3/18/15 Morning Musing:  Reversing the Irreversible

“Whoa!  Wait a minute!  You mean to tell me that when you are mad at someone, you don’t find the meanest thing you can possibly say to exploit their most sensitive and vulnerable insecurities?!?!”  **mind.  blown!**  Yep…sadly, these were my thoughts when I was a newlywed.  Marrying Stanton Billy was one of the best choices I have ever made…not just because he is amazing…but because he has helped me to become better.  I have often thought that he got the raw end of the deal (seriously not fishing for compliments here) because has endured quite a bit during our marriage:  the poisoning which damaged my health and our checkbook,  the resulting changes in my personality, and let’s not forget the clearly balanced and healthy person that the first sentence of this writing indicates that I was…poor guy…and he’s even done this without a straight-jacket or high-level sedatives!  

What is my point?  Well, there is a verse about how relationships are designed to help form us into better people:  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭27‬:‭17‬ NIV)  Now, I’m going to border on the blasphemous (again!  I know!)  But I see this verse differently…maybe it’s because of the word sharp…I tend to think of it as a negative.  For example, I would describe the former Bekah (before Stan (b.S as his family refers to it)) as being very sharp…not as in sharp-witted…more as in sharp-tongued.  I had very rough edges.  I was not a super-loving or gentle person.  I was damaged and harsh and calloused and I saw sensitivity as weakness.   Anyway, back to the verse.  Instead of sharpening, I think of the analogy more in terms of smoothing.  I used to do ceramics and there are different stages and techniques that can be used before it is fired in the kiln versus after it is fired:  When the piece has been fired, it is hardened and whitish in color.  This is called a bisque.  If there are flaws in a hardened bisque, you can sand them down with metal tools or super-coarse sand paper to smooth them out.  But before the item is fired in the kiln, the mud is only slightly hardened by air.  It is grayish in color and is easily damaged and is called greenware.  Greenware often has flaws in it (It has been poured into a mold which will leave lines at the seams and what not) but these flaws are easily addressed.  Instead of using metal tools or sandpaper, greenware can be “finger-sanded.”  What this means is that by ever-so-gently rubbing the greenware with your fingers, you can sand off the extra lines and smooth out the flaws.

For the love…Bekah…what is the point?  Glad you asked!  When Stan and I met, I was a bisque that had not addressed my flaws while still a greenware.  So instead of having smooth edges, I had sharp ridges…so sharp that I could quite easily cut someone.  Stan’s approach to me was as gentle as if I were greenware.  He didn’t try to harshly knock off any of my dangerously sharp points.  He gently took my hand and just started walking through life with his eyes on Jesus.  When we would encounter another of my harsh points, he would just point to Jesus again and smile.  He didn’t try to point out my damage and my rough lines…I could see them clearly enough when I looked at Jesus and then looked at myself.  This approach allowed me to want to change me (which is the only way that real and lasting changes occur.)  This left me thankful to and for the man who held my hand and walked instead of pulling out the tools to do some heavy remodeling.  This left me content and joyful instead of resentful.  And despite what science says about it, I gradually transitioned from a bisque to greenware…reversed this irreversible transformation.  

So, how are you doing with this?  Are you a bisque or greenware?  When you look at Jesus and yourself, do you have some rough edges to work on?  What is he telling you to address right now?  Do you have relationships that could be helping you in your quest to smooth out some flaws?  What about the people around you?  Do you feel the need to point at their flaws and yell “See it?  It’s right there!!!!”  Could you be taking a gentler approach?  I’ve noticed that when change is desired by the person, it can be liberating and lead to healing.  But when change is externally-motivated, resentment can build quickly.  Are you trying to force change on others?  If so, how could you become a source of empowerment for them instead of a dictator?  How can you love them toward healing instead of giving them a nice, firm shove?  

My prayer today is that we would address our wounds instead of ignoring them and that we would gently love others as we focus on Jesus…that we would be wounded healers…works of art that are still being refined but that already reach out to people and move them even while still incomplete.  Much love friends,

Beks

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2/12/15 Morning Musing: Yikes! Do You Kiss Your Mama With That Mouth?

