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

Advertisements

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

8/3/17 Morning Musing: Finding My Voice…Unity is not the same as Uniformity

I remember the exact moment that I lost faith in him. He was someone I had looked up to for many years and then…it was gone. He was a leader for many of us and the topic for this group that was gathering was actually leadership. He had missed the previous meeting and his co-leader had asked the group why we thought the conversation the previous week had so much more depth. A couple of “safe” answers were tossed out and then I answered. “Last week, the lesson was presented in a more conversational way instead of one person dispensing information. There was give and take and it led to a natural and healthy challenge for everyone to think. Not only were we getting to know you better…but we were becoming known ourselves.” That was when it happened. The leader that had missed the previous week abruptly took over the lesson and let us (me) know, in no uncertain terms, that he was in charge and that he knew the only good way to lead the class. He repeated multiple times during his rant “I have things to say!” I can still see the red tension in his face as he held back the anger and tried to control his very strong emotions about what I had said.

This may not sound very big to you but it stunned me. As someone who was still learning that I had a voice…still learning that my voice had value…still learning that I had value…and still learning that there was room for me in this world, I was shocked to hear this Godly man shut down open and honest conversation and basically demand that this class about leadership be just another platform for him to share his ideas and use his voice but not be willing to hear the ideas and voices of others…he was unwilling to learn from the other people in the room and it became clear that his idea of leadership meant that the people he led had to be sheep…not leaders.  

As usual, this got me thinking and looking for patterns. This leader had a team of people he worked with…all of them had similar abilities to him…all of them had similar leanings and perspectives to him…all of them were the same gender as him…all of them were the same race as him…all of them even looked a bit like him. He surrounded himself with people whose voices were echoing his own.

Surrounding ourselves only with people who are like us and will agree with us isn’t leadership because it doesn’t allow us to learn anything new and if we aren’t learning we aren’t growing. If we only allow ourselves to hear our own voices, it is very easy to become proud because there is no challenge present…no give and take…our own voices are the only ones we hear and the only ones that matters to us…and that isn’t leadership…it’s idolatry. In order to have a full understanding of something, it is imperative that we listen to the voices of others and then decide what we think. We have to get uncomfortable and look for diversity if we want to see the whole picture and then we have to look for diversity if we want to carry out a resulting project well. We are referred to as parts of the body in scripture…not a pile of hands…and if we don’t respect what is different from us…if we don’t allow ourselves to see things from another person’s perspective…we will condemn ourselves into becoming nothing but a pile of hands…and there isn’t much value in that.

So how are you doing with this? Have you found your voice? Do you tend to surround yourself with others who sound just like you or have you found a place where your voice can contribute to a choir of other voices…creating something that is greater than the sum of the individual voices? Do you question others in a healthy and respectful way or do you just follow along like sheep? Are you still learning or do you think of that as part of your past? Are you able to hear a differing point of view without it raising your hackles? Are you able to humble yourself? If you find these questions difficult, you aren’t alone. I felt my heart rate increase as I was writing them. While I think that I do look for diversity in a lot of ways, I still think that there is a lot of room for improvement for me.

My prayer today is that we would each take our next step in valuing the voices we have but not at the expense of shutting out the voices of others…that we would take the time to hear…really hear others who are different from ourselves…that we would also learn to be still and hear our own voices…that we would become part of a choir of voices and that we would embrace our opportunities to sing solos and also thoroughly enjoy when we get to sing with others. I’m praying that we would seek to become leaders who value other leaders and who make lifting each other up a priority. Friends, I’m praying for unity that does not require uniformity.

Much love friends,
Beks

8/10/14 Morning Musing: This is Not a Hill on Which I Choose to Die

“This is not a hill on which I choose to die.” I have heard my mother utter these words so many times during my life. My mom is a rather quiet and tiny woman…yeah…I’m shocked that I came from her sometimes as I could not be more her opposite: she is brunette, short, quiet, introverted, and I’ve never seen her run. I’m blonde, tall-ish, loud, extremely extroverted, and I crave physical activity all the time. I mis-interpreted her quietness and introvertedness for weakness for a long time. In fact, as my role-model for marriage, I believed that I could not marry because I could not be like her…during that time, I missed out on what I could have been learning from her because I was blinded by my own pride of what a “strong woman” looked like…it looked like me of course…loud and ready to fight with my voice for sure and with my fists if necessary.

Before the poisoning, my personality was quite a bit different than it is now. I was extreme in almost everything I did. I thought that if you landed in the middle on something (like my mother) then you had no opinion…that if you were moderate in anything, that you were wasting your options. I was a rather polarizing individual and it made people have to choose between loving me or hating me…which suited me fine at the time because then, I at least knew where I stood with everyone. (Refer back to my entry about being a habanero pepper before.) Now, I find myself avoiding the extremes (for the most part) and gravitating toward the middle…pursuing unity and love instead of “my ideals.” To be honest, this has been an unsettling transition for me because it means that I am going back and removing my foot from my mouth on many of my former stances…things that I espoused adamantly before, I am finding that I cringe at the thought of now…but I am developing a taste for shoe-leather since I am finding my foot in my mouth so often.

What I have come to love about the phrase my mom uses (This is not a hill on which I choose to die) is this: First, she chooses. She is not ushered onto a side through emotion and she is not manipulated into a stance she doesn’t believe in. She makes her choices and uses logic to arrive at them. She is not a hot-head that flies off the handle half-cocked and ends up eating crow (or in my case shoe leather) later. Secondly, this phrase does not indicate neutrality in everything…it indicates that there are hills on which she will plant her flag and stand her ground. The fighter in me loves this…there are times where we must fight against injustice and oppression…to do otherwise is to side with the oppressor (paraphrase from Desmond Tutu.) Lastly, this phrase indicates that some things are not only worth standing up for, they are worth dying for. This hits especially close to my heart right now with the tragedies going on in Gana, Nigeria, Iraq, Isreal, and Syria. Doing what is right is worth dying for. Being right is not.

The point of my rant this morning is that I think many of us (myself included) are getting sucked into pointless side-taking and are blinded to the areas that count. Instead of fighting about democrat or republican, red or blue, conservative or liberal…we should be fighting on behalf of humanity and justice. We should be guided by our logic and morality instead of getting into choosing sides against people because of our preferences. Make no mistake…there is a difference. We should absolutely be outraged by injustice. We should not be outraged by difference. “Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need for one another.” –Desmond Tutu.

So, how are you doing with this? How often do you feel outraged about something? Is that something more often a difference in opinions or are you outraged over injustice? If you aren’t ever outraged, is there something that you are called to believe in but are shying away from? Are you choosing what your stance is or do you find yourself getting emotionally manipulated into your stance by culture? Is there a hill on which you would choose to die? If so, what are you doing to at least approach that hill? The hill will never be won if we don’t find our mission of taking it.

I am praying that we will all find our mission in life. That we will pursue life, love, and justice. That we will quit fighting amongst ourselves over unimportant things and quit allowing ourselves to be divided over the very differences that would make us stronger and better-equipped as a people. Much love friends.

Beks

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

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

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

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

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

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