8/17/18 Morning Musing – Working Through the Wounds

I remember feeling like I had been slapped across the face when she cut me off in front of a group of people and sternly said “Be quiet! Quit stirring up trouble. It doesn’t help them to see Jesus!” Whoa…wait a minute…I was actually offering insight and a solution that would be easy for everyone, not stirring up trouble at all. And then I felt it…unseen…unknown…such a familiar feeling for me…it forms a pit in my stomach and I start to feel nauseous…and it always hits me out of left field. This is the area where I struggle the most in life…it’s probably why I learned early to clown around and be funny…because people are attracted to feeling good and happy…and I performed in order to attract the people so I could feel known. This is where my soul struggles and feels attacked.

With my close friends, I’ve always asked that they just give me the benefit of the doubt. Know me and my character well enough to stop and think about things if something that I said seems off or offensive…and then…ask me about it. I know! Shocking idea isn’t it? It really surprises me how many people are willing to throw a relationship away by simply taking something out of context and contorting it until it resembles an offense. Are they looking to be offended? If so, what a miserable way to live. It must drive people away in droves. Picking something apart until it no longer resembles the intended message is not a virtue…and it hurts most coming from a close friend because it leaves me questioning if they ever even really knew me.

Why am I writing about this? Glad you asked! I’ve been thinking for a few years now that God has a funny way of using our weaknesses to speak to people. It’s in the struggles and wounds where a story happens. (If everything is just dandy all the time, there’s no story!) And interestingly enough, I’ve noticed that my wounds and weaknesses are what draw me to certain characteristics or names of God. My favorite name of God is “God who sees me.” (El Roi) Is it coincidental that feeling unseen or unknown is my biggest pitfall? Probably not. I think it just reinforces the verse about his strength being made perfect in weakness. But the thing about that is that I have to be willing to see myself clearly and identify where I am weak. I don’t know about you…but for me…I don’t enjoy dwelling on that. (“Hmmmm…let me count all the ways that I suck!” does not sound like a fun party game.) I much prefer the happy feel-good stuff, or even numbness, over mulling over the hurts and finding the root issue…and today’s way of living certainly is busy enough to keep me numb for a long time if I am not careful.

The thing is though, seeing people is my one of my biggest strengths. I mean really seeing them…seeing into them. Seeing their value, their fears, their insecurities, ways that they feel loved…and frequently I am able to speak truth into some of what they are telling themselves. But seriously, why is that the thing I’m good at? After all, I frequently feel unseen…unknown. My thinking is that our wounds leave scars which catch our eyes a lot and so it is front of mind. It’s tender and easily triggered to hurt. We don’t want others to feel what we have felt before and we don’t want to keep re-living it so we begin to minister to others in this area…we are drawn to it.

So, how are you doing with this? Is there an area where you feel particularly weak? Do you struggle with one type of hurt over others? Does it seem repetitive and exhausting? Or are you even able to slow down enough to think about this? What is it about God that you love the most? What name of God speaks to you above others? Are the two things connected in some way? What type of ministry are you drawn to? Is it connected to your strengths or weaknesses? Are you showing others your strength or are you showing them God’s strength?

My prayer today is that we would slow down and ask God about our wounds. I’m praying that we would be still long enough to really hear him speak about those wounds and that we would look for his characteristics that are counter to whatever has harmed us. I’m praying that we would find ways to minister through our hurts so that others can be spared and so that we can heal…so that we can worship our God more fully…so that we don’t waste the pain.

Much love friends,

Beks

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1/12/18 Morning Musing: We Damage His Name…

After reading another story about another woman being sexually assaulted by a man and it not coming to public knowledge for decades and hearing her disparaged and minimized because she “waited too long” or because it was “decades ago”…I just can’t be quiet any longer. (This time, it was Andy Savage of Highpoint Church in Tennessee.) It’s late and my heart hurts so be patient with me as I try to make coherent points.

I can not understand how “waiting so long” is supposed to negate the victim’s reliability or the truth. People in power have gotten away with abuse of the ones without that power forever…and unfortunately, it is also true in churches. But unlike outside of the church, we Christians should be held to a different standard…not because we are better than anyone else…not by a long shot. We should be held to a higher standard because we have intimate understanding of Jesus’ example of giving a voice to the voiceless…of bringing justice to the marginalized…and giving dignity to the broken or hurting. This intimate knowledge of our God and his heart means that we can not continue to ignore injustice and abuse of power while representing our Lord accurately because each time we do, we aren’t just lying…we aren’t just hurting the individuals being denied justice…we are also damaging the name of our God.

We damage his name when we continue to turn a blind eye to abuse.