I remember having a couple of sisters who were renting a house from us a few years back…in fact, it was the house that we are living in right now. One of the sisters was…I’ll just say she was on the aggressive side. We were having a misunderstanding and I was trying to walk her through it logically: In the living room, there are two different light switch plates that can turn on the lights and fan but when one of those is turned off, the other one won’t be able to turn the lights on. Also, in the master bathroom, the electrical outlets are all connected to a GFI to protect people from accidentally electrocuting themselves. That particular circuit was connected to an outlet in the garage on the other side of the wall where they put a giant commercial-type freezer that was inappropriate for the circuit. Needless to say, the freezer kept over-loading the circuit and triggering the GFI which would turn off the aggressive woman’s curling iron in the bathroom. So, she was demanding that I rewire the entire house and remove the GFI from the bathroom circuit. I was explaining that I would not be rewiring the house as I didn’t even desire to change things because they were that way by design (and thought to myself: if you can’t figure out the light switches in the living room, I am certainly not trusting you with electricity and water in the bathroom! Good grief!) That was when the woman cussed me like I’ve never been cussed before. I think she may have even invented obscenities to throw at me. It was such a thorough cussing that I had to force myself to not actually imagine some of her word pictures for fear of being scarred.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows that it is a rare thing for me to back down from a confrontation. (I don’t want to worry about having it later so I am someone who will just say, “Alright, let’s throw down right now and get it over with.” That way, it doesn’t have to take up valuable real estate in my head during the time leading up to a scheduled confrontation.) Anyway, it was weird but I calmly told her “When you are able to pull yourself together and have a conversation with me like a civilized adult, we can talk. Until then, I suggest that you refrain from speaking to me unless it is in writing.” I said good-bye and hung up. A few days later, I was in the yard with Michaela and hugely pregnant with Caleb when the two sisters drove up to our house to drop off rent because they were too late to mail it. They had not seen me in person for a while and were not aware that I was pregnant, but for some reason, me being pregnant brought more shame to the woman who had cussed me out. She was mortified. They were also asking to have their soon-to-be-expired-lease extended. I wasn’t ugly to them but I was not up for more nastiness either so I politely told them thank you for the rent but that we would be declining their request to extend the lease because we can tolerate a lot of things, but an attack on me was not one of them. After that, we didn’t have any more trouble from them. In fact, they were very humble in their approach to us from then on and they wanted to get their security deposit back so they left the house in excellent condition for our next tenant, a lovely woman who was newly-widowed.

Why in the world am I telling you this story? Well, I think that sometimes when we interact with people, we don’t consider their circumstances. There is not always a visible sign (like an enormous pregnant belly) to indicate some huge things going on in someone’s life. We don’t always see what is going on in someone’s mind, heart, or body that is bringing them grief, stress, or pain. We don’t know what battles they are currently engaged in or what burdens they are currently carrying for themselves or others. I know that I have been guilty of this so many times and it has never turned out well…and I certainly haven’t shown Jesus to others when I was popping off and only considering myself…so…maybe, just maybe…the goal should be to be kinder than necessary so that we can not add to their burdens. I would much prefer to be foolish for giving someone the benefit of the doubt when I shouldn’t (maybe a bit naive?) than to be foolish and hateful when someone’s load is already more than they can bear up under. Either way, we risk foolishness but I would rather choose foolishly kind than foolishly hateful if that makes sense. One of those reflects my beliefs better than the other. One of those reflects my heart better than the other. And one of those reflects the state of grace that I live in and benefit from more than the other (along with the God that extends that grace to me.)

So, how are you doing with this? Is there someone in your life who could use a break? Someone who could benefit from your kindness instead of harshness? Could your “wisdom” in the form of a tongue-lashing be more harmful than helpful? Sometimes, gentleness, or just a refusal to engage in the fight, can speak so much more directly to their heart and conscience than the loudest and most self-righteous of lectures. How could you communicate with more gentleness and possibly fewer words? And the big question, the person that you have the most tension with…do they see Jesus through you?

My prayer today is that we would be able to receive grace and give grace in a way the glorifies the author of grace. I’m praying that we would help others shoulder their burdens instead of adding weight to them. And I’m praying that we would love…love deeply…in a way that allows us to put away our pride so that we are able to see the circumstances that others are in. Much love friends,

Beks

1/29/15 Morning Musing: Here Is My Mess…What Will You Do With It?

I’m messed up. When I say this, I don’t mean it in a funny way…I’m seriously messed up. There are things about me that I have known were wrong with me for years and even decades but I wasn’t joining the pieces together to figure out what was going on: When I was in middle school, I found that I started getting really nervous before tests…you could just say the word test and I would have to go to the bathroom and throw up. I started getting referred to the school counselor every year because someone would witness it and, being super-skinny, the assumption was that I was bulimic. I would explain to the counselor and she/he would always tell me to settle myself down and not get so worked up about things. That’s a bit easier said than done…I mean, if I could manage to not throw up, don’t you think I would? It’s not like it’s a fun party idea. This trend in me went on all the way through grad school. Still vomitting my emotions which were just so overwhelmingly big! Anytime I had a confrontation or some sort of performance, off to the ladies’ room I would run. I was fast to have confrontations with people which made me think of myself as unkind and impatient…the truth was, I would just rather get the confrontation over with than drag on anxiety over the potential future moment because the anxiety was so much worse. Even in Tae Kwon Do, I became known as the girl who would bring her “fun flask” to testing and tournaments because I would get so wound up at the idea of people judging me…for the record, they are called judges and I was paying them to judge my abilities…but no matter, I would freak out and have to run to the ladies’ room again. I know, I know…you wish you could be me…we can’t all be that lucky though. 😉

