8/17/18 Morning Musing – Working Through the Wounds

I remember feeling like I had been slapped across the face when she cut me off in front of a group of people and sternly said “Be quiet! Quit stirring up trouble. It doesn’t help them to see Jesus!” Whoa…wait a minute…I was actually offering insight and a solution that would be easy for everyone, not stirring up trouble at all. And then I felt it…unseen…unknown…such a familiar feeling for me…it forms a pit in my stomach and I start to feel nauseous…and it always hits me out of left field. This is the area where I struggle the most in life…it’s probably why I learned early to clown around and be funny…because people are attracted to feeling good and happy…and I performed in order to attract the people so I could feel known. This is where my soul struggles and feels attacked.

With my close friends, I’ve always asked that they just give me the benefit of the doubt. Know me and my character well enough to stop and think about things if something that I said seems off or offensive…and then…ask me about it. I know! Shocking idea isn’t it? It really surprises me how many people are willing to throw a relationship away by simply taking something out of context and contorting it until it resembles an offense. Are they looking to be offended? If so, what a miserable way to live. It must drive people away in droves. Picking something apart until it no longer resembles the intended message is not a virtue…and it hurts most coming from a close friend because it leaves me questioning if they ever even really knew me.

Why am I writing about this? Glad you asked! I’ve been thinking for a few years now that God has a funny way of using our weaknesses to speak to people. It’s in the struggles and wounds where a story happens. (If everything is just dandy all the time, there’s no story!) And interestingly enough, I’ve noticed that my wounds and weaknesses are what draw me to certain characteristics or names of God. My favorite name of God is “God who sees me.” (El Roi) Is it coincidental that feeling unseen or unknown is my biggest pitfall? Probably not. I think it just reinforces the verse about his strength being made perfect in weakness. But the thing about that is that I have to be willing to see myself clearly and identify where I am weak. I don’t know about you…but for me…I don’t enjoy dwelling on that. (“Hmmmm…let me count all the ways that I suck!” does not sound like a fun party game.) I much prefer the happy feel-good stuff, or even numbness, over mulling over the hurts and finding the root issue…and today’s way of living certainly is busy enough to keep me numb for a long time if I am not careful.

The thing is though, seeing people is my one of my biggest strengths. I mean really seeing them…seeing into them. Seeing their value, their fears, their insecurities, ways that they feel loved…and frequently I am able to speak truth into some of what they are telling themselves. But seriously, why is that the thing I’m good at? After all, I frequently feel unseen…unknown. My thinking is that our wounds leave scars which catch our eyes a lot and so it is front of mind. It’s tender and easily triggered to hurt. We don’t want others to feel what we have felt before and we don’t want to keep re-living it so we begin to minister to others in this area…we are drawn to it.

So, how are you doing with this? Is there an area where you feel particularly weak? Do you struggle with one type of hurt over others? Does it seem repetitive and exhausting? Or are you even able to slow down enough to think about this? What is it about God that you love the most? What name of God speaks to you above others? Are the two things connected in some way? What type of ministry are you drawn to? Is it connected to your strengths or weaknesses? Are you showing others your strength or are you showing them God’s strength?

My prayer today is that we would slow down and ask God about our wounds. I’m praying that we would be still long enough to really hear him speak about those wounds and that we would look for his characteristics that are counter to whatever has harmed us. I’m praying that we would find ways to minister through our hurts so that others can be spared and so that we can heal…so that we can worship our God more fully…so that we don’t waste the pain.

Much love friends,

Beks

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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

2/4/15 Morning Musing: Protected Wounds Can’t Heal (If you never read anything else that I write, please read this.)

You guys!!! I just…I just…I can’t even…there aren’t words!!!!! There are times that you can see God working in your life and it’s cool to see…it’s amazing to get to experience life with God in that way…but I have just experienced nothing short of a series of miracles all in quick succession and all undeniably God…and I am just sitting here crying…with joy…with praise…with this feeling of fullness…and…my soul is dancing!!!!! There are details that I can not go into because I am not the only person affected but…oh my…please know that God is good and he cares about our stuff.