We damage his name when we refuse to see other people…other image-bearers…as valuable.

We damage his name when we give racism or sexism (or any other ism) a pass by remaining quiet when we know we should be speaking up.

We damage his name when we refuse to enter into honest and respectful dialogue about topics that matter. (This contributes to the trend of people seeing the church as obsolete.)

We damage his name when we defend abusers and judge victims based on whether or not we align with them politically, denominationally, etc. (Yes, I just went there.)

We damage his name when we push for male leaders in church to receive funds for their ministry, appropriate pay and title, and continuing education while denying it for their female counter-parts.

We damage his name when we beat people up with our religion instead of listening to them and loving them.

We damage his name when we applaud what is wicked and criticize what is good.

We damage his name when we deny others the freedom that we simultaneously demand for ourselves.

We damage his name when we judge others instead of remembering how we have been forgiven.

We damage his name when we mistreat each other in the name of “witnessing.”

We damage his name when we abandon the needy, weak, marginalized, aged, or hurting.

We damage his name when we refuse to own our sins and, instead, justify our ugly behaviors or minimize them by using more palatable wording so that we can feel better about ourselves.

I could go on and on forever with this. At some point, we must quit tolerating the abuse of power. If we are the ones with power, God’s blessings are not limited…there is no need to try to hoard it. If we are the abusers, yes there is forgiveness…the gospel is not too small for any sin…but that doesn’t mean that accountability is void. If we are the survivors…and hear me on this…please hear me…our pain is not to be wasted! It can become a beautiful place that will allow us to minister to others and understand the hurts of others if we allow it. If we are the ones without power, our God is the God Who Sees us (El Roi) so he clearly sees the power-mongers and they will be held accountable.

How are you doing with this? Did any of these points make you wince a little or bring a specific incident to mind? Is there some way that you can pursue a more truthful and authentic way of living this out? Is there someone that you feel you should apologize to? Is there forgiveness that you can extend to someone regardless of whether or not they have asked for it?

My prayer for us tonight is that we would simply love each other better. I am praying that instead of constantly grappling for power or position or status or whatever, that we would see the truth of what is important and life-giving and pursue it with abandon. I am praying that we would try to squeeze every bit of living out of this life while we have it instead of pursuing the things that lead to our physical, emotional, and spiritual death. I am praying that we would also learn how to receive love when offered by others.

Much love friends,

Beks

10/23/17 Morning Musing: Mouths and Heart-Spaces

When I think back over the last 40 years…and think about the times when I hurt others, either intentionally or unintentionally, I can see how my mouth seemed to play the biggest role. Either I said something insensitive and hurt someone with carelessness…or I said something hurtful intentionally to get some emotional space in an argument…or I didn’t say something comforting and loving when I should have…or I felt awkward and did my nervous babbling thing and it prolonged something that I should have let die down. I can remember specific instances of hearing unjust statements made and not speaking against them…or nervously laughing…or…I’m ashamed to admit…contributing.  

I can also remember being cut very deeply by words…and being a people-pleaser for most of my life, the person didn’t have to be in my inner circle to hurt me. I can remember spinning on the words afterward for hours or even days or weeks…not being able to let it go…continuing to re-live the conversation and what was said over and over again…going into “analysis paralysis” where I excavated every possible corner of my heart to see if there was truth to what the person had accused me of (even if they didn’t realize that they had.)
Words matter…and we can’t get them back. Written or spoken. Intentional or not. Once they are sent out, we don’t get a do-over…and we have revealed who we are. 

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” ‭Matthew‬ ‭15:18‬ ‭NIV‬

Over the last year or so, I have been broken by the hateful things I’ve seen posted on social media by people that I wouldn’t consider hateful. And there were times that I spoke up against the unjust words in a gentle way in order to not escalate the hurt. And other times, I kept quiet because it wasn’t my turn to speak. Some times I saw others speak up in ways that brought people’s hackles down. And other times I saw others speak up in ways that just threw a hand grenade into an already tense situation. And it occurs to me that what we are putting out there is what is in our heart-space…it is the mark that we are leaving on the world…and it matters. Now, some will say that is why they don’t post or comment…and to them, I say…have a voice of truth…don’t be silenced. Others will say that they encounter so much friction because they are standing up for something…and to them, I say…stand up for someone instead of something.  

I think our mouths were meant to communicate what is in our hearts…and hearts were meant to love people. So how are you doing with this? What comes out of your mouth? Is it loving? Is it truthful? Does it build people up? Does it encourage others to do what is right? Do your words accept responsibility for what you’ve done wrong or do you make excuses? Do your words encourage the hearts of the discouraged? Do your words gently speak truth into broken spaces? Do your words stand against injustice? Do your words represent truth about the one who is The Word?
 
