5/28/15 Morning Musing: “Don’t Be So Heavenly-Focused That You Are No Earthly Good.”

A few years ago, I learned a new concept that I (and I think many many others) have misunderstood for…well…ever. (As an effort to not have you misunderstand the point of this musing and accidentally speak the wrong message here, I am going to refrain from telling you what that concept was.) Anyway, I was learning new information that would come to have a domino effect on other areas of my faith and it was rocking me…all of me…and how I would relate to Jesus. With every new tidbit of truth that I was learning, I became more and more insatiably hungry to learn more (which is quite interesting because that had been a consistent prayer for me for a couple of years: that I would CRAVE him and that he would cause me to itch in a way that could only be satisfied by pursuing him.) In the zeal that I always experience when I learn something new, I wanted to share it with others…many others…ok, everyone I interacted with (this is part of why I tell people that Stan is a saint…add to that zeal that I am a verbal processor and he had to endure listening to me fumble through this subject for so many hours.) Anyway, in my zeal and lack of a filter between my brain and mouth, I embarked on a conversation with a man that I didn’t really know…and boy, did I ever handle that conversation (and his heart-space) wrong. In that conversation, I was pushy and opinionated and far from gentle…and I ended up creating a situation that alienated him instead of introducing him to a new way of thinking. At the time, I thought the man was just stubborn and was talking it through with a sweet girlfriend who observed the whole interaction when she looked at me and gently asked “Well, you didn’t always believe the way you do now…how long did it take you to get to this point? He was only first introduced to this idea 30 minutes ago.” Ouch! Ouch!!! Well, crap! She was 100% right and I knew it immediately…and I grieved. I grieved because, in my excitement, I may have just steered this man away from truth and I didn’t have a way to contact him and apologize or make it right.

I have thought about that night many times over the last few years and am reminded when I think of it to speak truth but to temper it with gentleness (and also to let God choose the timing of things because truth spoken at the wrong time is still damaging.)  
The point? Well, recently, I have found myself caught between pursuing what I think is God’s best overall and ministering contently right where I am. I have been filled with thoughts of how things should be and frustrated with good people who also want God’s best, but may be coming to the same conclusions at a different rate than I am due to different circumstances in our lives. In the frustration at what I have perceived to be “stalling,” I have lost sight of some of the opportunities that are right in front of me and…well…ripe. Thankfully, I have surrounded myself with women who think differently than I do, are gifted differently than I am, and have shared their perspectives with me. Those women have each, in their own way, pointed out that (regardless of whether or not I am feeling ignored or stalled) that I have a unique voice and (whether I understand it or not) an audience that for some unknown reason hears me…connects with me…humors me? I don’t even know! But they are right!  
So, that has placed me in a position where tension exists between reconciling what I dream for God’s people and the reality of where we are right now. I think that God wants us to desire his very best for everyone…to dream on behalf of his children that he loves…to rattle cages (my newest phrase that I can not let go of) where we have gotten complacent and comfortable so that we continue to put one foot in front of the other as we travel toward a God that loves us deeply and painfully. But at the same time, that is not the reality right now (and it is likely to be an agonizingly slow progression) and I am called to be obedient and a servant right now…right here…in the mess. To my dismay, each of these two situations has been working against the other recently and has had me a bit bound up and paralyzed in certain areas…but God is very faithful to reveal truth to me (by speaking in small, simple words…and occasionally pictures since I can be a bit dense 😉) despite my awkward and bumbling attempts to honor him: This week, through working on a broken relationship with a girlfriend, I was able to hear truth from her…truth about the topic on which I am writing…truth that says that those dreams are what shapes my mission…they are the goal…and I am not responsible for achieving the goal…I am responsible for working toward it here and now. That probably sounds like Christianity 101 stuff to you but for me, it has been an unbearable tension that I had to fight against for the last couple of months. It has required me to stay constantly vigilant against unrealistic expectations and even imagined adversaries (because it took me to an ignorant place of “if we disagree, we are enemies.” A place that I used to live but have fought hard to get away from.) The bottom line of all of this rambling? I think we are supposed to hold onto both the God-given vision or dream AND, regardless of whether or not people around us are arriving at the same conclusions at the same time, have a loose enough grip on the dream that we can joyfully function in the messiness that is our reality.
So, how are you doing with this? Do you have a spiritual tension that you are wrestling with? Do you find it difficult when people don’t arrive at the same conclusion at the same time? If not, is your answer still no when the situation requires that your own progress is slowed or delayed in that area while you wait hopefully for others to draw the same conclusions? Have you ever fouled up the waiting portion of the process like I did in the beginning of today’s post? How did you handle it?  
My prayer today is that we would have the wisdom and self-discipline to keep looking toward Heaven while lovingly and selflessly working in a place that is far from it: our messy, chaotic lives. Much love friends,


Happy Anniversary to the Love of My Life!

