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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love friends,

Beks

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10/23/17 Morning Musing: Mouths and Heart-Spaces

When I think back over the last 40 years…and think about the times when I hurt others, either intentionally or unintentionally, I can see how my mouth seemed to play the biggest role. Either I said something insensitive and hurt someone with carelessness…or I said something hurtful intentionally to get some emotional space in an argument…or I didn’t say something comforting and loving when I should have…or I felt awkward and did my nervous babbling thing and it prolonged something that I should have let die down. I can remember specific instances of hearing unjust statements made and not speaking against them…or nervously laughing…or…I’m ashamed to admit…contributing.  

I can also remember being cut very deeply by words…and being a people-pleaser for most of my life, the person didn’t have to be in my inner circle to hurt me. I can remember spinning on the words afterward for hours or even days or weeks…not being able to let it go…continuing to re-live the conversation and what was said over and over again…going into “analysis paralysis” where I excavated every possible corner of my heart to see if there was truth to what the person had accused me of (even if they didn’t realize that they had.)
Words matter…and we can’t get them back. Written or spoken. Intentional or not. Once they are sent out, we don’t get a do-over…and we have revealed who we are. 

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” ‭Matthew‬ ‭15:18‬ ‭NIV‬

Over the last year or so, I have been broken by the hateful things I’ve seen posted on social media by people that I wouldn’t consider hateful. And there were times that I spoke up against the unjust words in a gentle way in order to not escalate the hurt. And other times, I kept quiet because it wasn’t my turn to speak. Some times I saw others speak up in ways that brought people’s hackles down. And other times I saw others speak up in ways that just threw a hand grenade into an already tense situation. And it occurs to me that what we are putting out there is what is in our heart-space…it is the mark that we are leaving on the world…and it matters. Now, some will say that is why they don’t post or comment…and to them, I say…have a voice of truth…don’t be silenced. Others will say that they encounter so much friction because they are standing up for something…and to them, I say…stand up for someone instead of something.  

I think our mouths were meant to communicate what is in our hearts…and hearts were meant to love people. So how are you doing with this? What comes out of your mouth? Is it loving? Is it truthful? Does it build people up? Does it encourage others to do what is right? Do your words accept responsibility for what you’ve done wrong or do you make excuses? Do your words encourage the hearts of the discouraged? Do your words gently speak truth into broken spaces? Do your words stand against injustice? Do your words represent truth about the one who is The Word?
 
My prayer today is that we would ask for wisdom and wait to receive it. I am praying that we would speak when we are meant to and that we would shut up when we should. I am praying that we would learn to be gentle with our words and that our words would be guided by a heart-space that is taught kindness from God. I am praying that our words would be a tool for healing instead of breaking…that we would build things instead of breaking them…and that we would, once again, love well. Finally, I am praying that we would honor God with what comes from our mouths…because then, we would also be honoring him with what comes from our hearts.

Much love friends,

Beks

10/13/14 Morning Musing: Painfully and Exquisitely Imperfect

Almost done. Almost finished…Crap! I messed up. It was tempting to just draw a line through it like the teacher had instructed us to do when we made a mistake…but I just couldn’t do that. It had to be perfect. Perfection. *Sigh* I pulled out another sheet of notebook paper and turned it at my preferred angle on my desk and I began again on the homework in Ms. Graves’ English class. Perfection and nothing less…in everything that I did…because if I was perfect, people would like me, wouldn’t they? They’d have to because what could you possibly dislike about perfection? Nothing! That’s what. So…here I go again.

This was how I operated growing up…I have always been a bit more than the typical Type-A personality…I was drawing value from being perfect. I needed to be perfect because I wasn’t the most…anything. I wasn’t the prettiest, the nicest, the smartest, the most fun, the wildest, the most outlandish…I was the most mediocre and invisible…at least in my head…and I was determined not to be mediocre. I couldn’t change the other things about myself…I couldn’t make myself smarter or prettier…but I could work hard…damn hard…so that is what I did. And I felt like it added value. After all, if I worked hard enough, I could trick people into thinking I was smarter and better than I was.