My prayer today is that we would ask for wisdom and wait to receive it. I am praying that we would speak when we are meant to and that we would shut up when we should. I am praying that we would learn to be gentle with our words and that our words would be guided by a heart-space that is taught kindness from God. I am praying that our words would be a tool for healing instead of breaking…that we would build things instead of breaking them…and that we would, once again, love well. Finally, I am praying that we would honor God with what comes from our mouths…because then, we would also be honoring him with what comes from our hearts.

Much love friends,

Beks

9/7/17 Morning Musing: How I Practically Found My True Identity

Since my last musing, I have had people reach out to me and ask some questions. The most common one was: “Ok, I get that I need to find out who I am…learn about my individual identity…but what does that actually look like practically? It’s easy to do it in theory…but how does one go about actually discovering their God-given identity?” So, I’m no expert (when has that ever stopped me from talking?) but I will happily share how this process went for me so maybe it will be easier for you.

I have been on a journey of learning who I really am for over 6 years now and I would say that the most meaningful thing I did was put aside an entire day last year for just spending time with God asking him who HE says I am instead of telling him who I say I am. No distractions. No plans. No screens. An entire day of just listening. And I’ll be honest with you…it was hard and frustrating for at least 2/3 of that day. I don’t know about you, but being completely still and quiet so that I can hear is really hard for me. I have trouble doing this for 15 minutes let alone an entire day. I had to be comfortable enough to not be distracted by my discomfort. I had to be uncomfortable enough to keep from falling asleep. There were a lot of little things I had to eliminate through the course of my day to keep distractions at bay.

I recognize myself to be both an interpersonal learner and a kinesthetic learner meaning I learn best with my hands on something or my body moving and through dialog with other people…but I was trying to have a dialog with someone who doesn’t audibly answer me back and if I’m too active, it becomes a workout as opposed to a conversation. So, what I came up with was that I would art journal with God. I didn’t know what I was creating along the way…I just knew that I would create something with him…and that my hands would be busy so that my mind could be thinking. (For those with ADD/ADHD, like myself, this is a very helpful tool that is not always true for the general population.) So, I just started gathering stuff…anything really…that I could use in the project and I started laying it out on the paper and a characteristic of mine…not necessarily my identity…but a strong characteristic none the less…began to emerge. I had managed to pull two different fabrics together that both apply to me on a daily basis: denim and lace. I love jeans! They are strong and durable and go with everything…when I want to be tough, I wear jeans. I am not a fancy gal and I don’t do formalities (it makes me feel inauthentic)…I like comfort and depth and jeans seem approachable to me. On the flip side, lace is delicate and light and gentle and beautiful…it’s not as durable as denim…it has vulnerability to it and, at times, I like that too. I loved the contrast of the two fabrics when I saw them together and it made me think of how I hate being pigeon-holed. I am a multi-faceted person and I hate being forced into a mold…and when I recognize it happening, I respond rather violently to it…I feel the need to not just break the mold but shatter it…tell me I can’t do something and I will absolutely spend every ounce of energy I have proving you wrong. (I had a male teacher tell me once that girls were not as good at math and science as boys were. When I had completed both my BS in biomedical science and MS in integrative physiology, I went back and told him how wrong he was…a full 10 years later I was still trying to ravage a mold that I didn’t want to be pressed in to!) All that to say that I had my background for my individuality…among all of my likes and dislikes, I had found a thread connecting many of them…freedom! I needed the freedom to be and do what I wanted…not what others wanted for/of me.

And that is where the progress came to a screeching halt (or so it seemed) for several hours. I slowly started arranging and attaching the fabric background to my art journal pages and talking (sometimes out loud) with God. For most of the day, I would throw out some of the characteristics that I saw in myself (fierce, independent, deep, intelligent, etc) and got angrier and angrier at him as each one would not sit quite right. “No…that isn’t your identity” I would hear in my head over and over…and it pissed me off…I even resorted to arguing with him because I was these things. “But that isn’t WHO you are” I would hear. Aaarrrgghhhh! 

