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

7/8/16 Morning Musing: Judging a Book By it’s Cover

In the last hour, I learned of the shootings that happened back home in Dallas last night (on top of recent ones in Orlando, Baton Rouge, and Falcoln Heights.) I’m heart-broken for the victims and their families. I’m heart-broken over the violence. But most of all, I am heart-broken over the very large number of people who are embracing hatred as an ideal. Racism (any bigotry really) is hatred wrapped up in laziness…it is judging someone by one characteristic that can be observed hastily and from a distance (lazy!) There is no investment in this type of judgement…no conversation is had…no learning about the other person…no identifying what you might have in common…no understanding that, at our core, we all need and crave the same things.   

What repulses me the most about this is that so many of the people on either side of this conflict claim to be Christians. Let’s be clear, racism (bigotry) is in direct conflict with the gospel:

“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” ‭Colossians‬ ‭3:8-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So, instead of choosing sides…instead of assuming character traits based on someone’s appearance or activities…instead of deciding which side different people are on…instead of fueling the inferno that leads to pain, death, and hell…let’s choose to love…let’s choose to put in effort…let’s choose to move toward those who are different from ourselves (and maybe, just maybe learn something other than our own limited perspective)…let’s choose to serve others…let’s choose to seek to understand…let’s choose peace…let’s choose grace…let’s choose forgiveness…let’s choose life…let’s choose to deny ourselves an easy, lazy, hateful, and evil way out…let’s choose to all be on the same side. And let that side be one where we are all humans…unique, gifted, valued, and loved deeply by God.  

I don’t think that God does things by mistake. So, isn’t it interesting that Jesus came as a member of one of the smaller and most-hated people groups in the world’s history? Isn’t it interesting that nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus came for all people except __________? Isn’t it interesting that God made such a diverse humanity to live here together? Imagine what we could do…what amazing things we could accomplish…what a different future we could create…if we would quit having temper tantrums about people being created differently from ourselves.  

My prayer today is that we would take a minute with the people we interact with…that we would make fewer assumptions about them, and instead, actually learn about them. I am praying that we would be people who invest in others, search for value in individuals, and that we would love…love when we are uncomfortable…love when we feel unheard or misunderstood…love when justice has been defied…love when we are hurting…love when everyone around us is choosing hate. Lord, let us be one people who reflect you through love.

Much love friends,

Bekah

Prayers

Just now catching up on the news in South Carolina and am just…full of grief. I don’t have wisdom or words or encouragement and…even if I did, they would be insufficient…so…I will do what the victims were doing when they were betrayed…I will seek God. Christians, please go to your knees.
Father God, 

I feel so heavy learning about this senseless evil and as much as I am mourning, I know that it grieves you even more. Lord, I ask that you please comfort the families and friends of those who were killed and I ask that you continue to hold them and care for them as they attempt to make sense of the senseless violence. Holy Spirit, I ask that you please convict the hearts of those who harbor hatred for any of YOUR children and I ask that you shut the mouths of those who would stir up more anger and hatred. Jesus, please help us to learn to love better…there has to be better than this! Help us to learn to reflect you and stop marring your precious name…help us to become people who mend relationships instead of breaking them…people who build up instead of tear down…people who see commonality with others instead of differences…people who love instead of spread hate and wickedness…people who would seek wisdom and humility instead of selfish ignorance. Lord, please help us to love. Help us Lord.
Finally Jesus, I ask that you celebrate your faithful ones who, at the moment of their deaths, were seeking you:  
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Tywanza Sanders 

Myra Thompson 

Ethel Lee Lance

Daniel L. Simmons 

Cynthia Hurd

Susie Jackson 

Depayne Middleton Doctor 
I ask that you embrace them as you comfort their families and community and Lord, I ask that you please, please teach us how to embrace each other. I love you Lord, Jesus. Amen

