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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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

6/6/16 Morning Musing: Life-Breathing 

A few weeks ago, I was at a doctor’s office and found myself speechless (and anyone who knows me know that never happens! As Stan says about me: “There are just so many words!”) Let me back up a bit. I was trying out a new location for getting my testosterone pellet implant and was talking with the doctor about normal stuff when she noticed how I had noted something in my file. I had written something in a manner that indicated that I had some understanding of medicine and so she inquired about my educational background. I proceeded to tell her that I had learned what she was asking about when I had worked for a veterinarian but that I had an undergraduate degree in biomedical science and a master’s degree in integrative physiology. She asked me what I do now and I told her that I was a stay-at-home mom. It was her following question that left me momentarily speechless: “But why would you waste your education?” Do you hear it? Because to me it was loud and clear: “You aren’t enough! What you do isn’t valuable. Investment is wasted on you.” After a few seconds, I recovered and told her that I never thought that education was a waste because regardless of the field of study, learning to think is valuable. Now the truth is that I really learned to think after all of my education but I wanted her to understand that investing in people is never a waste.

As usual, this got me thinking…a lot…in fact, I haven’t been able to let it go for the last 5 weeks…and I think I have finally figured out why it has stuck with me so much. I think that, for my entire life, my biggest struggle has been in understanding and accepting my identity. Now before I lose you, hang in there with me for a minute while I explain with a few examples. When I was young, something happened to me that made me question and doubt my value as a female…as an integral part of God’s family. With the poisoning a few years ago, I came to question if I was worth the expense that I was costing my family. That also led to spiritual upheaval and doubt as to whether anything that I had spent my life believing was true. Recently, I left my job at our old church and that led to me questioning whether or not I could do ministry the way that I am designed to (I mean, if I can’t do ministry at a church, is it likely that I will be able to do it on my own outside of church?) There are tons of other examples but what I am getting at is that I have experienced attack, for the duration of my entire life, on my value as a female and as an image-bearer of God.  

So, going back to the story at my doctor’s office, that is why her seemingly innocent question did not feel so innocent to me. I don’t think that she meant to offend me at all…but I do believe that her words betrayed her thoughts…and those thoughts were clearly that I am not living up to my potential. I, however, disagree with her. See, my constant question over the last couple of years has been “What does obedience look like right now?” I’m not making a five-year plan. I’m not climbing the ladder anywhere. I’m not trying to make a pay check. What I have been doing is trying to be present and obedient to God in the now. Some days, that doesn’t look like much to most people. But some days, it looks like everything. My availability to be obedient to God now has helped a friend with an eating disorder in recent months. It has allowed me to have life-breathing conversations with women who are experiencing marital problems. It has allowed me to be present with my kids and talk with them about who they are and how they are designed. It has allowed me to grow closer with my husband during this time of questioning what God would have him do as he searches for a job. I may not have a title or job-description that impresses anyone, but I am fully present with the people in my life when they need it…and that is what obedience looks like for me right now.

So how are you doing with this? Do you know who you are? Really know? Do you know what you were designed for? If you don’t, think about the things that really get you fired up and energized. Think about what it is that you can do for hours and then look up and wonder where all that time went. What I’m getting at is this: Do you know what your calling is and are you doing it? I firmly believe that what we choose to do with our short time here is either life-breathing or life-consuming. Can you identify the things in your life that fall into each category? If you are unsure, ask yourself how you serve others…because if you are only serving yourself, it falls under the life-consuming category. You have gifts…and by definition, gifts are meant to be given away…don’t deprive the world of what you have to offer.

My prayer today is that we would be life-breathing people. That we would not be content to just consume and discard things and people…but that we would invest in others. I am praying that we would start by learning more about Jesus so that we can learn more about who we are as image-bearers. I am praying that we would discard the conversations or events that we play on repeat in our minds that rob us of life and an understanding of our callings. And I am praying that we would be here now and that we would be still enough to ask God “What does obedience look like right now?”

Much love friends,
Beks

Breathing Life

5/9/16 – Morning Musing: Being Me

Last fall, I went to a conference specifically for Christian women in leadership. I was really excited to go and there was one particular session that I was looking forward to: Working With Men: Dive, Survive, or Thrive. I was familiar with the speaker for this session and knew that she was a pioneer for women where she is employed. Since I was working in a place where the overwhelming majority of leadership positions were filled by males and the majority of supportive roles were filled by females, I had found myself chaffing…struggling under the weight of this. Now don’t get me wrong…I was never looking to climb the ladder…I wasn’t even looking for a job when I got that one…I just wanted to minister to people…to help people see and embrace the truth and grace and freedom available to them…I wasn’t interested in money or position and so I was able to approach things without an agenda.  

