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

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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

2/18/16 Morning Musing: Reconciliation and Forgiveness are Not the Same Animal

Over the last few years, I have been doing a lot of work in the area of forgiveness. I’ve worked on forgiving and reconciling with those who have hurt me. I have worked at length on forgiving myself for things that deeply injured others…things that those people have forgiven me for and that Jesus has long since taken on my behalf. And I have worked tirelessly on forgiving those who deeply wounded me…injured me in such a way that it affects nearly every area of my life…and from whom an apology (or even an acknowledgement) never came.

So, this weekend, when I listened to a sermon on reconciliation, I was struck by how the pastor was lumping forgiveness and reconciliation together as the same thing. Maybe I am getting lost in semantics but I don’t see them as the same at all. I see forgiveness as the place where I can affect change. I think forgiveness has everything to do with my posture before God and nothing really to do with any action at all by the other person. Forgiveness is the part where I wipe the account clean (at least from my side)…where my heart comes to a place and says “You owe me nothing.” Forgiveness is where healing begins but where pain is not magically erased. See, I think that pain will still crop up as the wounds heal…and that hurt…that little bit of agony…can be offered up to God as worship through obedience each time I feel it…because it doesn’t go away in one big hurrah…it creeps back in…all stealthy-like…and catches me off-guard when I see it because I think “I’ve already done this! I’ve already forgiven him!” But, it is time to forgive him again…and I embark on the weighty task once again.
On the other hand, reconciliation is the mending of the relationship…and while I think this is a beautiful thing…I don’t think it always happens and I don’t think that we always have any control over it…nor do I think it is always healthy and good. See, I don’t think that reconciliation is meaningful unless forgiveness has happened first…forgiveness is what happens in the heart-space…it is what is bone-deep and, I think, connects us to Jesus more deeply…because it teaches us (in a tiny way) about the work that he had to do to forgive us. I think that forgiveness is a part of us being image-bearers…and consequently it is deeply spiritual. Reconciliation is also spiritual and a blessing…but I think it is a result…a natural consequence…of the work done through forgiveness…a beautiful side-effect.

This may not make sense to everyone…we haven’t all struggled in the same ways…but I am hoping that it brings a little bit of clarity…and a touch of peace…to someone who has struggled in the ways that I have. If you find that you forgive someone and then it keeps cropping back up, don’t beat yourself up…pain doesn’t just disappear because you have forgiven someone…but you can acknowledge that pain…from the deep and tender place in you…and give it to the healer as an offering. Reconciliation, if it is meant to be, will come…opportunities will be presented…but first…the heart space.

So, how are you doing this? Are you doing the hard work of forgiving someone? Yourself? Do you find yourself having to go back and repeat the work that you have already done? Instead of getting frustrated and berating yourself, can you acknowledge the pain that exists there? Can you trust God enough to offer that pain to him? To allow that offering to be a way that you worship him? If you are being forgiven by someone, can you allow them the time necessary to work through it? If it doesn’t happen magically for you, you can bet it won’t happen magically for them either. Can you allow them to be hurt without your interference? Whether it is you or someone else doing the hard work of forgiveness, allow time and space to work through it…don’t press for an immediate result and don’t be surprised if much of the work must be repeated in order to heal.

My prayer today is that we would reconcile where appropriate…but that first, we would do the hard work that is forgiveness. I am praying that we honor the one who has forgiven us of so much by embarking on the same task. I am praying that we wouldn’t press for an outward result until we are healed inside so that reconciliation has a chance of being authentic and lasting.

Much love friends,
Beks

9/3/14 Morning Musing: Release

Warning: This one is raw…proceed with caution.

It’s that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach…you know the one…where it feels like you have water boiling down inside you or something. It gets hot and the steam moves upward toward your face and you can feel your skin flush but there is nothing you can do about it because you know…you know for sure…that you were in the wrong. Not just wrong…dead wrong. You know that you caused this person pain…this person who is looking you in the eye and with the confusion showing on their face, trying to wrap their brain around how you could do this to them…and you are trying to wrap your brain around it too. How the hell did it get this far? How did you get so far off your path? When did you become this person who would betray and hurt someone you love so very deeply? And you realize that you were playing on a slippery slope…and you thought you were the only one that could get hurt by it…and it’s not true…that is the lie that you bought in to. Because it is excruciating for you now…but you’ve also brought someone else in to it…you volunteered them for this pain without their consent…and you feel it…guilt and despair.

Or maybe you don’t know this feeling. Maybe you’ve been the injured instead of the injurer. I’ve talked to people who have never been the injurer…it’s an interesting conversation every time. The most recent one was so angry at her husband…so hurt…and quickly becoming bitter. She simply could not or would not release the pain and the sin that had been committed against her. Every time she looked at him, she broke again and the anger would reappear. When I told her that I have been on both sides of these feelings she was shocked. No, my circumstances aren’t the same as hers…but I have been on both sides of these feelings. And I can tell you…right now…being the injurer is worse, in my opinion. When you are the injured, you have the right to be angry. There is someone/something that you can mentally point your finger at and say “That is wrong.” You can choose to forgive…it may take a long time and you will likely have to forgive repeatedly…but you can choose it. When you are the injurer, you can only imagine what the other person is feeling. You have the knowledge that YOU…You are the one who caused this turmoil. You are the reason for this sadness, brokenness, and gnashing of teeth. And you can’t take it away…because no apology…no good deed…no kindness will unbreak the brokenness. And to make matters worse, every time you think of this person, the guilt and the feelings in the pit of your stomach return…so you begin to avoid them…it’s not their fault by any stretch of the imagination…but you can’t bear to feel this way. You convince yourself that it is better for them…that they can move on and heal if you would just leave them alone…but really, it’s for you. It’s so you can function and release the guilt for just a minute…get away from yourself for just a damn minute! Maybe you could even be the injured instead of the injurer for a little bit…because being angry feels more powerful than this never-ending ache any way you slice it. You might even pick a fight with someone so that you can hold them in the wrong and get a reprieve from being the guilty one.

