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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5/9/16 – Morning Musing: Being Me

Last fall, I went to a conference specifically for Christian women in leadership. I was really excited to go and there was one particular session that I was looking forward to: Working With Men: Dive, Survive, or Thrive. I was familiar with the speaker for this session and knew that she was a pioneer for women where she is employed. Since I was working in a place where the overwhelming majority of leadership positions were filled by males and the majority of supportive roles were filled by females, I had found myself chaffing…struggling under the weight of this. Now don’t get me wrong…I was never looking to climb the ladder…I wasn’t even looking for a job when I got that one…I just wanted to minister to people…to help people see and embrace the truth and grace and freedom available to them…I wasn’t interested in money or position and so I was able to approach things without an agenda.  

Anyway, I went to this session with some of my work friends and the most humiliating thing happened: The speaker began to speak and I began to furiously take notes. As the session progressed, I began to feel heavier and heavier until I just sat there open-mouthed and confused. Is this really happening? Did I really just hear her say that women needed to suppress their emotions in order to work with men? And thank the men that allowed them to be a leader? What? And then it happened. I felt the first tear fall down my cheek. No!!!!! Stop! I berated myself as my vision blurred while I sat there on the second row and cried as the speaker asked this room full of women leaders to suppress what is a big part of many of us and is fully God-given. The message I received loudly and clearly was “If you want to be successful in this male-dominated field, you will need to become more masculine so that the men can feel comfortable with you.” The speaker made eye-contact with me and was visibly disturbed by the expression on my face complete with the tears, sniffing, and red blotchy skin. No poker-face here!  

My co-workers who were with me were trying to help me out but I just couldn’t seem to reign it all in. It took me a while to find words for why I was so broken by that speaker’s message but I finally did. I was grieving. This woman, whom I had looked up to was giving me the same message as the men that I had struggled with: There is a specific persona that I would have to embody if I wanted to get to really do ministry. I would have to suppress the strongest parts of myself and be inauthentic in order to get the opportunity to speak truth to people. Do you see the irony? I would have to lie about who I am to myself and others if I wanted the chance to speak truth…any truth I could ever offer anyone would have to begin with a lie. I couldn’t stomach this at all. I had come so far from the self-doubting girl who didn’t understand why God had made her “incorrectly” (a female with “male” gifts of leadership, pastoring, teaching, etc.) I had finally reached a point of understanding that I, too, was an image-bearer of the Almighty despite being female…had finally started to accept my God-given and carefully designed character and personality and this message directly attacked the freedom that had finally become available to me. I had gotten this message a lot over the years and had been able to disregard it most of the time because I figured that we all learn our lessons at different rates…just because I knew something was true didn’t mean that everyone else already knew it. What made it so very painful this time…was that this message was coming from a woman who had paved the way for me…she should have known better.  

I lost respect for one of my role-models that day because she was asking me to be inauthentic…to lie to myself and others about who I am…to hide. I have a lot of flaws…and I own them fully…but inauthenticity is not one of them. I can not and will not pretend to be less so that others can feel good about themselves.  

So, how are you doing with this? Do you know yourself? Really know yourself? Do you understand how your specific characteristics are meant to benefit the world around you? Do you sometimes doubt your gifts and design? Where do those doubts stem from? What usually spurs you to deny who you are? How can you change that way of thinking around so that you can honor not only how you were designed…but also the One who designed you?  

My prayer today is that we would be authentic people who love others, ourselves, and God well by speaking and living out truth because if what we offer isn’t truth, we are just filling the world with noise.

Much love friends,
Beks

9/22/15 Morning Musing: It’s Only Bravery If We are Scared

In about a month, I am giving a talk in my marriage class. It shouldn’t be a big deal…I’m outgoing and never (ever!) have trouble talking with folks (whether I know them or not and whether they know that they want to talk or not)…but having a conversation is different from holding a microphone and talking from the front of the room. I have incredible anxiety around these kinds of situations…any situation where I feel like I am having to “perform.” The subject area is right up my alley: Fun and Connectedness. (I mean, c’mon! This practically has my name written all over it.) So what’s the problem?