Anyway, I went to this session with some of my work friends and the most humiliating thing happened: The speaker began to speak and I began to furiously take notes. As the session progressed, I began to feel heavier and heavier until I just sat there open-mouthed and confused. Is this really happening? Did I really just hear her say that women needed to suppress their emotions in order to work with men? And thank the men that allowed them to be a leader? What? And then it happened. I felt the first tear fall down my cheek. No!!!!! Stop! I berated myself as my vision blurred while I sat there on the second row and cried as the speaker asked this room full of women leaders to suppress what is a big part of many of us and is fully God-given. The message I received loudly and clearly was “If you want to be successful in this male-dominated field, you will need to become more masculine so that the men can feel comfortable with you.” The speaker made eye-contact with me and was visibly disturbed by the expression on my face complete with the tears, sniffing, and red blotchy skin. No poker-face here!  

My co-workers who were with me were trying to help me out but I just couldn’t seem to reign it all in. It took me a while to find words for why I was so broken by that speaker’s message but I finally did. I was grieving. This woman, whom I had looked up to was giving me the same message as the men that I had struggled with: There is a specific persona that I would have to embody if I wanted to get to really do ministry. I would have to suppress the strongest parts of myself and be inauthentic in order to get the opportunity to speak truth to people. Do you see the irony? I would have to lie about who I am to myself and others if I wanted the chance to speak truth…any truth I could ever offer anyone would have to begin with a lie. I couldn’t stomach this at all. I had come so far from the self-doubting girl who didn’t understand why God had made her “incorrectly” (a female with “male” gifts of leadership, pastoring, teaching, etc.) I had finally reached a point of understanding that I, too, was an image-bearer of the Almighty despite being female…had finally started to accept my God-given and carefully designed character and personality and this message directly attacked the freedom that had finally become available to me. I had gotten this message a lot over the years and had been able to disregard it most of the time because I figured that we all learn our lessons at different rates…just because I knew something was true didn’t mean that everyone else already knew it. What made it so very painful this time…was that this message was coming from a woman who had paved the way for me…she should have known better.  

I lost respect for one of my role-models that day because she was asking me to be inauthentic…to lie to myself and others about who I am…to hide. I have a lot of flaws…and I own them fully…but inauthenticity is not one of them. I can not and will not pretend to be less so that others can feel good about themselves.  

So, how are you doing with this? Do you know yourself? Really know yourself? Do you understand how your specific characteristics are meant to benefit the world around you? Do you sometimes doubt your gifts and design? Where do those doubts stem from? What usually spurs you to deny who you are? How can you change that way of thinking around so that you can honor not only how you were designed…but also the One who designed you?  

My prayer today is that we would be authentic people who love others, ourselves, and God well by speaking and living out truth because if what we offer isn’t truth, we are just filling the world with noise.

Much love friends,
Beks

4/8/16 Morning Musing: Leaning In To What Is Real

In the aftermath of the poisoning, I used to go to the gym every single day without fail. A full two hours I would spend there. Even when I had pneumonia (again) and pleurisy (which I would not wish on my worst enemy.) Now, before you go believing that I was some highly-motivated health nut that was working out right through the pain, let me set things straight…I wasn’t actually working out…I went for the two hours of guaranteed child care. I went there to take a shower in water that wasn’t over-flowing with the chemicals that had poisoned us and stolen my health. I went there to sit in the sauna for an hour at a time, read a book, and pretend that I was a normal, healthy person. I went there to escape. And it was glorious! I needed to believe that some part of my life could be normal…stable again…and that couldn’t happen unless my kids were able to be safe while I played pretend.

But the thing is…I wasn’t designed to be normal…normal isn’t really part of my story. (Now, those of you who really know me are nodding and saying “As if you could ever even resemble normal, Bekah!” And I hear you…but there is more.) I’ve mused many times in the past about painful events…about trauma that has left it’s scar on who I am…and I think that the point I am making today is that I was sabotaging my own healing when I sought out “normal.” I was stunting my own growth…because “normal” is not something to be aspired to…at most, it’s a resting place while catching your breath (if that.) While I was aspiring to be normal, I achieved it in some ways: I was bitter, angry, vengeful, unkind…and in the end…I was still unhealthy…hurting. (Look around and tell me that those characteristics don’t describe a good many “normal” people!) No. No amount of pretending healed the brain damage, liver damage, pancreatic damage, crapped-out immune system, and haywire sudden onset of allergies to every thing I came in contact with. (And that is just the physical stuff.) No amount of masking offset the fact that I had a name and a face for the person who had stolen my health, invaded my home, harmed my family, damaged my house, broken my mind and memory, and directly caused all of my painful isolation. No amount of simulating normalcy would level back out the spiritual upheaval that was occurring. It only numbed it so that it could be prolonged another day.