There is a relationship that has been damaged in my life and has been full of pain and brokenness for…well, forever. It has been a source of chaos to my spirit, pain in my marriage, dysfunction in how I have related to people (including my kids) and has caused me, as a person, to be…just be…fractured or…splintered or…even shattered. About a year and a half ago, I gave this relationship and this person over to God…I don’t say that lightly…I do not mean that I gave up and said “Ok, God…it’s your problem now.” I had been grasping at this relationship for years and years and was trying to hold it together with my strength…I was white-knuckling it and was trying to keep it in one piece…and my soul was crying and breaking and dying. (Not as in losing my salvation…that’s not what I am saying.) But this sick and twisted relationship was poisoning how I interacted with people, how I viewed men, and how I loved my children. (Not how much I loved them…but HOW I loved them.)

Almost two years ago, there occurred another rupture in this relationship. It wasn’t unlike all the other damage that had occurred…but…something in me was different and I could no longer allow it. I had been growing into a deeper understanding of God and could no longer reconcile being a child of God who Jesus died for…and the abuse and mistreatment that I was encountering in this relationship. These two things were in direct opposition and I came to a place of understanding where they just could not co-exist! As much as I loved the person that I was in the dysfunctional relationship with, I could not fix him…or us…and I could not cover the damage that was beginning to radiate outward to other people that I love. The thing was, not everyone was privy to the source of our damage so when I calmly pulled away and said “No. This isn’t healthy and I can not allow it to continue”, other relationships were affected and suffered as well. From these peoples’ perspectives, it looked as though I was pitching a fit and taking my toys and stomping my way home. I have shouldered a lot of fallout from this decision…I have endured a lot of scorn…and pressure…and even accusations…and that would normally drive me just nuts…but God gave me peace in the midst of it all…un-natural, un-explainable peace and clarity of mind that was contrary to my very nature.

And I sat in it. I sat in my discomfort. I sat in the filth of my doubts of my own motives and my constant re-evaluating of whether or not I was doing the right thing. And I continued to sit in it despite the input of others who believed I was single-handedly destroying things. I told God that I would trust him with this relationship and quit trying to fix it because God was the only one capable of doing it. See, I didn’t need an apology for all the wrongs…I needed the other person to simply acknowledge that I (and others) am a human deserving of basic respect and love…and change his behavior. (That is a big ask! That is bigger than an apology. I needed the other person to have an encounter with God that changed him from the inside.) I knew God could repair and redeem anything…but I also knew that he would not over-ride our wills…so while I knew God COULD do it…I somewhat doubted that God WOULD do it. Does that make sense?

Well, El Roi is my God and he has truly seen me during this time of “sitting in it.” And while I sat…and trusted…and doubted…and prayed…and cried…and wrestled…and grew, he was working. He was “massaging” the heart of the other person. Not forcing his way (I have a good friend, Chad who has referred to God as a gentleman who would not use force to show his love (paraphrase)) because that isn’t his nature…but massaging this heart so that it could beat for God again…softening it so that it could choose to serve God again. And while I can not share the details of how that has come about, I can tell you that it has, in fact, happened. There has been a dramatic change that can not be faked…and I am just…so full of praise to God for this!

Why am I sharing this? What does it have to do with you? Well, first of all, I need to say that there is nothing and no one that Jesus can not redeem. Seriously. Know that! Secondly, there is no pain that is meant to be wasted. Our God is not a sadist, and because he deeply loves us, he does not allow us to suffer pointlessly. Finally, there is no hurt too deep for him to touch and gently begin to heal IF we will allow him access to it. (Remember the gentleman analogy.)

So, how are you doing with this? Who is the lost cause in your life? Who have you given up hope on? (Please know that it is absolutely ok to separate yourself from people who are un-safe…it is not ok, however, to deem them as unworthy of redemption.) Where are you experiencing pain in your life and are you allowing Jesus access to that wound or are you “protecting” it while allowing it to fester. (I picture in my head an incident at the vet clinic I worked at where there was an injured dog that we wanted to help but she wouldn’t let us near her…teeth bared and hackles raised…we had to sedate her to help her because she was so busy “protecting” her injury from those of us who wanted to help her heal.) Are you allowing that pain in your life to be wasted? Are you allowing it to become your identity? Why are you with-holding it from the God who would love to heal it into the most beautiful of scars? A scar that could point others to a God who heals and restores?

