to greenware…reversed this irreversible transformation.  

So, how are you doing with this?  Are you a bisque or greenware?  When you look at Jesus and yourself, do you have some rough edges to work on?  What is he telling you to address right now?  Do you have relationships that could be helping you in your quest to smooth out some flaws?  What about the people around you?  Do you feel the need to point at their flaws and yell “See it?  It’s right there!!!!”  Could you be taking a gentler approach?  I’ve noticed that when change is desired by the person, it can be liberating and lead to healing.  But when change is externally-motivated, resentment can build quickly.  Are you trying to force change on others?  If so, how could you become a source of empowerment for them instead of a dictator?  How can you love them toward healing instead of giving them a nice, firm shove?  

My prayer today is that we would address our wounds instead of ignoring them and that we would gently love others as we focus on Jesus…that we would be wounded healers…works of art that are still being refined but that already reach out to people and move them even while still incomplete.  Much love friends,

Beks

3/17/15 Morning Musing:  “Go Ahead and Underestimate Me…It’s All Part of My Strategy!”

People often ask me why I have colored streaks in my hair (I tend to keep a streak of purple, pink, or blue on the left side of my hair.) Now, it’s just a habit but it all started a few years back when I was testing for tae kwon do and was really nervous about it.  See, I’ve always had testing/performance anxiety and I have rituals that I go through in order to comfort myself.  For example, I fix my hair and makeup because I feel that if I look better and more confident, I will be better and more confident.  I always want my uniform to look sharp, my skills to look sharp, and for my face and hair to be nice-looking (even though I’m going to become a sweaty disgusting mess by the end of it all).  And while I don’t want to stand out too much, I also feel the need to rebel at least a little bit.  Everyone is in the same uniform (which by definition means the same) and I want to follow the rules but…I also am just not the same as everyone else.  Over the years, I’ve collected a ton of tae kwon do blooper-stories where I’ve proved to be unlike anyone else:  There was the time that I screwed up my board-breaking and somehow miraculously broke it with my calf…still not sure how that happened and I used to teach physics!!!!  There was the time I couldn’t find my senior brown belt and had to stop at home depot on the way to testing for some black electrical tape to transform my brown belt into a senior brown belt (which made my fabric belt look shiny and got me called to go speak to the judges about my wonky uniform.)  And, let’s not forget the “fun flask” which I take to testing and tournaments in order to not throw up on my judges…although when I was first starting out with sparring combinations, I was paired at testing with a large 12 year old boy and when I briefly forgot one of my combinations, I muttered under my breath “Oh no…I think I’m going to be sick.”  That sweet boy replied “If you throw up on me, I’m pretty sure we both pass!”  (I was so tickled by his response that my anxiety melted away and I did great for the rest of the test!)  

Over the years, I have found that if I wear my hair in pigtails with the pink streak, I tend to be under-estimated by my opponents.  People that don’t know me look at me with a look that says “Awwww….look at the little girl…”  I could be insulted that I am so greatly under-estimated in that way or I could utilize it as part of my strategy.  I’ve gone with strategy and decided to score as many points as possible before they figure me out.  In tae kwon do, it is advantageous to be strong, fast, and flexible. I know many people who lack in some of those areas but are very strong in strategy and they tend to be the best at sparring.  

Why in the world am I droning on and on about tae kwon do and colored hair?  Glad you asked!  My point is that, in life, there are going to be times when we are greatly under-estimated…it could be in an activity like tae kwon do, at work by our bosses, by our families who only see us in a certain context, or any number of places.  How we respond to being underestimated will begin to cement not only how those people see us but how we see ourselves.  If your boss sees your strengths as weaknesses and you fold up and decide that you’re going to check out, then you are concreting that idea not only for your boss but also for yourself.  If your family of origin still sees you as the person that you were 30 years ago and you stomp your feet and have a tantrum about it, then you are validating that idea to them and yourself.  

The point is, people don’t determine your value only God does and he says that you are immeasurably valuable because he has placed that value in you.  Being underestimated is not something that should get you down, it is an opportunity…an opportunity to blow those people away…a chance to shine…a time to use your gifts and talents to be fully who you are (a person that nobody else can be) and fill a void in this world.  

So how are you doing with this?  Is there an area of your life where you are struggling because of what other people think?  Are you beginning to believe their misconceptions of you?  What does God say about that area?  Is he asking you to change what you are doing?  If not, how can you begin to shine through your “weakness?”  How can your weakness be used to glorify God?  (Example:  I’ve always been a terribly slow…painfully slow reader.  I don’t learn well by reading and my writing has always been mediocre at best (at least that is what I learned in school.)  Language arts has never been a strength for me but that is the very area that God is using to speak to me and occasionally even to others.  Isn’t that amazing?!  Who’d have ever thought?!)  

