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,
“I think it’s all in your head. If you just quit thinking about it, you’ll realize that you are fine.” My body shook with rage as I listened to these words and felt this person slip away from my inner circle. My face was hot and my breathing got faster and I was very aware of my heart beating fast and hard…so hard that I was sure that it must be moving my shirt on my chest. The only thought I could pull together was “You are not a safe person for me anymore. You simply are not safe.”
This interaction happened in the year following the poisoning when I was going through hell. At the time, I was trying to regain my health through very extreme measures…I was dealing with bitterness and anger toward the man who had stolen my life from me…I was mourning the loss of the life that I had before…I was spiraling in a spiritual crisis…I was facing the isolation that accompanied my decimated health because people simply didn’t know what to do with me and consequently quietly pulled away…I was feeling guilt and shame for not being able to contribute to the family in any way…and I was already battling thoughts of suicide. And then I had this person tell me that all of my health issues were make-believe. What he really wanted was for me to get over it so that he didn’t have to feel any awkwardness. But if I could have just made it disappear with positive thoughts, don’t you think I would have? If I could have taken any shortcut out of this…anything that would make it end…I absolutely, without a doubt would have taken it…but there was no shortcut…there was only through.
Why am I writing about this? Good question. I think that we have an epidemic today. I think that we are so busy being busy that we don’t take care with our words…we are careless and we injure people. I think that we are so stuck looking at things from only our own point of view (and surrounding ourselves only with people who will validate our own point of view) that we think we are qualified to pass judgement on things that we honestly don’t know anything about. I know that my story is extreme…I haven’t ever come across anyone else who has experienced it…but I’m using my story to make the point…nobody could even get a glimpse of what I was experiencing unless they took the time to hear me…and in my brokenness, I found that people didn’t want to hear me…what they wanted was for my experience to be simple and neat and tied with a bow so that they could consume the cliff notes version, file it under some already existing category in their minds, and move on. And I frustrated people because their pre-made categories didn’t work with my story.
The thing is, I don’t think my experience is unique (the poisoning…yes, that is unique…but being helpless to have people understand before passing judgement…well, I think that happens to people every single day.) I think that this happens when a new mother is dealing with depression and people tell her that she has no reason to be blue. I think this happens when someone makes a political statement and we dismiss them as a crazy/stupid/illogical/heartless person from across the political aisle from us. I think this happens when a person of color simply makes a truthful statement that black lives matter and people scream back that all lives matter. I think this happens when a person struggles with mental illness and people ignore it because they look ok on the outside.
I guess the point that I am trying to make is this: In a courtroom, not just anybody can be brought in to speak about certain matters…people who are qualified to speak on a subject…experts…are brought in (and their credentials are heavily scrutinized)…so why do we think we are qualified to pass judgement about things that we don’t know about? Why do we try to negate the experiences of others when learning from people that are different from us can only broaden our knowledge and deepen our compassion?
This one was hard for me to write. Not only did I struggle with reliving that memory and the feelings that go along with it…but I also struggled with facing my own guilt in this area. How about you? How are you doing with this? Do you spend time with people who are different from you? When you hear a perspective that is different than yours, do you take it in and crunch on it a while or do you begin to mentally rip apart their experience so that you can negate it? What do you have knee-jerk reactions about? Do you actively seek out people who stand counter to you on those subjects so that you can have a deeper understanding or do you surround yourself with people who will agree with your current stance (making it unnecessary to allow your self to become uncomfortable and brave enough to lean in to the discomfort?) Are you still learning something new every day or have you embraced becoming stagnant?
My prayer today is that we would be authentic people who are confident enough to allow others to be authentic also…that we would love people enough to listen and really hear them…that we would step away from our battle stances and step closer to someone who is different from us. Friends, I am praying that we would each draw closer to God and allow him to move us closer to each other. I am praying once again that we would love well.