What in the world is my point? Well, several things honestly: For one thing, I think that we grossly underestimate the power of our body chemistry. I received a life-changing diagnosis last week from two separate doctors…I have an anxiety disorder. At first, I blew them off because “I’m a very happy person.” Turns out, it is not the same as depression…it also turns out that the chronic pain I’ve been living with for the past 8-9 years is from constant muscle spasms due to my body’s inability to release tension properly. Oy! I minored in chemistry and have a master’s degree in physiology! I should know this! But when the chemical imbalance is in you, it is much more difficult to see it objectively.

Secondly, I think we have some misconceptions about what weakness looks like and what strength looks like. For example, I think that we should recognize the less obvious forms of strength…things like choosing your battles so that you are able to value relationships over winning a debate, serving in an area where you are unlikely to be noticed, or taking the time to study those around you and discover what ways make them feel the most loved…the most seen…and love them in that way…in their own way.

Finally, and please please hear me on this, do NOT assume that because someone’s health struggle is mental/psychological that they can/should just pray their way through it. A simple chemical imbalance can make basic, every-day functions nearly impossible to handle. When a person with the imbalance hears you say something trite like “Oh, well, you should just hand that over to God.” it not only alienates that person from you and warns them that you are NOT safe for them…but it also can damage their relationship with God and their view of themselves. If you have not struggled with something, don’t give advice as though you have. (Now, before you get all up-in-arms, I am not speaking against the power of prayer…not by a long-stretch…I think prayer is huge…I am just saying that maybe you should learn from your friends about their struggles and walk with them as opposed to judging their struggles from your protected position where you don’t experience it.) If you want to love your friend well, get into their mess with them and walk out with them instead of standing on the side and giving directions.

So, how are you doing with this? Is there something that is “off” about you that you have chalked up to quirkiness for too long? Is there something you are avoiding talking to a doctor about because you don’t want to hear the answer? Are you afraid of what people will think of you? Do you have someone you love who is struggling to keep their head above water? How can you extend love, grace, and hope toward them? Are you afraid of getting dirty in their mess? Jesus wasn’t afraid of getting messy with people: He spent time alone with a disreputable woman, allowed an “un-clean” woman to touch his garments, spent time in the company of a tax collector, and took the attention and scorn of a woman caught in the act of adultery onto himself in order to provide her with a little bit of dignity. He got messy with people instead of standing safely off to the side and saying “What you ought to do is…”

My prayer today is that we would take an objective look at ourselves and those we love. That we would make steps toward health and be willing to get messy with and for each other. I am praying that we would be willing to be utilized for good by God. Much love friends,

Beks

1/20/15 Morning Musing: “And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K. Rowling

It was a morning that had started out like every other morning during that life stage: kids waking me up at precisely oh-dark-thirty (because that is what 1-year-olds and 3-year-olds do), me changing a bunch of diapers and thinking sarcastically to myself “Yep, that master’s degree in physiology sure is coming in handy now!”, me getting a load of laundry going and unloading the dishwasher, and me trying to figure out what I will be allowed to eat that day…this was the aftermath of the poisoning (an extremely difficult and bitter time for me not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually.) See, during this time, my immune system was (for lack of a better word) wonky…I couldn’t fight off what I should so I stayed sick all the time (kept getting pneumonia) and I was fighting off what I shouldn’t (I became allergic to everything…including about 90% of my diet: soy, sugar, every single oil that I tested for, apples, cherries, peanuts, all tree nuts, yeast, wheat, oat, milk, cheese, broccoli, green beans, and pretty much everything else you can think of) so my doctor had me doing a rotational diet (really complicated but basically, if I ate an ingredient of something that I was not allergic to, I had 1 hour to eat it in and then I could not return to that ingredient for four full days (or anything related to that ingredient for two days…see picture) in order to not over-expose myself to this “safe” ingredient and turn it into another item that I was allergic to. Meanwhile, to try to regain the items that I was forbidden from, I was giving myself 9 antigen injections in my stomach every 4 days as well as having to occasionally test allergy ingredients to see if I was gaining any headway.) Glamorous, I know…try not to be jealous.