Stan, we have really come a long way from being those two fresh-faced, bright-eyed kids. Being married to you has been the most unexpected and undeserved gift I could have ever imagined. I didn’t think I could love you more than the day that we stood in that chapel and said “I do”…but I love you more deeply and more fiercely every single day. You have taught me how to understand grace, really search to know God, and truly become myself. You are still “my everything” and you will always be my “favorite person.” I love you baby! Happy Anniversary!          

5/19/15 Morning Musing: Change Agent

“I want to see justice served!” *someone else should get right on that!*  

“She has the right to feel safe in her own home.” *so she should make sure to speak up for herself.*  
“Bullying is wrong and kids should be able to get an education without fear of bullying.” *Let’s make some more rules about this.*
Yesterday, I saw a video circulating around facebook that I have seen circulating before: There was an over-weight quiet kid at a school being bullied by a loud but smaller (and very aggressive) kid. The bully is making a spectacle of their interaction so as to draw attention to how “tough” he is and he punches the bigger kid right in the face and the bigger kids does not react with violence. The bully continues to attack two more times before the the quiet, larger kid finally picks him up and slams him into the ground and rattles the smaller kid’s brain until I’m suspicious of permanent damage. Throughout the interaction, you see other kids watching and you hear other voices…and obviously, the bully had this planned because he had someone filming it for him and he retreated to the camera-person when the quiet kid finally retaliated.  
There were all of the expected comments on this post about the bully getting what he deserved and applauding the quiet kid for standing up for himself and there were several people saying how happy this made them. And I felt broken because I did not feel happy at all…I was sad…and pissed…and I did not feel like I saw justice…I felt like I saw a peaceful child pushed to a point of violence with no allies…I felt like I saw a kid get trapped between his conscience, the “rules”, and a sense of self-preservation…I felt like I saw retaliation and that is simply not the same as justice. Now hear me, I am not condemning that child for defending himself…not at all. (I’ve actually had conversations with my own kids about not allowing themselves to be bullied and knowing when it is the right time to kick someone else’s teeth out.) But here is what upsets me: That child stood there alone while surrounded by other kids. People watched and filmed this as though it were sport. There was cheering and commentary until this child was pushed past his ability to reason. And this kid’s torture and misery was entertainment. And people watched. And people filmed. And people made comments.
Where the hell was the outrage? Sure, we can make morally-correct commentary from our comfort and safety on our side of that screen…we can shake our heads and cluck our tongues at how bad bullying is…we can make our statements about not waking the gentle giant…and we can draw more posters and have more anti-bullying seminars…but where was the call to action on the other side of that screen? When did we become a society that was ok with anything as long as it isn’t aimed at ourselves? Why can’t we just stand up against injustice…for the sake of leaving the world a little better than we received it…regardless of who the victim is.
As is usually the case, I’m not really just talking about this one topic (bullying)…I’m talking about injustice whether it be overt or less obvious. I’m talking about choosing to stop violating our consciences by standing by. I’m talking about not making someone stand against injustice alone and over-whelmed. I’m talking about our sense of morality extending farther than just our own protected circumstances…past just our words. I’m talking about physical bullying but I am also talking about the gospel…and how if we are changed by it…truly changed…we can’t just let others fight alone against their own bullies (just like in the animal kingdom, bullies isolate their victim before devouring them)…we must be moved by our ideals past just talking and stand with the ones who are standing alone so that they are not more easily devoured.
So, how are you doing with this? Do your actions match your ideals? Would someone look at your life and say that the gospel matters to you? For example, if you believe that God loves people of every race, does your life reflect that? If you believe that both men and women are equally valuable, what are you doing to right the wrongs in your sphere of influence? Are you more concerned with following the rules or obeying your conscience (the Holy Spirit?) When was the last time you got uncomfortable for the sake of someone else? What do you stand for? Have you actually ever stood for it?
My prayer today is that God would take hold of our hearts and minds and itch us until we just can’t be still anymore. I’m praying that we would not be able to get any peace until we speak truth into people’s lives by living out truth in our own lives. I’m praying that we do more than rant and discuss…but that we will become agents of change. Much love friends,
Video I discussed can be found here: http://youtu.be/PMvVOJV5A6Y
Thank you to Barb Haesecke who helped me to see myself not as just a “cage-rattler” but as an agent of change.

5/15/15 Morning Musing:  If You Have ADHD and You Know It, Chase a Squirrel!