My prayer today is that we would trust God with our stuff. Really trust him. I’m praying that we would love others well by prioritizing our pursuit of our savior. And I am praising God for the many miracles that have been unfolding in my life over the last few weeks! Hosanna! Much love friends,

Beks

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me…To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭61‬:‭1-4‬ NKJV)

11/20/14 Morning Musing: Being a Referee

So, we were at a football game and it was intense: the score was very close (one field-goal kick would win the game for either team) and the entire stadium was buzzing. Lots of mistakes were happening on the field and the players of both teams were clearly shaken. Time was running out and they reset to try to get another play in…a Hail Mary…when one of our players moved and was off-sides! The referee blows a whistle and begins screaming at the offending player about the rules of football and why being off-sides is wrong…about how he has let his entire team down…and the player has no choice but to stand there and listen to the referee’s rant as he watches the time run out and our team’s only chance at redemption is gone.

Ridiculous isn’t it? That’s because the story above never happened…I made it up based on a parenting article I read about 8 years ago. At the time, I had a rambunctious two-year-old who could pick locks and a newborn that I lovingly referred to as the gourmet because he savored his meals…for over an hour…for every feeding…which added up to over 8 solid hours of breast-feeding every day. I was searching online for help. I had become this sleep-deprived, hormonally-imbalanced, not-able-to-see-outside-of-my-current-circumstances-mother-of-two who would lose her cool and yell…and cry…and hide because that was the only way that I could manage 60 seconds of quiet time to myself where nobody would touch me…I just wanted for nobody to touch me! (You can imagine what that did to my sex life at the time. I’ve said it before: Stan is a saint!)

The article changed my life and I have, unfortunately, not been able to re-locate it since then. So, my fictitious story above is meant to throw a life raft, to anyone else that might find themselves overwhelmed right now, like that article did for me. See, in the article, the author stated that “Our role as parents, is to be our children’s referee. When a player gets off-sides, a referee doesn’t get red-faced and yell about how the virtues of the game have been violated. He simply throws the flag and steps off the penalty.” (These may not be the author’s exact words…I’m trying to recall an article from 8 years ago that used a sports analogy…why are they always sports analogies? I digress.)

There are several points to be made here: One idea is that game time is not the time to learn how the game is played…that is done before the player steps onto the field. Game time is when the rules are enforced and a score is earned. Certainly, lessons can be learned during a game by the player but the player isn’t learning from a screaming referee…he learns from experiences he is having as he interacts with his surroundings. Another point that I learned from that article is that expending endless energy about someone else’s behavior is not healthy or balanced…nor is it productive. (Warning: Science Geek-Out Alert!) When we are experiencing fight or flight, (think temper tantrums, anger, crying, fear, insecurity, etc.) we CAN NOT learn new things. (Literally! This has been shown repeatedly in scientific studies.) So, why do we think that raising our voices or physically intimidating others will help them to see our point? It’s irrational! Think about the story at the beginning…if that really happened, it would go viral on the internet in under 24 hours. People would be upset with the referee and demand his job…not to mention how much he would be mocked for being unstable and dumb. The final point is one that the article didn’t make, but I think it is important: It’s not the referee’s job to determine what position the player plays…that is something that the player determines. If the referee took a kicker and made him play the position of a lineman, that isn’t going to work out well for anyone…especially the player who will believe that he is terrible at football because he isn’t playing the role he was designed to play.

So, why am I telling you this and why do I think it could be a life raft? Well, I think that these points apply to many relationships (not just parenting) and the holidays are rapidly approaching. Many of us will spend next week with people who are intimately familiar with our buttons and how to push them (whether that be our children, spouses, parents, siblings, extended family, or anyone else.) I think now (before game time) is the time to get our heads and hearts right so that we don’t morph into the screaming referee. It’s ok to draw healthy boundaries…let’s figure them out before the explosion occurs so that we can be the people who pursue peace by simply throwing the flag and stepping off the penalty…followed by a re-set.