As I continued on this diet, I lost a lot of weight (as you would expect when it is that difficult to find food that you can eat.) The problem with the weight loss is that the toxins in my body were fat-soluble toxins (they lived in my body fat) which had to go somewhere as I was quickly losing that body fat. Science geek-out alert: I don’t know if you know this or not, but your brain is actually made primarily of fat (about 60%!) As I was losing body fat, the toxins that I was not able to expel from my body were going to my brain and causing me lots of issues.

Anyway, back to this typical day that began like every other: Caleb was in his crib and Michaela was in her room. I was trying to get some baby oatmeal out of the pantry when it happened. I lost my balance when I reached in, and fell into the pantry striking the side of my head on the shelf as I fell. I didn’t lose consciousness…but I couldn’t get out. What I mean is that I was aware of where I was and what position I was in but I couldn’t control my limbs. I would try to put my hand against the wall that I was folded up against, but my arm would flail around instead of doing what I was telling it to do. My legs were almost useless in that cramped space and I was feeling a lot of pain (the recycle bin was shoved into my back on the right side and my head throbbed from hitting the shelf and wall.) That is when panic set in. I couldn’t get out! I couldn’t get out!!!! The flailing increased as I struggled to get up…to move…to control anything about my body. My vision blurred but that was just because hot, wet tears were streaming down my face. I felt hot and my heart was racing as I sucked in ragged breaths…this was heading toward a full-on panic attack…and then I heard him…Caleb was crying and expecting his mama to come get him from his nap…and I couldn’t get to him. I listened to him cry while I cried and flailed in the pantry. Some time later, Michaela started banging on her door and yelling for mommy as well…and I couldn’t get up. Those poor babies were probably so very confused and feeling abandoned. “Oh God! Where the hell are you?!?!”

That’s when he showed up…God…by bringing some calm to this chaos. Instead of continuing to struggle, I yelled at God in that pantry…I told him about everything that I had lost because of this poison and how angry I was about it. In that pantry, I grieved the life that I had lost and finally came to terms that life was going to look different from now on. It was time to accept it instead of just being bitter about it. I was a different person than I had been: with this brain damage, my skills had changed…my thinking had changed…I was still analytical but less so than before…I started becoming more artistic and less rigid…I had a hard time with my memory (it was really embarrassing because I would be talking to someone and just stop in the middle and stare at them…it was like my brain had re-set and I lost the last 10-15 seconds…so I thought they were talking instead of me.) So much had changed and I had lost most of my relationships because people just didn’t know how to comfortably be around me…it wasn’t their fault really…they couldn’t understand…but it was so isolating…and now, I was isolated in the pantry with just Jesus…but He showed up…and that is something…I guess it’s not isolation if Jesus is still with me. With that understanding came peace despite my circumstances and a little while later, I noticed that my hand was on my head where the big knot had formed. How had I gotten my hand there? I tested it and was able to move it…I was shaky…but the connections were there…I was able to move my body around and control it some. I crawled out of the pantry and used the kitchen countertop to help myself to a standing position. A short time later, I opened Michaela’s door and told her to follow me to Caleb’s room where I sat on the floor with both of them and just enjoyed the ability to put my arms around them. We sat there and nuzzled each other for a long while.

Why am I telling you this? Well, for one thing, I think that we all have a deep desire to be known. This is part of me and part of my story. It is when this control-freak, type-A, uptight gal hit rock-bottom and learned, without a doubt, that control is only an illusion. I have fought writing about this for some time now and it kept coming to mind because, for some reason, I needed you all to know about it…so here it is…here is my mess…take it all in…know me.

I also learned that we are dependent on God for everything…EVERYTHING…right down to each breath, the ability to move, and each hug. He was with me and calmed me and that is no small thing. (I was in that pantry for 2 hours and I kept it a secret for several weeks (even from Stan) because I was processing what I had been through. I didn’t want anyone else’s take on it until I knew what my take was.) God knew me well enough to know how to calm me, distract me, and encourage me and the reason he could do that is because he is actively present and invested in my life.

Finally, I learned contentment…true contentment. I still have days where I am in a lot of pain or periods of time where my brain isn’t functioning quite the way it should, but those days are the exception now…and that is something to be grateful for…now, the bad days just show me how far he has brought me! Do you know that I had quit praying for healing when God decided to end my suffering with food allergies? I had come to a point of acceptance that this was my lot in life and then he gave me more. It felt lavish!

So, your story, in all likelihood, is quite different from mine…but how are you doing with it? Are you suffering under (or perhaps relishing in) the illusion that you are in control? Why do we tell ourselves this lie? Do you realize how loved you are by a God who wants an intimate relationship with you? Do you have any concept of what he could accomplish through you if you would only let him? What is holding you back? What keeps you holding him at arm’s distance? Is it pride? Anger? Bitterness? Doubt? Fear? (For me, it was all of these!)

