6/28/15 Morning Musing: Silence is Golden…But Duct Tape is Silver…

When I was a middle school science teacher, I went out of my way to make my classroom a safe place for my kids to learn. My students were not allowed into the classroom until I had looked them in the eye and welcomed them in…not because I didn’t trust them in my room…because it occurred to me that I may be the only one who really saw them that day and told them I was glad to see them and that their presence mattered. In Sassy Massey’s classroom (that was what the students named me) insults and mean-ness were not only not tolerated, I would stop class over them and allow the speaker of the insults the “opportunity” to apologize and over-power their own insults with 3 character compliments for whomever they had insulted. (The boys especially found this to be cruel and unusual punishment.) I also learned early on that raising your voice to get the attention of 35 middle-schoolers was ineffective. They were so accustomed to excessive noise that raising my voice only caused the words to fade into the background of all of the other noise in the life of a 13-year-old. Conversely, if they perceived a secret being discussed in hushed whispers, they were able to redirect their undivided attention to it immediately. I used this observation to my own advantage in class frequently if I found students talking over me. Instead of getting louder, I would get quieter and quieter. I didn’t need to nag them and ask them to please pay attention…I just had to make them want to pursue paying attention by making the truth that I was offering stand out from the noise that surrounded them.

I am brought back to those days of teaching right now. There is a lot of noise out there…and much of it is either untrue, unbeneficial, or both. When you engage in arguments online, all of that energy is wasted. It’s like my kids from my teaching days…the first thing we had to establish each day was that I loved them and that they were safe with me. Then, and only then, could they relax enough to hear any truth from me and learn. They had to see consistency in me from person to person…that I didn’t treat students differently…that it was ok to question and doubt and talk things through…and that they could not get off the hook when it came to thinking. I also had to learn that it was ok for them to struggle with their thoughts on the concepts…when we struggle to understand, we take that knowledge deeper within ourselves…instead of just regurgitating information to be forgotten after a test, we hold onto the concepts because it was harder to come by. (Think about difficult times in your life…how clearly do you remember them?)  
What is my point? Well, I guess it’s that there is a lot of hatred and lies being spewed out there. Even if you think what you have to say is true, are you saying it with grace and kindness? Has it already been said 100s of times by other people today? Or is it just going to blend into the background noise with everything else? Have you prayed about it before you opened your mouth? Have you observed the other person’s side with empathy? Are you trying to win an argument? If your focus is winning, nobody actually wins because you have, by definition, made yourselves into adversaries. Instead, make your aim to understand fully where the other person is coming from and then, regardless of whether or not you agree, value them more highly than your “cause.” Jesus didn’t die for the laws and rules and politics, he died for people…because he loves people…because people are valuable and worthy of living and dying for.
My prayer today is that we would allow ourselves to be used by God to touch the lives of others…that we would love each other so well that we are able to enter into respectful discourse…that we would value people over winning an argument and that we would value honoring God over protecting our own egos from being bruised. (I’ve searched the Bible, nowhere does it bless those who “just say it like it is” or who “win all of their arguments.”) I’m praying that we would adopt a posture of humility as we approach each other and that we would produce the fruit of the Spirit: love…joy…peace…patience…kindness…goodness…faithfulness…gentleness…and self-control.   

Much love friends,

Beks

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6/25/15 Morning Musing: Dear Christian…

I was cringing…just cringing and praying…”Lord, please make it stop. Quiet his mouth. Allow a distraction. Something. Just make it stop.” But it continued…and I was stuck. No, I am not talking about some sort of physical torture…I’m talking about being in a situation where I was hearing someone say some things that weren’t true. Actually, it’s more than that…he was carrying on in a way that indicated that I (and everyone else in the room) would agree with him when I simply do not. In fact, I was in such disagreement that my soul was grieving at his words because they seemed contrary to our common faith (Christianity.) And there were so many people around! I couldn’t call him out on it without causing a scene which would ultimately destroy our already-fragile relationship. So, there I found myself in a situation where I had to be false and pretend to be in agreement, absent by repeatedly removing myself from the situation, or (seemingly) combative which isn’t where my heart is for this person. Spoiler: I ended up doing all three in some form that evening and I still don’t think that he ever got the point because my instinct is to use finesse and nuance while this person generally takes more of a “sledge-hammer” approach. So, in my current state of feeling like I lost an opportunity but also still not knowing what I would have done differently, I write these words:

Dear Christian, I love you deeply…and while I want to add the word “but” to that statement, I won’t…because those four words are a complete statement.
Dear Christian, I may disagree with your words but that is not because I see us as being in opposition to each other. As a matter of fact, it is because I believe we are united in our beliefs that I disagree with your words. At your core, I think even YOU disagree with your words…you just don’t yet see the contradictions you are presenting.
Dear Christian, I am all for having a right to your opinions. (God knows that I sure have a ton of them) But when you make generalized statements that only allow two options (agreeing with you or disagreeing with you) it creates a situation where I am forced to be false, absent, or combative. False isn’t an option for me because I have lived in that prison before…I will not go back there. So, when I am left with only absence or combativeness, which would you have me choose and not fault me for? Do you mean to draw a line in the sand where God has not?  
Dear Christian, If we want to honor God, we will adopt his characteristics not sully his name with our worst ones. Our Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He does not divide…he unites. He does not create unnecessary conflict…he ushers in peace and safety. He does not harm his own…he protects. Looking back at your own words, would you say that their message lines up with the characteristics of the Good Shepherd?
Dear Christian, when you are careless with your words, it makes you seem small which reflects poorly on the one after whom you are named. Do you mean to make the gospel seem too small and insignificant to be of any value? I don’t think you do…but when we become unloving on small points…the gift of the gospel begins to look like no gift at all.
Dear Christian, Instead of only pointing out our differences, wouldn’t it be more constructive to determine what we have in common? In my view, our commonalities are rooted in something (someone) so enormous that he shadows our differences to the point that they become microscopic.
I could go on and on with this topic…In fact, I think most people could. I was raised by a pastor/seminary professor and when I would reveal my denomination to people, I would always get an ear-full about how someone of my denomination had injured them. (I won’t lie…I know that I have been guilty of this in the past myself.) It bothered me for a long time until I looked at the word denomination (the root literally means “to divide.”) That was when I started referring to it as a flavor instead. (Nobody has ever shared with me how chocolate or vanilla had injured them and caused them to move away from God.) Now, I don’t claim a denomination or even a flavor at all. I believe in the Trinity and the Bible and the fruit of the Spirit…and if anyone wants to know more about me, I will make it difficult for them to sum me up in one word like Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc. because I would rather enter into conversation about it than quickly categorize or be categorized.  
So, how are you doing with this? Are you drawing hard lines in the sand where God has not? If you are (and think that it is good) would you please consider evaluating those lines by asking yourself if you tend to draw them in such a way that you get to be with the “in-crowd?” What does that tell you about your lines and your motives? Or maybe you tend to find yourself excluded from the “in-crowd.” Are you holding the exclusions and pain that you have experienced against God? Was it God who drew those lines or possibly well-intending-but-poorly-executing-Christians?  
Again, my prayer this morning is that we would learn to love each other well…that we would stop seeking out division and differences…that we would represent our Lord well and bring healing instead of further injuring others. Much love friends,
Beks

Prayers

Just now catching up on the news in South Carolina and am just…full of grief. I don’t have wisdom or words or encouragement and…even if I did, they would be insufficient…so…I will do what the victims were doing when they were betrayed…I will seek God. Christians, please go to your knees.
Father God, 

I feel so heavy learning about this senseless evil and as much as I am mourning, I know that it grieves you even more. Lord, I ask that you please comfort the families and friends of those who were killed and I ask that you continue to hold them and care for them as they attempt to make sense of the senseless violence. Holy Spirit, I ask that you please convict the hearts of those who harbor hatred for any of YOUR children and I ask that you shut the mouths of those who would stir up more anger and hatred. Jesus, please help us to learn to love better…there has to be better than this! Help us to learn to reflect you and stop marring your precious name…help us to become people who mend relationships instead of breaking them…people who build up instead of tear down…people who see commonality with others instead of differences…people who love instead of spread hate and wickedness…people who would seek wisdom and humility instead of selfish ignorance. Lord, please help us to love. Help us Lord.
Finally Jesus, I ask that you celebrate your faithful ones who, at the moment of their deaths, were seeking you:  
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Tywanza Sanders 

Myra Thompson 

Ethel Lee Lance

Daniel L. Simmons 

Cynthia Hurd

Susie Jackson 

Depayne Middleton Doctor 
I ask that you embrace them as you comfort their families and community and Lord, I ask that you please, please teach us how to embrace each other. I love you Lord, Jesus. Amen

6/2/15 Short Morning Musing: Taking the Time to See

I received a card yesterday from my friend’s aunt who lives in Tennessee. She painted the art work, wrote out scriptures, and wrote the most encouraging of notes inside by simply letting me know that she was thinking about me. She couldn’t have known, when she mailed the card, that I would be spending my day in pain. She couldn’t have known how frustrated and down I would be at the moment that I hobbled out to the mailbox. She couldn’t have known that I would be spending yesterday morning laying on the floor and crying as I tried to move my neck the tiniest bit and fussing at God for allowing me to live with chronic pain. But that was my reality when the card came to my hands yesterday and that one gesture, from someone several states away, brought joy to my miserable day…and reminded me that it is still such a blessing to have a miserable day. (The alternative certainly isn’t as appealing.) She had no idea how much that would bless me but God did…and when he put it on her heart to spend that time and energy on the card, she obeyed him. I’m sure she had a list of things to do…had life’s demands staring her in the face…had her own life to lead…but she put those things to the side when she felt God ask her to share beauty and truth with someone.

So how are you doing with this? Is there someone in your life that God wants you to love on? What way has God equipped you to love that person well? Have you been holding back for fear that it might be seen as silly? What are your talents and gifts and passions? How can you use those creatively to let others feel “seen?” Friends, I don’t think that loving gestures are ever wasted.
My prayer today is that we would quiet the noise of our lives enough to be able to hear God…that we would see people as a higher priority than tasks on our lists. I am praying that we would think outside of ourselves and consider others today…that we would take the time to love well and by doing so, breathe peace into people’s lives. Much love friends,
Beks