By early evening, I finally heard the first word: Created. “Are you serious God? Really? Everyone is created! That freaking rock on the ground is created. That is so boring! Even cockroaches are created! Ugh! This sucks!” As I wrestled with this word, an adverb was added: purposefully. Ok, so purposefully created…what do I do with that? I started thinking about how I like to create things (I was literally doing it right then!) and realized that I was purposefully created so that I could create with a purpose. Hmmm…ok, so that’s better than the cockroach thing. That is something to ponder for a while. What else have you got for me God? Loved. Ugh again! Everyone is loved by God, aren’t they? But…I have really experienced God’s love in some of my most broken places…deep inside where I have protected my damage from others and even from myself. And then I realized, maybe for the first time, that I love my people with a huge love…it’s not like other people I know…there is definitely something distinctive about it. Ok, more to ponder. Then, came the third and final word that day: Forgiven. That one immediately put me in tears as I relived how I have injured others during my life and I grieved deeply having hurt them. I started to think of some of the injuries I had received from others as well and realized that I am a forgiver. I am forgiven and it allows me to be a forgiver.

That was it that day. I spent about 15 hours and literally got 3 words from God: Created, Loved, and Forgiven. Those were not the words I had wanted…I wanted something with badass as a description…but apparently that isn’t WHO I am (It’s just what I am! Haha!!! Couldn’t resist.) I saw a pattern emerge: God gives from who he is…so who I really am will reflect him. This helped me see a couple of more words later as I reflected on my favorite name of God: El Roi (God who sees me.) I love that name because I often struggle with feeling invisible…and out of that struggle, I have come to a place where I see people…really see them where they are…and can love them and value them right there. That is where I got two more words: Known and Wanted. 

Since then, I have become more comfortable with my true identity. I have been able to see how I had previously come to different conclusions about my identity…I discovered that a lot of my characteristics were really a response to situations that I have experienced as opposed to characteristics given to me by God. (For example, I was tough because I had been injured in the past and never wanted to feel like a victim again…so I became a 2nd degree black belt. I wanted intelligent as my identity because I felt dumb for most of my life because I learn differently than is valued by our educational system. I wanted to be defined as independent because I know I can count on myself…it’s others that have let me down in the past.) I may or may not be those things…but they aren’t my identity…they aren’t WHO I am…because if they were, I would actually be defined by the hurts that caused me to respond in those ways. No, I am not defined by my damage…I am defined by the meaningful ways that God has poured into me…and that is why I am able to pour out those characteristics…and I feel whole and amazing when I get to do them.

That is how I arrived in this new place of freedom…and if you have read this far, then you not only have a lot of endurance in this long musing, but you may also want to ask yourself some questions: Do you know who God says you are? Are you able to differentiate between who he says you are and who you tell yourself you are? What might you do in order to position yourself to hear from God instead of all the noise around you? What characteristics do you have that are a response to pain in your life? Are you letting those characteristics (and pain) define you? What is the thing you give to the world and despite continuing to pour out, you end up filled up?  

My prayer today is that we would be able to still ourselves enough to hear from God. I’m praying that we would achieve our purpose in life by fully coming to terms with our true identity. I’m praying that we would become positioned so that we can continuously receive from God and consequently keep pouring out from him as well.

Much love friends,
Beks

8/3/17 Morning Musing: Finding My Voice…Unity is not the same as Uniformity

I remember the exact moment that I lost faith in him. He was someone I had looked up to for many years and then…it was gone. He was a leader for many of us and the topic for this group that was gathering was actually leadership. He had missed the previous meeting and his co-leader had asked the group why we thought the conversation the previous week had so much more depth. A couple of “safe” answers were tossed out and then I answered. “Last week, the lesson was presented in a more conversational way instead of one person dispensing information. There was give and take and it led to a natural and healthy challenge for everyone to think. Not only were we getting to know you better…but we were becoming known ourselves.” That was when it happened. The leader that had missed the previous week abruptly took over the lesson and let us (me) know, in no uncertain terms, that he was in charge and that he knew the only good way to lead the class. He repeated multiple times during his rant “I have things to say!” I can still see the red tension in his face as he held back the anger and tried to control his very strong emotions about what I had said.

This may not sound very big to you but it stunned me. As someone who was still learning that I had a voice…still learning that my voice had value…still learning that I had value…and still learning that there was room for me in this world, I was shocked to hear this Godly man shut down open and honest conversation and basically demand that this class about leadership be just another platform for him to share his ideas and use his voice but not be willing to hear the ideas and voices of others…he was unwilling to learn from the other people in the room and it became clear that his idea of leadership meant that the people he led had to be sheep…not leaders.  

As usual, this got me thinking and looking for patterns. This leader had a team of people he worked with…all of them had similar abilities to him…all of them had similar leanings and perspectives to him…all of them were the same gender as him…all of them were the same race as him…all of them even looked a bit like him. He surrounded himself with people whose voices were echoing his own.

