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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9/22/15 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

1/20/15 Morning Musing: “And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K. Rowling

It was a morning that had started out like every other morning during that life stage: kids waking me up at precisely oh-dark-thirty (because that is what 1-year-olds and 3-year-olds do), me changing a bunch of diapers and thinking sarcastically to myself “Yep, that master’s degree in physiology sure is coming in handy now!”, me getting a load of laundry going and unloading the dishwasher, and me trying to figure out what I will be allowed to eat that day…this was the aftermath of the poisoning (an extremely difficult and bitter time for me not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually.) See, during this time, my immune system was (for lack of a better word) wonky…I couldn’t fight off what I should so I stayed sick all the time (kept getting pneumonia) and I was fighting off what I shouldn’t (I became allergic to everything…including about 90% of my diet: soy, sugar, every single oil that I tested for, apples, cherries, peanuts, all tree nuts, yeast, wheat, oat, milk, cheese, broccoli, green beans, and pretty much everything else you can think of) so my doctor had me doing a rotational diet (really complicated but basically, if I ate an ingredient of something that I was not allergic to, I had 1 hour to eat it in and then I could not return to that ingredient for four full days (or anything related to that ingredient for two days…see picture) in order to not over-expose myself to this “safe” ingredient and turn it into another item that I was allergic to. Meanwhile, to try to regain the items that I was forbidden from, I was giving myself 9 antigen injections in my stomach every 4 days as well as having to occasionally test allergy ingredients to see if I was gaining any headway.) Glamorous, I know…try not to be jealous.

As I continued on this diet, I lost a lot of weight (as you would expect when it is that difficult to find food that you can eat.) The problem with the weight loss is that the toxins in my body were fat-soluble toxins (they lived in my body fat) which had to go somewhere as I was quickly losing that body fat. Science geek-out alert: I don’t know if you know this or not, but your brain is actually made primarily of fat (about 60%!) As I was losing body fat, the toxins that I was not able to expel from my body were going to my brain and causing me lots of issues.

Anyway, back to this typical day that began like every other: Caleb was in his crib and Michaela was in her room. I was trying to get some baby oatmeal out of the pantry when it happened. I lost my balance when I reached in, and fell into the pantry striking the side of my head on the shelf as I fell. I didn’t lose consciousness…but I couldn’t get out. What I mean is that I was aware of where I was and what position I was in but I couldn’t control my limbs. I would try to put my hand against the wall that I was folded up against, but my arm would flail around instead of doing what I was telling it to do. My legs were almost useless in that cramped space and I was feeling a lot of pain (the recycle bin was shoved into my back on the right side and my head throbbed from hitting the shelf and wall.) That is when panic set in. I couldn’t get out! I couldn’t get out!!!! The flailing increased as I struggled to get up…to move…to control anything about my body. My vision blurred but that was just because hot, wet tears were streaming down my face. I felt hot and my heart was racing as I sucked in ragged breaths…this was heading toward a full-on panic attack…and then I heard him…Caleb was crying and expecting his mama to come get him from his nap…and I couldn’t get to him. I listened to him cry while I cried and flailed in the pantry. Some time later, Michaela started banging on her door and yelling for mommy as well…and I couldn’t get up. Those poor babies were probably so very confused and feeling abandoned. “Oh God! Where the hell are you?!?!”

That’s when he showed up…God…by bringing some calm to this chaos. Instead of continuing to struggle, I yelled at God in that pantry…I told him about everything that I had lost because of this poison and how angry I was about it. In that pantry, I grieved the life that I had lost and finally came to terms that life was going to look different from now on. It was time to accept it instead of just being bitter about it. I was a different person than I had been: with this brain damage, my skills had changed…my thinking had changed…I was still analytical but less so than before…I started becoming more artistic and less rigid…I had a hard time with my memory (it was really embarrassing because I would be talking to someone and just stop in the middle and stare at them…it was like my brain had re-set and I lost the last 10-15 seconds…so I thought they were talking instead of me.) So much had changed and I had lost most of my relationships because people just didn’t know how to comfortably be around me…it wasn’t their fault really…they couldn’t understand…but it was so isolating…and now, I was isolated in the pantry with just Jesus…but He showed up…and that is something…I guess it’s not isolation if Jesus is still with me. With that understanding came peace despite my circumstances and a little while later, I noticed that my hand was on my head where the big knot had formed. How had I gotten my hand there? I tested it and was able to move it…I was shaky…but the connections were there…I was able to move my body around and control it some. I crawled out of the pantry and used the kitchen countertop to help myself to a standing position. A short time later, I opened Michaela’s door and told her to follow me to Caleb’s room where I sat on the floor with both of them and just enjoyed the ability to put my arms around them. We sat there and nuzzled each other for a long while.

Why am I telling you this? Well, for one thing, I think that we all have a deep desire to be known. This is part of me and part of my story. It is when this control-freak, type-A, uptight gal hit rock-bottom and learned, without a doubt, that control is only an illusion. I have fought writing about this for some time now and it kept coming to mind because, for some reason, I needed you all to know about it…so here it is…here is my mess…take it all in…know me.

I also learned that we are dependent on God for everything…EVERYTHING…right down to each breath, the ability to move, and each hug. He was with me and calmed me and that is no small thing. (I was in that pantry for 2 hours and I kept it a secret for several weeks (even from Stan) because I was processing what I had been through. I didn’t want anyone else’s take on it until I knew what my take was.) God knew me well enough to know how to calm me, distract me, and encourage me and the reason he could do that is because he is actively present and invested in my life.