Well, I guess my problem is two-fold:

First, there is the performance thing. I am the girl who would vomit before tests in school…from seventh grade all the way into grad school. And even as an adult, I would get performance anxiety around testing for taekwondo. (I’m sort of ashamed (and sort of proud) to admit that I was known as the lady with the fun flask at testings and tournaments. I would arrive early and pour vanilla rum into Dr. Pepper and voila! It was a yummy Vanilla Dr. Pepper from Sonic…but more fun.) I mean, c’mon! I’m an adult! (at least chronologically if not otherwise.) And…I am paying a lot of money for these judges to judge me…but I was so afraid that they would also “judge” me. *shudders* As a deeply-died-in-the-wool-people-pleaser, that thought alone can make me freeze up and just shut down. (And yes, I know all of the reasons (Biblically and otherwise) why I should not care what anyone thinks of me…it’s my blood pressure, stomach, and brain that have the absolutely terrified and paralyzed disconnect.) **Warning: Digresses to a story: When I first started board breaking in taekwondo, I got all gummed up in my head at testing because I knew my board-holders (Mr. Scott Mischke and Mr. Nevels.) Nicest guys in the world…but I knew them. When mentally preparing myself for this testing, I had faceless board holders…but these guys…I knew! And I liked them! Ugh! Well, as it would go, I was all amped up and kicking it wrong for the first two tries. When I got to the last possible attempt, the thought occurred to me, “If you throw up on them, you will have to quit because it will be too embarrassing to ever return to class.” Well…that’s just great! I knew then that vomiting was eminent and I had to do the last kick (pass or fail) before the vomiting happened or I was just screwed. So, I managed to throw a terrible, ugly, embarrassingly bad side kick…and accidently broke the board…with my calf. What the-? Hold on, I used to be a science teacher…I have taught physics…that isn’t supposed to be possible! And in my confusion and disbelief, I passed my test. I stood there stunned and saw the stunned and amused faces of Scott and Kevin looking back at me as I thanked them and wandered away somewhere. (I’m still not sure what I did or where I went after that…I sure hope I wasn’t driving.) The only thing that made sense to me was that I was so pathetic that God had mercy on my and broke the board for me. Honestly, it’s the only thing that I can think of.**

The other problem for me, where this upcoming talk is concerned, has to do with my long-held belief about women being quiet in church (1 Tim 2.) And while I have this settled in my mind after extensive study (I am happy to have a conversation about this if you want,) there is still something that nags at me…some insidious voice that tells me that I am being a “bad girl” (and not in the fun way…just in the disobedient-to-God way) and that gives me heartburn. It gives me pause and it opens me up to doubt. This nagging thought is the reason that I have denied my Spiritual giftedness for so long…but I simply can’t deny it anymore: Pastor/Shepherd, Teacher, Prophecy (Counsel), and Exhortation (Encouragement)…these gifts define who God made me to be and the story that he has chosen for my life to tell. So, every time I consider doing this, I have to go through the entire exercise of re-studying in order to make sure that I am in humble obedience to God and not in some sort of rebellion. It can be exhausting.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I guess it’s for a couple of reasons: First, I’d love prayer support. Ever since making this decision, I have honestly felt attack. My time has managed to become over-loaded with stuff that I don’t like or have a passion for (soul-sucking tedious stuff like updating websites and dealing with rosters and stuff) and have been denied the deep conversations with actual people’s faces (in person) about real ideas. I have been unable to muse although it is one of the only things I want to do. So, I am asking for prayer as often as God brings it to mind to think about. (And thank you in advance.)

Another reason I’m writing about this is that I think that big things are happening in the Church (universal…not just the one I attend) where biases (gender as well as others) are concerned. As long as we are unable to put ourselves in someone else’s circumstances (gender, race, socioeconomics, orientation, up-bringing, etc.) it is crucial that we talk with people to gain their perspective. I would be willing to bet that very few male pastors in the Bible Belt have struggled against feeling like they are a willfully disobedient Christ-follower for speaking truth in church. Considering that many of us spend time with others who are like us, it stands to reason that we lack exposure to many perspectives that could allow us glimpses of God’s truth and character that we don’t currently see.