Much love friends,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
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,
Yesterday morning I was filling out yet another set of medical forms before going under anesthesia…for the 21st time…in only two and half years. It was my fifth doctor’s appointment of the week…yet I grinned at the question in front of me: “What do you want to achieve with your treatment?” I chuckled to myself as I began to write my answer that seemed to stump every doctor who has taken the time to read it: “I want to squeeze every little drop of living out of this life that I possibly can.” Apparently they don’t get that answer very often because it has made several of my doctors look at me a little differently…maybe, just maybe, I’m not just trying to get a script for pain meds out of them? Maybe there is more to this girl than meets the eye? And is it possible that this woman’s pain has allowed her to see something that I have missed?
I was diagnosed about a year and a half ago with occipital neuralgia. What this means is that the occipital nerve that comes out between vertebrae at the top of the neck and branches out and over the whole head is somehow impinged and angry. The result is daily headaches that mimic migraines but do not respond at all to migraine medications. If I let the headaches progress, the pain moves into my eye area and if I don’t catch it with medication early enough, the day is blown…I end up in fetal position in a dark room rocking back and forth and fighting against the oh-so-lovely ice-pick-through-my-eyes sensation that results and persists.
Through the nearly 22 months of headaches, I have become extremely light-sensitive…not just to the brightness of lighting but to the quality of lighting as well (for example, fluorescent lights are the devil!) and since I am a person who thinks in terms of analogies, I can’t help but think that this is an analogy for a spiritual application here too. I didn’t think much about the light that was present around me until I became very sensitive to it. I didn’t think much about the source of light around me until not being aware started causing me physical pain. Becoming acutely aware of lighting has caused me to also look at sources of light in my heart-space…where do I find joy?…what are the life-breathing things?…and how does this connect to “squeezing every drop of living out of this life that I possibly can?”
The answers to these questions have surprised me as I have found light or blessings in some of the most unexpected places (along with the places that I would have expected): a morning without pain, watching my kids get along, a hug and kiss from my husband when he gets home from work, being able to have patience with my kids despite being in pain, my son’s God-given compassion, watching our dogs wrestle and play, my daughter’s passion for creating and exploring, a chance to have a really good belly-laugh, a thoughtful and kind word from a friend, good medical insurance, the sound of birds chirping, playing games with my family, a good medical test result for someone I love, my husband’s seemingly endless supply of patience with my ongoing medical issues, moments of pain-free clarity where I can think and create, and even the pain itself…because if I approach it well, I can sometimes derive strength from it.
This is more than just a “Find the blessings from God” pep talk for myself…more than a “Things could certainly be worse” cliche. What I am getting at is that each moment requires some analysis and effort to be present. What does squeezing every bit of living out of life look like right now? What could I be doing right now that would be life-breathing for myself or those I love? Where am I not living a full life and how can that change? And every time I ask myself those questions, I find more opportunities…opportunities to love well, to learn something new, to pour into someone else, or just observe the sources of light around me right now.
So how are you doing with this? While you probably don’t suffer from O.N., you likely have pain in your life. What could your pain be helping you to see? Where are you going through the motions instead of being intentional with your time here? Could you be squeezing more living out of your life?
My prayer today is that we would all glean as much as we can from our time here…that we would be intentional with, not only our time, but all of our resources (including our pain)…and that we would see where God has placed light in our lives. I am praying that we would live fully and love well.
Much love friends,
This massive dude was barreling toward me. The ball was thrown. He was between me and the ball. I couldn’t move if I had any chance of getting him out…because if the ball missed him, I would have to catch it and tag him without any hesitation. I wasn’t blocking the base…but I had my foot on the bag and was standing inside the diamond…ready. It was going to be close…too close…so close that I think I might have bitten his pecs when he plowed through me and knocked me flat on my back. That’s embarrassing…I hope my panties aren’t showing. Ugh! I opened my eyes to see him and the ump standing over me looking concerned. “Are you ok?” “I’m so sorry! Are you ok?” They each said. I looked at him and said “You’re out.” Then looked at the ump and said “The ball tagged his back before he touched the bag…he’s out.” The ump said “Yes, he’s out…but are you ok.” I had to think about it…”Yeah, I think I’m ok…I’m fine.”
This happened last night at kickball. I’m really sore today…I guess I should expect that…I’m almost 40 with a lot of health issues and I got plowed by a huge dude who probably weighed 2.5 times as much as I do. But here’s the thing that has me almost invigorated this morning: I didn’t break. I hurt. I fell…really hard as it turns out. But I didn’t break. I got back up, dusted as much of the dirt off as I could, fought for my team’s point, tried to piece my pride back together, and got back to work.