Surrounding ourselves only with people who are like us and will agree with us isn’t leadership because it doesn’t allow us to learn anything new and if we aren’t learning we aren’t growing. If we only allow ourselves to hear our own voices, it is very easy to become proud because there is no challenge present…no give and take…our own voices are the only ones we hear and the only ones that matters to us…and that isn’t leadership…it’s idolatry. In order to have a full understanding of something, it is imperative that we listen to the voices of others and then decide what we think. We have to get uncomfortable and look for diversity if we want to see the whole picture and then we have to look for diversity if we want to carry out a resulting project well. We are referred to as parts of the body in scripture…not a pile of hands…and if we don’t respect what is different from us…if we don’t allow ourselves to see things from another person’s perspective…we will condemn ourselves into becoming nothing but a pile of hands…and there isn’t much value in that.

So how are you doing with this? Have you found your voice? Do you tend to surround yourself with others who sound just like you or have you found a place where your voice can contribute to a choir of other voices…creating something that is greater than the sum of the individual voices? Do you question others in a healthy and respectful way or do you just follow along like sheep? Are you still learning or do you think of that as part of your past? Are you able to hear a differing point of view without it raising your hackles? Are you able to humble yourself? If you find these questions difficult, you aren’t alone. I felt my heart rate increase as I was writing them. While I think that I do look for diversity in a lot of ways, I still think that there is a lot of room for improvement for me.

My prayer today is that we would each take our next step in valuing the voices we have but not at the expense of shutting out the voices of others…that we would take the time to hear…really hear others who are different from ourselves…that we would also learn to be still and hear our own voices…that we would become part of a choir of voices and that we would embrace our opportunities to sing solos and also thoroughly enjoy when we get to sing with others. I’m praying that we would seek to become leaders who value other leaders and who make lifting each other up a priority. Friends, I’m praying for unity that does not require uniformity.

Much love friends,
Beks

7/26/17 Morning Musing: Whack-A-Doodle

So, some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing and sharing my “Morning Musings” in quite some time…and some of you have no idea what I’m talking about…either way, I have some stuff to confess: I stopped a while back when I realized that I was getting discouraged by lack of response from people.
 
The truth is, I became unsure as to whether or not it made a difference…it was like thinking I was speaking to a room full of people and then realizing that the room was actually empty. The problem with that statement is that you all are not the audience that I was supposed to be writing for…the musings were always meant to simply be a conversation between me and God…I just happened to be having the conversations in public…which might classify me as a whack-a-doodle…I don’t know.
 
Anyway, I have felt him prodding me lately and I can think of specific instances where I waved him off and said “Why? It doesn’t matter to anyone.” And I felt God saying “But it matters to you and me…to our relationship.” So, despite my hesitation and fear, I plan to begin working on this again and making it a priority. I don’t know if it will be the same as before or not…I don’t know if any of you will read it or not…I don’t even know at what frequency it will occur…but I do know this: God wouldn’t impress on me to do it unless it mattered…and that’s enough for me. So, here we go again!

Much love,
Beks

3/14/16 Morning Musing: Freaking Feelings!

We just got back from a fantastic family vacation and everything was wonderful…except that something was bothering me the whole time…this thing was niggling in my head and I just couldn’t shake it. The company that Stan works for just bought another company which sounds great…until you realize that the result is basically two of every department…no company needs that so…upcoming layoffs…loads of them…and it turns out that they are announcing them the week we are to be away without wifi or cell service or contact with the world back here in the US. Even IF we are somehow safe, it means that lots of really good people will lose their jobs…people we care about…people with families and lives and hurts and responsibilities…people who need their jobs.  

Well, as it turns out…Stan was not spared. After 15 years with the company, he is being let go. And this is still really fresh, new information…so it hurts…a lot. I am not and will not be saying anything disparaging about the company…they are about business and will do what they need to do to continue on. Anyway, I am writing because I need to process. My family needs me to be able to function in whatever way necessary…whether that be as an encourager, or finding a paying job for myself (which is difficult for me…I tend to want to do things for free), or just being anchored to the Holy Spirit and providing stability in what is sure to be a tumultuous time…and to do any of that, I’ve got to do something with all of these pesky feelings! Oy! The feelings! Over the last two days, I have found that I play a different role with each one:  
 
Tigger: encouraging Stan that this is the best thing because it is an opportunity to find out what he wants to be when he grows up (Ha! As if either of us will ever grow up!) “This is actually the best thing ever!!!! We are starting a grand new adventure!!!!”

  

Beast (Beauty and the Beast): hurt (with a strong tendency toward protective) on his behalf that anyone could possibly not clearly see the priceless jewel that he is. “Hurt the ones I love and I. Will. End. You!” *Followed by an impressive growl as a show of fierceness right before licking my wounds.*

  

The Hulk: angry that the company would make a decision that would injure so many of their really good employees. “Hulk SMASH!!!!”

