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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2/26/15 Morning Musing:  Close Only Counts With Hand Grenades…Missing the Mark, Whether by an Inch or a Mile, is Still Missing the Mark

The other morning, I was having a discussion with someone about the damage that I believe churches have caused for a lot of people over the years in the area of sex.  The person I was having the conversation with is a wise man with a strong theological background which is why I was surprised to hear him say, “Well, Don’t you think *insert my church’s name* is ahead of the other area churches where this topic is concerned?”  This statement is not overtly bad or sinful…it just stuck with me and itched…and continued to irritate me all morning.  I kept letting go of the conversation but it continued to show up in my thoughts so I decided this morning to give the Spirit room to work out whatever it is that he wants me to glean from this…so here goes…

First, I think the statement bothered me because it feels like putting a nice pretty bow on an issue that has been damaging people for decades (especially women.)  I am not saying that the church is wrong or that the Bible is wrong about pre-marital sex…God designed sex to exist within a marriage covenant so the obvious temptation is to have sex before we are married and to not have sex after we are married…but I think the church has put a lot of emphasis on a topic that is also was historically unwilling to discuss.  For example, in high school, it seemed like every church was getting kids to sign contracts and wear rings about how “true love waits.”  The whole message was “don’t have sex.  Sex is bad.  Don’t spoil your future and that of your future mate.”  I get it.  I do.  But there needs to be more discussion around the topic.  How do we handle the physiological urges that exist?  What if you have already “spoiled” yourself?  (Talk about putting a kid in a hopeless situation.)  Also, this led to a lot of teens wanting to “draw the line” of exactly how  far they could go and it be ok…it became legalistic.  I think that a legalistic approach always causes separation…distance…between us and our God.  He doesn’t want mindless rule-following; he wants to be welcomed into our heart space.  The hard lines that were drawn and the lack of discussion led me (and other gals like me) to believe that pre-marital sex was the ultimate of all sins that would ruin us forever.  By this way of thinking, the day before I got married, I’d be better off killing a nun than having sex with the man I was marrying the next day.  

Then there are the social ramifications…I vividly remember being on a date with a guy while I was at A&M and him discovering that I was a virgin and had no intention of having sex with him.  His response…are you ready for this?…”Virgin?  But you’re not ugly…”  Ummm…gee thanks Romeo!  You better watch all that sweet talk or I just might swoon.  *rolls eyes.*  The problem here (beyond the obvious stupidity of that particular choice of date) was that I also didn’t know why this was my stance other than that it was forbidden.  It is really hard to stick to your guns on something when you aren’t sure why you have chosen this particular stance.  This happened repeatedly in my dating life and produced another issue:  I became the conquest…I quit being a person and was simply a challenge to some or “marriage material” to others who were “having their needs taken care of by non-marriage material in the mean time.”  How degrading for everyone involved!  Message received loud and clear:  A woman’s value is directly proportional to the condition of her hymen.  Gotcha.

And don’t even get me started on the how you are supposed to switch from the undefiled virgin bride to freaky sex-kitten wife by the time you finish saying “I do.”  How is that for unrealistic?   I can tell you this, three years after we got married, I took a test and discovered that I was pregnant.  You know what the first words out of my mouth were to Stan after saying “Ummm…We’re pregnant!” It was “Oh my gosh!  We can’t tell my dad!”  Stan laughed until he realized I was serious.  “You’re dad married us…I am pretty sure he assumed that we would have sex.”  But I couldn’t shake that old high school training that basically told me that “bad girls get knocked up.”  

So back to the statement at the top that started this whole rant:  “Well, Don’t you think *insert my church’s name* is ahead of the other area churches where this topic is concerned?”  Well, yes, I suppose I do…but that doesn’t erase the damage that people have endured…women who feel that they have wasted much of their married lives because they felt they weren’t supposed to do certain things with their husbands (legalism again)…women who think that they don’t deserve God’s best for them because they were “spoiled”  This is why I didn’t want to tie a pretty little bow on it…this is a process and there is still damage and wounds to be carefully handled.  Also, I don’t think we are called by God to compare our church to other churches any more than we are called to compare ourselves to other Christians…we are called to be obedient to God.  Comparing ourselves to other churches only keeps us from realizing that, although we are heading in the right direction and learning from mistakes, we are still missing the mark…it allows us to rest where we are instead of pressing further to make sure that we are fully obedient…fully loving…fully forgiving…fully healing.

