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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love friends,
Beks

9/29/15 Morning Musing: Messy

My lovely niece, Abigail, received something worrisome the other day in the mail. Without going into too much detail, it was a bill from an institution for a late cancellation fee. The problem? That same institution was the reason for the late cancellation. I helped her write an appeal letter and they denied it and said that they don’t make exceptions at all (Then what is the point of the appeal process? It’s like someone telling you “No…but ask me again.” and when you do…”No!” That drives me crazy…I digress.)  

The other day, I received a call from a woman who is in a dangerous relationship. She is living in a shelter with her daughter and she was considering returning to her home with her husband. She had made a clear expectation of what she would require from him in order to feel safe enough to return home and he had not met that expectation. But she was itching to go home…she didn’t like the inconvenience and she had started blurring the boundaries for safety she had drawn in her own mind.  
Last week, Michaela was upset about a poor performance on a test in school and was getting pink-faced and blurry-eyed about it. I held her and comforted her but she was struggling with her own disappointment in herself.
Interestingly, I told each lady the same thing: “The best thing you can do right now, is be obedient to God right now.” (Yes, I recycle my advice…ha!) This was on the tip of my tongue with each lady because it is what I have personally been hearing from God for some time now. I’m reading a book called “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry” and at the very beginning, she draws an analogy: 
 “But one of the things I know for sure is that those who are looking to us for spiritual sustenance need us first and foremost to be spiritual seekers ourselves. They need us to keep searching for the bread of life that feeds our own souls so that we can guide them to places of sustenance for their own souls. Then, rather than offering the cold stone of past devotionals, regurgitated apologetics or someone else’s musings about the spiritual life, we will have bread to offer that is warm from the oven of our intimacy with God.”
Other than the words about “musings” bothering me (Ha!) this really resonated with me. How many times have I been struggling with something only to find that, what I am offered by those trying to help me, are simply platitudes…cliches? That has never lightened my burden. It has only added weight to the load that I was already carrying (and of course allowed them to wash their hands of the situation without entering into the mess) because it requires mental energy and time to address the “truth” that was just shared with me. For example, when I was going through treatment from the poisoning aftermath, there were those who made that hell all the more difficult with comments like, “If you think more positively, you’ll get better.” (translation: you are in charge of how you feel so you are choosing to be sick.) “Your treatment seems too extreme, I think you should find a new doctor.” (translation: if I undermine your doctor or treatment, then I can believe that what you are experiencing is not as severe as you let on.) (or my favorite “The pain is probably all in your mind.” (translation: crazy, whacko, nut job! You are already struggling with this…let me just add a good dose of self-doubt to the mix and see what happens.) Bottom line? They were making it clear to me that they were not safe people for me.
What is the point? I’m getting there. I think that we are called to be an assistance to the wounded who are around us…help carry the burden with them…enter in…get messy. But before we can do that well, we have to be willing to sit in our own mess and be real with God. We have to shut up and hear what he is telling us so that we can share that truth with other people when we enter into their broken places with them. To do otherwise is a disservice and only adds to their burden.
So how are you doing with this? Do people turn to you for help? What are you offering them? Warm bread or stale cracker? Who do you turn to when you need wise counsel? How can we do this better? How are we showing Jesus to the world?  

My prayer today is that we would invest more in our people and in our time with God. I’m praying that we would get comfortable being uncomfortable and messy and that we would love God deeply, be loved by God deeply, and respond in the only appropriate way: by loving people deeply.
Much love friends,
Beks

1/29/15 Morning Musing: Here Is My Mess…What Will You Do With It?

I’m messed up. When I say this, I don’t mean it in a funny way…I’m seriously messed up. There are things about me that I have known were wrong with me for years and even decades but I wasn’t joining the pieces together to figure out what was going on: When I was in middle school, I found that I started getting really nervous before tests…you could just say the word test and I would have to go to the bathroom and throw up. I started getting referred to the school counselor every year because someone would witness it and, being super-skinny, the assumption was that I was bulimic. I would explain to the counselor and she/he would always tell me to settle myself down and not get so worked up about things. That’s a bit easier said than done…I mean, if I could manage to not throw up, don’t you think I would? It’s not like it’s a fun party idea. This trend in me went on all the way through grad school. Still vomitting my emotions which were just so overwhelmingly big! Anytime I had a confrontation or some sort of performance, off to the ladies’ room I would run. I was fast to have confrontations with people which made me think of myself as unkind and impatient…the truth was, I would just rather get the confrontation over with than drag on anxiety over the potential future moment because the anxiety was so much worse. Even in Tae Kwon Do, I became known as the girl who would bring her “fun flask” to testing and tournaments because I would get so wound up at the idea of people judging me…for the record, they are called judges and I was paying them to judge my abilities…but no matter, I would freak out and have to run to the ladies’ room again. I know, I know…you wish you could be me…we can’t all be that lucky though. 😉

