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

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

7/28/17 Morning Musing: Little Drops of Life

Yesterday morning I was filling out yet another set of medical forms before going under anesthesia…for the 21st time…in only two and half years. It was my fifth doctor’s appointment of the week…yet I grinned at the question in front of me: “What do you want to achieve with your treatment?” I chuckled to myself as I began to write my answer that seemed to stump every doctor who has taken the time to read it: “I want to squeeze every little drop of living out of this life that I possibly can.” Apparently they don’t get that answer very often because it has made several of my doctors look at me a little differently…maybe, just maybe, I’m not just trying to get a script for pain meds out of them? Maybe there is more to this girl than meets the eye? And is it possible that this woman’s pain has allowed her to see something that I have missed?

I was diagnosed about a year and a half ago with occipital neuralgia. What this means is that the occipital nerve that comes out between vertebrae at the top of the neck and branches out and over the whole head is somehow impinged and angry. The result is daily headaches that mimic migraines but do not respond at all to migraine medications. If I let the headaches progress, the pain moves into my eye area and if I don’t catch it with medication early enough, the day is blown…I end up in fetal position in a dark room rocking back and forth and fighting against the oh-so-lovely ice-pick-through-my-eyes sensation that results and persists.  

Through the nearly 22 months of headaches, I have become extremely light-sensitive…not just to the brightness of lighting but to the quality of lighting as well (for example, fluorescent lights are the devil!) and since I am a person who thinks in terms of analogies, I can’t help but think that this is an analogy for a spiritual application here too. I didn’t think much about the light that was present around me until I became very sensitive to it. I didn’t think much about the source of light around me until not being aware started causing me physical pain. Becoming acutely aware of lighting has caused me to also look at sources of light in my heart-space…where do I find joy?…what are the life-breathing things?…and how does this connect to “squeezing every drop of living out of this life that I possibly can?”

The answers to these questions have surprised me as I have found light or blessings in some of the most unexpected places (along with the places that I would have expected): a morning without pain, watching my kids get along, a hug and kiss from my husband when he gets home from work, being able to have patience with my kids despite being in pain, my son’s God-given compassion, watching our dogs wrestle and play, my daughter’s passion for creating and exploring, a chance to have a really good belly-laugh, a thoughtful and kind word from a friend, good medical insurance, the sound of birds chirping, playing games with my family, a good medical test result for someone I love, my husband’s seemingly endless supply of patience with my ongoing medical issues, moments of pain-free clarity where I can think and create, and even the pain itself…because if I approach it well, I can sometimes derive strength from it.  

This is more than just a “Find the blessings from God” pep talk for myself…more than a “Things could certainly be worse” cliche. What I am getting at is that each moment requires some analysis and effort to be present. What does squeezing every bit of living out of life look like right now? What could I be doing right now that would be life-breathing for myself or those I love? Where am I not living a full life and how can that change? And every time I ask myself those questions, I find more opportunities…opportunities to love well, to learn something new, to pour into someone else, or just observe the sources of light around me right now. 

So how are you doing with this? While you probably don’t suffer from O.N., you likely have pain in your life. What could your pain be helping you to see? Where are you going through the motions instead of being intentional with your time here? Could you be squeezing more living out of your life?  

My prayer today is that we would all glean as much as we can from our time here…that we would be intentional with, not only our time, but all of our resources (including our pain)…and that we would see where God has placed light in our lives. I am praying that we would live fully and love well.

Much love friends,
Beks

3/21/16 Morning Musing: What is the Stuff that You Are Made Of?

This morning, I woke up 40 minutes after my alarm went off and with a furry dog butt in my face. (I know! My life is so glamorous…don’t be too jealous.) That initiated the 16.5 minute chaotic race to get the kids up and somewhat conscious, dressed, fed, medicated, and to school. Honestly, I was just glad that we got to school without any tears this time. (Michaela is a sensitive one who wants to luxuriate through her morning routine and when I have fouled this up before she has just melted into tears.)    