The problem with working to create a persona is that you have to always be “on.” If I were to become the “perfect girl” I was going to have to eat, sleep, and breathe perfectly. It got to a point where it took over: it was about grades, looks, popularity, intelligence…everything. You can see how this could become exhausting. In college, I perfected the perfection persona (alliteration! Oh! Ms. Graves would be proud!) because I accidentally found something that I was actually a natural at: Dance. Oh God! I loved to dance! It made me feel like I was flying. When I was dancing, I felt beautiful…all eyes were on me and regardless of whether or not they had seen it before, people couldn’t help but be impressed. I could let my guard down when I was dancing because I actually WAS good at it…I wasn’t pretending…I wasn’t playing a part…so I danced every night…every opportunity that I had…I even bullied my girl friends into going most nights as well. (Summer, Terry, and Becky…oh the things you put up with back then! On the plus side, we didn’t go to a ton of keggers because I was less interested in anything that would take time away from the dancing.)

I was on my way to perfection! I was making the grades by working so hard…I wasn’t learning anything…but who cared?! I had the grades! I was well-known because everyone in this college town went to the dance halls at some point (because there was nothing else to do) and would see me and remember me. I was even on the commercials for the bars there (My Southern-Baptist Preacher Dad would have hated that! All the better because that meant I was “wild” too! Yes, dancing was my huge college rebellion.) I was somebody! And at the same time, I was nobody (unless I was dancing) because every other aspect of me was contrived…false…artificial.

I lived this way for years and years and was still “performing” when I met Stan. But, miraculously, he saw through it. He saw the me that was behind the well-guarded (and perfected after more than a decade of practice) persona. And I don’t know how he saw me…nobody else could…nobody. As a matter of fact, after our first date, his exact words were “There is more to you than meets the eye.” Wow! That scared me and thrilled me at the same time. I didn’t quite know what to do with that. I couldn’t drop him like I did most guys (during this time, I was horrible to guys…I would purposely lure them in until I knew I had them hooked, and then I would drop them because the thrill was gone if I knew I could have them…I’m not exactly sure what I was proving by doing that…I assume self-worth…but it didn’t work…I always came up empty and requiring more ego-feeding.) There was something about Stan that just stuck to me though…honestly, I think it was that he could see through my bull $#!t! Without any effort, he could see me…really see me…and he wasn’t put off by what he saw. How was that possible? Nobody could possibly be impressed with mediocre…could they?

I kept him a little at arm’s length for a while so I could study him. I told him that if he uttered the word “commitment” that I was gone. And to this day, Stan says he “played me like a fiddle.” If I wanted the chase, he was going to give it to me. We went on 50 dates before he kissed me for the first time…that is right FIFTY! That had never happened before. I would be damned if I was going to be the one to make the first move…that wasn’t how I operated…my job was to lure him in and his job was to be enamored with me. (For some reason, that would make him easier to discard…because he would be just like all the rest.) He was not playing by my rules and it frustrated yet appealed to me.

We continued to get to know each other and slowly, the persona that I had worn like armor, began to fade away…until a true version of me began to reveal itself. Over the next few years, I grew not only into a real person…but into a truly loved child of God. And, as always is the case, I came to a point where I tested it. I chose to not be perfect…would Stan turn and run after finally seeing the nasty person that I really am? Would God? And they both surprised me. Neither Stan nor God abandoned me. Neither one condemned me…but neither one sugar-coated it and said that sin was ok either. And I have never felt more loved in my life. What?! You mean I’m not defined by my mistakes? I can be less than perfect and still be loved? I can be real? Instead of fearing that when I made mistakes that I would be rejected, I finally came to a point (in my 30s, mind you) that I could actually learn from my mistakes instead of trying to conceal them. That is when I became addicted to something altogether new for me: authenticity.