  

Marlin (Finding Nemo): anxiety that comes from a life-long anxiety disorder but also from not knowing what the future holds (and knowing amazing friends who have been through this and have had to move away in order to gain employment.) “What is the quickest and safest solution to the impending discomfort???”

As I experience any of the “negative emotions” I find that I am chiding myself…seeing it as a lack of faith. (I grew up as a preacher’s kid. And not just any preacher…conservative southern baptist…that means that my knee-jerk response is that emotions are not trusted. Logic…good. Feelings…bad.) I mean, my head knows that God has us and cares for us and is for us…so what is there to fear? But my heart is still broken and I want to yell out that “There is a crap-ton to fear because this is effin’ scary and all the rainbows and Amy Grant songs in the world still won’t buy milk!” And then I respond to myself with “Really? Milk? You are a landlord and own (at least partially own) 4 houses! Quit your bitchin’!” (Have I mentioned that I am a lunatic that not only talks to myself but also has entire arguments with myself! I just hope I can keep it above the belt so that I none of the assorted sides of me gets fed up and goes rogue.)

And, of course, shame has to rear its ugly head: I have to confess that part of me momentarily regretted donating a large sum of money to a charity about 10 days ago. A charity that helps rescue trafficked individuals! What the hell is wrong with me that I would think for even a moment that I need that money more than they do?! *shakes head in disgust*

And then, this morning, it hit me. The feelings aren’t the problem. It is that I am trying to make them obey me that is the problem…that I am trying to suppress them…that I am trying to lie and say that the feelings don’t exist. Having feelings is actually part of what makes me an image-bearer of the almighty:

“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Luke‬ ‭22:41-44‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Jesus was in so much emotional agony that he was literally sweating blood! I would say that qualifies as pretty strong feelings. And then there was the righteous anger accompanying overturning tables in the temple…and the grief when he wept over Lazarus’ death (not because he would miss him…he knew he would resurrect him…it was because sin and death were not things that we, his image-bearers were meant to know and it grieved him for us to encounter it)…and anger again when he saw that the religious leaders were only concerned with catching him break their rules by healing on the Sabbath. And all of these pesky feelings that Jesus felt…were all based in, and evidence of, his deep deep love for people…his investment.  

So that has me thinking…when I try to lie about my feelings, suppress them, or “fake it ’till you make it”…I’m disconnecting my feelings from my mental processes. This is ultimately untruth…lies…and that isn’t what my God is about…it’s insincere and artificial…pretending to live instead of actually living. That said, I’m going to try my hand at embracing all of the feelings…good, bad, or ugly…because if I do not, I will be less able to be a truthful reflection of God.

So, if you’ve made it this far through my rambling, I would like to ask you how you are doing with this? Are you stunting your ability to fully live your life by suppressing your emotions? Do you feel that there are timelines that must be met when you are feeling something? (Like hurrying grief, for example?) When people are feeling something powerful, does it make you uncomfortable? Do you avoid uncomfortable emotions? If you do, what do you think the repercussions are on your relationships?  

My prayer today is that we would live more completely. That we would take these lives that we have been given and live so fully that we would wear them completely out…leaving nothing behind unlived or unloved! I am praying that we would be true image-bearers and not edited versions of what we think we should be. And, I am praying that we would love…love so deeply that we are willing to feel. Much love friends,
Beks

9/22/15 Morning Musing: It’s Only Bravery If We are Scared

In about a month, I am giving a talk in my marriage class. It shouldn’t be a big deal…I’m outgoing and never (ever!) have trouble talking with folks (whether I know them or not and whether they know that they want to talk or not)…but having a conversation is different from holding a microphone and talking from the front of the room. I have incredible anxiety around these kinds of situations…any situation where I feel like I am having to “perform.” The subject area is right up my alley: Fun and Connectedness. (I mean, c’mon! This practically has my name written all over it.) So what’s the problem?

