Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blessings from the Bathroom

I found a way to survive an airport on a Sunday.  Play Christmas music and go to the bathroom next to gate E 5. 

The plane landed and I had just enough time to, you know, do some business before I had to jot quickly to my  gate that would take me to beloved Rocky Top.  I put in my headphones as I walked in and there was the jolliest  woman with lashes that extended to the Atlantic and a smile that disarmed defensive and weary passengers.  I happened to be a physically weary passenger fighting a cold and longing for my sweet home on West Glenwood.  

She greeted me as if I had entered the pearly gates and I was her long lost daughter.  “Welcome!!! I am so glad you are here!”  

I stared and then I looked around to see who she was talking to and point to myself with a question mark in my eye.

"Yes! Welcome!"

Does she know I am in a bathroom in the Charlotte airport?  Does she know SHE is in a bathroom in the Charlotte airport?

She continues. “I want you to have a blessed day.  I am glad to see you.” 

I continue staring.  

“Be BLESSED everyone!” she booms in her beautifully deep voice with a side of sass and warmth.  

How does she do it?  How does she work a job of standing 5 feet away from constant crap (literally) and have such joy in her heart?   I did my business and gave her a smile and put my earbuds back in and the song, “Our God is With Us - Emmanuel” was playing.  Looking around at all the sizes, shapes, colors and temperaments of people walking by, I could sense His heart for this woman.  Many people were coming and going out of that room without giving her a second glance.  She was present, even if no one noticed or acknowledged her, but was anyone WITH her?

He is WITH us. 

He is WITH me. 

Many times I am the hustling woman through the airport with a frantic look on her face, just trying to get to the next place in hopes of it taking me home, the place I really want to be, but I miss his WITHness. He is always present, but presence can be true of God and be oblivious to me. Somewhere in there I miss the togetherness that is always mine for the taking. This WITHness is becoming my life calling and life longing.  To enjoy His WITH as I am WITH others - even in a crowded airport.   That woman in the bathroom by E5 was WITH those she served, with such presence and joy. God Bless her.  I think God enjoys her so much.  I hope she knows that that He is WITH her today.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The sun sank down over the gulf and I could not quit smiling.  Feeling life and love pour over me was bringing such joy that I almost wept with gratitude.  I was sitting on the beach thinking about God keeping his promises. 

Exodus 6 tells of God talking with Moses and saying that now is the time that he wants to free the Israelites from the 400+ years of slavery that they have endured.  He wants to be their God and they be his beloved people.  God tells Moses to go tell the captives what HE has said. THIS IS THE BEST NEWS!  However, v. 9 of Exodus 6 says this, 

Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.”

I felt a punch in the gut.


I rubbed my eyes and said, “Wait! Did I read that wrong?”

I reread the passage and just sat in silence.  The familiar moving of the Holy Spirit was happening.  Logos explained “broken spirit” like this: 

“it was the inward pressure caused by deep anguish that prevented proper breathing—like children sobbing and gasping for their breath"

Let that settle.

I thought it sounded like a panic attack. 

The captives were about to be freed!! After years and years of pain, heartache, silence, wondering when the suffering would end, no glimmer of hope, and FINALLY news of hope comes and they could not even hear it.  Why?  “because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.” 

Being the one in captivity during seasons of life where it is difficult to hear God even if what he is telling you is good news is frightening.

When the internal anguish is great the struggle to receive hope can be elusive - to the point of the promises being what we might say as “too good to be true.” 

Are you crying so much about your life and disappointments that the thought of having hope feels terrifying?

Have you believed that hope teases you? Hope does not tease.  As my friend tells me, “Timing is what throws you off.”  Not hope. 

A lot of energy is wasted by ignoring what is going on inside.  In the circles I move in many cover it up with spiritual talk, doing “more ministry” and dodging questions that get to the heart.  It's not considered "spiritual" to talk about emotions.  Tell that to the Israelites. 

I continue to have to acknowledge how I am like that child sobbing and gasping for breath before I can actually begin to calm, breath again and HEAR.  