It wasn’t until I realized that God never designed me to be normal that I was able to let go of normal as a goal. That invisible draw to fit in and be like everyone else…it isn’t where renewal and joy live. It isn’t really even appealing when I think about it: Normal does not look like forgiveness regardless of whether you receive an apology (or justice.) Normal does not look like love in response to evil intentions. Normal does not look like releasing anger and choosing contentment despite life not looking remotely like you had hoped. Normal does not look like deep gratefulness for the small things…the good days…or even just having another day at all. And normal certainly doesn’t look at all like the God of all pouring himself out on behalf of the ungrateful and undeserving. No…so normal is not a goal anymore…because when I desperately seek to be normal, I reflect God less…I become an image-bearer who is not accurately bearing his image…and what is a mirror that does not reflect a true image? Worthless at best and harmful at worst.

So, how are you doing with this? Is normal something that you aspire to? Is that really what you want? If you are “abnormal” in some way, is it possible, that God desires to use that to bless people in some way? Is it possible that you could offer up the pain of your difference to him as an act of worship? How might your difference give you a unique perspective on the character of God? How could that be a blessing to others?

My prayer today is that we would stop seeing normal as something to achieve and aspire to. I am praying that we would all allow ourselves to stop, right where we are, and learn what we can about God from the angle…the perspective…that we have right now…because we might not have this same perspective later and God doesn’t waste pain. Rest in it and lean in.

Much love friends,
Beks

10/15/15 Morning Musing: Happiness is Enjoyed Most When Shared

A few years ago, Stan told me about getting to judge a baking contest at work. There were several interesting entries but one, in particular, stood out to him as something that I would really like. (I love shortbread, sugar cookies, and butter cookies and this particular cookie reminded him of those.) After the contest, he told the woman who baked the cookies about me and asked for the recipe. That is when the woman told him that they were not cookies, they were tea cakes and that she would never share the recipe because it was her dead grand-mother’s recipe. It was awkward and uncomfortable and I was really proud of Stan for biting his tongue because his immediate thought was to add some levity by saying “Keeping secrets is a killer.”  
I’ve thought about that story many times over the years and it still bothers me. I do not understand the idea of something being so wonderful that you withhold it from others. (Within reason of course. Clearly there are exceptions: For example, sex with your spouse is something that you with-hold from others because sharing that with others would also depreciate what is special and intimate about it.) But in this case, I keep asking myself questions from the woman’s point of view: Would sharing this recipe somehow dishonor Grandma? Would someone else enjoying these “cookies” take away from my enjoyment of them? Do I want this wonderful thing to die with me? How did I find out about this recipe if not for Grandma sharing it with me?  
I keep asking different questions and just don’t get to a satisfactory answer for any of them and I realized that my objection isn’t about the cookies at all (shocker!)…it’s about the withholding…exclusion. While this wasn’t a rejection from the “cool club,” I still see an underlying problem. Why withhold? Why would you not want someone to enjoy something? Is it possible that what you are really enjoying is the act of excluding someone?  
Why am I telling you about cookies and being left out of the group of “cool kids?” Well, as you have probably guessed, I’m really talking about sharing our experiences and emotions. I’m not suggesting that you put all your “stuff” out there like I do. (I know that most people are not wired the way that I am and, honestly, your “stuff” can be tender and require being handled gently.) But I am suggesting that you share your “stuff” with people. You have experiences and gifts that others simply do not have…but those people would benefit from hearing your story or observing you use your gifts. It seems to me that if we love people, we will share things with them. (Isn’t that what the gospel is about? Sharing the good news?) It seems to me that we have gotten to a place where we reverse a lot of things: We share our time with people every day but we withhold our stories…our essence. We share our bodies with strangers but withhold our hearts. We share our money with every conceivable company out there but withhold it from God. We share our attention with a million different people but withhold it from our children.  
How are you doing with this? Are you withholding something from someone that you should be sharing? Even if it is a burden, sharing that with someone who you love can allow intimacy to grow. What about who you are? Are you sharing who you really are with people or do you have a persona that you wear like a mask? In an attempt to appear perfect, are you losing sight of who you are? Do you even know that the person that you are (under the makeup…the appearances…the bravado) is a person worth knowing? Worth loving? Worth sharing?  
My prayer today is that we would take a good look at ourselves, begin breaking down walls that we have erected, choose to accept what we see in the mirror, and share our stories…because as image-bearers of God, we are each a reflection of a really amazing love story to the world…and it would be a shame if the story went untold. Much love friends,
Beks