Well, I guess my problem is two-fold:

First, there is the performance thing. I am the girl who would vomit before tests in school…from seventh grade all the way into grad school. And even as an adult, I would get performance anxiety around testing for taekwondo. (I’m sort of ashamed (and sort of proud) to admit that I was known as the lady with the fun flask at testings and tournaments. I would arrive early and pour vanilla rum into Dr. Pepper and voila! It was a yummy Vanilla Dr. Pepper from Sonic…but more fun.) I mean, c’mon! I’m an adult! (at least chronologically if not otherwise.) And…I am paying a lot of money for these judges to judge me…but I was so afraid that they would also “judge” me. *shudders* As a deeply-died-in-the-wool-people-pleaser, that thought alone can make me freeze up and just shut down. (And yes, I know all of the reasons (Biblically and otherwise) why I should not care what anyone thinks of me…it’s my blood pressure, stomach, and brain that have the absolutely terrified and paralyzed disconnect.) **Warning: Digresses to a story: When I first started board breaking in taekwondo, I got all gummed up in my head at testing because I knew my board-holders (Mr. Scott Mischke and Mr. Nevels.) Nicest guys in the world…but I knew them. When mentally preparing myself for this testing, I had faceless board holders…but these guys…I knew! And I liked them! Ugh! Well, as it would go, I was all amped up and kicking it wrong for the first two tries. When I got to the last possible attempt, the thought occurred to me, “If you throw up on them, you will have to quit because it will be too embarrassing to ever return to class.” Well…that’s just great! I knew then that vomiting was eminent and I had to do the last kick (pass or fail) before the vomiting happened or I was just screwed. So, I managed to throw a terrible, ugly, embarrassingly bad side kick…and accidently broke the board…with my calf. What the-? Hold on, I used to be a science teacher…I have taught physics…that isn’t supposed to be possible! And in my confusion and disbelief, I passed my test. I stood there stunned and saw the stunned and amused faces of Scott and Kevin looking back at me as I thanked them and wandered away somewhere. (I’m still not sure what I did or where I went after that…I sure hope I wasn’t driving.) The only thing that made sense to me was that I was so pathetic that God had mercy on my and broke the board for me. Honestly, it’s the only thing that I can think of.**

The other problem for me, where this upcoming talk is concerned, has to do with my long-held belief about women being quiet in church (1 Tim 2.) And while I have this settled in my mind after extensive study (I am happy to have a conversation about this if you want,) there is still something that nags at me…some insidious voice that tells me that I am being a “bad girl” (and not in the fun way…just in the disobedient-to-God way) and that gives me heartburn. It gives me pause and it opens me up to doubt. This nagging thought is the reason that I have denied my Spiritual giftedness for so long…but I simply can’t deny it anymore: Pastor/Shepherd, Teacher, Prophecy (Counsel), and Exhortation (Encouragement)…these gifts define who God made me to be and the story that he has chosen for my life to tell. So, every time I consider doing this, I have to go through the entire exercise of re-studying in order to make sure that I am in humble obedience to God and not in some sort of rebellion. It can be exhausting.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I guess it’s for a couple of reasons: First, I’d love prayer support. Ever since making this decision, I have honestly felt attack. My time has managed to become over-loaded with stuff that I don’t like or have a passion for (soul-sucking tedious stuff like updating websites and dealing with rosters and stuff) and have been denied the deep conversations with actual people’s faces (in person) about real ideas. I have been unable to muse although it is one of the only things I want to do. So, I am asking for prayer as often as God brings it to mind to think about. (And thank you in advance.)

Another reason I’m writing about this is that I think that big things are happening in the Church (universal…not just the one I attend) where biases (gender as well as others) are concerned. As long as we are unable to put ourselves in someone else’s circumstances (gender, race, socioeconomics, orientation, up-bringing, etc.) it is crucial that we talk with people to gain their perspective. I would be willing to bet that very few male pastors in the Bible Belt have struggled against feeling like they are a willfully disobedient Christ-follower for speaking truth in church. Considering that many of us spend time with others who are like us, it stands to reason that we lack exposure to many perspectives that could allow us glimpses of God’s truth and character that we don’t currently see.

Finally, I’m writing this as an encouragement. I don’t think that there are many worthwhile things in life that don’t require some work to accomplish. For example, if public speaking were easy for me, I might be prone to thinking that I was doing it through my own strength…I might forget my need for God…and then I’d miss the entire point of why I do this.

Time to flip the tables: How are you doing with this? Is there something that you should be doing but aren’t because you “aren’t good at it?” (For me, it shows up as recurring thoughts that make me go “Where did that come from? I don’t wanna do that!”) Are you surrounding yourself in “holy huddles” and not exposing yourself to other perspectives? (We are each a PART of the body…not an entire body on our own…we are meant to be in community with people who are different from ourselves (different body parts.) Who can you ask to enter with you into a healthy exchange of ideas? How can you grow in your understanding of God and the story that he would like to use your life to tell?

My prayer today is that we would be obedient to our Lord regardless of whether or not we like what he has planned for us to do. I am praying that we would honor him with a gift-offering of being willing to lean into our discomfort instead of fleeing from it. And finally, I’m praying that we would respect him and those he loves by allowing them to share stories about their experiences with God with us.