Hearing and receiving can bring even a twinge of Hope that can speak to the gasping for air places in our life and calm us like a child in need of comfort.


And get this...even though the Israelites could not receive the good news Moses shared, it did not stop God from rescuing them.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ain't no summer lovin'

This blog post will “bless your heart.” You will walk away with a deeper meaning of life.  

(Clear throat) 

True confession. Summer is my 4th favorite season.  All you summer peeps who get giddy about the lake, tank tops and the heat - well, good for you. It has taken me approximately 39 years to admit this earth shattering news.  I have been in denial. Who doesn’t like summer?  Apparently only people who have no soul. Some say that redheads do not have a soul.  You know what else those same people aren’t saying? Redheads spontaneously combust when out in the sun for longer than 4 minutes.  

Here is a list of what a person who has a soul (non-gingers) loves about summer:
  • wearing almost no clothing because it is hot
  • the heat
  • going to the pool everyday because of heat
  • getting tan because the sun is relentlessly beating down on the souls of summer lovers
  • wearing chaco’s with dresses
  • splash pads because sometimes it is hotter than 3 hells in the summer
  • more things to do outside. in the heat. 

Here is a list of what a person who has no soul (gingers) dislike about summer:

  • combustion
  • chronic sunburn
  • wearing zinc oxide that reminds you of when you were 5 and at the beach with your sun loving family 
  • wearing chaco’s with dresses because chaco’s make me feel like a man (sorry, but they do). I guess I have bigger issues than the sun. 
  • mosquitos

If Ann Voskamp (1000gifts) happened to read this blog she would come have a heart to heart with me.  So, for Ann’s sake and everyone else I’ll list what I am grateful for about today. 

  • I am grateful that I can paddle board and not combust
  • I am grateful for hiding my chaco’s for half the year and dealing with my masculine issues
  • I am grateful that the mosquitos will go back from the pit of you know where so I can swing on my porch and enjoy fall
  • I am grateful for pumpkins, white lights, a breeze, warm drinks, hay rides, and CLOTHING.
  • I am grateful that I can stand on my porch today, jump up and down, waving and yelling to summer, “Don’t let the door hit ya……”

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Tension

August 7, 2014

Several years ago at UT’s annual fall retreat for Cru, I facilitated a women’s time for about 60 college students.  I have no recollection of what was shared or said, but I do remember a conversation I had with three of the girls afterwards.  “Millie” shared with me that she just wanted God to take away her feelings for someone.  She felt that if she surrendered and asked God that he should remove all feelings of longing. Then she could happily get on with life.  Sounds right, huh?  Wrong.  Millie felt ashamed of her desire.  She felt that someone who had it more together wouldn’t want something so “un-Godly” as a relationship.  She should want to go to Africa and share Jesus more than she should want a relationship, right?  I will never forget the look on her face as we talked about what it would look like to walk in her longing and not try and get rid of it like a bad haircut from the 7th grade.  Her face lit up as she realized that there was another way.  A way in which she could be fully surrendered to her Father and yet have desire and longing.  

The struggle is real.  1) The struggle to want to demand our longing be met when we want it,  or  2) the opposite - to kill desire.  That’s what a good Buddhist would do.  If you have no desire then you have no suffering (read Larry Crabb - Shattered Dreams). 

We are invited to live in the tension of our longings.  The waiting will surface every bit of entitlement, bad coping mechanism and neediness.  The tension of living in longing will surface demand - demands of other people and demands of God to meet what we think our greatest needs are and to answer in the timing that we think best.  Living in the tension will highlight our relational sin and how our interactions with others can be insincere and selfish in an effort to get a need met.  

Longings in friends lives right now include longing to be free of cancer, longing to have children,  longing to have a heart healed from a broken relationship, longing to find community, longing for husband to be free of addiction, longing for a life to have weight and meaning and a longing to be known and loved.

I have no magical answers other than to keep leaning in to your longing with others who have empathy and the ability to be WITH you in your vulnerable place.  