The reason I put all of this out there this morning is that I have been asked (a lot lately) how I can be so painfully transparent. The answer is simple…I think that trying to conceal things is much, much more painful than the risk of rejection for authenticity. I’ve lived that painful falseness and I hated it. Now that I have tasted the sweetness of authenticity, I don’t think I could settle for the bitter flavor of living a lie again.

So, how are you doing with this? Are you living authentically or do you have pieces of yourself that you think people would reject if they could truly see it? Do you have a persona that you wear around certain people…all people? Do you have to present yourself in a specific way to anyone? Why? Do you think they will reject you? Will you reject yourself? Do you fear that God will reject you? If you fear God’s rejection, how does it make you feel to know that he sees through it all anyway? What small step could you take today in moving toward being more authentic? I have a feeling that if the thought of this scares you…then it might just be the right step.

My prayer this morning is that we would all embrace the creations that we are…intentionally and thoughtfully crafted in the hands of a perfect God who sees the flaws in us and loves us deeply…deeply enough to die for us. I am praying that we will not continue in our sin of being false…that we would see it as sin…because it’s a lie…and our God is Truth. My prayer is for authenticity so that we can reflect the real image of our Jesus. Much love friends,

Beks

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

4/2/14 Morning Musing: If the Dunce Cap Fits…

Sometimes, I make really terrible decisions. There was that time that I bought meat from a guy in a truck driving down my street. There was my stint through selling Mary Kay for about a minute and a half. And there was that time that I thought that I could function well on an average of 4 hours of sleep per night. Oh! And there was that time when, despite Stan being allergic to every living thing except humans, I had to have 2 Great Danes, a beagle, a bunny, a ferret, two turtles, a fish, and a snake. Yeah, when it comes to making bad decisions, I’ve made some doozies and for some odd reason, I frequently have to make those bad decisions repeatedly before I learn from them. So, being the nerd that I am, I began to think about the triggers for my perseverance toward stupidity in hopes that I can avoid the process some in the future.

Exhaustion: I make my worst decisions when I am tired and worn out. I have usually been “self-disciplined” all day long and am just done. That is when I tend to lose control of my words, my eating habits, my physical activity, my motivation, my parenting…it’s when bad stuff happens with me. I am a high-intensity person; I am always going and doing and fixing…I rarely slow down. But I need rest. Acting like I can “do it all” all the time is not only untrue, it is arrogant and it is anti-scriptural. God modeled rest. Jesus modeled quiet. Why do I think I would require anything different?

Isolation: I frequently make terrible decisions when I isolate myself. We are called to be in community for a reason. When I am completely alone, all I have to work with are my own thoughts. When I get off track in my thinking, there is no one to “bump up against” in order to get back on the correct path…this leads to scary and dangerous places. When I am mentally present enough to want to make good decisions, I tend to seek out loving and encouraging community so that I can know if I have large, gaping holes in my thoughts and theories. (But if I am exhausted, I am not usually mentally present enough to get the mail on my own.) And anyway, I respect my friends deeply; why wouldn’t I want to put their awesome brains on my tasks as well?

Lies and Ego-centricity: I make horrible decisions when I buy into lies. These lies can range from “I’m not a valuable person” and “Nobody cares for me” to “I am the smartest person in the room” and “My opinion matters more than the opinions of others.” For me, it’s a full pendulum-swing: everything from self-deprecation all the way to almost a false self-worship. The consistent thing is that these are ALL lies and ALL self-focused. I need to seek truth and it usually means getting out of myself and focusing on God and those that he loves. (Which, incidentally, leads me right back to community…not just going and consuming but also pouring into it.)

Those are my triggers. If you add hunger to the mix, it could be a deadly combination of triggers of circumstances…There is honestly no telling what crazy and dumb things I would do. What are your triggers? What do you have to watch out for? Do you ever do anything dumb or is it just me?