Much love friends,

Beks

4/17/15 Morning Musing:  And In This Corner…The Challenger!

“You challenge people.”  Hmmmm…hearing that immediately made me think that I’m seen as argumentative or ornery…but then he began to tell me why that statement should be taken as a positive and why my presence in different circles makes people look more deeply at their motivations and encourages them to press further…to “stretch” and get uncomfortable.  And then, he asked me to keep it up!

“Maybe the goal isn’t to be comfortable…but to get comfortable being uncomfortable…that is something you do well.”  What?  Me?  I don’t think so.  I HATE pain.  Physically, I’m rather intolerant to it (which is why living with chronic pain for so long has been terrible.)  Discomfort sounds so…uncomfortable.  But then she went on to explain to me how she sees me constantly finding ways to “stretch” and go farther…to upset the status quo…that I seem to know that there is always more refining to do and that the refining, while uncomfortable, is not optional but is always worth it.

“It’s a movie that I just know you would love because it looks like the main character is a strong woman who is a total badass and who is driven to right all of the injustices.”  Yep, that one is probably true.  Sounds right up my alley.  I love turning expectations upside down on their heads.  I love being the gal who will have her hair and makeup done but still pick up the power tools from the garage and get stuff done.  It’s fun to see people’s reactions when they find out I’m a black belt…my appearance must not relay on the outside what I feel on the inside because people are so often just shocked.  I love being unexpected.  Defying my “role” or not being able to be put “in my place” doesn’t sadden me…it motivates me.  If this tells you anything, on my wedding day, we had an “after party” at my in-laws’ house out in East Texas.  We shot guns and threw knives and hatchets and there are pictures of it in my wedding album.  (See feature image.)  How many brides fill up 1/4 of their wedding album with photos like that?  And my father in law loves to remind me of how I was smart about it…I made an excellent kill shot with a throwing knife and then calmly walked away in my afterparty mini-skirt while jaws just hit the ground.

“One thing I know about you is that you simply can not bear to allow injustice.  You aren’t able to rest until it is addressed and amended.”  Ohhhh…wow…I hadn’t thought about that.  “I think that is why you always are drawn to the underdog…you have to see that wrongs are made right.”

“You shouldn’t try to change that about yourself.  It’s beautiful.  You are a beautiful…maverick.”  Hmmmm…maverick.  I have never thought of myself like that…but then she went on.  “You know who else was a maverick?”  Hmm…what?  I was still thinking about the first thing she had said until she continued.  “Jesus.  Jesus turned things on their heads.  He challenged the religious elite.  He challenged the roles that people had just taken for granted were the ‘right way of doing things.'”  And that is when it clicked for me.  

All of these things have been said to me in the last couple of months…my science-geek nature sees a pattern which means I need to learn something from it.  I think that maybe people avoid challenge because it is uncomfortable and requires energy but, for some reason, deeply crave it.  Maybe it’s because there is something missing way down in their soul…some unmet goal.  Or maybe because they know that God wants more for them…wants them to embrace the mission that he created specifically for them…but they aren’t often willing enough to press through the discomfort. laziness, awkwardness, or simple self-indulgence to be obedient to HIM.  For me, I find that my conscience will absolutely haunt me if I allow myself to not step up to the challenges in front of me…I find that my mind immediately goes to how my sin of omission always moves outward and causes damage to others…living with that would require more energy, time and pain for me than just getting off my butt and doing whatever task God is asking of me.

So, I know this one is a bit heavy but…how are you doing with this?  Are there challenges in front of you that you are resisting stepping up to?  What outcome do you expect if you don’t step up?  And what outcome do you expect if you do? Are you living such an booked-up life that you don’t even have the space to sit still and identify what your challenges are?  Maybe that is what you need to approach first.  Ask yourself this:  what are my top 3 priorities in life?  (Now don’t read farther until you have answered that question.  Seriously, answer the question.)  Now, look at your average week or day and determine how much of your time, energy, resources, and thinking are being used toward those top 3 priorities.  If you are deflated by your answer, it’s time to make some serious changes to your schedule and resource allocation.  Now, think about the challenges facing you again…you know what the right answer is.  Instead of trying to wiggle out of the discomfort, try asking God for strength and wisdom and then get in there and join the fight.  You too could be a maverick…a beautiful maverick like our Lord.

My prayer today is that we would rely on God to be exactly who and what he wants us to be.  Whatever he is calling us to, he will give us the strength and abilities to accomplish.  My prayer is that, unlike myself, you would see your God-given passions and characteristics as opportunities to reach our world and make it better…to show people the goodness that God has to offer…and that he is powerful enough to use your weaknesses for his good work.  Much love friends,

Beks