Here are a few tips for those of you who struggle a little with knowing how to be WITH someone:
  1. Listen without feeling the need to give advice.  Is your desire to give advice due to your own insecurity of feeling like you don’t have anything to offer your hurting friend?  Pay attention to your relational motivation.
  2. If you don’t understand your friend’s longing then that’s ok.  A healthy friend won’t demand you understand, but appreciate your effort in asking questions and just sitting in silence with them.
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of your presence and kindness in asking questions.  
  4. Basically all of these points sound the same. :)  


Beth Moore recently said something that has stuck with me.  She said, “If there’s a breakdown in unbelief, it’s not His issue, it’s yours.”  It may sound harsh, but I’ve loved it because it reminds me to think about things that are true - He loves us. He is for us. He is WITH.  So the next time you are tempted to kill desire or to demand it be answered, just give me or a trusted friend a call.  We can walk through it together.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hello, goodbye.

Hello, goodbye.

No one ever warned me that life was full of hello’s and goodbyes.  I mean, to be fair, it is obvious since the very nature of the life cycle screams birth and death - a hello, goodbye of sorts that no one eludes. My heart longs for home.  The constant hello’s and goodbyes have brought me to a quiet Saturday night of allowing myself to acknowledge that risking to go deep in relationships also means greater sadness when having to say “goodbye” to people who become so dear.  This week I have said “goodbye” to three of my dearest friends.  It is not like they have died, they are just moving away, but it feels in some ways like a death for a time and must be acknowledged, because they mean so much to me.  

You would think that after16 years in college ministry that I would get used to the constant hello, goodbye cyle, but somehow the older I get, the more I wonder, “Is this how relationships are supposed to be?”  Here for a season and then transitioning to something not quite like a stranger, but a more distant memory of that person in your every day? It seems wrong.   Year after year,  class of 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010 and on and on…..staff team after staff team, staff get married, some get transferred.  Hours and hours, weeks, months and years of pouring into students and then throw in the summer projects where you have temporary staff teams for 7 weeks and new students and there’s another hello, goodbye.  Cru staff get so used to it sometimes that we don’t really bat an eye over sharing our life story with people we will only be with for a few weeks. We do this over and over and over.  This kind of vulnerability and risk that is almost expected.  

Then there’s the more gut wrenching hello, goodbye of life and death.  Grandparents, parents, sons, uncles, friends and pets (except for mine, because she will live forever).  Wow. This is such an uplifting post.  I want you to know that it is okay to struggle, grieve and ACKNOWLEDGE that the people in your life matter enough to you that when the time comes for a goodbye that it should hurt, even in the midst of celebrating what is next. Constant hello’s and goodbye’s are not normal.  Maybe here on earth. Living with an eternal perspective gives me hope. One day the constant beginnings and endings of relationship will also come to an end.  I look forward to a forever season of forever community.  


I love you, Jeff, Sara and Haley.  These goodbye’s have been some of the hardest.  Thank you for making them hard because we chose to go deep.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Books - My favorites

Over the past two years a number of people have asked me to put together a list of books that are my favorites.  Well, here's a first draft.  I'd love to hear what your favorite books are as well.

A few of my favorites…..

Gratitude in all things
ONE THOUSAND GIFTS - Ann Voskamp

Best books with the worst titles
Strong Women Soft Hearts - Paula Rinehart (terrible title, but incredible book)
Keep Your Love On - Danny Silk (another terrible title, but incredible book)
Shattered Dreams - Larry Crabb (my favorite book of all time)

It’s like sitting down with a good friend and talking about life
Bittersweet - Shauna Niequist
Cold Tangerines - Shauna Niequist
Bread and Wine - Shauna Niequist

Wise old sages
The Papa Prayer - Larry Crabb
Becoming a True Spiritual Community - Larry Crabb
A Severe Mercy - Sheldon VanAuken
A Grace Disguised - Jerry Sittser
A Grief Observed - C.S. Lewis 
The Great Divorce - C.S. Lewis
Transforming Grace - Jerry Bridges
The Furious Longing of God - Brennan Manning
When Heaven is Silent - Ron Dunn
Thinking Spiritually - John Owen