My prayer today is that we would all allow God to point out tender parts of ourselves that we are with-holding from him and that we would offer those precious and vulnerable parts to God as an act of worship. Much love friends,

Beks

1/14/15 Morning Musing: The “S” Word

I know this woman. A mutual friend of ours once described her character in this way: She is the kind of person that if you were both in a body of water that was way over your heads, she would go under to lift you up so you could breathe. The only problem is that not everyone would do that back for her…in fact, I know very few people like her. When I think of the dreaded “S” word…you know…*whispers*…”submission”…I think of this analogy.

I think that, in general, we get submission wrong…we think of it as weakness or something that can be demanded or inability to think for one’s self or just plain obedience. It has become a very touchy word (especially in church cultures) because I think it has been abused for so long. I know a lot of women, myself included, who have been damaged by the mis-use of this word and I know a lot of men, who have also been damaged by being allowed to misuse the word. So, let’s take a look at what my dictionary app says submit means: “to yield oneself to the power or authority of another.” Hmmmm…yield oneself…it doesn’t say that it was demanded or forced…yield…well, let’s see what yield means: “to give up or surrender (oneself)”…Example: He yielded himself to temptation. So, submission is voluntary and not coerced…it is not powerlessness…the opposite really…it’s the willingness to relinquish the power that you have. Think about it…you have never heard of anyone submitting their weakness over to someone…that isn’t called submission; it’s called being a burden. Well, what about it being an inability to think for one’s self…for that, I would point you to the analogy at the beginning of this musing…the friend that is so self-sacrificing that she would do it to her own detriment…do you think that is without thought? I don’t. I think it is simply a shift in thought…I think that it means thinking about others instead of only ourselves…that goes against our nature…against our “survival instincts.” To go against our reflexes requires a decision. Reflex circumvents thinking…it is an automatic response of the body which bypasses the brain. To defy our reflexes is to not only to have made a decision…but to have been quite convicted about that decision.

Why am I bringing this up? Glad you asked! For one thing, we are having to skip a week in our marriage class this semester because of a scheduling conflict and…you guessed it…the topic being skipped is submission. I think it is unfortunate to miss that week because I personally know a lot of women and marriages that have experienced healing from finding out what this word truly means. I think that churches have been guilty of mis-using this word for centuries and it has had a profound effect on women, politics, marriages, and society. An example, that truly grieves me, is a very large church (that I will not name) in the DFW metroplex that has been advising women that are in abusive (physically and otherwise) marriages that they should “submit better.” Where did I get this information? From a woman who works at an amazing shelter for women and children who are escaping abusive relationships and have to go into hiding…many of these women and children are coming from this local evangelical church and are so damaged by the abuse they have endured, but further damaged by their church (and by extension…their God) because telling them to “submit better” is equivalent to telling them that it is their fault and that they deserve it. That is so asinine to me that…well…I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

I know this is long, but bear with me: “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭13-21‬ NIV)

Did you catch that? This passage is talking about how to be alive and live a life of light. It has some good ideas and some things to avoid, and then it says “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is not a gender issue…it is a heart-space issue…it’s the very thing that I have been talking to Team Massey about constantly for the last month: Be kinder than necessary! This means thinking of others and loving them enough to put them first. Sounds a lot like agape love doesn’t it? Sounds a lot like the Gospel doesn’t it? I would think that evangelical churches would be the first to recognize the Gospel…but I guess that isn’t always the case.

At any rate, I used to have quite a knee-jerk reaction to this topic…and I have discovered that knee-jerk reactions should be analyzed deeply because doing what we are called to do by God is not usually natural for us: it isn’t natural for us to forgive people who have deeply hurt us; it isn’t natural for us to give our money, that we work so hard for, away; it isn’t natural for us to sacrifice our time and resources for the benefit of others. So, when we have knee-jerk reactions to something, we should make sure to analyze if it is because it is gospel-truth or if it is survival/selfish instincts…is it what we really believe or is it the culture within which we were raised…have we developed our own beliefs or inherited someone else’s?

So, how are you doing with this? Do you have beliefs that are based on culture? Do you have beliefs that you believe but don’t know why? How can you explore those subject areas and look for a way to eliminate potential bias? Have you been harmed by people misusing the word “submission?” Have you harmed others? What is your church’s stance on this subject? If you don’t know, why don’t you? How could you find out? If you want some resources on this subject, I am happy to share some that I have gathered so that you can study for yourself.

My prayer today friends is that we would all live life full of light and submit to each other…that we would put each other first…that we would love like my friend described in the first paragraph. I am praying that we would all understand that submission in not a gender thing…it’s a Gospel thing…it’s a Jesus thing…and if you are a follower of Jesus, that makes it your thing. Much love friends.

