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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love friends,

Beks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love friends,

Beks

9/8/16 Morning Musing: “And Playing the Role of Jesus…You!”

During my life, I have had many difficult interactions with people who resolutely identify with the hero in nearly all interactions. As an example, the person might be trying to convey something to me using Biblical examples and in the example, they are Jesus and I am the sinner…be it the Pharisees, Judas, or Peter during one of his overly-enthusiastic rants (that last one might have some credibility to it .😉) And while I think it is great to use analogies and stories (and especially scripture) to get a point across (that is part of why I write musings!) I think we should be careful about the perspective…the role we assume that we play in these interactions. Now, I get that the majority of people identify with or see some deep value in the hero/heroine…if they didn’t, the villain would naturally become the hero/heroine to that person…but I think we should use caution when we assume that we are the hero in the majority of our interactions…especially to the other person. My reasoning for this is that when we pick a hero to identify with (and especially when the person is Jesus who is sinless) we frequently can lose our humility…and shut down any further communication. For example, if in your mind, you play the role of Jesus, then you obviously have no sin to own in the interaction…everything you did is good and justified…and to disagree with you is to disagree with God and all things that are good. It leaves the other person no room to disagree or question without becoming the designated villain…and that trap makes interactions with you unsafe for the other person…which can cause that person to shut down a bit because, regardless of what they say, the assumption is that they have already been designated as the villain.  

So, how are you doing with this? Do you regularly identify with the hero character in the film (starring you, of course) that plays in your mind? What room, if any, do you leave the other person to disagree with you? How often do you enter into these interactions looking to own some portion of the fault? How often do you attempt to find value in the other person’s perspective?  

My prayer today is that we would all understand that there is so much to be learned from others. I’m praying that we would make efforts in our relationships to understand and learn from other people’s viewpoints. (After all, if I know what I know and also learn what you know, I have doubled what I can know…there is value in that!) Finally, I am praying that we would own our own parts…the things that break down communication…so that we might grow to love each other better.

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

3/14/16 Morning Musing: Freaking Feelings!

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

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

  

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

  

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/25/16 Morning Musing: Scandalized

This morning, I woke up 30 minutes before my alarm went off so I decided to throw on some clothes and go for a good walk before waking up the kiddos. When I left the house, it was still very dark outside…which made it an excellent time to get lost in my thoughts. I was walking through an area that was thick with trees, thinking about what self-defense strategies to employ if someone were to jump out from this direction or how to watch their shadows if they tried to come up from behind me all stealthy-like (and yes…I’m sure that gives some sort of psychological insight into my personal damage…but I digress…) when I saw some headlights shining through the trees. I kept walking along my path (still looking around everywhere so as to not be like a spot-lighted deer) when I saw the headlights were unmoving and at a park. As I got a little closer, I saw someone sitting in a minivan with the engine running…and then I smelled it…a lit cigar. That, of course, made me start mentally engineering patterns like I tend to do:

So, what I know is that there is a person parked in a minivan, in the dark, at a park, in a neighborhood at 5:45 am on a Monday morning. Their headlights are on so they aren’t worried about being seen here. They are smoking a cigar…which takes a while…so they aren’t in a hurry. I continued to think about it as I walked down to the middle school, around the baseball field, and then began circling back. The smoker in the minivan was still there when I was back to the same part of the path and, as I often do, I began to feel what they were feeling: Escape. Maybe a hidden little guilty pleasure? Possibly some defiance…but within carefully-crafted limits. So, here is my conclusion: I think that this person is a parent who feels a lot of expectations are placed on them by someone that they live with. They love the person and don’t want to disappoint them but, at the same time, they want to feel independent and strong. So, they do something that their spouse (I’m guessing) wouldn’t approve of but it’s not something that they feel is necessarily a bad thing (which is why they were away from their home but not necessarily hiding from people in general.) My guess is that they told their spouse that they had to be somewhere (probably work) early this morning and came here to unwind on their own and get a little space. This person is probably feeling a little bit of a thrill from the secret escape and will return to do this regularly until the thrill doesn’t show up anymore…then, this thrill will have to be replaced with something bigger in order to feel that same sense of…getting away with something.

