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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10/4/17 Morning Musing: Become the Expert You Pretend to Be

“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,

Beks

“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

Extremely brief musing: My Parents Always Said “Bekah Leigh has never met a stranger.”

I’m not sure why but strangers are very comfortable approaching me where ever I go. I just had a little old lady come up to me at sprouts and tell me all about how she was in a coma for seven years and how many cats she has now and how much she likes the Henna on my hand and how mangoes are yummy and how Kroger has blueberry/ acai berry tea now…and so so SO much more. I got the impression that she went to the store just to find a person (any person) to talk to because she seemed desperate to get to say all of these things and never paused to take a breath. I mostly just looked her in the eye and listened but I found that I had lots of feelings when I left: I felt lonely for her and a bit sad but also happy because she was so happy to say all of these things and have someone to receive it and see her. I feel blessed to have my loved ones and memory of the last 7 years. And…I feel even more convinced that people are walking around among us who just need human contact and are dying to connect to someone…even if it’s some random gal at Sprouts. So, I think my take-away is that we should pay attention to those who travel in and out of our circles of contact and notice what their needs are. We might just make someone’s day by simply acknowledging them and allowing them the space to express what they are thinking. 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

1/16/15 Morning Musing: Today, You’ll Either Be Tracking Right Along With Me or Calling the Folks With the Butterfly Nets!

I was getting my things together after Bible Study and my mind was already on the leader meeting that I would be quickly transitioning into. I certainly had a busy afternoon scheduled with no room for playing around. “Go stand next to her.” Huh? It wasn’t audible but this thought came to me out of nowhere. I immediately started to reason it away: “I don’t want to be late…I have so much to do…I have nothing that I need to say to her…” “Go stand next to her.” Seriously? “She is going to think I’m crazy…she is in the middle of a conversation with someone else. I have nothing to say. This feels foolish.” Again. “Go stand next to her.” *sigh* With resignation and, admittedly a bit of frustration, I went and stood beside this woman that was engrossed in conversation with someone else. When someone does this, it is usually because they have something to say and they are just waiting until your conversation is finished…except I didn’t know what I was going to say. It didn’t matter though because she finished her conversation with this other woman, turned to me, and then her eyes got as big as saucers as she exclaimed “I’ve been wanting to talk to you!” She continued on with an entire conversation that, of course, drew me in. I missed most of my meeting that afternoon and the world did not end…but you know what did happen? That woman prayed to receive Christ right there in that room.

Why in the world am I telling you this story? Glad you asked. Over the last few years, I have become more and more aware of the Holy Spirit. Now…hold on…before you write me off as a mental-case, let me back up. I grew up in a good Southern-Baptist home with a pretty firm grasp of who Jesus is and who God is…but the Holy Spirit…he was more of an enigma. The thought of him wasn’t as concrete to me so I sort of thought of him as “Uncle Spook”…you know…that relative that everyone knows about but doesn’t talk much about because he (or we) are thought of as a little bit crazy. (A bit blasphemous…I know…but…I’m being painfully honest here…I just didn’t get it.)

Then, through a Bible Study that walked me through the Trinity, I began to unlock glimpses of understanding. I went home and talked to Stan about it and we decided that year to make an effort to quiet ourselves enough to hear some of what he is trying to tell us. Once we began trying to hear him, we started hearing him better and discerning which thoughts were our own and which were divine…that led to us deciding to try to obey when we would hear him…and that led to us trying to obey him immediately when we would hear him. This was a several year process: At first, we started with trying to discern between our own voices and his…that actually was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Honestly, my own voice is rather selfish and manipulative (I know some of you won’t believe me…but I am a natural-born con-artist. I read people extremely well when I’m face-to-face with them (which may be why I want to be around people so much) and my sinful side knows exactly how to exploit people.) But, my “conscience” is extremely strong…over-powering even…and I began to realize that it isn’t my conscience as much as it is the Holy Spirit. I can not bear to violate his voice. (As it turns out, my giftedness is Pastor/Shepherd, Teaching, Discernment, Prophesy, and Exhortation. What that means in English? I love people, read them well, advise well, can explain things in terms that they can understand, and love to encourage. I know that sounds braggy…but it’s not me as much as it is the Holy Spirit in me. BUT, when I am not obeying God well, those abilities in me look different: they look like manipulation and selfishness…and I don’t think that anything could be uglier.) All that to say, when I have thoughts that seem out of context, are good in nature, but make me a little uncomfortable…I now know to give some room to that thought…let it grow…because it probably isn’t coming from myself. (Much like the story at the beginning of this musing.)

