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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8/27/15 Morning Musing: 🎶🎶 Hide It Under A Bushel? NO! I’m Going To Let It Shine!!!!!! 🎶🎶

A couple of weeks ago, I was buying folders (and other stuff) at a local “stuff-mart” for a marriage class that I lead at our church. I had a ton of the folders in my basket and so I told the older man with a heavy accent who watched over the self-checkout lines that I would appreciate it if he would allow me to to count up all the folders and have him enter the number into the register instead of me having to swipe them one at a time. He agreed and I went on about my business. Once I counted them up, I told him that there were 110 folders. He asked “100?” and I responded “No, 110.” This seemingly unimportant interaction ended up having a profound effect on him and, in the end, myself as well.

While I was going through the payment process, the man asked me if I was a teacher. I told him that no, I wasn’t…but that these folders were for a class at my church. He continued to ask questions about what kind of class and what religion the church was. I answered, not really thinking much about it, until he said, “I ask because I notice some things: the whole time you were over there by yourself at checkout, you are smiling. Then, I watch you count the folders. There were lots of times that they stick together and you make sure to pull apart and get number right and then when I asked with wrong number, you correct it so that you pay more.” The man concluded with “Ok, so you are preacher then?” My immediate answer was no, that I just lead a class. He asked if I shared my religion with this class and I replied that yes, I did. His response was what stilled me “Do Christians not call that a preacher?” I smiled at him and said, “Yes, I suppose we do.” The conversation went on for a while, even though I was already late for an appointment, because it felt imperative to me that I not rush this interaction. Before I left, the man knew the name of my church, my name, and a little more about Jesus.
If you have made it this far through this rambling of mine, you are already asking “What is the point?” I guess I would have to say that I learned several:
 The first point is that you never know who is observing you and drawing conclusions about you and those you represent by your words, actions, and body language. I had no idea that I was being studied. (I also had no idea that I was smiling alone like a crazy person…although I do hear from strangers often that my smile has improved their day.)
 The second point is that you don’t always have the time or opportunity to “clean up” your response or behavior. Knowing that you represent more than just yourself can cause you to behave differently…for a while…or in certain circumstances. But what about the circumstances where you encounter people like this and your guard is down? If you are playing a role…performing for an audience…at some point, people are going to see through the facade. Wouldn’t it be so much better to have the change be on the inside and let it spill out to your behavior?  
 The first two points we’ve all heard before and they are not particularly insightful…valuable yes…new or insightful? Not really.
 The last point was for me to take to heart: I have struggled for a long time with my own spiritual giftedness and calling. Culturally, (I live in the Bible Belt) it is a bit taboo to be a female with the gifting that I have: Pastor/Shepherd, Teacher, Prophesy, and Exhortation. (Just typing these words has made my pulse rate and blood pressure shoot up! I wish that was an exaggeration…but it isn’t. In all honesty, I tried really hard to convince God that he had messed up and that he should give me more “feminine” gifts.) The truth is, I feel alive when I am interacting with people and problem-solving, encouraging, speaking truth, and helping to point them toward Jesus. It is life-giving for me and fills me with energy. So, the final point to myself is this: regardless of whether or not the people around you ever acknowledge what is going on in you…regardless of whether or not your title ever matches your function (some of you will say that this doesn’t matter…but it does! If I were a man, it would be absolutely acceptable for me to be called “preacher” and even get paid as such and experience the natural fulfillment that would accompany the position…but it has been ingrained in me to immediately say no to that and even feel shame and guilt over someone else drawing that conclusion. I shouldn’t think “but can’t you see that I am female?”) Regardless of whether or not I am “allowed” or supported, I am called by God to use this giftedness in the ways that he leads me…and I will be obedient.
This is the point of the musing where I flip the tables on you: What is your God-given giftedness? Are you using it? If using our gifts is how we show God to the world and our purpose on Earth is showing God to the world, it would stand to reason that we would use our gifts a lot…so…do you? If not, what is stopping you? (Don’t think that it is other people because there is a huge difference between title and function!) If you struggle with this, what changes could you make in order to be more available to God when he asks you to do something?
My prayer today is that we would love God by loving those he loves…that we would use our gifts and passions to honor him…that we would stop making excuses and start being obedient. I am also praying that those of us who are hindering others from using their gifts would see the ramifications of that and get out of the way. Much love friends,
Beks
***It’s been a while since I mused and this is pretty tender for me so please be gentle.***

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,
Beks
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beks