Finally, I’m writing this as an encouragement. I don’t think that there are many worthwhile things in life that don’t require some work to accomplish. For example, if public speaking were easy for me, I might be prone to thinking that I was doing it through my own strength…I might forget my need for God…and then I’d miss the entire point of why I do this.

Time to flip the tables: How are you doing with this? Is there something that you should be doing but aren’t because you “aren’t good at it?” (For me, it shows up as recurring thoughts that make me go “Where did that come from? I don’t wanna do that!”) Are you surrounding yourself in “holy huddles” and not exposing yourself to other perspectives? (We are each a PART of the body…not an entire body on our own…we are meant to be in community with people who are different from ourselves (different body parts.) Who can you ask to enter with you into a healthy exchange of ideas? How can you grow in your understanding of God and the story that he would like to use your life to tell?

My prayer today is that we would be obedient to our Lord regardless of whether or not we like what he has planned for us to do. I am praying that we would honor him with a gift-offering of being willing to lean into our discomfort instead of fleeing from it. And finally, I’m praying that we would respect him and those he loves by allowing them to share stories about their experiences with God with us.

Much love friends,

Beks

5/2/14 Morning Musing: Knight in Shining Armor or Control-freak Wrapped in Tin Foil?

My best friend in high school went through a period of time where her parents were warring with each other and filed for divorce due to infidelity and, what I believe was, mental illness. I remember this friend and I trying to help her mother get on her feet and gain some independence…learning to live alone, take care of the house alone, get all the bills in her own name, and even get a job after being a house wife for 20 years. I remember being so incredibly shocked at how dependent this woman was when she asked me “How am I going to get gas in my car?” I was probably too flippant when I responded, “Uhhh…go to the gas station and put it in there?” She looked at me terrified and said, “But I’m not a man! I don’t know how to pump gas!” And again, too flippantly (seeing a theme here?) I responded “Well, it doesn’t actually require…a penis.” I was so confused by her helplessness. Once I realized the severity of her circumstances, I took her out and taught her how to pump gas and buy groceries and what not. I remember feeling how tragic this situation was…how humiliating for her…how betrayed she felt…how small her world was…and I knew right then that I would never allow myself to go through that. I was my own woman…I wasn’t writing off men…but I wanted to not ever be completely dependent on one either.

Here is the thing though, I think that we, as women, have laid a trap for men where they just about can’t win. We have been untruthful about what we say we want: We want to be independent but want them to take care of us. We want to be empowered but we still want them to swoop in and save us. We want them to be tender but not weak or weepy. We want them to provide and be a provider but also not feel weird if we make more money than they do. We want them to be protective but never get jealous. We want them to basically be a knight in shining armor…but only when we want them to be and only in the way that we want them to be…poor men…no wonder so many of them want beer and a man cave…they are probably just trying to figure this nonsense out.

So, as per my usual…all of this got me thinking about the myths that we tell ourselves and the men in our lives and I thought I would clarify some things (at least from my perspective.) I don’t know a single woman who likes to have all of her problems solved for her by her man…this makes us feel helpless and powerless. I would much rather Stanton Billy challenge me to be better and stronger in my own right…but to handle that challenge in gentle ways so that I don’t turn my fury onto him instead. Also, I love that Stan is so committed to providing for our family…but it doesn’t mean that I can’t work or that I don’t contribute…he has empowered me to decide what would be the most fulfilling and healthy decision for me. He encourages me to do what is beneficial to myself and our family and is flexible and open-minded about how that might look. Then there is the jealousy thing…very few things are less attractive to me than a clingy and jealous man…but on the flip side, I don’t want him to not give a damn either…there is a balance to be achieved…invested but still independent is probably how I would word it. In my experience, women don’t want a man to swoop in on his white horse with sword raised and save them…they just want them to want to.

I think that what we tend to want from our men is to feel like we are on the same team and we are invested in but still acknowledge that we were independent, complete people before we met the love of our lives. So, please, put down the trashy romance novels and archaic thinking about roles of men and women and invest in each other…serve each other…empower each other…and love each other well. I know that today’s musing doesn’t apply to many of you today…it’s just what was tumbling around in my head. What are your thoughts on this? Does this apply to you? Are you wired differently? I am open to other perspectives…this is just mine.