Once we learned to hear the Holy Spirit talking, Stan and I had to work on obeying him and then we had to work on obeying him more quickly. This revelation came to us as we would have separate opportunities to bless people. For example, Stan was at Kroger and there was a man in the checkout line in front of him who was pointing to an ad and trying to get something for his sweet little daughter who was with him. Stan was hurting for the man. It was obvious that he had misunderstood the ad and didn’t have enough money to get what he had promised his little girl. Stan wanted to buy the toy for the daughter but felt weird about it…felt like he was intruding and maybe would hurt the man’s pride so he kept silent and ended up leaving with regret. He had lost his opportunity…he never saw the man again…he came home and told me about it and how he felt like he heard the Spirit but didn’t obey. The next day, I was at Wal-mart and there was an elderly woman in line in front of me at the checkout. Her debit card kept not working and the cashier looked a little closer at it…it wasn’t her debit card…it was her sam’s club membership card. She was deflated. She asked the cashier to put her things aside while she figured out how she would pay…she told me to go ahead of her. With Stan’s story from the day before in mind, I made eye contact with the cashier and quietly told her to keep it totaled and add mine to it (The woman kept rummaging around in her purse looking for payment.) I then paid for the woman’s items as well as my own. The cashier handed her the bags and the woman was confused. When she realized what happened, she was in tears…she kept telling me that she was independent and would handle things and I agreed with her (turns out, she was a recent widow and was trying to learn how to do things on her own that she had done with her best friend for decades. She was trying to prove that she could handle things well on her own.) I told her that I didn’t doubt all of that for a single moment but that “maybe God was just trying to tell her in that moment that he loved her, that it’s okay to depend on community some, and to just let her know that he is here and he sees her. Also, it could one day be my mom in that position…how would I want her treated?” Eventually, we parted ways and went about our lives. The greatest part of this? The cashier was in tears as she witnessed the whole thing and she was impressed with God…not me.

I know this musing sounds rather braggy and touchy-feely: “These are my gifted areas. Let me tell you about how charitable we are.” Please don’t read it that way. That is not my intention here and honestly, sharing this makes me really uncomfortable. I’d much rather get my reward from God than put this out there for you to read and probably judge. The reason I am telling you all of this is because I have been completely changed by the decision to listen to the Holy Spirit. My life is better and more full and less ego-centric…and it’s all because I decided to have less of me and more of him. I have had so many people ask me how I hear from the Spirit and this is my way of sharing it. (It’s not a big voice that is booming and clearly “the voice of God!” For me, it comes more in the form of weird but kind thoughts that spur me to do something (or not do something…I’ve even heard the Spirit tell me to shut up before!)

If you are a Christian, you have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit…so how are you doing with this? Do you ever hear the Holy Spirit? If not, do you ever quiet the noise enough to hear him? What can you do to be close to him? (I have a special spot that I go to…it’s weird…I know…but the picture for this post is my “Musing Spot.” I go here each morning (that I am able to) and quiet my brain and pray that God would use me to speak or that he would shut me up. Now, I hear him all the time and it isn’t nearly as weird for me…it’s more exciting.) How does the Holy Spirit sound to you? Do you have a different experience than me? I’d love to hear about it! (I get a more-complete picture of God when I gain the perspective that someone else has of him.) Have you ever missed opportunities to obey him? How did you feel and did it change you?

My prayer today is that Christians would be truly changed beings…from the inside out. That we would pursue less of ourselves and more of him. That we would love others well by being obedient to God with our gifts that he has given to us. I’m praying that we would quiet the noise in our lives enough to hear the God that we tend to crowd out of our lives. Much love friends,
Beks

11/19/14 Morning Musing: La la la la la…I Can’t Hear You!

