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

Advertisements

9/7/17 Morning Musing: How I Practically Found My True Identity

Since my last musing, I have had people reach out to me and ask some questions. The most common one was: “Ok, I get that I need to find out who I am…learn about my individual identity…but what does that actually look like practically? It’s easy to do it in theory…but how does one go about actually discovering their God-given identity?” So, I’m no expert (when has that ever stopped me from talking?) but I will happily share how this process went for me so maybe it will be easier for you.

I have been on a journey of learning who I really am for over 6 years now and I would say that the most meaningful thing I did was put aside an entire day last year for just spending time with God asking him who HE says I am instead of telling him who I say I am. No distractions. No plans. No screens. An entire day of just listening. And I’ll be honest with you…it was hard and frustrating for at least 2/3 of that day. I don’t know about you, but being completely still and quiet so that I can hear is really hard for me. I have trouble doing this for 15 minutes let alone an entire day. I had to be comfortable enough to not be distracted by my discomfort. I had to be uncomfortable enough to keep from falling asleep. There were a lot of little things I had to eliminate through the course of my day to keep distractions at bay.

I recognize myself to be both an interpersonal learner and a kinesthetic learner meaning I learn best with my hands on something or my body moving and through dialog with other people…but I was trying to have a dialog with someone who doesn’t audibly answer me back and if I’m too active, it becomes a workout as opposed to a conversation. So, what I came up with was that I would art journal with God. I didn’t know what I was creating along the way…I just knew that I would create something with him…and that my hands would be busy so that my mind could be thinking. (For those with ADD/ADHD, like myself, this is a very helpful tool that is not always true for the general population.) So, I just started gathering stuff…anything really…that I could use in the project and I started laying it out on the paper and a characteristic of mine…not necessarily my identity…but a strong characteristic none the less…began to emerge. I had managed to pull two different fabrics together that both apply to me on a daily basis: denim and lace. I love jeans! They are strong and durable and go with everything…when I want to be tough, I wear jeans. I am not a fancy gal and I don’t do formalities (it makes me feel inauthentic)…I like comfort and depth and jeans seem approachable to me. On the flip side, lace is delicate and light and gentle and beautiful…it’s not as durable as denim…it has vulnerability to it and, at times, I like that too. I loved the contrast of the two fabrics when I saw them together and it made me think of how I hate being pigeon-holed. I am a multi-faceted person and I hate being forced into a mold…and when I recognize it happening, I respond rather violently to it…I feel the need to not just break the mold but shatter it…tell me I can’t do something and I will absolutely spend every ounce of energy I have proving you wrong. (I had a male teacher tell me once that girls were not as good at math and science as boys were. When I had completed both my BS in biomedical science and MS in integrative physiology, I went back and told him how wrong he was…a full 10 years later I was still trying to ravage a mold that I didn’t want to be pressed in to!) All that to say that I had my background for my individuality…among all of my likes and dislikes, I had found a thread connecting many of them…freedom! I needed the freedom to be and do what I wanted…not what others wanted for/of me.

And that is where the progress came to a screeching halt (or so it seemed) for several hours. I slowly started arranging and attaching the fabric background to my art journal pages and talking (sometimes out loud) with God. For most of the day, I would throw out some of the characteristics that I saw in myself (fierce, independent, deep, intelligent, etc) and got angrier and angrier at him as each one would not sit quite right. “No…that isn’t your identity” I would hear in my head over and over…and it pissed me off…I even resorted to arguing with him because I was these things. “But that isn’t WHO you are” I would hear. Aaarrrgghhhh! 