Ok, so you have probably figured out by now that I am some kind of lunatic…I see a person in a van and concoct an entire back-story to what is going on in this person’s life. (It’s what I do…I love studying people and their behavior…I find myself asking why someone would do what they are doing and then I determine how I would feel if I was in their shoes (assuming that I determine the correct shoes to try on)…it’s like a puzzle that I can’t put down. But whether or not I am right about this person isn’t really my point. (It was just a little mental exercise to start my day.) My main reason for writing this is to get to the cause of why a person…any person…would feel the need to hide things from those that they love most. (Didn’t see that coming did you?) And the conclusion that I come to is something that I think we all need to work on: Scandal. (Now, give me a second before you roll your eyes and move on to something else.) The only reason that I can think of for hiding something from someone you love is for the purpose of avoiding disappointing them…”protecting them” you might say…but when we protect someone from the truth, I think we are back to avoiding disappointing them…which means that there is some element of shame involved. So, that makes me think about hiding and shame in general and why we do it. We hide and feel shame because we don’t want someone to know what is true about us because the way that they see us…the way that they look at us…could forever change: “If he/she really knew what I think/do/feel/am/believe, he/she would be scandalized.” 

Now, I am going to flip things around on you. Instead of approaching this from the point of view of why we should not feel shame and how God would be saddened for those he loves to be weighed down unnecessarily by shame, I want to approach this from the perspective of the person who loves the shamed individual…the one who would be scandalized. (See the last sentence of the paragraph above.) I think that we need to do a better job of not being scandalized. That probably sounds weird to you but hear me out: I have talked to a lot of hurting people over the years and, the best I can tell, being scandalized only causes harm. What do I mean by that? Well, being shocked or aghast at what you discover someone has done only distances you from that person. It does not close the gap…it only emphasizes the distance between you…which isolates the person experiencing the shame. (We are really bad about this in Christian circles. Think along the lines of specific areas of sin/struggle that are made out to be worse than other areas. If you still don’t know what I mean, fill in the blank and you will know what scandalzes you: “I sin…I mess up…but at least I am not _________________. I may have my faults but I don’t do ________________.” If you can easily fill in those blanks, then you have an area in life that shocks or scandalizes you…and that means that there are hurting people who need Jesus and they certainly won’t come to see him through you. Now hear me when I say that I am NOT excusing sin…I think sin deeply saddens God…but I think our responses to it tend to run in the wrong direction…we respond with feelings of shock, anger, and judgement when we what we should feel is empathy (because we know what it feels like to be broken and hurting and lonely.) We distance ourselves from them and their guilt so that we can feel ok about ourselves and feel clean…but distance is not what Jesus came here to do (The Good Shepherd brings his sheep together…he doesn’t let them exist at a comfortable distance from each other…because that distance leads to the death of his sheep that he loves.) 

Why the heck am I talking about headlights, cigars, scandal, and sheep? Because I think we can do this better. I think we are all hurting in some way…which means that the ones we love most are also hurting in some way…and we can love them better by not being scandalized by their stuff. Regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, we all need to feel loved and accepted…we need to know we can be forgiven and that not all is lost…that we can be redeemed…and thank goodness Jesus is in the business of redeeming and restoring.  
So how are you doing with this? Is shame causing you to hide from the ones that love you? Do you know that hiding leads to more hiding which leads to being unknown? What have you kept hidden that needs to be brought to light? Do you have someone you love who is struggling with some hidden damage? (I’ll help you out on that one…the answer is YES!) How can you become a safe person for them? How can you become someone who will lovingly point them to the one who would redeem and restore them? How can you be less scandalized by your people’s stuff and, instead, close the distance?

My prayer today is that we would not hide from those that we love and that we would become people who others don’t feel the need to hide from. I am praying that we would erect fewer walls in our relationships, focus on our similarities, and employ empathy in order to close some of the distance between us. And I am praying that we would love people into the presence of God…because if we already know God…really know him…then someone loved us into his presence. Much love friends,
Beks

5/5/15 Morning Musing: Finding Me

Wanna take a test that tells you about your personality?  Your ideal career?  Which color you represent?  What Starbucks drink you are a living version of?  Um…Yes!  I do!  (I don’t always post it because I don’t want to be “that girl” but I definitely take them.)  Lately, I have been just obsessed with personality tests, spiritual gifts tests, and learning about how different people are wired and I have finally discovered why that is:  At the age of 38, I am finally discovering who I am.  (I know…it’s weird…especially for someone as introspective as I can be.)  I have always been a chameleon and have been able to adapt to where I am, who I am with, and what’s going on around me.  (I even wrote about this before on 8/14/14.)  The new thing I’m learning, though, is that I have been such a good chameleon for so long, that I didn’t really know where I resided…where my neutral exists…where my feelings and tendencies call home.  So, I have been spending some time learning and feeling and talking to God about who he made me to be…and I have found that I have spouted lots of things about myself that simply aren’t true for me but have been true for adaptations that I have made in different scenarios.  