Yesterday, I had the pest control guy over to do a follow-up treatment of the house and garage for bugs. In order to make sure it was as effective as possible, I also treated my car and removed all the floor mats to wash thoroughly, washed all the bedding in the house, and took Shiner and Bock to the groomer for flea dip and then put frontline on them. (Fun side note: I am pretty sure that I scared the crap out of our pest guy. Stan and I have body pillows in our bed and since Team Massey is allergic to dust, I have water-proof covers on all our pillows, mattresses, etc. It is hard to find them for body pillows, so I have our body pillows sealed in giant black trash bags under the soft pillowcases. When I stripped the linens yesterday, I left the trash bag-covered body pillows on the bed and it looked suspiciously like I had done some sort of mob-type killing and forgot to hide the bodies. That poor pest control guy…he probably never knows what to expect at our house!) Wouldn’t you know…I still found a flea this morning on Shiner. It is so frustrating to do everything that you can think of to do and still not see the results that you are looking for.

I know that sometimes, it takes a while to get all of the fleas in all of the their life stages taken care of…it’s a process. (I worked for an amazing vet in Fort Worth for about 10 years so I am familiar with the struggle that occurs with pests.) I guess that is why they are called pests…if it were easy to get rid of them without them returning, they would be called something else…like…money! But I digress.

Why am I talking about fleas, corpses, and frustration? So glad you asked! The corpse part was just for a giggle, but seeing that flea this morning got me thinking about other things that pester me (besides my children.) Things that came to mind were pet sins, busy-ness, and bitterness. These are all areas where I can fall into a trap of trying to handle things in my own strength. I can try to avoid the temptations that violate my soul…I can try to re-arrange my schedule so that I can be more efficient and fit more in…and I can try to push the bitterness down deep inside so that it hopefully gets forgotten and quiet (if that doesn’t work…I can usually quiet it temporarily with a cookie or three.) Occasionally, I even get desperate and try to just blow these situations up by withdrawing completely from all the areas of my life where I feel pestered. The thing is…just like with the fleas, I am trying to use my intellect and my strength to get clean and on track…instead, I think I should be relying on what I know will work: For the fleas, it’s Frontline and time…For the other, it’s the Holy Spirit and time. I know what will work if I am willing to give over control and wait for a bit…trust that it/He will do what I know it/He is wired to do: take something that is unclean and ugly and transform it into something beautiful.

So, what about you? What is pestering you? Is there a sin pattern that you tend to return to without realizing it? Is there something that God is working on in you but you have trouble being patient or your schedule is so busy that you don’t have time to listen to what he has to say? Do you keep giving something over to him just to turn around and find that you have snatched back up? If so, I am in the same boat…and the boat has fleas! What should we do about it? Well, it’s going to sound weird…but I think the first thing we do is nothing. I think we need to schedule a whole lot of “nothing” on our calendars. We need to turn off a lot of the noise that distracts us from hearing the voice of God (which for me, turns into frustration at him for “not talking to me.” How ridiculous am I? I’m simultaneously yelling “Talk to me God!” while I hold my fingers in my ears and sing “La-la-la-la-la-la….I can’t hear you!”) During the scheduled “nothing”…I think we should pray and ask God to point out these areas to us and then (are you ready for this?) we should SHUT UP and listen…for a long time…listen for his voice instead of exercising our own. It’s going to be hard…but all good things usually are, in my experience.

My prayer for us all today is that we would be still and quiet and just listen to our God speak truth, and life, and love into our hearts. I’m praying that we would trust him to do what is right and healthy for us instead of trying to control it all ourselves. I’m praying for stillness and peace in our souls as we are transformed into creatures that repel these bad habits and sin patterns just as my dogs will repel fleas. Much love friends,

Beks

P.S. If you live in the Fort Worth area and need a fantastic veterinarian, you should look into Dr. Randy Jones at Cityview Animal Hospital. He is a wonderful vet and an even greater man. I learned a lot about the character of God by working for him.