My prayer today is that we would get just a glimpse of how God sees us.  I’m praying that we would find a way to be humble and useful in his hands…that we would be vulnerable, and in doing so, would be able to use our apparent weaknesses strategically for the good of others.   I believe it makes no difference if you are weak or strong in an area…if you don’t use it (either way) to glorify God, then you have wasted an opportunity.  Much love friends,

Beks

3/9/15 Morning Musing:  Crow Isn’t Quite as Bad Once You Develop a Taste For It.

I used to know so much!  I mean this both literally and also sarcastically.  Before the brain damage, I could rattle off so much “knowledge” that it would make you begin searching for some duct tape, a shovel, and a really good friend who would later vouch for your whereabouts.  I also had a lot of my own “wisdom”…you know what I mean:  I couldn’t wait to grow up because I was going to ace adulthood!  Even though I didn’t have kids, I knew exactly how to raise them.  I was an expert driver…never mind how many accidents I had been involved in.  I remember “knowing” the connection between hurt and weakness…if you were weak enough to get hurt by something I said, that was on you to remedy if I didn’t intend to hurt you.  (Yep!  I was a jewel!) Oh…and let’s not forget the fun fields of politics and religion where I was an expert on all subjects regardless of my experience level with those subjects…come to think of it, anyone who was able to even tolerate me during those years should definitely be recommended for saint-hood (Is that how it even works?  I’m not Catholic so I don’t know if saints become saints through a majority vote or appointment by the pope or if God audibly speaks…although I’m sure I “knew” all about it before and had opinions on it all…but I digress.)  

What the heck is my point?  Well, first, I will say that without experience, knowledge is basically useless.  Learning facts is the lowest form of learning.  (That is why American schools are having so much trouble with engaging the most highly intelligent students…we love to have kids memorize factoids instead of experience learning.)  I forget where I heard this analogy but it really drives home my point:  A kiss…we can study the physiology of it, learn about the chemicals that the body creates during it, determine how many muscles are involved in it, and learn a plethora of scientific factoids about it…but until I’ve been kissed, I don’t really understand the essence of it.  Until I’ve been kissed, I can’t understand the thrill right before our lips meet…the connectedness with another person…the feeling of weightlessness as time and surroundings disappear and the only thing that exists in my world is occurring right here and right now.  So, while gaining knowledge is great, gaining understanding is better.

My next point is that our feelings can be pathological liars.  While I can learn more about a subject by experiencing it, I can’t rely solely on my feelings during that experience for truth.  However, while something may not be true in reality, if I feel it, it may be truth to me.  (Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying that truth is relative…I am saying that what appears to be true to someone is highly influenced by their emotions.)  For example, when Stan and I have mentored engaged couples in the past, something that almost always comes up is that the groom-to-be gets frustrated when the bride-to-be feels hurt/angry/damaged by something even after he “reasons it away” for her.  I have explained to so many confused men that regardless of the universal truth of something, whatever his fiancé feels to be true is the base from which she is working right now.  If she believes she is __________ (fill in the blank:  fat, dumb, worthless, ugly, damaged, etc)…then no amount of listing facts and statistics, drawing graphs from data, or explaining why her reasoning is flawed will change how she feels about this…because her feelings are HER truth.  (For the record men, acknowledge her and if you disagree with her, you can explain why you FEEL differently:  “I hear you saying that you feel unattractive…but all I see is the woman that I can’t bear to apart from…the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with…the woman who I think is beautiful inside and out.  I see lips that own me when they smile.  I see eyes that see into my soul and know me…really know me.  I see a body that could convince me to do anything.  I see hands that love and work and that express your heart.  You may see unattractiveness but I…I see everything I want in a wife.”  She will not need to hear this just once…you may have to speak your truth to her over and over before it takes root.  Our feelings have deeper roots than our knowledge and they take a lot of consistency and gentleness to change.   You’re welcome men…that one is free!)  

Because of our experiences and feelings, our perspective on “knowledge” can be different.  I can collect and analyze data on poverty and racism and I am sure I can  make some convincing arguments of something or other with that data…but, my perspective is that of an educated, middle-class, white, American woman…so regardless of how intimately I know the “facts,” I can not know what it is to be a young, uneducated, black mother on welfare.  I can not know what it is to be a hispanic man who is trying to provide for his family in a country where he doesn’t speak the language.  I can not know the facts and data from a perspective I don’t have. 