For many of you, this topic won’t be applicable.  I’m sorry if I wasted your time…I hope you at least got a chuckle or two out of it.  For the others…the wounded ones…God sees you and loves you and wants sex to be beautiful and fun and liberating.  How are you doing with this?  Do you carry around baggage where sex is concerned?  Does sex seem like a shameful thing to you?  Are you with-holding from your spouse?  What can you be doing to step toward a healthier place in your sex life?  What about your spouse?  Is he/she wounded?  Does he/she even know it?  How can you lovingly and gently point this one you love toward the Healer?  One thing is for certain, keeping shame and fears and sins and thoughts in the darkness only leads us further into the darkness.  

My prayer today is for the wounded ones…the ones who have been abused, misinformed, made mistakes, or who have just been fearful.  Sex was meant to be a beautiful thing and for many, it is dirty or shameful or painful.  I am praying for healing in your life and heart and marriage and sex life.  I am praying that God would speak truth into your life and heart and that it would transform you and bring you joy.  I am praying that if you need to see a professional to get help, that you would do so without feeling foolish or shameful.  Finally, I am praying for ultimate freedom in this area…that if it isn’t already, that it would become something that you absolutely delight in.  Much love friends,

Beks





9/12/14 Morning Musing: Can’t You Just Love Me for the Jerk I truly am?

I have had something weird going on with my ear for some time now. About 6 months ago, I went to my allergy/asthma/immunology doctor for a routine check up and mentioned to her that at night, my left ear itches like crazy. She looked in there and said nothing was wrong with it. So I left and continued to experience itching deep in my ear only at night. I have resorted to anti-itch creams and stuff but it’s still going on. Last week, I went back for my 6-month check up and told her it was itching still. She thought she saw something in there and had the nurse flush it. (Turns out it was a piece of glitter! How in the world did I get glitter in there??? Must be my sparkling personality! I know…bad joke…but the coffee hasn’t quite hit me yet this morning.) We had to stop because it started to hurt so intensely. Weird. Over this past week, it has gotten more and more painful and more and more bothersome so I went back again yesterday. The verdict? “You have the cleanest ears I have ever seen in anyone. There is nothing, not a speck, not redness, no pink, no water bubbles…nothing!” This statement actually causes me both pride and frustration. Pride because…well, yes…I am rather fastidious about hygiene…so I love knowing that I have the cleanest ears ever. Frustration because…if there is nothing wrong, then why am I in so much pain? And the thought occurs to me: Am I crazy? Have I become a hypochondriac? Oh no! Now I’m crazy AND in pain! I know what you’re thinking: “Bekah, I’ve always known you were a bit crazy…I could have saved you the cost of 3 office visits!” Well, the doctor went on to hypothesize about what could be wrong and causing my discomfort and came to the conclusion that it could be pressure from deep inside (a dysfunction in my eustachian tube.) She said that I should try taking Mucinex D and drinking lots of water to see if the discomfort goes away since we couldn’t “see” the source of my problem. I’ve taken two rounds of it since then and am already feeling better.

What is the point? What does this have to do with anything in life? So glad you asked. I was thinking about how looks can be so deceiving. I was thinking about when I was struggling with a very deep and painful sin just a few years ago. Nobody could see the pain that I was in. There were no obvious indications to the outside observer. My friends didn’t have a clue that I was slowly dying inside. As a matter of fact, I looked like I had it all together: I was volunteering in various charitable positions. I was helping friends and making meals for those who were sick or who had just had babies. I was studying my Bible every day. And I was writhing in pain and self-hatred and nobody knew it.