So how are you doing with this? Is there someone in your life that just makes you lose your cool? How can you change things so that you can create some healthy boundaries? What boundaries might you need to draw? Is it possible, that you are the person with whom others need to draw boundaries? How can you allow, or even encourage, that to happen so that relationships can be salvaged? Are you being required to play a role that you aren’t equipped to play? Are you requiring that of someone else? How can this be approached in a gentle and loving way so that everyone has the freedom to be who God designed them to be?

I’m praying for a healthy head-space and heart-space for us all as we navigate important and sometimes difficult relationships over the holidays. I’m praying that God would give us wisdom and grace. And if you are a parent of littles, I’m praying that you would find rest and peace in the middle of the muddle. Much love friends,

Beks

4/4/14 Morning Musing – I Love You…You’re So Adequate!

A couple of years back, Stan and I were having a serious conversation about how we felt about how we were doing in different areas of life. When it came to parenting, Stan was feeling a bit frustrated because he felt like he was too short-tempered with the kiddos. He told me that he was bringing home stress with him and that he felt “inadequate in his fathering” at the time. My response was, apparently, not the response he had written in the script for this conversation: “No, No Baby…you’re adequate!” He paused and looked at me and said, “Well, with that high praise from you, I’m likely to get a big head about how awesome I am.” It took me a minute to figure out why he was getting snarky. He explained to me that I was only calling him adequate…not an amazing father…not a good father…but one step above abusive. I explained my thoughts: I explained that he said he felt like he was “inadequate which means not adequate” and that in my book you were either adequate or not adequate…there wasn’t a super-adequate option…I was simply responding to the word choice that he had used. We still giggle about this today. When I want to make him smile, I tell him how adequate he is and he pretends to swoon over the high praise. We both learned a lesson from that conversation years back: for the sake of unity, we have to pursue understanding…not just take words at face-value.

One of my biggest pet-peeves is when people, who know your character and your heart, don’t give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m a verbal bumbler…I’m going to say things the wrong way…often. My friends know that I’m not good at “fluffy talk.” What I mean by this is that I don’t word things well. I’m getting better at it…but I’m going to screw it up. I’m going to say things like “No, No…You’re adequate” when I think you are amazing. But, the people who make it into my circle of friends, also know that my character is such that I ALWAYS want the best for people that I love…I never intend to hurt my people.

So, how can you have unity with a verbal bumbler? How can you be in unity with others if you are the verbal bumbler? I think that you have to pursue understanding…true understanding…and not just take a conversation at face-value (and if you are like me, replay it over and over in your head.) Don’t dwell on the word choice…try to understand the heart behind the statement. What does the person mean by what they said. If you aren’t sure, ask for clarification. Say something like, “It seems like you are saying this…but I know you well-enough to know that I must be understanding you incorrectly…could you please explain what you are saying to me?”

I’ve had relationships before that have tanked because people refused to give me the benefit of the doubt and just assumed the worst of me. It was heart-breaking for me to know that they thought so little of my character and, honestly, it was such a waste to throw away a friendship/relationship over something so trivial. What makes it worse is when you find that the person has also been holding a grudge over the misunderstanding…that is a lot of unnecessary pain, anger, energy, and time being expended. (And honestly, who has extra time, energy, and emotional stamina to waste these days? Certainly not me!)

The bottom line is this: for a relationship to be successful, I think you have to value unity over “winning” the argument or being right. You have to search for truth and understanding instead of wearing your feelings on your sleeve and trying to find fault with the other person. Anything can be mis-interpreted to be hurt feelings…you just have to decide if the relationship is worth the effort to dig a little deeper and put out the effort to make it worthwhile. So, are any of you verbal bumblers? Are you surrounded by bumblers? Do you have any additional insights in how to maintain unity and seek understanding?