Beks

P.S. I am happy to share information with anyone about scripture references, wonderful sermons to listen to, as well as how to get help if you are being abused.

1/13/15 Morning Musing: Drawing From an Empty Well

Three times in the last week, I have been asked by people that I respect spiritually, “I can see you are deeply committed in your ministry…and you are carrying some heavy burdens around for others…but what are you doing personally to commune with Jesus and refill your own soul?” Ummm…yikes! I’ve been awfully busy lately…not all difficult stuff…but very very busy. I admitted to each of these friends that I feel closest to God when I am musing…and over the last few months, I have had less and less time available to do this. For one thing, I only seem able to do it in the mornings (hence the name “Morning Musing.”) It is as if my brain turns off by about 12:30pm and the opportunity for that day is lost…bizarre…no? And of course, my mornings seem to get filled by stuff…not bad stuff…just stuff…like meetings or doctor appointments or volunteering…just stuff…and the musings have been crowded out. I don’t know why I am unable to write like this in the afternoons…but…as of now, I am unable to (believe me…I’ve tried…and failed…a lot.) Then, one of my good friends, one of the people I trust most in the world, asked me yesterday “Why is what fills us back up always the thing we think is expendable…the thing that we can afford to drop from our lives?” She then told me about one of our mutual friends who will volunteer and pour into others and get so busy emptying herself out that she quits painting…but painting is what feeds her soul so that she can pour into others…it is how she meets with God and hears him speak…so then this friend gets depleted (and I imagine frustrated because she runs out of steam on her own.) Hmmm…I guess that is why the verse reads: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭13‬ NKJV) It doesn’t say I can do all things “if I schedule my time right” or “if I try hard enough” or “if I…anything…fill in the blank.” I can only do all the things that I am called to do through Jesus.

So, I know this all sounds like I’m on a soapbox…but it is aimed at myself. Over the last few years, I have learned some things about myself: I learn primarily in two ways: through doing (kinesthetic…this is why I love science!) and through relationships (interpersonal…I never tire of meaningful conversations with people…my brain feeds off of this and I am rejuvenated by it…I know that sounds weird to you introverts…but it is true for me.) I’ve never been one who was a verbal learner (can’t just hear a lecture and learn…can’t just read and learn…that is why school was so difficult for me and why I thought for so long that I was not smart…think of how 99% of “learning” happens in American schools…no wonder I thought I was an idiot!) And this morning, it finally hit me (ok, it took this long…maybe not so smart after all) that my musings are how I have conversations with the Holy Spirit…it is how I have that interpersonal interaction with him…how I enter into relationship with him and give him the space to speak to me instead of me doing all the talking. I’ve honestly been confused for the last year as to why I feel I need to write…remember…not a verbal learner…I don’t follow anyone’s blog…I don’t learn by reading…it seems weird that I would be a hypocrite and expect anyone else to read my stuff…but this morning, through this musing, I have come to understand that it’s not about anyone else reading this…no offense, but it’s not about any of you…it’s about me prioritizing it so I can hear from Jesus…but I leave it open to be observed by y’all because I feel like I am supposed to…so if anyone else can hear from Jesus through this…then they are welcome to do so…maybe some of you are verbal learners and can learn from reading or maybe you are interpersonal this makes you feel like you know me better and like we are having a conversation. I don’t know how it all works…I just know that I must.

So, the question of the day for myself and you: How are you doing with this? How has God wired you to learn? How are you using that natural wiring to learn more about him? How are you letting God speak to you? (Are you letting God speak to you?) What impediments to your relationship with God are popping up? What can you do about those? For me, I’m going to have to prioritize this morning time. I’m going to have to re-arrange my schedule some so that I have more mornings available to sit at my Rabbi’s feet and learn from him…because I have been swapping things out…I have been giving up the best thing for some good things…and it’s unfulfilling…and honestly, it’s sinful. I welcome feedback on this. I welcome accountability…if you see me falling off the radar with these musings…feel free to nudge me gently and remind me to get back at it. If you want some accountability, let me know…we can encourage each other to pursue Jesus.

My prayer this morning is that we would all look honestly at how we are designed and discover how God talks to us. It won’t be the same for everyone and that is fine…that is why we are called to be in community with one another…so that we can all share what we are learning about God with each other and gain new perspectives. Friends, I am praying that you would pursue relationship with Jesus today and that you would not sacrifice the way he speaks to you (through busy-ness or ministry or anything else.) Much love friends,

Beks

12/9/14 Morning Musing: Making an A$$ Out of You and Me

A few years ago, some of my family from Georgia came to Texas to visit for Christmas. My cousin was staying at our house and consequently got dragged along for all of the Team Massey traditions. One evening, we were driving around looking at Christmas lights, eating snacks, and listening to Christmas music when we decided to drive through a specific neighborhood. While we were driving, we saw a group of carolers heading our way so we stopped and when they got close, we rolled down the window so that they could sing to us. They looked at us confused and a bit alarmed and kept walking. Yep, you guessed it. They weren’t actually carolers…they were just a family walking to one of their neighbor’s house. I had made an assumption that was way off-base. Now, any time I make an assumption without all the facts, Stan looks at me excitedly, claps his hands, and says “Sing me a song!!!!”