Why am I telling you this story? I think that having a mission can change your life…whether it’s your life’s mission or a team’s mission for the night. When you’re focused on your mission, any pain that you are enduring doesn’t seem to hurt as much. For some reason, having a mission in view also seems to give a reason for the pain which somehow makes it more palatable. Also, not related to the story (but totally related to mission) knowing your mission intimately allows you to know quickly…almost like a reflex…the things that are not in alignment with the mission…the things that you can say no to. (That is for those of us who have trouble saying “no” to things and get overwhelmed.)
So how are you doing with this? Has anything knocked you down recently? Were you able to get back up? Were you able to keep your eye on your mission? Does your pain control you or does it fuel you? If it controls you, where is your focus? Do you find yourself staring at the pain or at the mission?
My prayer today is that we will turn our hurts into praise. I’m praying that when we get knocked down, that we would get back up stronger and more fierce than we were before…not hardened…but fierce and strong and focused on our mission. Lord, I ask that you would help us to help each other keep our faces pointed toward you. Amen.
Much love friends,
A few weeks ago, I was at a doctor’s office and found myself speechless (and anyone who knows me know that never happens! As Stan says about me: “There are just so many words!”) Let me back up a bit. I was trying out a new location for getting my testosterone pellet implant and was talking with the doctor about normal stuff when she noticed how I had noted something in my file. I had written something in a manner that indicated that I had some understanding of medicine and so she inquired about my educational background. I proceeded to tell her that I had learned what she was asking about when I had worked for a veterinarian but that I had an undergraduate degree in biomedical science and a master’s degree in integrative physiology. She asked me what I do now and I told her that I was a stay-at-home mom. It was her following question that left me momentarily speechless: “But why would you waste your education?” Do you hear it? Because to me it was loud and clear: “You aren’t enough! What you do isn’t valuable. Investment is wasted on you.” After a few seconds, I recovered and told her that I never thought that education was a waste because regardless of the field of study, learning to think is valuable. Now the truth is that I really learned to think after all of my education but I wanted her to understand that investing in people is never a waste.
As usual, this got me thinking…a lot…in fact, I haven’t been able to let it go for the last 5 weeks…and I think I have finally figured out why it has stuck with me so much. I think that, for my entire life, my biggest struggle has been in understanding and accepting my identity. Now before I lose you, hang in there with me for a minute while I explain with a few examples. When I was young, something happened to me that made me question and doubt my value as a female…as an integral part of God’s family. With the poisoning a few years ago, I came to question if I was worth the expense that I was costing my family. That also led to spiritual upheaval and doubt as to whether anything that I had spent my life believing was true. Recently, I left my job at our old church and that led to me questioning whether or not I could do ministry the way that I am designed to (I mean, if I can’t do ministry at a church, is it likely that I will be able to do it on my own outside of church?) There are tons of other examples but what I am getting at is that I have experienced attack, for the duration of my entire life, on my value as a female and as an image-bearer of God.
So, going back to the story at my doctor’s office, that is why her seemingly innocent question did not feel so innocent to me. I don’t think that she meant to offend me at all…but I do believe that her words betrayed her thoughts…and those thoughts were clearly that I am not living up to my potential. I, however, disagree with her. See, my constant question over the last couple of years has been “What does obedience look like right now?” I’m not making a five-year plan. I’m not climbing the ladder anywhere. I’m not trying to make a pay check. What I have been doing is trying to be present and obedient to God in the now. Some days, that doesn’t look like much to most people. But some days, it looks like everything. My availability to be obedient to God now has helped a friend with an eating disorder in recent months. It has allowed me to have life-breathing conversations with women who are experiencing marital problems. It has allowed me to be present with my kids and talk with them about who they are and how they are designed. It has allowed me to grow closer with my husband during this time of questioning what God would have him do as he searches for a job. I may not have a title or job-description that impresses anyone, but I am fully present with the people in my life when they need it…and that is what obedience looks like for me right now.
