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

10/23/17 Morning Musing: Mouths and Heart-Spaces

When I think back over the last 40 years…and think about the times when I hurt others, either intentionally or unintentionally, I can see how my mouth seemed to play the biggest role. Either I said something insensitive and hurt someone with carelessness…or I said something hurtful intentionally to get some emotional space in an argument…or I didn’t say something comforting and loving when I should have…or I felt awkward and did my nervous babbling thing and it prolonged something that I should have let die down. I can remember specific instances of hearing unjust statements made and not speaking against them…or nervously laughing…or…I’m ashamed to admit…contributing.  

I can also remember being cut very deeply by words…and being a people-pleaser for most of my life, the person didn’t have to be in my inner circle to hurt me. I can remember spinning on the words afterward for hours or even days or weeks…not being able to let it go…continuing to re-live the conversation and what was said over and over again…going into “analysis paralysis” where I excavated every possible corner of my heart to see if there was truth to what the person had accused me of (even if they didn’t realize that they had.)
Words matter…and we can’t get them back. Written or spoken. Intentional or not. Once they are sent out, we don’t get a do-over…and we have revealed who we are. 

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” ‭Matthew‬ ‭15:18‬ ‭NIV‬

Over the last year or so, I have been broken by the hateful things I’ve seen posted on social media by people that I wouldn’t consider hateful. And there were times that I spoke up against the unjust words in a gentle way in order to not escalate the hurt. And other times, I kept quiet because it wasn’t my turn to speak. Some times I saw others speak up in ways that brought people’s hackles down. And other times I saw others speak up in ways that just threw a hand grenade into an already tense situation. And it occurs to me that what we are putting out there is what is in our heart-space…it is the mark that we are leaving on the world…and it matters. Now, some will say that is why they don’t post or comment…and to them, I say…have a voice of truth…don’t be silenced. Others will say that they encounter so much friction because they are standing up for something…and to them, I say…stand up for someone instead of something.  

I think our mouths were meant to communicate what is in our hearts…and hearts were meant to love people. So how are you doing with this? What comes out of your mouth? Is it loving? Is it truthful? Does it build people up? Does it encourage others to do what is right? Do your words accept responsibility for what you’ve done wrong or do you make excuses? Do your words encourage the hearts of the discouraged? Do your words gently speak truth into broken spaces? Do your words stand against injustice? Do your words represent truth about the one who is The Word?
 
My prayer today is that we would ask for wisdom and wait to receive it. I am praying that we would speak when we are meant to and that we would shut up when we should. I am praying that we would learn to be gentle with our words and that our words would be guided by a heart-space that is taught kindness from God. I am praying that our words would be a tool for healing instead of breaking…that we would build things instead of breaking them…and that we would, once again, love well. Finally, I am praying that we would honor God with what comes from our mouths…because then, we would also be honoring him with what comes from our hearts.

Much love friends,

Beks

2/18/16 Morning Musing: Reconciliation and Forgiveness are Not the Same Animal

Over the last few years, I have been doing a lot of work in the area of forgiveness. I’ve worked on forgiving and reconciling with those who have hurt me. I have worked at length on forgiving myself for things that deeply injured others…things that those people have forgiven me for and that Jesus has long since taken on my behalf. And I have worked tirelessly on forgiving those who deeply wounded me…injured me in such a way that it affects nearly every area of my life…and from whom an apology (or even an acknowledgement) never came.

So, this weekend, when I listened to a sermon on reconciliation, I was struck by how the pastor was lumping forgiveness and reconciliation together as the same thing. Maybe I am getting lost in semantics but I don’t see them as the same at all. I see forgiveness as the place where I can affect change. I think forgiveness has everything to do with my posture before God and nothing really to do with any action at all by the other person. Forgiveness is the part where I wipe the account clean (at least from my side)…where my heart comes to a place and says “You owe me nothing.” Forgiveness is where healing begins but where pain is not magically erased. See, I think that pain will still crop up as the wounds heal…and that hurt…that little bit of agony…can be offered up to God as worship through obedience each time I feel it…because it doesn’t go away in one big hurrah…it creeps back in…all stealthy-like…and catches me off-guard when I see it because I think “I’ve already done this! I’ve already forgiven him!” But, it is time to forgive him again…and I embark on the weighty task once again.
On the other hand, reconciliation is the mending of the relationship…and while I think this is a beautiful thing…I don’t think it always happens and I don’t think that we always have any control over it…nor do I think it is always healthy and good. See, I don’t think that reconciliation is meaningful unless forgiveness has happened first…forgiveness is what happens in the heart-space…it is what is bone-deep and, I think, connects us to Jesus more deeply…because it teaches us (in a tiny way) about the work that he had to do to forgive us. I think that forgiveness is a part of us being image-bearers…and consequently it is deeply spiritual. Reconciliation is also spiritual and a blessing…but I think it is a result…a natural consequence…of the work done through forgiveness…a beautiful side-effect.