Why am I talking about this? Well, you know the old phrase about “when we assume”? I have noticed that this time of year, when we are supposed to be the most grateful and charitable…when we are supposed to be focusing on the selfless gift that the God of the universe gave to us…when we are supposed to be thinking of ways to share that gift with others, we tend to be less charitable in our assumptions (specifically about family.) How many of us dread some of our interactions with our families? How many of us are stressed out about how to handle relationships with those we love?

So, I had a thought: What if we decided to just assume the best possible intentions behind the words and actions of others? What if we were charitable in our thoughts instead of just with our finances? What would it really harm? By my way of thinking…nothing at all. For example, let’s say your family is late to a gathering at your mother-in-law’s house and when you get there she makes a snide comment about your tardiness. Instead of assuming the worst (which could very-well be the truth)…what if you decided to assume that she was worried about your well-being or…here’s a good one….what if you decided that she was so excited to see you that she was waiting expectantly for you to come over (much like your kids expectantly wait for Santa Clause)? Would it really harm you to decide to believe the best about her?

We all have relationships that are unstable and stressful…we all have people assuming the worst about us…it doesn’t mean we have to maintain that cycle of ugliness. We can choose to see others as children of God who deserve love…big, overwhelming, lavish love…charitable love…tender love…forgiving love…love that brought a Savior to be born in a manger. So how are you doing with this? Think through your relationships…who needs the most charitable of your assumptions? Who are you tense about seeing? Who could you selflessly love? They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery…who better to imitate and flatter (rather…praise) than the one who deeply loves our souls and chooses to cover our ugliness with his own beauty to present us as loving and spotless to his Father? What better way to worship our God than to extend that grace that he lavishes on us to others?

My prayer this morning is that we would not be stingy with our thoughts toward others…that we would honor Jesus by loving those he loves and extend charity through our thoughts and actions…that we would show that we are changed by his sacrifice and that the natural consequence of that change would be to be so grateful that we have no choice but to respond in kind. 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! 😘

9/11/14 Morning Musing – Lies We Tell Ourselves

This morning at breakfast, Stan and I decided that we would talk to Michaela and Caleb about some of the events of 9-11. As we were telling the story, Stan said “There were some really mean people who told themselves lies and decided to believe them.” The story went on, as you all know, but I was stuck on that sentence. I couldn’t shake it loose. Immediately, Hitler came to mind as well. (I studied WW-II history in Normandy, France my last semester of college and one of the things that I took away from that study abroad was how powerful lies are. All those years later, I was still walking around and seeing and touching the devastation that continues to ripple from the lies one man told himself.) Then I thought about everyday lies and the damage that they bring. I have lost friendships and time with people over lies that they either were told or told themselves…and decided to believe. I could add so many examples of horrendous lies to the list: Eve and the serpent, Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife, Jacob, Ananias and Sapphira…want more recent and tangible examples that were far reaching? Ok: The Clinton/Lewinsky Affair, Watergate, Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme, Cuban Missile Crisis…the list goes on.

Think of the figurative prisons that people (possibly even you) are living in because of the lies they believe: I am fat, I am not worthy, I don’t matter, They’d be better off without me, One time won’t matter, She’ll never find out, It only affects me, He will change, I can control it, I’m so far gone that a little farther doesn’t matter, God won’t want me, “Those” people are inferior, I’m really protecting him/her, I can stop anytime, No one will ever know, I’ll start tomorrow…All lies break us and create barriers. (Speaking of creating barriers, do you know what happened the day that construction of the Berlin Wall began? (August 13, 1961) The German communist leader Walter Ulbricht told this whopper: “Nobody has the intention of building a wall.”)

What I am getting at this morning, is that there are deadly and serious consequences to lies that we tell and lies that we choose to believe. Why? It’s just a lie…right? Well, when we think of who our Jesus is and how he described himself, I think we find our answer: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭6‬ NIV) Do you hear what accompanies the truth? The way…the life…I want that! But when I tell lies, I am distancing myself from the source of life…I am embracing being lost and pursuing death.