After I saw the critters off to school, I sat down (again) to deal with that weird medical bill that I opened last week while Stan was finding out that he was being laid off. I have spent many hours on the phone with many people who “aren’t the ones responsible” for me receiving a bill for $10,000 for a routine drug screening last month. So, I called probably the 100th phone number in dealing with this and was “the first person in the queue” for 50 minutes before I eventually gave up and hung up without ever talking to a real human. (Awesome! I couldn’t have possibly used that hour doing something productive.) So, that is when the frustration welled up in me and I just started bawling. It sucks to be the guy responsible to clean up someone else’s screw up. It especially sucks when you can’t get any information about the screw up and consequently are chasing your tail when it comes to cleaning it up.

“Weak. What are you made of?” Wait…what? “What are you made of? Is this all it takes to have you defeated and in fetal position?” Ummm…apparently? “Whose are you? Whose image-bearer? Do you represent him well like this?” Ouch. Ok, I see where you are going. “And what about Stan. He is holding strong. Are you going to be his partner…his team mate…or are you going to be one more thing that he has to handle?” OUCH! Ok! I get it. (Sometimes, God doesn’t talk to me all sweet and gentle…sometimes, it kinda sucks because I end up getting my butt handed to me. But he is right (stating the obvious there.)) 

You know, I’ve been watching Stan this past week and have been so proud of him throughout this process. Despite getting laid off, he is finishing his work strong…with integrity…and trying to help others do the same. He is following leads and having conversations. He is finding the humor in the situation and laughing until it hurts. He is putting himself out there. But mostly, he is just trusting God. God who brought us through the poisoning incident. God who provided financially every time an unexpected bill came in. God who has seen us when we felt invisible. God who has spoken to us in exactly the ways that we have needed over the years. God who continued to heal me from the poisoning even when we had quit asking him to. Stan has been remembering God’s character when I have had sudden onset of amnesia. In fact, I asked him the other day how he was able to keep everything in the right perspective. His answer? “I keep reminding myself that my purpose is bigger than my pride.”  

Yeah…so, I should tell you that it is really difficult to come out and publicly confess to what a giant baby I have been through all of this. I’ve been short-sighted and inconsistent. I have forgotten, at times, that I am part of a team…and that Team Massey has a purpose. And while that kick in the butt from God wasn’t fun this morning, I think it was exactly what I needed to get over the frustration spiral that I have been in.  

So, enough about me. How are you doing with this? Have you been through times that you had to completely reset in order to get back to who you are? Have you ever lost sight of your purpose? How did you get back on track? Do you know what your mission is right now? What are you doing to live a life of purpose? Do you know who is on your team and does the whole team have a sense of what their mission is? How can you help each other out? Do you need to revisit what/who you are about in order to contextualize your circumstances?

My prayer today is that we would all take time with the one who gives our lives purpose. I’m praying that we would be good reflections of him as we handle whatever circumstances we find ourselves in…because they are just circumstances…these are not the things that define us…but how we handle them…well, that’s another story. I’m praying that we would be strong and brave…and that we would understand that, by definition, strength is nothing without opposition and bravery is nothing without something to be afraid of. Finally, I’m praying that we would be able to ask ourselves what we are made of and that we would not wince at the answer. Much love friends,

Beks

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

4/7/15 Morning Musing: Choosing Pain

As I write this, I’m still not sure if I am going to post it or not.  A recent interaction with someone has me thinking about the many times in life I have been angry and also about the many times in life I have been hurt.  In the situations involving anger, I had a target for my anger:  a bully who had hurt my little boy, the man who poisoned my family, the guy in college who had broken up with me before I could break up with him, the woman who was taking my name and character and dragging it through the mud.  These people were easy for me to villainize (is that even a word?) in my head.  I could make them the enemy with no redeeming qualities in the story that was unfolding in my mind.