11/26/14 Middle of the Night Musing: Truth to Stand On

It’s 1:30 am and I can’t sleep…I keep thinking about my skin color, my experiences, my faith, my family, my successes and my failures. I am heart-broken about the tension (for lack of a better word) between different races. My glass-is-half-full side wants to believe in our justice system…but I know it’s a facade from my own experience with a legal battle where anything but justice was served. I’m thinking about the frustration and fear and crime and I feel overwhelmed. My head knows that God is not overwhelmed, surprised, or un-prepared to handle the mess that we keep making of his beautiful creation. So, to settle my brain, I thought I would go back to what helped me through my spiritual crisis after the poisoning: finding truths to stand on.
1. Our God is Good. Good. Not evil. He created different races, genders, personalities, skill sets, passions, etc. not so that we would be divided…but so that we could wrap our human brains around the many different facets of our Creator. We were not created to be in competition with each other…but to complement each other and reflect a more complete picture of our Good God. It does not mean that everything we do is good…not by a long stretch…but since mankind was created in the image of God (A good God)…maybe we should not assume that anyone else is purely evil (especially if we are making the assumption based on the other person being different from ourselves.)
2. We can trust our Good God. We are only here because he saw fit to create us and breathe life into us. So, whether you are a mother who is concerned about the well-being of your babies, a man who will have to live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life, or a young adult who still thinks that you’ve got “control” over your life, God thinks you are valuable and he takes joy in the creation that is you. He is the author of life, he is the giver of every good gift, and he loves you and your loved-ones even more than you do.
3. We live in a fallen world. I’m not saying that to be trite…but this is not the Eden we were intended for. We are going to experience hurts, grief, fear, frustration, and rejection because our world and our souls are broken. That is why our breath catches in our chests and tears spring to our eyes when we hear about tragedies: 9-11, Sandy Hook, Boston marathon, and now the death of Michael Brown and the fallout that has occurred. This is not Eden and we weren’t supposed to experience this. It is not a reflection of our life-giving God and when we learn about it, something in us ruptures…shatters…because we were not supposed to know death…and when we are confronted by it, it leaves a nasty, bitter taste in us…it changes us.
4. Because we are all broken, we are going to hurt each other. We are going to damage others and they are going to damage us. So, we have a choice to make: we can retreat into isolation and lick our wounds while they fester and turn into bone-deep sickness that robs us of life and joy…or we can offer up our hurts to our Jesus as an offering and find light and truth and peace. Make no mistake about it, whether we like it or not, we are either fully pursuing Jesus’ peace or we are pursuing hate by nursing our biases and prejudices (and if we allow that in ourselves, we are making the gospel weak and small…something not worth offering to others.)
5. People are going to respond badly. There are going to be people…”Good Christians” who will spout hatred in the name of God. There are going to be intelligent people who buy whole-heartedly into ignorant ideas. And there are going to be broken people who enjoy bringing misery to others. But none of that changes who Jesus is. His identity is not dependent on the behavior of Christians (Whew! That is good news because if I’m honest, I suck!) There is rest to be had in understanding that God is still God regardless of our circumstances.
6. When we get it right…when we are able to pour out what is being generously and lavishly poured into us…we get a glimpse of Eden…we get a glimpse of what we were designed for…and it brings glory to the one who deserves it.

**I know this one was preachy…but it wasn’t meant for you, it was meant for myself. Re-visiting truth is what brought me out of the pit that I lived in for a long time. It was a despairing, bitter, and painful place that I wouldn’t wish on anyone…so on the off-chance that this could help someone else re-direct their eyes back to Jesus, I’m sharing it with you all.**

My prayer is that we would pursue healing, rest, and peace that God can give us in any circumstances. Much love friends,

Beks

Photo taken from: http://m.inmagine.com/image-is098te1d-Flower-growing-in-desert-landscape.html

4/6/14 Morning Musing: Bigotry is a Gospel Issue

Warning: This musing is a bit more harsh than my usual…proceed to the soapbox with caution…
4/6/14 Morning Musing: Bigotry is a Gospel Issue

I was recently dining with some people and was shocked to hear them openly and unapologetically make racist comments. Many thoughts came to mind: “Did you really just say that?” “Seriously? It’s 2014…are we still in this place?” “Oh…and you’re such a prize that you think you can look down on others?” (I know…unkind…I apologize for my nastiness.) But one final thought stuck with me: “This is a Gospel Issue.”

I don’t care what generation you are from, what zip code you live in, what your experience is, what race you are, or how you were raised…bigotry (of any flavor) is a Gospel issue. To look down on or disrespect a group of people who are each image-bearers of the Almighty is a slap in the face of the God who created them. God took his time to carefully sculpt each and every individual. He gave each person gifts, passions, resources, ideas, loved ones, and surroundings. He breathed life into each person’s lungs. He put a beat into each person’s heart. And he made every single human being in his own image. To disrespect people is to disrespect God.

Now, some of you will think, “Well, I have had a bad experience.” Let me stop you right there. Everyone has had a bad experience with someone. It’s called being alive and interacting with broken, sinful people. And honestly, at some point, a broken, sinful offense was committed by you. Do you want to be defined by that? Should an entire group of people be defined by your poor actions?

This particular musing was more harsh than most. I apologize for that. But, I do not apologize for the content.