So how are you doing with this? Do you know who you are? Really know? Do you know what you were designed for? If you don’t, think about the things that really get you fired up and energized. Think about what it is that you can do for hours and then look up and wonder where all that time went. What I’m getting at is this: Do you know what your calling is and are you doing it? I firmly believe that what we choose to do with our short time here is either life-breathing or life-consuming. Can you identify the things in your life that fall into each category? If you are unsure, ask yourself how you serve others…because if you are only serving yourself, it falls under the life-consuming category. You have gifts…and by definition, gifts are meant to be given away…don’t deprive the world of what you have to offer.
My prayer today is that we would be life-breathing people. That we would not be content to just consume and discard things and people…but that we would invest in others. I am praying that we would start by learning more about Jesus so that we can learn more about who we are as image-bearers. I am praying that we would discard the conversations or events that we play on repeat in our minds that rob us of life and an understanding of our callings. And I am praying that we would be here now and that we would be still enough to ask God “What does obedience look like right now?”
Much love friends,
Warning: Not sure if this one was to be published or not…I was just working through some things by writing it down. If this one doesn’t make sense to you, then it probably wasn’t intended for you. But hopefully, this will be helpful to someone.
I’ve been in the middle of a lot of change in recent weeks and, like many people, I am finding that I am not super-comfortable with all the shifting that has resulted. During the holidays, I gave notice to resign from my position at our church. I had asked for more responsibility…asked to be able to grow something and was hitting nothing but walls where that was concerned. In thinking it through, I realized that I had built this program up…had poured into it…and the program had reached maintenance mode…but I am a builder, not a maintainer…so where would I go now?
At the same time, I began to feel a tug to visit other churches which is bizarre because this church has been my home for 14 years. My most dramatic spiritual growth has been a result of being in this church which has pulled me into close proximity to others who are dramatically growing…bumping up against each other and helping each other to see more clearly where obedience to God resides. But lately, I’ve experienced less and less of a pull in this place…instead of being encouraged to utilize my giftedness and passions, I have felt that I am being told to fit into a pre-formed mold and to shorten my reach…which feels artificial…contrived…contrary to what I am hearing spoken to my soul.
During our first visitation of a new church, we ran into a lot of people that we knew. There was one person in particular who came up to me and said “Hey! You don’t fit here. What are you doing here?” Now, before I go on, this was not said with animosity or anything. She was just confused as to why she was seeing me in a different location than usual. But, even knowing that, it was like a sucker punch to the gut and before I knew it, tears were stinging my eyes and the words were out of my mouth: “Yeah, well, I am not sure I fit anywhere anymore.” Yikes…I’m hurting more than I realized: The mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. Luke 6:45b
Meanwhile, our small group decided to disband…and while I know that everything isn’t about me, it sure felt an awful lot like rejection…like we had been the stop-gap for these other families while they looked for their real friends. (Trying to explain it to the kids was really difficult: No, they aren’t moving…No, they aren’t too busy…they just want to do this with other people.)
And that leads me to where I am right now: I have been sitting on this for weeks…unable to write…creatively and emotionally constipated for lack of better phrasing…until now where I may be riding the swinging pendulum and saying too much. So, this is the time that I feel you asking what the point is of all this self-pitying rambling. Well, there are several I guess: First, I don’t think that being obedient to your calling is easy. I am a builder in a world that naturally and constantly moves from order to chaos…which means that there will always be more work for me to do and that what I am called to do will always be like trying to walk up a river instead of floating down it. Second, there are other people, like me, who are also trying to walk up the river…and they are going to falter…and choke on the water…and they will come up sputtering and gasping for air just like me…and we should be helping each other so that fewer people find themselves swept away by the current. I guess my last point is that none of our decisions are made in a vacuum…they always affect other people even when we try to justify things in our own minds as to how it only affects ourselves.
So, how are you doing with this? Are you in a period of change? How are you responding to the natural discomfort of that change? Are you trying to escape the discomfort or are you leaning into it? What are you called to do? Are you actually answering the call or are you too busy? Are there people in your life that are in a tumultuous period of change that you could encourage simply by seeing them? Are you deluding yourself into thinking that your decisions only affect you? How could you change your perspective and approach so that your decisions are more outwardly focused?