In the situations that hurt me, there was no target outside of myself to focus anger on so, instead, I found that I just…ached…for a long time:  empathy for a friend whose child was not behaving in a way that reflected their family’s values (on top of all the other problems she was facing at the time), knowledge (and identifying with) about how someone had violated their own conscience and was having to live with the fallout from that (it sucks to realize that you are the antagonist in someone’s story), the emptiness of a broken relationship that left me feeling like strangers with someone I used to be so very close to,  and the sadness and helplessness that comes from knowing someone is being lied to and can not hear the truth.

After you get past me depressing you so early in the morning, you will realize that the four situations I described being angry about are the same four situations that I described being hurt about.  So what the heck is my point?  Well, there are several points actually but I think they all support one theory that I have:  It is easier to be angry than it is to be hurt, but most of the time, hurt is more productive.  When I am angry, I tend to have a “bad guy”…antagonist…boogey man…enemy…someone to blame.  I can’t speak for you…but for me, when I have someone to blame, the feelings exist on the outside of me and I tend to quit looking for what virtue I should be learning more about.  I quit assessing my contribution to the situation and I tie a beautiful little bow around the neatly-packaged idea that this person is bad and that is why this situation occurred.  That makes it easier to break with that person and close off my feelings.  When I am hurt, however, I can’t tie a bow and dismiss the person/ situation because it’s in me…Inside…and the only person who can address those feelings is me.  Oh, I’ve tried covering them up, distracting myself from the feelings, and numbing them…but none of those work long-term and, inevitably, I end up having to deal with the feelings anyway.

So, again you ask, “What is the point?”  I think we learn from pain.  I think pain confronts us and demands (eventually) that we pay attention.  Why do people go the doctor?  Because some pain that they have is consuming their attention and needs to be dealt with.  If it was painless, it would be a more insidious illness…like leprosy (science geek-out alert:  leprosy causes severe nerve damage that allows the person to incur injury and not feel it.  This is dangerous because pain requires that we stop the damage from continuing.  Think about a hot stove burner:  If your arm brushes up against it, you jump away from the source of burning before you have time to think about it.  If you don’t experience pain though, you will stay in contact with the burner until some other symptom occurs (creation of smoke or sensing a burning smell.)  So, our pain is really a safety mechanism that is built-in to us to bring our attention to the situation and induce a change in our behaviors or actions.)  Anger, on the other hand, tends to be focused on someone else’s behavior.  It doesn’t require real investment or investigation…it doesn’t necessarily call for a change in our behavior or way of thinking…it’s more like a hand-grenade…it can be thrown at someone and then walked away from…and I think that ability to walk away from it is the attractive part…because it feels like power…it can be mis-interpreted as strength…but strength is not found in taking the easy road…it is found in a struggle.  Think about it:  how much strength does it require to have things always go your way?  How much strength do you have to develop in order to float through life?

So how are you doing with this?  Are you angry a lot?  Is it possible that you are angry because you are avoiding thinking about something?  Is God trying to tell you something that you don’t want to hear?  Think about the times in your life that you have experienced the most growth…what did you feel during those times?  What did you learn?  Now, think about the people you hold closest to you and reflect on whether it is they (those people that you love) or your enemies that have the most access to injuring you.  Anger allows us to distance ourselves from hurt…but in the absence of that hurt, we are also distancing ourselves from people, lessons that we could learn, and virtues that we could develop.

My prayer today is that we would slow down and evaluate some things:  if we are mad at someone, is that anger even legitimate or are we in denial about something?  What has God been impressing on us that we need to be working on?  Who around us is in pain and needs us to come alongside them and walk through it with them so that they don’t run away from the pain and become angry?  Friends, I am praying that you will find a way to get comfortable sitting in the pain and discomfort and that you will find truth and peace in it.  Much love friends,

Beks

12/3/14 Morning Musing: A Post-Mortem of a Recent Encounter

Last night, something happened that pissed me off. It was a little thing really and I’m not going into detail because it really is unimportant. Basically, someone got extremely offended when I questioned the validity of something she said. That turned into her talking about me with others and dismissing me in a very public manner. It was an extremely frustrating and uncomfortable situation for me and as many of you know, I have a hard time with controlling my tears when I’m angry. I did well with it last night though…I didn’t cry until I got home and discussed it with Stan. (I know what you’re thinking: That Stan Massey is one lucky man! By the way, his advice was “Next time, just punch her in the throat!” He always knows how to make me giggle! I love that man!)