I have a very clear memory of the exact moment when I made the worst decision of my life. I was wrestling with God over the temptation that was before me…the Holy Spirit was reminding me of who I am and more importantly, who He is…and I physically held my hand up in the air and said out loud, “I don’t want to hear from you right now. I want to do what I want to do.” Worst decision of my life. I am not a person who would go back and change things in their past given the opportunity because so much can be learned from our mistakes…but that one moment…that one decision…I would change that in a heartbeat. In that moment, I violated my conscience…no…It’s more than that…I offended the God of the universe. Following that moment, I went on to commit the sin that I was hell-bent on committing and have regretted it every day since then. And nobody knew what was going on inside me. I was so broken and I hated myself.

Meanwhile, I was attending Bible Studies and trying to “make things right.” I kept hearing so many women confess sins they were struggling with…and it angered me because their sins (or at least the ones they were willing to speak of) were so minor. (I know…sin is sin…it all separates us from God…but I felt lost and broken and dirty.) I was sitting on a whopper that I was dying to share so that I could begin healing but I was surrounded by women who confessed things like “feeling lazy” or “gossiping” or “holding a grudge.” It didn’t feel safe to confess when someone’s only prayer request was “for traveling mercies.” Are. You. Kidding Me?!!!!! I’m dying over here! I’m silently going under for the last time and I can’t even find a true friend to talk through this with. I came up with only two possible conclusions: 1. Either these women and I operate so differently that I will never fit in with them because I actually sin or 2. These women aren’t being authentic and honest. Neither option was acceptable to me because it still left me feeling broken and incapable of receiving help. There would be no iron sharpening iron as things stood.

That is when I began looking for truly authentic community. I wanted friends who didn’t clean their house before I came over. Friends who didn’t worry about disturbing me and knew they could call or text any time at all. Friends who could show up at my front door without notice, understand that I probably am not wearing a bra, and come in and make themselves at home on my couch. Friends that would snoop through my fridge until they found something that they wanted. Friends who would share their brokenness with me. Friends that I could make a death pact with…not what you are thinking…more along the lines of instructions of what to do and what to get rid of should Stan and I both die so as not to mortify our families. (Haha! Got you thinking about what that could be didn’t I?!) I wanted friends who would call me out on my B.S. and tell me when I was being a bonehead. Friends that would study the Bible with me and challenge me…not because we were in the same Bible Study…because we wanted God’s best for each other. Friends that would love on my family and whose families I could love on as well. Don’t you see? I wanted friends whose behaviors and appearances were reflective of what was also inside them. I wanted this because I wanted to be this.

I know your wondering so I’ll go ahead and make the connection: I don’t want a mysterious illness in my soul any more than I want a mysterious illness in my ear. I want to shine light on the issue and attack it head-on. I want to know the truth so intimately that lies are obvious. The only way to do that is to cling close to my Jesus and be obedient in this moment. For me, that resulted in me confessing my sin to several women who I discovered loved Jesus and loved me. They pointed me to scripture and truth and loved on me. They were not timid about asking me how I was doing with that area of temptation. They still check in on me actually.

So how are you doing with this? Do you have authentic community? Are you being authentic with them? If you don’t have these kinds of people, how can you search them out? Is there someone in your life who is drowning alone and wishing desperately that you would be real with them so that they could be real with you? Are you hiding any sin that is silently choking the life out of you? It’s hard to break with a sin…but, I can honestly say that it is worth it (painful but so worth it) to rip it from your life and boot it to the curb. Are you holding your hand up to the Holy Spirit and saying “I don’t want to hear from you right now. I want to do what I want to do.”

My prayer this morning is that we would all take an accurate inventory of the state of our souls…that we would ask God to reveal to us ways that we can love him and others better…that we would be honest and real with others and encourage them to be honest and real with us. Much love friends,

Beks

7/24/14 Morning Musing: I’d Like to Order Some Truth with a Side of Grace, Extra Love, and Hold the Judgement Please.