My prayer today is that we would all take an honest look at ourselves and see if we are answering the call that God has placed on our lives. I am praying that we would take steps toward obedience despite the discomfort that accompanies change. Finally, I am praying that we would look around ourselves and find the ones that need encouragement in the midst of their change…that we would see them…really see and speak words of hope to their hurts and discouragement. Much love friends,
I have an incredible girlfriend whose adult son was in an auto accident about 3 weeks ago. He has survived (although with traumatic brain injuries) and is having to slowly relearn the most basic of functions (like how to breathe) on his own again. Every time the son makes some progress, no matter how minor it might seem, my friend…his mother…rejoices at his progress. She praises God for his goodness with each small victory…because it is that…a victory.
While my girlfriend and her family are celebrating every nuance of her son’s life, I am struck by how much of my own life I am wasting…missing…allowing to slip past me in a blur. I’ve always been a busy social butterfly…flittering here and there…finding social interactions everywhere I turn but also able to “get stuff done.” Recently though, I started discovering more about my personality and found that I am a creative (Seriously, who’d have thunk it? Not this girl!) and I have been trying to test that side of me to see how it holds up: building things, tweaking or improving on already existing items, and creating art in order to discover what God would reveal to me within me. I have found that this is where real passion exists in me…I feel alive when I am doing it!
The problem? Well, I didn’t make any changes to my life other than adding in these new projects to an already full-to-bursting schedule. I kept adding on…more…and more…and there have been consequences…real tangible consequences: I have not yet eaten lunch with my children at their school this school year, we have gotten out of the habit of reading together as a family in the evenings, we haven’t had a family game night in months, writing has been something that I think fondly about but never get to do, and my mind doesn’t know how to settle down at bed time anymore. These may seem minor to you but they are big for me because they are things that I would consider to be among my priorities…but by looking at how I spend my time and energy, no one would guess that those are my priorities.
So, recently, I gave a talk in our marriage class about fun and connectedness and one of the big points that I made was about our out-of-control schedules…how every time we say “yes” to something, we are saying “no” to something else because time is a finite resource. I think we get stuck in a habit of saying yes to good things and we feel ok about it because we look at it and think “I’m doing what I should because this is a good thing.” Before we know it, our lives are full of good things and we end up missing the best things: sneaking into the kids rooms after they fall asleep and watching their chests rise and fall with their breath, snuggling on the couch in the quiet house with the pups while they each try to burrow in closer to me than the other one, taking the time to let my husband know that I am still excited to study him and learn who he is and what his heartbeat is about…these are the moments that make a life…accomplishing things is not a life…it’s a to-do list. (Yes, Bible studies are great but do you need to participate in 10 of them? Where is the cutoff?) The task before us isn’t to fit as much as we possibly can into our lives…the most productive person does not actually win…the American Dream of having and doing it all…is falling short (in my esteem.) I think my goal is to do less…to accomplish little…but to live more…and to learn to see and celebrate the little things that make it a life…the things that I take for granted every day…the things that my sweet friend is praising God for when her son is able to experience them for another day in that hospital room. It’s time to celebrate the every-day miracles: life’s breath, deep renewing sleep, fits of belly laughter that leave me out of breath and with a cramp, the warmth of my children’s bodies as they sit next to me on the couch, holding my husband’s gaze as we communicate across the room without moving or saying anything, and truth spoken to my heart by El Roi (God who sees me.)
How are you doing with this? Is your life flying by? Are you experiencing your life or missing it? What is your purpose? Does how you spend your time reflect your purpose? Do the people that you love know that they are a part of your purpose? Are they a part of your life or a part of your to-do list? We can’t change the past but we can absolutely make changes today…what changes do you need to implement in order to live in a way that shows what your heart beats for?