“Get to the point Bekah!”  Ok!  The gist of what I am getting at is this:  We can know a lot of things and still be ignorant.  I certainly was for many many years.  The one thing that I am learning as I get older is that I don’t really know much of anything and the things that I thought I knew are mostly turning out to be wrong.  As I gain more experiences…as I learn from other peoples’ experiences, I am finding that what I know and how often I am right is a lot less important than the people that the statistics and data are based on.  I’m also learning that crow isn’t quite as bad once you develop a taste for it.

So, how are you doing with this?  The things that you feel most strongly about…you know the ones…the ones that when you speak with someone who disagrees, you feel your face get hot and you begin to believe that the other person is “not so bright.”  How can you stop in the moment and gain some glimpses of the other person’s perspective?  Or better yet, maybe you can try to learn other people’s take on a matter when you don’t feel all ready for battle.  Do you believe what you do because of your life’s circumstances?  What if your circumstances were altered?  Would you still feel the same convictions?

My prayer today is that we would love the person on the other side of the debate more than winning the debate.  I am praying that we would seek to continue to learn more (facts and feelings) before we draw lines in the sand and make people choose sides.  Much love friends,

Beks

pic taken from:  https://tmedatruth.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/perspectivetruth-the-way-that-seemeth-right/#more-1422

3/5/15 Morning Musing:  Appreciating Someone’s Nature Allows What is Excellent in Them to Belong To Us As Well

A few months ago, a friend sent me a brief story that she had come across.  In it, the author painted a picture of her beautiful garden.  There was this aggressive vine that she had to fight back every year because it wanted to grow wildly everywhere.  Year after year, she would hack away at it and try to control it so that she could keep order in her garden.  Then, one year, she let the crazy vine do it’s thing without trying to control it…and just like she expected, it took over…it grew up fences and trees and just spread out all over.  Then, one day, she went outside to find the most beautiful and fragrant purple blossoms all over her yard.  They were everywhere and growing from this un-restrained vine.  That is when the author made the connection between the flower-producing vine and children.    She said that the vine was created with a certain nature and that as long as she fought against that nature and tried to make the vine behave in a way that it was not designed for, it could not flourish.  Instead of trying to control it and change it, she was meant to nurture it.

This hit home for me on several levels.  For one, I have two kiddos and one of them is always going to be more difficult for me than the other…because she is just like me.  I see some of her qualities that are going to lead to her experiencing pain in the future the way I did in my life and I want so badly to protect her from that pain.  I have not compared her to her brother but I have tried to alter…or curb…some of her tendencies to put her on an easier path.  But the thing is, she is exactly who God designed her to be.  As a parent, it is not my job to change her into a different or “easier” person…it is my job to take what God has instilled in her precious little heart and nurture it exactly how she is.  For a recovering control-freak like me…this requires a reset in my heart almost daily.

This article also made me think about my other relationships.  It’s very easy to get along with everyone as long as they are following the script that I have written for them in my head (mind you, I have not bothered to actually give them the script…because that would be taking it too far…instead, I just expect them to know innately what crazy expectations I have for them.)  We are quick to require that people respect our different wiring (or the wiring of those we love…like our children) but how quick are we to try to understand and appreciate the wiring of others?  For example, at the beginning of the year, my daughter was a little disappointed in school because this teacher isn’t as fun as a teacher that she had in the past…she doesn’t talk loud and she never even sings songs!  I have wanted my daughter to have the freedom to be the wild, creative, and loving little girl that she is, but somehow, I had given her the impression that she was the only one in this equation who deserved that.  I explained to her that just like we don’t want the teacher to force her into a box that she can not thrive in, we should not put those kinds of expectations on the teacher either.  We should not judge the teacher for not being someone else.  She is designed to be who she is and deserves the space and freedom to be that person as much as my daughter does.

Finally, I think this story can be applied to myself as well.  How often do I witness someone else’s talents or abilities or appearance and then look at myself and make comparisons?  “I wish my waist looked more like that…I wish I had that kind of artistic ability…I wish I was more comfortable in solitude like him…I wish I had different spiritual gifts that look more like hers…I wish I was able to be as poised and polished as her…I wish I had a filter between my brain and my mouth like him…”  This list could go on forever…and giving myself the grace to be who I am is probably my hardest task…this is the vine that I hack away at the most vigorously.  But God determined the nature of the vine and he wants it to thrive…he determined my nature and it should bring glory to him…but when I try to be someone I’m not, I am leaving a void in the picture of our God that is meant to be seen by those who are different from me.  It distorts the view that people get of our God because it’s not a true reflection…it becomes more similar to one of those fun-house mirrors.  Is that even helping people to see God?