“How in the world did I get here? This is not where I want to be in life and the person I’m looking at is not who I want to be.  In fact, I don’t even recognize this person…how did I become her?  When did I lose sight of who I am and…well…what I want being me to look like?  When did I decide to compromise the thing that matters most to me…my character?  And now that I am here, how can I get back on track…if I can get back on track…”

It was deflating to realize that I had allowed myself to lose sight of my mission and who I was as I pursued that mission.  And looking back on it, I couldn’t pinpoint when the large life-changing decision was made.  So if I didn’t make some horrible leap, some major wrong turn, toward disobedience to God, how did I get so far from him and so far off-course for the path that he wanted for me.  And that is when it hit me…it wasn’t some large, grand gesture of disobedience…it was small compromises that allowed me to “slide” into disobedience unnoticed instead of picking each foot up off the floor and stepping into it.  Subtle.  Concealed.  Tiny compromises.  Little, hidden, secret thoughts that I nursed and allowed to grow inside of me.  I had even relished having those little secrets that were all mine…I had enjoyed when quiet moments allowed me privacy to “play” with those thoughts a little.  I wouldn’t have shared them with anyone…saying them out loud would have probably made me feel convicted about holding on to them…so I just toyed with them in my mind.  I wasn’t obsessed…I just would go back to those thoughts and explore them and feel them when I wanted to…which, in hind sight, seems to have been when my self-esteem was feeling low.
Frequently, I think that because (we think) we are willing to make grand gestures for God, that we believe that we love and serve him.  You know what I’m talking about…the big fork in the road scenarios:  ‘If someone held a gun to my head and told me to renounce Jesus or die, I would chose to die.’  That kind of thing.  But Jesus doesn’t want us to die (He doesn’t want us to renounce him either…so don’t read that here…it’s just that death was never in the plan for human-kind until sin entered the world…and even then, I think it causes him anguish because he doesn’t want that rupture for us.)  He died so that we could live…live full…live luxuriously (I don’t mean materially here)…live purposefully.  
But *sigh* I have ADHD…literally and spiritually…As soon as I get my eyes focused on my goals, something happens which moves my focus to something sooner…something closer (usually something shiny)…and my goal blurs and then I find myself looking at this new shiny object…and it doesn’t stop with looking…my eyes are a rudder and they steer my whole body to follow them.  I may have seen the shiny object between me and my goal…that is when it is the most insidious…this allows me to think I’m still on my path.  But the truth is, it’s one degree off…and one degree off over the course of a lifetime can lead me thousands of miles away from the intended destination.
Think about this for a moment:  I don’t believe that many people leave their house with the thought “Today!  Today is the day that I am going to betray my spouse and damage my marriage by having an affaire.” or “Smothering!  That is what my child needs…I absolutely want to create a situation where my child learns helplessness and entitlement in life so starting right now, I am going to begin smothering him/her.”  No…it doesn’t start that way…it starts with looking at the situation and what makes it more palatable and sliding our vision from our goals toward that comfort…that thing that makes things more palatable.  It starts with small shifts in posture and attention:  “Well, it’s just a little flirtation…it makes me feel better about myself and I’m not actually DOING anything about it.”  or “I know that eventually my kids will need to know this but right now…right now, it would just take too much energy to teach them so I will do it myself.”
So what’s the point? Well, I think that a lot of us make almost imperceptible choices which change the direction of our lives.  We get to a point where we are wondering “How in the hell did I even get here????  I didn’t choose this!!!!!”  But we did…it wasn’t through a big, over the top leap…it was through small weights shifts…little shifts that we never noticed because of its subtlety…our eyes just flickered toward the shiny object…and then they rested there for a bit…but that means that our eyes were no longer on what matters to us.
So how are you doing with this?  What has consumed your focus lately?  Is it where you would choose to have your focus land or has your focus been hijacked?  What other weight shifts have followed your focus as it slid from your goal to the shiny object?  Are you where you want to be?  Are you the person you want to be and that God designed you to be?  How can you get your focus lined up correctly again?  What can you do to “check in” with yourself periodically and remind yourself what you intend to focus on (and realign if necessary?)  
My prayer today is that God would burden our hearts with the focus that he would have for us…that we would be so consumed with him that we wouldn’t even see the shiny objects…and that we would seize every opportunity to realign ourselves with his path for us that leads to living full and luxurious lives.  

Much love friends,

5/5/15 Morning Musing: Finding Me

Wanna take a test that tells you about your personality?  Your ideal career?  Which color you represent?  What Starbucks drink you are a living version of?  Um…Yes!  I do!  (I don’t always post it because I don’t want to be “that girl” but I definitely take them.)  Lately, I have been just obsessed with personality tests, spiritual gifts tests, and learning about how different people are wired and I have finally discovered why that is:  At the age of 38, I am finally discovering who I am.  (I know…it’s weird…especially for someone as introspective as I can be.)  I have always been a chameleon and have been able to adapt to where I am, who I am with, and what’s going on around me.  (I even wrote about this before on 8/14/14.)  The new thing I’m learning, though, is that I have been such a good chameleon for so long, that I didn’t really know where I resided…where my neutral exists…where my feelings and tendencies call home.  So, I have been spending some time learning and feeling and talking to God about who he made me to be…and I have found that I have spouted lots of things about myself that simply aren’t true for me but have been true for adaptations that I have made in different scenarios.  