Anyway, the purpose of this musing is to continue through my journey of heart-space preparation during advent (the irony of this sentence immediately following the throat-punching humor is not lost on me 😉)…so, I figure there is something in this experience that I need to learn from. There is some sort of truth that I need to apply in order to get myself into a better posture before God. Lots of thoughts immediately spring to mind: Don’t worry about the little things, what other people think of me is unimportant, everyone has a bad day so we need to become experts at practicing grace…and lots of other things. But, I’m not feeling the little *click* that tends to come when I stumble onto the right thing to muse about with any of those ideas, so I thought I’d muddle through this instead: The gal’s behavior last night was such a turn-off (although I know…I really do know that she is a lovely person) that, even if she hadn’t been incorrect with what she was saying, I wouldn’t have been able to really hear her. So, that leads me to a place of piggy-backing on yesterday’s musing (Basically, the story we tell with our lives, is more important than the book jacket (our physical appearances) that we wrap our precious story in.) I think today, I am needing to remember two things: First, how we present our story to other people matters. And secondly, if I truly believe my story (in this case, testimony) then it should be strong enough to stand up to questioning and scrutiny.

How we present our story matters:
This can be dissected down much farther. For one thing, people absolutely read our tone and body language because those things tend to relay truth even when our mouths lie. What I mean by this is that, if my purpose here is to tell a love story from God, the presentation of my story should exude love because people may not remember the words that are spoken but they almost always remember how it made them feel. (Take for example, these “Christian Churches” that are trying to tell the world the message of a loving God by screaming and spreading hate. The loving God is no less real just because these terribly mis-guided people have their information and approach wrong. But yet, people are so turned off by these churches that they are turning away from and rejecting that loving God.) Another thing about the presentation of our stories is that there is no formula for how to do it correctly. Each person we interact with has different needs and perspectives so we have to get to know our audience. In this case, I think that means that we need to put effort into knowing people. Understanding them. (Referring back to the story at the beginning) I have to assume that asking questions somehow equates to disrespect or aggression in the mind of this gal. But truthfully, I ask a lot of questions because I have a deep need to understand processes…the “why” and “how” behind the fact being presented. My brain is not capable of rote memorization, so to learn something, I dissect it. If this gal had understood her audience, she would know I wasn’t being ugly or combative…I simply wanted to fully grasp the concept. But instead of understanding her audience, she got defensive and lashed out and consequently, her point has been lost and dismissed.

A worthwhile story, can stand up under questioning and scrutiny:
I think that if something is factual, it should be able to be observed and dissected without fear. The alternative is that we voluntarily “know” things that might be untrue. (And honestly, with my brain damage, I just don’t have the extra space in my head for that.) I can use myself as an example on being defensive about questioning: When I was younger, I had a lot of anxiety around people asking me about my faith. Looking back on it, I think it’s because it lived in my head-space but not my heart-space. What I mean by that is that I had very few personal experiences to draw from…I knew God would never fail me when times got rough…but I didn’t yet have personal experience where that had been proven true. So when someone asked me how I knew that my beliefs were valid, my terrible response had something to do with choosing to believe it or embracing the idea of hell. (How is that for defensive?) Anyway, I’m sure that my approach was ineffective and the truth was missed because I wasn’t willing to bat the idea around for a while with the person. It was an opportunity for us to both learn something, but my unwillingness to allow scrutiny (because of my own insecurities) broke down the communication and we never finished the conversation. All that to say, if we believe something strongly enough to stand on it…to claim it as our purpose or part of our story…then we need to be willing to let ourselves and others test it and see how it performs.