This may not make sense to everyone…we haven’t all struggled in the same ways…but I am hoping that it brings a little bit of clarity…and a touch of peace…to someone who has struggled in the ways that I have. If you find that you forgive someone and then it keeps cropping back up, don’t beat yourself up…pain doesn’t just disappear because you have forgiven someone…but you can acknowledge that pain…from the deep and tender place in you…and give it to the healer as an offering. Reconciliation, if it is meant to be, will come…opportunities will be presented…but first…the heart space.

So, how are you doing this? Are you doing the hard work of forgiving someone? Yourself? Do you find yourself having to go back and repeat the work that you have already done? Instead of getting frustrated and berating yourself, can you acknowledge the pain that exists there? Can you trust God enough to offer that pain to him? To allow that offering to be a way that you worship him? If you are being forgiven by someone, can you allow them the time necessary to work through it? If it doesn’t happen magically for you, you can bet it won’t happen magically for them either. Can you allow them to be hurt without your interference? Whether it is you or someone else doing the hard work of forgiveness, allow time and space to work through it…don’t press for an immediate result and don’t be surprised if much of the work must be repeated in order to heal.

My prayer today is that we would reconcile where appropriate…but that first, we would do the hard work that is forgiveness. I am praying that we honor the one who has forgiven us of so much by embarking on the same task. I am praying that we wouldn’t press for an outward result until we are healed inside so that reconciliation has a chance of being authentic and lasting.

Much love friends,
Beks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beks

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

5/12/14 Morning Musing: Don’t Waste the Pain

I remember being in the surgery room at the Vet Clinic where I worked growing up and Dr. Jones skillfully operating on a dog. He commented on how tough the tissue was to cut through and then quickly discovered that the reason was that it was scar tissue from wounds that had been inflicted upon the dog a long time ago. The dog actually had bee-bees imbedded in its flesh from someone shooting at it. What I learned in that moment is that scar tissue is really tough stuff. It is stronger than the original tissue.

We all carry scars around with us…they shape who we are, tell a bit of our stories, influence our decisions, and affect how we interact with others. How we view the world is often a result of our scars and how we view God is often affected by how we respond to our scars. The truth of the matter is, none of us are walking around un-scarred or undamaged…we all have wounds…it’s a fact of life. It’s just that some of our wounds are more apparent than others. Some wounds are visible to others…wounds from accidents, birth defects, aging, and malice that has been inflicted upon us by others. Other wounds aren’t visible but their results are still obvious: hatred, bigotry, anger…we see these often times in people who are hard to be around…we see the effects of these wounds/scars in overtly aggressive behaviors. And then there are the invisible wounds/scars…these are usually created and nursed in private: abuse, molestation, mistreatment, ostracism, loss, neglect, shame, and addiction. I believe that most of us have wounds from multiple or even all of these categories.

Regardless of how you acquired your wounds or how you wounds have turned into scars (through healing correctly or incorrectly…through neglect of the wound which turns into infection or treating it right away which tends to leave tough scar tissue) you are deeply affected by those scars and your response to them influences your approach to God as well as people.

So far, I haven’t said anything that you all don’t already know. Where the musing comes in is this: What if we have a choice between wasting our wounds and utilizing them? What if utilizing those wounds for the benefit of others and to the glory of God will be our beauty in heaven? Bear with me here. Jesus was wounded for the benefit of many…that is the redemption story…the pain is not wasted…every ounce of his suffering was for the restoration of relationship between God and mankind. He set the example of the gospel to be lived out by us. So, why wouldn’t our pain and wounds also be a continuation of that redemption story? Our suffering is meant to be restorative. Then our pain and wounds which seem so ugly here…those same wounds become beautiful in heaven. Maybe beauty looks different in heaven than the “beauty” that we value here on earth. (Wouldn’t it be just like Jesus to turn our values upside down on their heads?!) Maybe, just maybe, our scars and deformities and wounds that we used to help others here will be our crowns and the glory we can offer Jesus in heaven…our glorified bodies.

Like I said, I don’t have scripture to back up my thoughts that our glorified bodies will be scarred and ugly by earthly standards…but it stands to reason (at least to me) that it could play out that way. After all, when Jesus returned from the grave, he had scars that helped people in their faith. Also, it would answer the questions “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “Why doesn’t God just say the word and make everything perfect?” He is giving us the chance to know him on a deeper level and to become more beautiful like him.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you wasting your wounds? If we just live in pain for the sake of being in pain, we are masochists…but if we look for opportunities to redeem the pain, we become more like Jesus. How are you doing with this? Are you allowing your wounds to heal properly and become strong, tough scar tissue or are you nursing your wounds in private and allowing them to fester? Do you have scars that can help others or are you letting your wounds define you? Make no mistake about it, scar tissue is tough stuff…stronger than the original tissue. If you have been broken by life, that is a source of strength…not weakness. Don’t waste the pain.