Finally, I learned contentment…true contentment. I still have days where I am in a lot of pain or periods of time where my brain isn’t functioning quite the way it should, but those days are the exception now…and that is something to be grateful for…now, the bad days just show me how far he has brought me! Do you know that I had quit praying for healing when God decided to end my suffering with food allergies? I had come to a point of acceptance that this was my lot in life and then he gave me more. It felt lavish!

So, your story, in all likelihood, is quite different from mine…but how are you doing with it? Are you suffering under (or perhaps relishing in) the illusion that you are in control? Why do we tell ourselves this lie? Do you realize how loved you are by a God who wants an intimate relationship with you? Do you have any concept of what he could accomplish through you if you would only let him? What is holding you back? What keeps you holding him at arm’s distance? Is it pride? Anger? Bitterness? Doubt? Fear? (For me, it was all of these!)

My prayer today is that we would all allow God to point out tender parts of ourselves that we are with-holding from him and that we would offer those precious and vulnerable parts to God as an act of worship. Much love friends,

Beks

9/10/14 Morning Musing: God is Not Overwhelmed

I have a girlfriend who just found out her son has mono, she has 3 kids attending 3 different schools, workload has just increased, has a friend out of town that she feels burdened to visit and help, and she just selflessly has signed up with her husband to lead a table for the marriage ministry that I run. God is not overwhelmed.

I have an aunt who has been diagnosed with various forms of cancer more times than I can count. She has been through more surgeries, chemo treatments, and side-effects to various drugs than anyone should ever endure. She has lost babies, husbands, and has encountered so much heartbreak in her life. God is not overwhelmed.

I have a girlfriend who has been to multiple funerals this year…friends…family…and has spent a lot of time in hospitals with people (aside from working in a hospital) in order to pour into others. She is a nurse by vocation but also by calling. She cries with the broken-hearted, finds ways to encourage and lift up others, and has created a special place for grieving parents at her hospital when they lose a baby. She has planned a “Mercy Run” for later this month and is so very gifted with Compassion. Even though her plate is full, she takes on more. God is not overwhelmed.

I was poisoned and broken and bitter. I couldn’t escape the violation that my family endured. It was brought to mind with every meal, every moment of isolation and loneliness, every broken relationship, every time I looked at my children and knew I was incapable of helping them, every time I felt like a failure because I just couldn’t get out of bed, and every time I doubted God and fussed at him. God is not overwhelmed.

I have been finding myself saying this to many of my friends lately for many different reasons: little daily stressors that make you crazy, huge life-altering events that leave you knowing that life will never be the same again, and everything in between. God is NOT overwhelmed. I know that sounds simplistic…and trust me, I am telling myself this as much as I am telling anyone else…but it’s true and we can count on it no matter our problems: Health? God made human bodies…do we really think there is anything that he can’t “figure out” in us? Finances? God creates a new heaven and a new earth out of jewels and gold and finery…those are the cement and bricks…do you think money stumps him??? Death? God created life…every single form of it…and he created eternal life…Jesus defeated death…the grave could not hold him…do you think death scares him??? (I think it saddens him…but it does NOT overwhelm him.) Out of control and busy schedule? God created time and gifted each one of us…he instills our passions in us…he breathed life into our lungs…he has given us the time and resources to do everything that he has called us to do (not necessarily everything we put on our schedule to do.) Time burdens and busy-ness do not overwhelm our God.

Why am I rambling today? Well, I think it is easy for me to lose perspective…to get overwhelmed because I am weak and simple. But regardless of what I am going through, my God is not overwhelmed. I lose sight of the big picture constantly…I get bogged down in the details and forget that God has created me for certain things…important things…and all the other crap is just stuff that I have added to the pile. This stuff distracts me from the important things by masquerading as important. Let me give an example: I sat down to write this morning and was immediately distracted by my dirty house and I found myself pulling out the cleanser and spraying down the counters and then thinking about laundry, sweeping the floors, running errands, oh…and work I need to get to for marriage ministry…do you see where this is going? Those are all good things…none of it is sinful…but it isn’t important unless God has called me to do it now. All I am responsible for is to be obedient to him in this moment. He puts the musings on my heart for a reason and at specific times, I must be obedient and follow through with these when he tells me to or else I could miss the window of opportunity of it touching whoever it is meant to touch. When I work on my own task list instead of his, that is when I get overwhelmed. But God is not overwhelmed and thankfully, every moment is another opportunity to be obedient to his calling.

So how are you doing with this? Are you overwhelmed? Does your list and your life have you fretting? Do you trust God to do what he wants with your life and your time? Is there something overwhelming you, that you are holding on to, that you need to release to him? Is there someone that you need to release to him? Is there a mission you are called to that you are not beginning because your life is too overwhelming to start? What can you surrender to our God right now?

I am praying for simplicity in our lives. I am praying that we will all find time to have a heart-to-heart with God today and determine what is on mission and what is a distractor. I am praying that he will give us the strength and self-control to stay on mission, use our gifts, and fulfill the purpose that he has put in front of us today. I am praying that we will not be overwhelmed because God has provided everything we need to accomplish what He would have us accomplish. Much love friends,

Beks