I know I threw a ton of analogies at you this time…I’m not even sure this musing makes sense because I started with an argument of sor(I’m still crunching on it.) But regardless, how are you doing with this? Think about the things that you hold as truth. How willing are you to have a dialog about them? If someone asks you questions about them, do you take that as a threat or an opportunity? Do you only bat around ideas with people who agree with you or do you break out in hives just thinking about the prospect of discussion with someone with an opposing view? What about your presentation? Do your actions line up with your message? Do your motives? If you feel that these questions were particularly rough, how do you think you could explore your thoughts in a safe environment? Who is your safe person to discuss this with? How did you come to believe what you believe?

My prayer for us all today is that we would be willing to think and learn about the things that we espouse. (For me, it is my faith.) I’m praying that we would not just regurgitate ideas that we have been told, but that we would explore those ideas and move toward deeper understanding…that we would allow what we believe to mingle in with how we live…that we would allow our true beliefs to take up residence in a much more visceral place inside us so that, once we are sure of them, we would allow them to guide our decisions and behavior. Much love friends,

Beks
***Picture taken from the following site and then adapted: http://www.craftstylish.com/item/41689/craft-for-cats-two-yarn-scrap-toys-for-your-feline-friends/page/all

11/14/14 Morning Musing: When Strength Must be Silent

I hate it but there is nothing I can do to correct it. If I make sure that everyone involved truly knows my character, then I am making a bigger deal of something than I should and would cause irreparable damage to others. If I let it go, then I have people believing something untrue about me. This is one of those dilemmas that will keep me up at night (and if I’m going to lose sleep, shouldn’t I at least be greeted by a shiny, clean house in the morning?!) But no, I am greeted by a mirror that I look into and think “No…no, that can’t be right.” So I rub my eyes and try again…not any better.

Misconceptions. How do you handle them? The thing about me…the thing I would change if I could…I really do care what other people think…not in a shallow way, but I feel what other people are feeling and truth is really important to me…which in and of itself isn’t a problem, but it leads to the dilemma above. Knowing something is being perceived or interpreted incorrectly is physically painful for me. And letting it go…well…I can only do that if God is helping me because I just…can’t..handle it!

I have an area in my life where I am dealing with this right now….well, two areas…but one is big and has been going on for a long time and the other is smaller and will be temporary…I think. Anyway, the painful conclusion that I have come to is that sometimes, we have to suck it up and be perceived incorrectly and let truth come out gently over time through our actions because our words won’t/can’t be heard right now. This was really bothering me when I woke up this morning. With one of these scenarios, I am the victim (which I hate admitting) but in order to do right by the people who have mistreated me, I have to take the label of the “designated a–hole” and just sit there in it…set up camp in the middle of all of the discomfort…in all of the falseness…rest in the mess…and prepare to stay a while with my mouth firmly closed…and it sucks.

On my own, there is no way that I could do this…but in obedience to God, it’s amazing how it becomes manageable (not easy…hear me on this!) despite it being completely contrary to my wiring. Actually, that is how I know it’s of God…being empowered to do something that I simply can not do if left to my own devices. And that…that right there…that is what encourages me and gets me back where I need to be…it gets me away from the pity party and strengthens me. The knowledge that I am being obedient despite what I want to do…that fills me with satisfaction and contentment that could never be produced even if everything I wanted known was revealed to the entire world.

I know this was a bit vague, but what about you? Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever been writhing inside because you have something to say but, for one reason or another, you must be muted? Have you ever taken a personal hit for the “greater good?” Have you ever had to watch something play out in order to not rob others of what God is trying to do in their hearts? I think that in the end, it will unfold beautifully but in the interim, it really does suck.

My prayer today is that we will have the goal in mind…the big picture…as we interact with people. I’m praying that we will be strong enough to make the painful investment that is sometimes required for a bigger payoff later…the investment of having silent strength…subtle strength. I’m praying that as we struggle through all of our dilemmas, that we will huddle up close to our loving God who wants his best for us all and who is the author of all things good. I’m praying that through our sacrifices, more will come to love the God who sustains us. Much love friends.