What in the world is my point? Well, several things honestly: For one thing, I think that we grossly underestimate the power of our body chemistry. I received a life-changing diagnosis last week from two separate doctors…I have an anxiety disorder. At first, I blew them off because “I’m a very happy person.” Turns out, it is not the same as depression…it also turns out that the chronic pain I’ve been living with for the past 8-9 years is from constant muscle spasms due to my body’s inability to release tension properly. Oy! I minored in chemistry and have a master’s degree in physiology! I should know this! But when the chemical imbalance is in you, it is much more difficult to see it objectively.

Secondly, I think we have some misconceptions about what weakness looks like and what strength looks like. For example, I think that we should recognize the less obvious forms of strength…things like choosing your battles so that you are able to value relationships over winning a debate, serving in an area where you are unlikely to be noticed, or taking the time to study those around you and discover what ways make them feel the most loved…the most seen…and love them in that way…in their own way.

Finally, and please please hear me on this, do NOT assume that because someone’s health struggle is mental/psychological that they can/should just pray their way through it. A simple chemical imbalance can make basic, every-day functions nearly impossible to handle. When a person with the imbalance hears you say something trite like “Oh, well, you should just hand that over to God.” it not only alienates that person from you and warns them that you are NOT safe for them…but it also can damage their relationship with God and their view of themselves. If you have not struggled with something, don’t give advice as though you have. (Now, before you get all up-in-arms, I am not speaking against the power of prayer…not by a long-stretch…I think prayer is huge…I am just saying that maybe you should learn from your friends about their struggles and walk with them as opposed to judging their struggles from your protected position where you don’t experience it.) If you want to love your friend well, get into their mess with them and walk out with them instead of standing on the side and giving directions.

So, how are you doing with this? Is there something that is “off” about you that you have chalked up to quirkiness for too long? Is there something you are avoiding talking to a doctor about because you don’t want to hear the answer? Are you afraid of what people will think of you? Do you have someone you love who is struggling to keep their head above water? How can you extend love, grace, and hope toward them? Are you afraid of getting dirty in their mess? Jesus wasn’t afraid of getting messy with people: He spent time alone with a disreputable woman, allowed an “un-clean” woman to touch his garments, spent time in the company of a tax collector, and took the attention and scorn of a woman caught in the act of adultery onto himself in order to provide her with a little bit of dignity. He got messy with people instead of standing safely off to the side and saying “What you ought to do is…”

My prayer today is that we would take an objective look at ourselves and those we love. That we would make steps toward health and be willing to get messy with and for each other. I am praying that we would be willing to be utilized for good by God. Much love friends,

Beks

The Illusion of Having it all Together

12/13/13

Was thinking this morning about how easy it is to feel inferior to others who seem like they have it all together. I am the mom in the elementary drop off line who takes my kids to school in a minivan with crazy troll-doll hair, sweat pants, slippers, medicine on my face from last night, and a list of stuff to do today on my mind. My kids jump out of the car with pants that are too short, their backpacks hanging open as they run joyfully to class. Of course, I pull up behind the mom who is driving a Porsche, who is stunningly beautiful, dressed immaculately, and whose kids look like they just stepped off the cover of a clothing magazine. I can only assume that this woman has never had a pimple, leads a glamorous life, and has endless amounts of money. Then I catch myself. I don’t know this woman or her struggles. I don’t know what it takes to get her family here on time. I do know my family and our struggles and know that I chose to let my kids sleep a little longer, I woke them sweetly with soft words and tender phrases. I told them repeatedly how much I loved them as I warmed up left-over bagels and poptarts for them. My family is happy, healthy, loves each other and loves Jesus which is our family’s mission (Mission: We love each other, love others, love Jesus, and have fun because we are the Massey Tribe.) It’s a good day to love your family, hug them a little tighter, and show yourselves and others a little grace. We don’t know what others are experiencing and they don’t know what we are either: blessings or hardships. Find a way to love others selflessly today if you can. Just my morning musings. Praying you all have a fantastic day today and feel loved.