By early evening, I finally heard the first word: Created. “Are you serious God? Really? Everyone is created! That freaking rock on the ground is created. That is so boring! Even cockroaches are created! Ugh! This sucks!” As I wrestled with this word, an adverb was added: purposefully. Ok, so purposefully created…what do I do with that? I started thinking about how I like to create things (I was literally doing it right then!) and realized that I was purposefully created so that I could create with a purpose. Hmmm…ok, so that’s better than the cockroach thing. That is something to ponder for a while. What else have you got for me God? Loved. Ugh again! Everyone is loved by God, aren’t they? But…I have really experienced God’s love in some of my most broken places…deep inside where I have protected my damage from others and even from myself. And then I realized, maybe for the first time, that I love my people with a huge love…it’s not like other people I know…there is definitely something distinctive about it. Ok, more to ponder. Then, came the third and final word that day: Forgiven. That one immediately put me in tears as I relived how I have injured others during my life and I grieved deeply having hurt them. I started to think of some of the injuries I had received from others as well and realized that I am a forgiver. I am forgiven and it allows me to be a forgiver.

That was it that day. I spent about 15 hours and literally got 3 words from God: Created, Loved, and Forgiven. Those were not the words I had wanted…I wanted something with badass as a description…but apparently that isn’t WHO I am (It’s just what I am! Haha!!! Couldn’t resist.) I saw a pattern emerge: God gives from who he is…so who I really am will reflect him. This helped me see a couple of more words later as I reflected on my favorite name of God: El Roi (God who sees me.) I love that name because I often struggle with feeling invisible…and out of that struggle, I have come to a place where I see people…really see them where they are…and can love them and value them right there. That is where I got two more words: Known and Wanted. 

Since then, I have become more comfortable with my true identity. I have been able to see how I had previously come to different conclusions about my identity…I discovered that a lot of my characteristics were really a response to situations that I have experienced as opposed to characteristics given to me by God. (For example, I was tough because I had been injured in the past and never wanted to feel like a victim again…so I became a 2nd degree black belt. I wanted intelligent as my identity because I felt dumb for most of my life because I learn differently than is valued by our educational system. I wanted to be defined as independent because I know I can count on myself…it’s others that have let me down in the past.) I may or may not be those things…but they aren’t my identity…they aren’t WHO I am…because if they were, I would actually be defined by the hurts that caused me to respond in those ways. No, I am not defined by my damage…I am defined by the meaningful ways that God has poured into me…and that is why I am able to pour out those characteristics…and I feel whole and amazing when I get to do them.

That is how I arrived in this new place of freedom…and if you have read this far, then you not only have a lot of endurance in this long musing, but you may also want to ask yourself some questions: Do you know who God says you are? Are you able to differentiate between who he says you are and who you tell yourself you are? What might you do in order to position yourself to hear from God instead of all the noise around you? What characteristics do you have that are a response to pain in your life? Are you letting those characteristics (and pain) define you? What is the thing you give to the world and despite continuing to pour out, you end up filled up?  

My prayer today is that we would be able to still ourselves enough to hear from God. I’m praying that we would achieve our purpose in life by fully coming to terms with our true identity. I’m praying that we would become positioned so that we can continuously receive from God and consequently keep pouring out from him as well.

Much love friends,
Beks

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  

6/28/15 Morning Musing: Silence is Golden…But Duct Tape is Silver…

When I was a middle school science teacher, I went out of my way to make my classroom a safe place for my kids to learn. My students were not allowed into the classroom until I had looked them in the eye and welcomed them in…not because I didn’t trust them in my room…because it occurred to me that I may be the only one who really saw them that day and told them I was glad to see them and that their presence mattered. In Sassy Massey’s classroom (that was what the students named me) insults and mean-ness were not only not tolerated, I would stop class over them and allow the speaker of the insults the “opportunity” to apologize and over-power their own insults with 3 character compliments for whomever they had insulted. (The boys especially found this to be cruel and unusual punishment.) I also learned early on that raising your voice to get the attention of 35 middle-schoolers was ineffective. They were so accustomed to excessive noise that raising my voice only caused the words to fade into the background of all of the other noise in the life of a 13-year-old. Conversely, if they perceived a secret being discussed in hushed whispers, they were able to redirect their undivided attention to it immediately. I used this observation to my own advantage in class frequently if I found students talking over me. Instead of getting louder, I would get quieter and quieter. I didn’t need to nag them and ask them to please pay attention…I just had to make them want to pursue paying attention by making the truth that I was offering stand out from the noise that surrounded them.