So how are you doing with this?  Who are the vines in your life that you tend to hack away at?  Your kids?  Your spouse?  Your friends?  Your self?  Every single characteristic that we have can be made into something that edifies or it can be distorted into something that destroys.  Are you causing damage to be inflicted on those that are meant to be blessings?  Are you being damaged by someone who expects you to be a different species altogether?  How can you, and those you love, better nurture each other?  How could you encourage each other?  If specific people came to mind, reach out to them and try to begin to change your patterns of hacking at each other.  You never know what joy you might find in your real, true characteristics!

Today, I am praying for us to all take a really good look at ourselves and those around us…that we would take a break from the hacking and take a moment to appreciate the nature of the beautiful vines we see.  I am praying that we would see how these vines are a reflection of their creator…and that we would rest in the knowledge that each one has been carefully crafted and brings joy to the heart of God when it is allowed to be exactly what he created it to be.  Much love friends,

Beks

3/4/15 Morning Musing:  A Strong Heart Loves…A Stronger Heart Continues to Love After It Has Been Hurt.

I have a friend who is struggling with her relationships with her family of origin.  (Who doesn’t?  Right?  And…no, I am not the “friend.”)  In her case, it’s not just differences of personality or having trouble spending lots of time together; it’s really more about sin and pain from her growing-up years and denial of violent actions that were taken against her back then.  Over the years, this friend reached out multiple times to try to make peace with her family members, only to have her hand swatted away.  Now the family members have something to gain from peace with her and are reaching out to her and she feels conflicted about it. 

When the friend came over to talk to me about it, the scripture about the prodigal son came to mind immediately (Luke 15: 11-32.)  What strikes me about this passage is that for true forgiveness and reconciliation (keep in mind, these are not the same things and either one can happen without the other) to occur, there isn’t room for pride on either side.  In the passage, the son is basically telling the father that he wishes he were dead and found no value in his life…call me crazy, but I think that would be difficult to get over!  But at the end, the son returns with a heart of humility and the father is not only over-joyed and receptive, but he humiliates himself as well!  (In that time, it was an embarrassment for men to raise their garments (showing their legs) and running.  He then threw himself at his son and showered him with affection!)  

I don’t think that initially, this was what my friend wanted to hear…and who could blame her?  It will open her up to the possibility of pain again.  But the thing I can’t get out of my head is this:  We aren’t here to feel safe and be comfortable…to obtain wealth or prestige…to work hard or accomplish tasks…or even to be good people…we are here to show God to the world…to do the work of Jesus to people by loving them well.  It’s hard (maybe impossible) to simultaneously guard your heart from injury AND love others (and be loved by others) the way Jesus does because keeping people at a distance does just that…it keeps them at a distance.  

I know that I struggled for a long time in this area:  all of my relationships were shallow and I kept people at arm’s length in order to protect myself…but my life was without substance and depth…I was lacking community and I didn’t really even know myself.  I kept myself busy and numb so that I wouldn’t be in tune to the isolation and loneliness that it caused.  (I know…I’ve done a pendulum swing in the other direction in recent years.  I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear I’ve been called an “over-sharer” recently!  Ha!)  I’ve got to tell you though…now that I don’t really keep secrets…now that I “over-share”…I’ve found more peace and real friendship…and even safety than I ever could have imagined.  Turns out that when you no longer have anything to hide…you can’t be imprisoned by the fear of exposure! 

So, how are you doing with this?  Do you have something that you don’t feel like you can share with anyone?  Are you guarding yourself against being injured?  If you are, do you see that you are also guarding yourself against being loved well?  Do you have anyone in your life that may be afraid to return to you and ask forgiveness?  How can you love them in such a way that it would make it safer for them to humble themselves and return to relationship with you?  

My prayer today is that we would find safety in our unsafe surroundings by leaning on the only true safety that we are offered in life:  Jesus.  I’m praying that we would choose to risk pain in order to love well.  I’m praying that we will offer our pain to our God as a sacrifice and as an act of worship so that he can soothe our wounds along with the wounds of others.  And…I’m praying for peace and reassurance when we obediently make ourselves vulnerable and allow ourselves to be used by God.  Much love friends,

Beks