12/2/14 Morning Musing: Here Come Those Voices in My Head Again

Last night, I was having a conversation with some people and there was a gal there who, in a moment of real vulnerability, shared with the group about how her mother was always on her back about her weight. You know how it goes…telling her how many calories are in each thing that the girl consumed and basically ensuring that the gal always had weight on her mind. One of the men in the room asked me if I had an opinion about this matter (probably because of my stellar poker-face: big round eyes and mouth hanging open in complete disbelief. Seriously, this face conceals nothing! Every thought I have may as well be written on a sandwich board for me to wear!) I couldn’t believe the words she was saying! This girl…is GORGEOUS! I mean, as far as physical appearances go, she is the freaking standard that other women compare themselves to and find that they are lacking! (which is an entirely other musing about comparisons…but I digress.) On top of that, she is intelligent and remarkably beautiful inside as well…it’s an honor for me to get to have glimpses into her character and thoughts. I was so bothered by this new information for so many reasons: her mother should be her strongest advocate, she is being taught that her value is rooted in her appearance, the mother is ensuring that the daughter inherits insecurities like her own, and then…well, we all know how traumatized women in America are over their body-images. So now, this young woman, is not only taking on life with all the normal challenges, but she is also being saddled with her mother’s baggage. Tragic.

Since I committed yesterday to sharing my advent heart-space preparations with you, you are probably wondering what the story above has to do with the price of eggs. Glad you asked! Yesterday, I talked about hitting the mute button on our schedules (instead of getting busier on our calendars to fit in more stuff, I suggested that we actually clear out our calendars some and do less so that we have the margin to be with people in the moment and experience real life.) I think my suggestion for today is to hit the mute button on ourselves a bit as well. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not trying to silence you…especially if you have been denied the right to a voice in your life…I would never want to add to your mistreatment that way. What I’m talking about are the self-focused thought patterns or self-talk (that frequently are quite negative and un-productive) which usually sound like this: I’m not ___________ enough. I’m too __________. If I could _________, I would be valuable. I need to be the most __________. Once I am __________, I will be satisfied/happy with myself. Now read over those sentences again slowly and see if any of those blanks automatically fill themselves in for you. Seriously…go back and read them.

If any of those blanks automatically filled in with a word for you, then you are plagued by negative self-talk. Whether your development of those thoughts were helped along by someone else or not is unimportant for this particular discussion (however, I would strongly suggest that you identify who that person/people are and create some healthy boundaries with them in a hurry because that is toxic and abusive and it is not ok for your spirit to receive it nor is it not ok for theirs to deliver it.) The problem with negative self-talk is multi-faceted:
First, we are image-bearers of our Creator (I know I talk about this a lot…but it’s important and I was literally in my 30s before this concept took root in my heart.) Every single human being was made in his image, was designed to reflect him in some beautiful way. THAT is where our value lives! In the fact that the God of the universe took his time to sculpt our bodies, design our minds, and breathe life and passion into us.
Secondly, when we develop negative thought patterns, it requires a lot of effort to break them (and the more ingrained they are, the harder it is.) Think of a dog that tends to run a pattern around its back yard (I grew up with a beagle that did this.) Year round, that dog runs the perimeter of the yard, and very quickly, a trail forms. The grass quits growing on the trail as the dirt gets packed down and forms a rut. It becomes a passive thing that the dog no longer has to think about. It just follows the trail without effort. It can take several seasons of not running the trail for the grass to begin to sprout up through the hard-packed earth. Similarly, breaking negative self-talk will require restraint from passively running through the patterns and several seasons of time (during which we may have to frequently re-set and re-commit to breaking the patterns…after all, the pattern is the default at this time…we will return to it when we are tired or worn-down.)

Thirdly, negative self-talk robs us of life and joy because it shrinks our world to encompass only ourselves. That is a terrible place to be! There is so much out there to see, experience, and learn…but when we are focused on ourselves, we miss it! Ministering to others is a huge source of joy for everyone involved (think about it: compare how it feels when you cook dinner for yourself
versus when someone who loves you prepares a meal for you with your tastes in mind. The two don’t even compare!) Thinking outside of ourselves, is where love lives…it’s where we are able share Jesus with others…it’s where life begins and hope forms.

So, how are you doing with this? Do you have some noisy, negative thought patterns that need dealing with? Can you identify what they are? How could you work toward breaking them? What effects have these patterns had on your self-image, relationships with others, and ability to think outside of yourself? If your patterns are well-ingrained, do you have a safe person who could walk through this with you? How has this affected your relationship with Jesus? Here is a particularly challenging question: if we are consumed with ourselves, even in a negative way, it is a form of worship because it dominates our thoughts, emotions, time, and resources…are you giving as much of those things to God who actually deserves your worship?

My prayer today is that we will hit the mute button on the lying voices in our heads that rob us of quiet, peace, love, and joy. I am praying that we will learn to quiet the noise so that we are free to experience life instead of running the same trail over and over again on autopilot. I am praying that the Holy Spirit would help us to hear life-giving truth over the constant chatter of lies so that our world can be the dynamic and vast creation it was meant to be. Much love friends,

Beks

P.S. To the girl whose story I used above: You are beautiful. That goes without saying. But you are so much more than that! So much more! 😘