8/2814 Morning Musing: Like a Girl

This morning, I was loading the puppies and kids into the Mommy-mobile before school and Bock was straggling behind Shiner so he started this really pitiful high-pitched whining. When I got him in the car, I heard the kids talking about how he “whined like a girl.” So, of course, I had to “impart wisdom” to them and dissect why they would say that. (Keep in mind, I’ve been guilty of this before many times….When one of the guys on my volleyball team hits the ball too lightly, I have been one to suggest that next time he “hit it with his purse.”) But I’m getting more sensitive to the fact that women struggle with self-image so much and we aren’t helping it when we use references to females as being weak or bad or undesirable. (You know what I’m talking about here: like a girl, don’t be a p—-, man-up, or grow a pair….that doesn’t mean ovaries!) In all of these examples, being a guy is good and being a gal is bad. I know that I personally struggled with God over this issue for a while until I learned that I was also an image-bearer. I was angry at him for creating me with “fewer opportunities” because he made me female instead of male. So, I immediately saw this as a “teachable moment” with my kids and proceeded to discuss it with them. After my long soliloquy was over, Caleb looked at me and said “I don’t think girls are weak…I only meant that his voice was higher-pitched… kind of like most of the girls I know.” Hmmm…ok….I might have jumped the gun on that one…just a tad…afterall, this is the kid that thinks I can conquer anything because his mommy is “an in-ja!” (translation: ninja.) This is the same kid that wants to be like me and is taking Tae Kwon Do too.

So, as usual, this got me crunching on this topic. Why did I jump to conclusions on that? Why was I so sensitive to it? Why now? I know there have been things going around on the internet about this topic, and if I’m totally honest (which is basically all you can ever expect from me) I never read any of them or watched them or whatever you were supposed to do. (I’m a slow reader and tend to only read the Bible or to be entertained…I’m not wired to learn that way…I have to touch and feel and experience and interact in order to learn something.) So, if that’s not where I got it, where did I get it? Well, Michaela is reaching a tender age where she is just beginning to experience self-doubt, notice how she is different from other kids, question whether or not she is liked, wonder if boys think she is pretty, and is experiencing God-awful hormonal surges that are leaving the entire family un-balanced. (Get used to that one little girl…it’s not settling down anytime soon!) Maybe it’s his age, but Caleb isn’t going through that yet…and I’ve never been male…obviously…so there is a void in my experience as to whether or not he ever will.

So, I think that Michaela’s recent changes combined with my obvious baggage has me jumping at opportunities to correct it for the next generation…or maybe assuming that it needs to be whether or not that is actually true. I think that what I am getting from this is:
1. Soapboxes are really only useful for packaging soap…not so much for interacting with actual humans.
2. My baggage doesn’t need to be imparted on my daughter. Praise God that she doesn’t have the same doubt in his goodness that I had for a while.
3. Everyone (probably) experiences self-doubt and awkwardness. I can not avoid this for my precious girl. What I can do is share my experiences (when appropriate) and be a safe place for her to question and process.
4. Even though it is only elementary school, it is a scary world for our kids to go out into. I need to make sure that I am modeling good self-talk and good pursuit of Biblical truth at home with them so that they can learn how to find truth on their own.
5. I need to spend more time listening to my kids and less time talking “at” them. They are really incredible and if I become half the people they are, I’ll be doing pretty awesome.

So, I don’t know if this musing was actually for any of you or not this time. It might be just for me. But just in case, how are you doing with this? Do you use phrases that demean any groups of people? How do those phrases line up with the gospel? How do those thoughts and phrases affect other people? Do you have soapboxes that you should be stepping down off of? Are their people in your life that you think you should “impart wisdom” to? Are you consequently missing opportunities to learn from them? Did you get something all together different out of this?

Praying you are all able to grow and learn from others today. Much love,

Beks

4/6/14 Morning Musing: Bigotry is a Gospel Issue

Warning: This musing is a bit more harsh than my usual…proceed to the soapbox with caution…
4/6/14 Morning Musing: Bigotry is a Gospel Issue

I was recently dining with some people and was shocked to hear them openly and unapologetically make racist comments. Many thoughts came to mind: “Did you really just say that?” “Seriously? It’s 2014…are we still in this place?” “Oh…and you’re such a prize that you think you can look down on others?” (I know…unkind…I apologize for my nastiness.) But one final thought stuck with me: “This is a Gospel Issue.”

I don’t care what generation you are from, what zip code you live in, what your experience is, what race you are, or how you were raised…bigotry (of any flavor) is a Gospel issue. To look down on or disrespect a group of people who are each image-bearers of the Almighty is a slap in the face of the God who created them. God took his time to carefully sculpt each and every individual. He gave each person gifts, passions, resources, ideas, loved ones, and surroundings. He breathed life into each person’s lungs. He put a beat into each person’s heart. And he made every single human being in his own image. To disrespect people is to disrespect God.

Now, some of you will think, “Well, I have had a bad experience.” Let me stop you right there. Everyone has had a bad experience with someone. It’s called being alive and interacting with broken, sinful people. And honestly, at some point, a broken, sinful offense was committed by you. Do you want to be defined by that? Should an entire group of people be defined by your poor actions?

This particular musing was more harsh than most. I apologize for that. But, I do not apologize for the content.