One example is in my family of origin.  In our household (and in every household) there is an identity…something that defines the people in it.  (One thing about being the youngest child is that your family identity is frequently already established when you arrive on the scene.)  In the Vinson house, we were followers of Jesus, people who were comfortable with logic and uncomfortable with feelings, patriots, people who do not know how to do conflict well (I refer to us as a “warring people”), there was a strong sense of independence, and our house was run in a patriarchal manner.  As a chameleon, I adapted to all of this well.  The problem?  I didn’t take the time, until recently, to figure out my own stance on each of these items…I adopted the values that were given to me.  Turns out I agree with much of it but there are some things I don’t agree with.  For instance, I still like logic but, as it turns out, I am a rather emotional person even though I have detested that about myself and tried to squash it for years.  I am independent and capable but I am relational to the extreme so pure independence and poor conflict skills just don’t fly for me (because words really, REALLY matter to me.)  
Not knowing myself has been a problem for me because it has made everything work…there was no neutral for me to rest in…nothing has ever truly felt like home for me.  For example, I have believed for years that I was type A…turns out that I am not at all…I simply start bringing order and logic to things when I feel emotional because I don’t trust the emotions and I need to do something with the nervous energy.  (I could always be found cleaning when I was angry or sad or anxious. The more pleasant my feelings, the worse my house looks so not cleaning my house for people when they are coming over is actually a sign that I am comfortable with them…I know…I’m weird.)  
Also, my relationships have been affected by not knowing myself.  For example, I didn’t trust emotions and avoided them at all cost in myself and others.  I have been told that I was closed off (which I dismissed because I thought “I share my stuff with the whole stinking world and have no concept of what is or isn’t appropriate to share.  There is no way that I am closed off.”)  Now, I think that maybe she was picking up on my chameleon nature and was thinking that I was being intentionally false.  And maybe I was…
Finally, my relationship with God has been affected by not knowing myself.  It is hard to have an appreciation for your creator and his work in you when you don’t really get what that looks like because you don’t know what “you” look like.  I have even been mad at God, in the past, for giving me gifts and passions in areas I don’t like because they require a lot of feeling and sensing and other stuff that can’t be precisely measured.  This touchy-feely stuff has been unknown, uncomfortable, and slightly chaotic in my brain up until now.
As always, I am coming to the question you are always asking with me:  What is the point???  Well, I guess it is several but all of them come out of spending some quiet time reflecting and getting painfully real with myself.  So this is what I have come up with:

1.  Rest doesn’t come to anyone who is constantly performing.

2.  It is hard (if not impossible) to understand what you are designed by God to know about God if you don’t know who you are.  This world is a mystery and you are the only one who can get the whole truth about yourself.  Knowing truth teaches us about Jesus (the way, the TRUTH, and the life.)  If you don’t learn the truth you are meant to learn about him, the rest of us can’t learn that from you and we miss out.

3.  It is difficult to use your giftedness to the best of your ability if you don’t know what that giftedness and ability look like.

4.  Empathy is beautiful and rare and I postulate that, part of the reason why, is because people don’t know themselves so they can’t really “get” others.  It sure is hard to minister to people in effective, bone-deep ways if we can’t understand their hurts and needs through empathy.

5.  I further postulate that we develop coping mechanisms that could point us to some things about ourselves that we don’t understand.  For example, I apparently “have no filter.”  Could it be that my tendency to share everything has been an attempt to be transparent with you all when I didn’t know how to be transparent with myself?  When others tell me things about myself, I am more-able to hear it and recognize it.  (My heart in writing has been about speaking truth and encouraging others…but, in doing this, I have learned more about myself along the way.)
So, how are you doing with this?  Do you know who you are?  I mean really know?  Are your tendencies more developed from who God made you to be or more from your circumstances?  If you don’t know or think it is more from your circumstances, try answering some of these statements:  God blessed me when he gave me this character trait: __________.  The most fulfilling way I know to help others is to __________ because it makes me feel _________.  The greatest compliment someone could give me would be to say __________.  The three things that make me feel the most alive and free are ____________________.  (And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭32‬ NLT))
My prayer this morning is that something in this would resonate with you…that you would look at the beautiful creation you are and…not be disappointed…but delight in what God has done in you.  (You may see things you want to work on, and that is ok…just don’t try to change who you are because I think that lying about God’s work is an affront to him.)  I am praying that we would allow ourselves the time and resources we need to investigate ourselves for the purpose of living out truth…not some “version of the truth”…but the real truth so that we can better see our real God.  Much love friends,
Beks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beks

3/31/15 Morning Musing – Prophesy and Hamster Wheels?

Exhortation…Pastor/Shepherd…Teacher…Prophesy…seriously?  I only fully understood the meaning of one of these and these were what the test said my Spiritual Gifts were.  Well, that must be a mistake.  I should take a different test.  Same answers.  Hmmmm…must be my state of mind at the time…I’ll take the tests at a different time of day and when I’m in a different mood.  Same answers.  *Sigh*  Ok…ok…I will study up on these and figure out what they mean (since they supposedly add up to mean…well…me.)  Exhortation seemed to mean cheer-leader…that bugged me.  Pastor…ummmm…not interested in that job!  Shepherd…I live in Flower Mound?  Teacher…done that…I get that one…and I really liked it.  Prophesy…ummmm…as in “the end of the world is near!”??????  