My prayer this morning is that we would slow down and look with honesty at our time and how we spend it. I am praying that we would feel convicted about areas of busy-ness that need to change as well as areas of neglect that need our attention. I am praying that we would not take for granted what my friend’s son is fighting to accomplish…that we would not waste the good gifts that our loving God has granted us…and that we would not trade in God’s best for something that is merely good. Much love friends,
A couple of weeks ago, I was buying folders (and other stuff) at a local “stuff-mart” for a marriage class that I lead at our church. I had a ton of the folders in my basket and so I told the older man with a heavy accent who watched over the self-checkout lines that I would appreciate it if he would allow me to to count up all the folders and have him enter the number into the register instead of me having to swipe them one at a time. He agreed and I went on about my business. Once I counted them up, I told him that there were 110 folders. He asked “100?” and I responded “No, 110.” This seemingly unimportant interaction ended up having a profound effect on him and, in the end, myself as well.
While I was going through the payment process, the man asked me if I was a teacher. I told him that no, I wasn’t…but that these folders were for a class at my church. He continued to ask questions about what kind of class and what religion the church was. I answered, not really thinking much about it, until he said, “I ask because I notice some things: the whole time you were over there by yourself at checkout, you are smiling. Then, I watch you count the folders. There were lots of times that they stick together and you make sure to pull apart and get number right and then when I asked with wrong number, you correct it so that you pay more.” The man concluded with “Ok, so you are preacher then?” My immediate answer was no, that I just lead a class. He asked if I shared my religion with this class and I replied that yes, I did. His response was what stilled me “Do Christians not call that a preacher?” I smiled at him and said, “Yes, I suppose we do.” The conversation went on for a while, even though I was already late for an appointment, because it felt imperative to me that I not rush this interaction. Before I left, the man knew the name of my church, my name, and a little more about Jesus.
If you have made it this far through this rambling of mine, you are already asking “What is the point?” I guess I would have to say that I learned several:
The first point is that you never know who is observing you and drawing conclusions about you and those you represent by your words, actions, and body language. I had no idea that I was being studied. (I also had no idea that I was smiling alone like a crazy person…although I do hear from strangers often that my smile has improved their day.)
The second point is that you don’t always have the time or opportunity to “clean up” your response or behavior. Knowing that you represent more than just yourself can cause you to behave differently…for a while…or in certain circumstances. But what about the circumstances where you encounter people like this and your guard is down? If you are playing a role…performing for an audience…at some point, people are going to see through the facade. Wouldn’t it be so much better to have the change be on the inside and let it spill out to your behavior?
The first two points we’ve all heard before and they are not particularly insightful…valuable yes…new or insightful? Not really.
The last point was for me to take to heart: I have struggled for a long time with my own spiritual giftedness and calling. Culturally, (I live in the Bible Belt) it is a bit taboo to be a female with the gifting that I have: Pastor/Shepherd, Teacher, Prophesy, and Exhortation. (Just typing these words has made my pulse rate and blood pressure shoot up! I wish that was an exaggeration…but it isn’t. In all honesty, I tried really hard to convince God that he had messed up and that he should give me more “feminine” gifts.) The truth is, I feel alive when I am interacting with people and problem-solving, encouraging, speaking truth, and helping to point them toward Jesus. It is life-giving for me and fills me with energy. So, the final point to myself is this: regardless of whether or not the people around you ever acknowledge what is going on in you…regardless of whether or not your title ever matches your function (some of you will say that this doesn’t matter…but it does! If I were a man, it would be absolutely acceptable for me to be called “preacher” and even get paid as such and experience the natural fulfillment that would accompany the position…but it has been ingrained in me to immediately say no to that and even feel shame and guilt over someone else drawing that conclusion. I shouldn’t think “but can’t you see that I am female?”) Regardless of whether or not I am “allowed” or supported, I am called by God to use this giftedness in the ways that he leads me…and I will be obedient.
This is the point of the musing where I flip the tables on you: What is your God-given giftedness? Are you using it? If using our gifts is how we show God to the world and our purpose on Earth is showing God to the world, it would stand to reason that we would use our gifts a lot…so…do you? If not, what is stopping you? (Don’t think that it is other people because there is a huge difference between title and function!) If you struggle with this, what changes could you make in order to be more available to God when he asks you to do something?
My prayer today is that we would love God by loving those he loves…that we would use our gifts and passions to honor him…that we would stop making excuses and start being obedient. I am also praying that those of us who are hindering others from using their gifts would see the ramifications of that and get out of the way. Much love friends,
***It’s been a while since I mused and this is pretty tender for me so please be gentle.***