One example is in my family of origin.  In our household (and in every household) there is an identity…something that defines the people in it.  (One thing about being the youngest child is that your family identity is frequently already established when you arrive on the scene.)  In the Vinson house, we were followers of Jesus, people who were comfortable with logic and uncomfortable with feelings, patriots, people who do not know how to do conflict well (I refer to us as a “warring people”), there was a strong sense of independence, and our house was run in a patriarchal manner.  As a chameleon, I adapted to all of this well.  The problem?  I didn’t take the time, until recently, to figure out my own stance on each of these items…I adopted the values that were given to me.  Turns out I agree with much of it but there are some things I don’t agree with.  For instance, I still like logic but, as it turns out, I am a rather emotional person even though I have detested that about myself and tried to squash it for years.  I am independent and capable but I am relational to the extreme so pure independence and poor conflict skills just don’t fly for me (because words really, REALLY matter to me.)  
Not knowing myself has been a problem for me because it has made everything work…there was no neutral for me to rest in…nothing has ever truly felt like home for me.  For example, I have believed for years that I was type A…turns out that I am not at all…I simply start bringing order and logic to things when I feel emotional because I don’t trust the emotions and I need to do something with the nervous energy.  (I could always be found cleaning when I was angry or sad or anxious. The more pleasant my feelings, the worse my house looks so not cleaning my house for people when they are coming over is actually a sign that I am comfortable with them…I know…I’m weird.)  
Also, my relationships have been affected by not knowing myself.  For example, I didn’t trust emotions and avoided them at all cost in myself and others.  I have been told that I was closed off (which I dismissed because I thought “I share my stuff with the whole stinking world and have no concept of what is or isn’t appropriate to share.  There is no way that I am closed off.”)  Now, I think that maybe she was picking up on my chameleon nature and was thinking that I was being intentionally false.  And maybe I was…
Finally, my relationship with God has been affected by not knowing myself.  It is hard to have an appreciation for your creator and his work in you when you don’t really get what that looks like because you don’t know what “you” look like.  I have even been mad at God, in the past, for giving me gifts and passions in areas I don’t like because they require a lot of feeling and sensing and other stuff that can’t be precisely measured.  This touchy-feely stuff has been unknown, uncomfortable, and slightly chaotic in my brain up until now.
As always, I am coming to the question you are always asking with me:  What is the point???  Well, I guess it is several but all of them come out of spending some quiet time reflecting and getting painfully real with myself.  So this is what I have come up with:

1.  Rest doesn’t come to anyone who is constantly performing.

2.  It is hard (if not impossible) to understand what you are designed by God to know about God if you don’t know who you are.  This world is a mystery and you are the only one who can get the whole truth about yourself.  Knowing truth teaches us about Jesus (the way, the TRUTH, and the life.)  If you don’t learn the truth you are meant to learn about him, the rest of us can’t learn that from you and we miss out.

3.  It is difficult to use your giftedness to the best of your ability if you don’t know what that giftedness and ability look like.

4.  Empathy is beautiful and rare and I postulate that, part of the reason why, is because people don’t know themselves so they can’t really “get” others.  It sure is hard to minister to people in effective, bone-deep ways if we can’t understand their hurts and needs through empathy.

5.  I further postulate that we develop coping mechanisms that could point us to some things about ourselves that we don’t understand.  For example, I apparently “have no filter.”  Could it be that my tendency to share everything has been an attempt to be transparent with you all when I didn’t know how to be transparent with myself?  When others tell me things about myself, I am more-able to hear it and recognize it.  (My heart in writing has been about speaking truth and encouraging others…but, in doing this, I have learned more about myself along the way.)
So, how are you doing with this?  Do you know who you are?  I mean really know?  Are your tendencies more developed from who God made you to be or more from your circumstances?  If you don’t know or think it is more from your circumstances, try answering some of these statements:  God blessed me when he gave me this character trait: __________.  The most fulfilling way I know to help others is to __________ because it makes me feel _________.  The greatest compliment someone could give me would be to say __________.  The three things that make me feel the most alive and free are ____________________.  (And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭32‬ NLT))
My prayer this morning is that something in this would resonate with you…that you would look at the beautiful creation you are and…not be disappointed…but delight in what God has done in you.  (You may see things you want to work on, and that is ok…just don’t try to change who you are because I think that lying about God’s work is an affront to him.)  I am praying that we would allow ourselves the time and resources we need to investigate ourselves for the purpose of living out truth…not some “version of the truth”…but the real truth so that we can better see our real God.  Much love friends,