Needless to say, I was seriously disappointed in the results of the test (ahem…many tests.)  Like I said, I understood teacher.  I felt fulfilled and joyful when interacting with those wacky middle-school students.  I so deeply enjoyed it when a lightbulb would go off in their minds and I could see their expressions go from confused to happy and craving more knowledge.  But the other gifts…those were a bit of a mystery.  Many sources kept defining these incredibly complicated qualities with one or two words:  Exhortation = encourager.  Pastor/Shepherd = parent (the descriptions all sounded this way to me.)  Prophesy = counselor.  So, I went deeper.  Turns out, these short descriptions don’t even come close.  

Exhortation is not simply an encourager: (an encourager doesn’t have to understand or identify with the encouragee (is that a word?))  It is the ability to counsel or challenge others toward a healthy relationship with Jesus and is often utilized to motivate people to make God-honoring choices. Exhorters regard trials as opportunities for growth and sympathize with the suffering Christian, but see the pain through the lens of God’s sovereignty rather than through the lens of suffering.  Exhorters express love through availability. (Ok…yep…that is me…add feels a deep need to feed people and you would see my picture with this definition!)

Pastor/ Shepherd is not simply two very different job titles, as it turns out:  Apparently, the word pastor is related to pasture and the Greek word for it means “herdsman.”  So, like actual shepherds, these people have a great need for long-term relationships and will sacrificially give themselves to other people in such a way that they are built-up in their faith.  They are concerned with the health, growth, and well-being of those that they are committed to.  (Ok…yeah, that one sounds like me too…I don’t just want relationships…I need them…and I get a bit protective of those people…but I’m more comfortable with the word shepherd than I am with the word pastor…so we’ll just go with that one.)

Prophesy, as it turns out, is not just for nut-jobs:  Apparently, it is a deep-rooted calling to expose sin…not for the sake of punishment…in order to lead to restoration in relationship with God and to bring unity to people.  (Ok, yeah…that is absolutely my heartbeat!)  Also, people with this gift are quick to repent of their own sin when confronted with it but can be crushed by this too because they see the depravity in that sin.  (Yes!  That is me!  When I realize I have wronged someone…even just a little…I am devastated by it and have a hard time getting past it.  (Just ask Stan.  I know it sometimes wears him out!))

So, what in the world is the point of me writing about this?  Well first, some of you may not be familiar with your spiritual gifts and I would encourage you to investigate them and learn about them.  (You can google free online spiritual gift tests…I really like the one at churchgrowth.org…good descriptions that also touch on your potential pitfalls and strengths.)  Next, I would urge you to look at what areas of your life feel the most fulfilling and see if there is any overlap between that and the results of your tests.  Why?  Because that is where you will be the most energized, the most effective, and the most…”you.”  I have gone through long periods of time where I didn’t feel like “me.”  I felt almost like a visitor in my life.  But last year, when I started musing…I became more “me” than I have ever been.  (I didn’t do any of this intentionally…I just felt like I should start writing…although I had no agenda and have never been a skilled writer…so I did.)  I feel closer to God and am more energized by this aspect of my life than any other.  Since I started writing, I have had countless conversations, lunches, and meetings with people I didn’t know before…because I was able to somehow touch some part of them through this…it is uncanny and still blows my mind every time it happens.  It is encouraging to see ability in me to bring about something positive for other people and it not wear me down to a nub because it is so exhausting…if anything, it energizes and excites me.  Finally, I would ask you to invest in your giftedness.  Find some way to give space and time to explore your giftedness so you can see yourself and God more clearly.  (Know that anything you sacrifice in pursuing this will be worthwhile because this is your actual calling…your purpose.  I never have enough time but I am spending about 1.5 to 3 hours per day writing.  I don’t miss whatever I was doing before because whatever it was is so much less valuable to me than this.  I will also say that it has freed me up to say no to more things as well because I know where my purpose is so, I consequently, also know where it is not.  Other things aren’t bad…they just aren’t MY things.)

 So, how are you doing with this?  Do you know what your giftedness is?  Are you using it?  Do you know how to implement it in your life?  How can you bring truth, healing, and love to others through your gifts?  What might you need to sacrifice in order to be obedient in this area?

My prayer today is that we would not just go through life aimlessly, running along like a hamster on a wheel, without a purpose…but that we would determine where our gifts and passions intersect so that we can be tools in the hands of an amazingly loving and creative God.  Much love friends,

Beks