So, how are you doing with this? Are you being truthful with the people you interact with? Do you excuse your lies by referring to them as kindness, little white lies, or fibs? Are you violating your conscience when you interact with people? Do you have people in your life who are lying to you? How can you lovingly approach them? Here is the kicker: Are you lying to yourself? Are you reiterating damaging untruths about others or yourself in your own head? Are you creating stories in your own mind and re-telling them so often that you begin to believe them? This is not harmless. This is not healthy. (This is how Hitler started…this is how 9-11 began.)

My prayer today is that we will all take our lies seriously…that we would bring them to light…that we would embrace truth and life and, out of that, lovingly share truth and life with others. And I am praying that we would be honest with ourselves so that we may grow closer in relationship with others and with God. Much love friends,

Beks

9/10/14 Morning Musing: God is Not Overwhelmed

I have a girlfriend who just found out her son has mono, she has 3 kids attending 3 different schools, workload has just increased, has a friend out of town that she feels burdened to visit and help, and she just selflessly has signed up with her husband to lead a table for the marriage ministry that I run. God is not overwhelmed.

I have an aunt who has been diagnosed with various forms of cancer more times than I can count. She has been through more surgeries, chemo treatments, and side-effects to various drugs than anyone should ever endure. She has lost babies, husbands, and has encountered so much heartbreak in her life. God is not overwhelmed.

I have a girlfriend who has been to multiple funerals this year…friends…family…and has spent a lot of time in hospitals with people (aside from working in a hospital) in order to pour into others. She is a nurse by vocation but also by calling. She cries with the broken-hearted, finds ways to encourage and lift up others, and has created a special place for grieving parents at her hospital when they lose a baby. She has planned a “Mercy Run” for later this month and is so very gifted with Compassion. Even though her plate is full, she takes on more. God is not overwhelmed.

I was poisoned and broken and bitter. I couldn’t escape the violation that my family endured. It was brought to mind with every meal, every moment of isolation and loneliness, every broken relationship, every time I looked at my children and knew I was incapable of helping them, every time I felt like a failure because I just couldn’t get out of bed, and every time I doubted God and fussed at him. God is not overwhelmed.

I have been finding myself saying this to many of my friends lately for many different reasons: little daily stressors that make you crazy, huge life-altering events that leave you knowing that life will never be the same again, and everything in between. God is NOT overwhelmed. I know that sounds simplistic…and trust me, I am telling myself this as much as I am telling anyone else…but it’s true and we can count on it no matter our problems: Health? God made human bodies…do we really think there is anything that he can’t “figure out” in us? Finances? God creates a new heaven and a new earth out of jewels and gold and finery…those are the cement and bricks…do you think money stumps him??? Death? God created life…every single form of it…and he created eternal life…Jesus defeated death…the grave could not hold him…do you think death scares him??? (I think it saddens him…but it does NOT overwhelm him.) Out of control and busy schedule? God created time and gifted each one of us…he instills our passions in us…he breathed life into our lungs…he has given us the time and resources to do everything that he has called us to do (not necessarily everything we put on our schedule to do.) Time burdens and busy-ness do not overwhelm our God.

Why am I rambling today? Well, I think it is easy for me to lose perspective…to get overwhelmed because I am weak and simple. But regardless of what I am going through, my God is not overwhelmed. I lose sight of the big picture constantly…I get bogged down in the details and forget that God has created me for certain things…important things…and all the other crap is just stuff that I have added to the pile. This stuff distracts me from the important things by masquerading as important. Let me give an example: I sat down to write this morning and was immediately distracted by my dirty house and I found myself pulling out the cleanser and spraying down the counters and then thinking about laundry, sweeping the floors, running errands, oh…and work I need to get to for marriage ministry…do you see where this is going? Those are all good things…none of it is sinful…but it isn’t important unless God has called me to do it now. All I am responsible for is to be obedient to him in this moment. He puts the musings on my heart for a reason and at specific times, I must be obedient and follow through with these when he tells me to or else I could miss the window of opportunity of it touching whoever it is meant to touch. When I work on my own task list instead of his, that is when I get overwhelmed. But God is not overwhelmed and thankfully, every moment is another opportunity to be obedient to his calling.

So how are you doing with this? Are you overwhelmed? Does your list and your life have you fretting? Do you trust God to do what he wants with your life and your time? Is there something overwhelming you, that you are holding on to, that you need to release to him? Is there someone that you need to release to him? Is there a mission you are called to that you are not beginning because your life is too overwhelming to start? What can you surrender to our God right now?

I am praying for simplicity in our lives. I am praying that we will all find time to have a heart-to-heart with God today and determine what is on mission and what is a distractor. I am praying that he will give us the strength and self-control to stay on mission, use our gifts, and fulfill the purpose that he has put in front of us today. I am praying that we will not be overwhelmed because God has provided everything we need to accomplish what He would have us accomplish. Much love friends,

Beks