Some of you may not identify with any of this…there was a time that I didn’t. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t know this intimately and first-hand…but…I do. Every word of it is from my personal experiences. And I have struggled because most Bible Studies that you find for women address the side of the injured: how to forgive others, how to move past the pain, how to heal from abuse, how to redeem the pain, etc. But what about when you are one who wrought misery on others? How do you begin to move past it when you never thought you could go this far off track? Never thought you could offend the Holy Spirit so deeply? Never thought you really NEEDED Jesus? I know that I thought I was “good enough” on my own until I became the injurer (not that I would have ever admitted it.) I had a relationship with Jesus. I had excellent head-knowledge of him. But I didn’t need his grace…not really. I was good enough…by almost anyone’s standards. I was in control of my life…my choices…bad things had happened to me…but not by me…not truly terrible things anyway. And I was able to look at others from my superiority and judge…I didn’t tell them that I did…but I did…and they knew.

And then, it all changed. And I knew what it meant to be guilty and impotent to correct it. And it sucked…it consumed me for a while…if I’m honest, it still does on occasion…and I have to re-release it all over again. I get frustrated because I shouldn’t have to re-forgive myself should I? But I do…and the wound is opened again…and once again, I am having to handle the treatment for healing. And once again I find myself on my knees before a sinless Jesus apologizing for my behavior in the past and my lack of faith in him in the present…otherwise, I wouldn’t be snatching my sins and failures out of his hands so that I can “control” them once again. It’s cyclical for me…although I am pleased that the cycle seems to have more time in it now…it’s longer between bouts with my conscience…my oh-so-loud conscience that never shuts up.

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, I guess it’s because I figure some of you are dealing with this too. I want you to know that you aren’t the only one if you have felt this way. Also, if you have only been the injured, you should know that the injurer is enduring their own hell too. They are learning hard lessons as well. And it all sucks…it sucks for everyone because sin always moves outward. There is no such thing as a privately committed sin that only affects the sinner…the purpose of sin is to rupture relationship between us and God, us and each other, and within ourselves. That is what every single sin does and it hurts everyone.

So how are you doing with this? Besides the fact that I probably just depressed you to no end, how are you doing with this? Is there someone you have refused to release from their prison of being the injurer? How can you begin the process of healing and forgiving today? Are you the injurer? Are you still holding onto the sin? Are you refusing to release it into the hands of a savior who wants to remove it from you as far as the East is from the West? Is it time to re-visit forgiveness of self?

This one was hard and painful for me…it made me feel very raw to write it. I feel like it is painful for someone else too. I am praying for you today that you would embrace forgiveness of yourself and others. That you would accept Jesus’ work on the cross as complete and give it all to him instead of holding onto the anger and bitterness and shock and disappointment. Regardless of being the injured or injurer, you need the cross to heal and you need to embrace the grace that is offered to you. Much love friends,

Beks

3/21/14 Morning Musing: Spewing Hate

If you have been injured by Christians or the Church in the name of God, I would like to apologize to you. I know that I have been guilty of this in the past and can only credit my own immaturity fueled by zeal and lack of compassion. Before you write off God or church or Christianity, please consider this: you aren’t signing up to be like other Christians when you decide to follow Jesus…you are signing up to be slowly transformed to be more like Jesus. Jesus is loving, gracious, compassionate, self-sacrificing, gentle, strong, wise, patient, understanding, tender, and merciful. He spoke against the religious elite who sat in smug judgement of “sinners” and then he died among sinners.

Jesus didn’t come to judge people, he came here in a breakable form to love well…not spew hate. He never ostracized…he brought in the marginalized people from society and gave them a sense of belonging and healing. The people that were most damaged by the “In-crowd” were the people that he gravitated toward and to which he opened his arms. Although Christians most definitely get it wrong much of the time, we represent (however poorly sometimes) a Jesus who never got it wrong. We are just in the process of refinement. We will screw up. You will too. Because every single one of us needs that grace that Jesus shows. And honestly, how are we to become more like Jesus if everyone around us is to act perfectly? I’m stealing and paraphrasing this question from a video that I listened to with Paul Washer, John Piper, and Voddie Baucham: “When are you more like Jesus? When your loved ones are perfect or when you are forced to forgive just like the God you serve?” (paraphrase…take a listen…it’s really good! http://youtu.be/ZACkRe_W4Gg) Of course, every time I act like a beast now, I tell Stan that I am just helping him to be more Christ-like. 😉

I think we need to be discerning of what we do in the name of God but we also need to be discerning of the actions of others. I have seen Christians use scripture to brutalize others, to bully others, to elevate themselves, and to exclude others. None of that is the work of God. Any words can be taken out of context and turned into something that it was never meant to be. So before writing off God or Christianity, please ask yourself if the offense that you have encountered truly represents Jesus. If it doesn’t, then my guess is that work is being done in that individual too. Refinement is a painful process and sometimes we don’t handle that pain properly. Instead of bearing under it gracefully, we want to focus on someone else’s “shortcomings” so that we are distracted from our own. Please forgive us.

Image taken from: http://toryshulman.com/4-steps-to-surviving-the-sucky-feeling-of-being-left-out