We all know that guy…you know the one: The one that shoots from the hip with his hateful comments about how other people aren’t measuring up. The one that you can not help but feel judged around if you ever reveal what is really going on in your life. The one that makes you cringe to be around him but you keep seeing him at church so you HAVE to be nice to him and pretend he doesn’t make your stomach turn. The one whose wife you pity so deeply and wonder how she ended up with him because she is just so dang nice. The one that exhausts you to be around because doing so siphons every single ounce of energy from you. Or maybe…that guy is that girl. Maybe it’s a relative of yours. Maybe it’s you. I know it has been me before…for a long time in fact, it WAS me…sometimes, it still is.

There is a line somewhere…it’s hard to find sometimes…but it’s there. We are meant to embrace truth whole-heartedly…which I believe “that guy” wants to do…but we are also meant to extend love and grace whole-heartedly. Sometimes, it seems like an impossible task…I guess if we are trying to do it on sheer will-power, it is impossible. But that is the problem…WE weren’t meant to be what produces growth-filled change in people…Jesus is. So, how do we keep ending up in the way?

I think part of the problem is that we distance ourselves from our sins. See, this is another balancing act: I don’t want to live with guilt and shame when I have been forgiven of my sins…but I also don’t want to distance myself so far from them that I forget the amazingly restorative grace that has been extended to me. That grace, for me, makes life worth living and makes people worth loving because when I have been unlovable, I was still loved by Jesus and by people who extended unfathomable grace to me. I have received unexplainable forgiveness for unpardonable errors. To balance truth with grace and love, it is important for me to remember the gifts that I have received.

I think another part of the problem is that we only identify with the struggles that we personally are tempted with…because we WANT our sins to be pardon-able. We are less invested in making sure that others, who experience different temptations than we do, get to experience grace. Why is that? Why do we want to deprive someone else of the very life-giving thing that has saved us from isolation and self-loathing? When we nurse pet sins (those sins/temptations that we like to refer to in other people) that we look down on…it does not make us stand out above the other person in a good way, it separates us from God because Jesus is close to people when they are hurting and broken…he pursues the broken and redeems them. That is the beauty of grace, isn’t it? It’s undeserved. It’s personal. It touches our deepest wounds and most secret battles.

But then, there is the pendulum swing in the other direction: When there is only emphasis on grace, we can miss truth…and Jesus IS truth so it is important that we don’t mis-represent what it is that truth actually is. So, how do we maneuver this? This type-A-math-and-science-loving-gal would love to tell you that there is a formula…in my experience, there is not. For me, I have had to practice the discipline of shutting my mouth and quieting my own thoughts so that I can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. This was not easy for me…anyone who knows me knows that I rarely shut up…so I had to start with just sitting and being quiet and still with no distractions (as a mom, this has been particularly challenging for me…I can’t even use the bathroom or take a shower without distractions and an audience.) But I started carving out just 5 minutes each day to sit in my back yard, usually with a cup of coffee, and asking God to help me quiet my thoughts and share his with me. It was really hard at first and there were times that I was unable to make myself shut up. With time and practice though, I got better at it and my mind would quiet faster because I had been training it to respond to certain cues: coffee, sitting outside on my back patio, quiet, and morning (this is how morning musings were birthed by the way.) I started asking God to use me…to let me be a tool in his hands…to teach me how to love people well.

Do you struggle with this too or is it just me? Are there people you have a hard time extending grace to? Do you end up “just telling it like it is” to them? (By the way, I have found no passages in the Bible that express the virtue of just telling it like it is…I’ve seen many about truth, forgiveness, love, and grace though.) Have you distanced yourself from God because “his people” are so difficult to love and, more than anything, you don’t want to be “that guy?” Consider this: maybe don’t judge God based on my life. Maybe don’t compare me to another or Christian or to a person who is not a Christian. Maybe take into consideration the difference between where my life would be without Jesus versus where my life is with him…because THAT is a huge difference.

Praying that we are all able to speak truth today but that it is tempered with love and grace so that it draws people to the God we deem worthy of worship. Much love friends,

Beks

5/30/14 Morning Musing: Big Enough

I’ve encountered a lot of people who have been burned by Christians and the Church and now avoid churches and religion at all cost and I’ve been thinking lately about the things that Christians tend to be known for: anti-abortion, anti-gay, being judgmental, and hypocrisy. It makes me so sad to think that this is what the name of Jesus has come to mean to the world…and the world has a legitimate reason to believe that this is true of Christians and, by extension Christ, because this is the message that they hear screamed out and acted upon by the Church. I wonder if this incorrect message is being portrayed because the motivations of Christians have gotten wonky.