I am brought back to those days of teaching right now. There is a lot of noise out there…and much of it is either untrue, unbeneficial, or both. When you engage in arguments online, all of that energy is wasted. It’s like my kids from my teaching days…the first thing we had to establish each day was that I loved them and that they were safe with me. Then, and only then, could they relax enough to hear any truth from me and learn. They had to see consistency in me from person to person…that I didn’t treat students differently…that it was ok to question and doubt and talk things through…and that they could not get off the hook when it came to thinking. I also had to learn that it was ok for them to struggle with their thoughts on the concepts…when we struggle to understand, we take that knowledge deeper within ourselves…instead of just regurgitating information to be forgotten after a test, we hold onto the concepts because it was harder to come by. (Think about difficult times in your life…how clearly do you remember them?)  
What is my point? Well, I guess it’s that there is a lot of hatred and lies being spewed out there. Even if you think what you have to say is true, are you saying it with grace and kindness? Has it already been said 100s of times by other people today? Or is it just going to blend into the background noise with everything else? Have you prayed about it before you opened your mouth? Have you observed the other person’s side with empathy? Are you trying to win an argument? If your focus is winning, nobody actually wins because you have, by definition, made yourselves into adversaries. Instead, make your aim to understand fully where the other person is coming from and then, regardless of whether or not you agree, value them more highly than your “cause.” Jesus didn’t die for the laws and rules and politics, he died for people…because he loves people…because people are valuable and worthy of living and dying for.
My prayer today is that we would allow ourselves to be used by God to touch the lives of others…that we would love each other so well that we are able to enter into respectful discourse…that we would value people over winning an argument and that we would value honoring God over protecting our own egos from being bruised. (I’ve searched the Bible, nowhere does it bless those who “just say it like it is” or who “win all of their arguments.”) I’m praying that we would adopt a posture of humility as we approach each other and that we would produce the fruit of the Spirit: love…joy…peace…patience…kindness…goodness…faithfulness…gentleness…and self-control.   

Much love friends,

Beks

3-10-14 Morning Musing: Hard Truths

A few years ago, Michaela had a teacher at school that we really did not mesh well with. To be honest, I was hurt that this woman, who spent seven hours each day with my little she-ro, could not find anything nice to say about her…she couldn’t say a single positive thing about an innocent and amazing 7-year-old child. So, when this teacher indicated that Michaela might have an “attention issue,” I couldn’t hear it from her because I was unable to trust her as a teacher…and I could not trust that she viewed my daughter accurately…I could not trust that she really “saw” her.

The following year, Michaela had a teacher that deeply and selflessly invested in her. This teacher spent time getting to know my daughter. She invested in her in ways that actually cost the teacher something. So, when this teacher indicated that Michaela had “attention issues,” I could trust that she was saying it because she loved her and wanted to see her thrive. I remember having a conversation with her one day and she said “Michaela is too sweet, pleasing, and compliant of a child to be willfully disobedient…so it is obvious that when she disobeys, it is beyond her control.” Wow! She really got her! She really saw my daughter accurately. She could see the good that bubbles out of Michaela along with the difficult. I was immediately spurred into action because I knew that this woman cared about my kid.

What I am getting at is this: People can not hear hard truths from you if they don’t first believe that you care about them and their well-being. If you pride yourself on being someone who “just tells it like it is”…you might ask yourself if your truthful messages are ever actually received and applied. I think telling the truth is very important In relationships but it must be tempered with gentleness, caring, and investment. Otherwise, your “truth” is never actually received…and what good is a truth that is never applied?