Beks

9/16/14 Morning Musing: A Sense of Control…and Other Myths

I’ve been putting off writing about this for some time…I’ve known that I should…I just couldn’t. Most of you know about the poisoning that we went through a few years ago. Many of you know about the illness, medical procedures, and and wrestling with God that were part of my path to recovery. Some of you even know about the legal battle that ensued for years. Very few of you know about the day I had to sign it all away.

When the D.A. said that they couldn’t keep the jerk in jail because state of mind couldn’t be proven and there were no laws on the books to help us (nothing like this had ever happened before) I began to deflate. But then, he looked me in the eye and said “But…you have one hell of a civil case.” It. Was. On! That was just the thing I needed…a project…a mission…a hope. I had collected so much evidence and data: medical proof of my liver, pancreatic, and brain damage from the poisoning…out-of-pocket bills because insurance companies didn’t cover what they couldn’t understand…chemical reports from the city, TCEQ, and home-owner’s insurance companies on the presence of the toxins in our water supply…dental records from having to get all of my dental work re-done because the chemicals ate all of the fillings and crowns out of my teeth…pictures and documentation of our yard being dug up so that all the pipes, water meter, and toxic soil could be removed and disposed of in a manner that wouldn’t expose others to this…and so very much more. I immersed myself in pulling together this data for a lawsuit. And together, with our old neighbors, we filed a civil suit.

This went on for years…it was time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting. The day came when we all went to court…and we won…we won big…over $2.5 million big…and I was happy…well…happier…it still felt a bit hollow because I was still sick. But at least now, I could provide financially for medical treatment if the kids got ill again.

That’s when the letter arrived. He was declaring bankruptcy. Our lawyer wasn’t worried…a large portion of our “winnings” was punitive and a judge wouldn’t overlook that he said. But thanks to a very shady bankruptcy attorney, a few lies, and a judge that wanted her docket cleared, he was able to be declared bankrupt and I was ordered to release him from his debt. What’s worse? I also had to sign over my children’s rights to hold him liable in the future should they get ill again. I consulted with several different lawyers before complying…but the day came that I had to do it.

I walked into my bank to get the documentation notarized when I signed it. The notary was very friendly and chipper. I remember everything about her office as I sat there devastated and holding that pen in my hand: the certificates framed on her wall, the wooden executive desk, the padded but hard chair I sat in, and the carpet…it was that grey, commercial-type carpeting…and I was staring at it as I watched my tears fall down and make darker grey spots. My body felt numb and my brain was mushy. Signing away the lawsuit felt so unceremonious compared to everything we had encountered to be awarded our “winnings.” There was no judge in a robe, no lawyers pontificating, no highly-polished wooden railings, no swearing to tell the truth…there was only that ugly grey carpet and that immensely heavy pen in my hand. And it was over.

Dammit! How could everyone around me just walk around normally and happily while my entire world had just stopped?! It was one of my worst days for sure. But eventually, I began to notice that the sun still shined, my kids still laughed, and the world was still spinning because life continues with or without me. And, light began to dawn: I needed to lose this in order to gain something greater. For years, I had been consumed with this lawsuit, with justice, with what had happened to me and my family. Getting money was not going to make me well. It wasn’t going to prevent my kids from getting sick. It wasn’t going to take away the feeling of being a victim. And it could never produce joy. Sheesh! For a reasonably smart person, I can sure be dense!!! See, I had been depending on my own strength…and I was never meant to. I had edged God out of this situation…I was saving myself…or attempting to anyway. My strongest efforts were insufficient because control was an illusion that I was chasing. The truth of the matter is that my lack of faith in God to provide for my family, heal my body (which he has continued to do), and issue justice was evidenced in my “mission.” That is what I had hoped in…and it’s a piss-poor substitute for what my hope should have been in.

What about you? Where is your hope? Are there areas of your life that you are trying to hold out of God’s reach? Do you chase after control or do you see it for the mirage that it really is? Is there something you should be handing over to God but you think it’s just too painful to let anyone else handle it? My experience? God is good and he can handle your stuff.

My prayer this morning is that we would all pursue God’s strength more in our lives and quit white-knuckling our “stuff.” Much love friends,

Beks