First off, I think that we should be known for what we stand for…not against. I know many of you have heard this thought before…but I want to break it down a little bit for those who haven’t. Regardless of your stance on subjects like abortion and homosexuality, Jesus is not pro-hate. Jesus loves everyone and it is his wish that every single person on Earth, regardless of where they are in their spiritual growth or state of sin, would enter into relationship with him. Every single person. Soak that in for a second. That means that he loves and pursues the liars, cheaters, adulterers, murderers, rapists, child-molesters, gossips…he pursues caucasians, hispanics, asians, africans, and every other people group or mixture of groups, he pursues women, men, children, cross-genders, and every sexual orientation…he pursues EVERYONE and he does it because his love is BIG ENOUGH for everyone. That is why he is a God worth worshipping…He is BIG ENOUGH to handle our stuff. So, as a follower of Jesus, my love should also be big enough for everyone and that should be my motivation when I interact with anyone.

Secondly, we’ve all heard “Love the sinner…hate the sin.” Well, yeah, there is truth to that…but we don’t tend to study what that might look like. First off, every person on Earth is a sinner. So, again…all inclusive here. But what does hating sin look like? Well, for one thing, it is understanding what sin actually is…it’s not a list of “wrongs.” Sin means, basically, missing the mark. Think of a target and the goal is to land your arrow in the bullseye…sin is when the arrow lands anywhere other than the bullseye. God has a perfect plan for our lives…a plan that leads to life and growth and beauty. When we veer off of that plan…either by doing something harmful or neglecting to do something beautiful…we have missed the mark. Human nature is to categorize those sins or weigh them…and if we are honest, we try to minimize the weight of our own sins and maximize the weight of the sins of others so that our stance looks better…but truth is, missing the mark is missing the mark…whether you are an inch outside of the bullseye or aiming in the wrong direction all together. So, what does hating sin look like? I think that it looks like loving the sinner (read every person you interact with including yourself) so much that it breaks your heart to see them receive anything other than God’s very best for their lives. Hmmmm…the motivation is a bit different than hating something isn’t it? I do this with my kids all the time…I tell them “I simply love you too much to let you do things that will harm you or others in the long-run. I love you too much to let you continue down a path that is dangerous for you…so I must speak and demonstrate truth and love into your life.” Hating sin does not mean standing in righteous indignation while looking down your nose at someone else…because your sin is just as big and God’s love has to be just as big to cover your sins as it does to cover anyone else’s sin.
(So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:7, 10, 11 KJV))
Understand, Jesus didn’t tell the woman to continue in her sin…of course he didn’t…it wasn’t a healthy path of life full of beauty…it was a damaging and painful path…he simply loved her well and encouraged her to pursue God’s best for her life instead of continuing to pursue brokenness. Also note, Jesus did not enter into debate about whether the woman was participating in sin…deep down, she knew…she didn’t need those un-loving people to tell her it was sin…she knew…and we know…we know when we feel distant from our Lord and we know that we are the ones who choose the distance. So, what does hating sin looks like?…it looks an awful lot like loving the sinner.

For those of you who have been injured by the Church or by individual Christians or be me specifically, I would like to officially apologize. I am sorry for the pain and brokenness. I am sorry for our lack of love and compassion. I am sorry for not identifying with your plight. Like you, I am still growing and still get it wrong. But I would love to walk this path of growth with you…I would love to continue to pursue Jesus with you…I would love to learn from you and with you. I would love to hold hands on this journey and, in doing so, help each other stay on our feet and keep our feet closer to the path of beauty and life and joy. So, how are you doing with this? Is there a group of people that you are unable to love well? What can you do to learn to love them better? What can you do to pursue God’s best for them? Do you find yourself entering into debates about whether or not something is sinful? How could you better approach things?

I’m praying God’s absolute best for all of you. Much love friends.