Children’s books that are really for adults too
At the Back of the North Wind - George Macdonald
Sir Gibbie - George Macdonald
Chronicles of Narnia - C.S.Lewis
All of the Anne of Green Gables books - L.M. Montgomery

Challenges me to live a better story
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years - Donald Miller
7 - Jen Hatmaker
Birthing the Miraculous - Heidi Baker
Love Does - Bob Goff

Advent
The Greatest Gift - Ann Voskamp

Spiritual Direction/Formation
The Wounded Healer - Henri Nouwen
Spiritual Formation - Henri Nouwen

Honest Leadership
Leading With a Limp - Dan Allender
Leading On Empty - Wayne Cordiero

Favorite emerging author
Prototype - Jonathan Martin

Sabbatical Reads
A Testament of Devotion - Thomas R. Kelly
Soul Keeping - John Ortberg
Care of Souls - David Benner

Challenging
Jesus Feminist - Sarah Bessey (before you choke on your drink and label me a heretic, read it!)
Half the Church - Carolyn James
When Life and Beliefs Collide - Carolyn James
Fully Alive - Larry Crabb (femininity and masculinity - amazing!!)

Fiction
Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd
UNBROKEN - Laura Hillenbrand

Politics, but more focus on the relational aspects of the Presidency
Decision Points - George W. Bush
The Presidents Club - Gibbs & Duffy

The ONLY good book I’ve ever read about singleness because she is honest and not cliche’
Revelations of a Single Woman - Connaly Gilliam

Studies or Devotionals
31 Days to Coming Alive - Jen Hand
Breaking Free - Beth Moore
Revolution Within and Experiencing Christ Within - Dwight Edwards
The Prodigal God - Tim Keller
A Place of Quiet Rest - Nancy Demoss
Joshua - D.R. Davis
1 & 2 Samuel - D.R. Davis

I read this every year when I need rest
Gift from the Sea - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

About the “other” - Men
What’s He Really Thinking? - Paula Rinehart 
Wild at Heart - John Eldredge

A favorite tool for growth of my students and staff women
Changes That Heal - Henry Cloud

Amazing People
The Hiding Place - Corrie Ten Boom
Spiritual Secrets of Hudson Taylor - Lance Wubbels
The Knowledge of the Holy - A.W. Tozer

Kick fear to the curb and live out your calling
Undaunted - Christine Caine

Commentaries
Any commentary by Dale Ralph Davis

Puritan prayers
The Valley of Vision 

Finances
Women & Money - Suze Orman

A few of my faves from grad school
Lettters to a Young Therapist - Mary Pipher
Addiction & Grace - Gerald May
The Gift of Therapy - Irvin Yalom
MODERN PSYCHOPATHOLOGIES: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal
Let Your Life Speak - Parker Palmer

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Community

Tonight a dozen memories flood my mind and almost causes my heart to catch in my throat.  

It’s the summer before my senior year in high school and Tammi, Christie, Anne, Chris, Steven and I lie down on a blanket out on the hot concrete at the end of Tammi’s street.  We watched for shooting stars. We were quiet and then we laughed and talked and couldn’t even possibly imagine where we would be some 20 years later.  We had done life together since we were little.  No one could ever replace these friends.

It’s the end of my junior year in college.  Once again I sit at the end of a runway of an abandoned airport with 10 of my closest girlfriends.  It’s late at night and of course we were trying to make dirt cake and no one had brought a spoon, but alas! I had a flashlight to stir it with.  We laughed and cried and we celebrated our friend Lisa who was graduating and because she had a summer birthday, she never got celebrated, so we made it a Lisa night.  Someone still has a recording of that night.  No one could ever replace these friends.

It’s my second year on staff at UT.  Darren, Haley, Brad and I decided we wanted to go caving.  Haley lost her shoe in the mud and reached down to pull it out, only to discover it was someone else’s shoe.  It’s like an episode of Criminal Minds.  Brad and D had to shove us up out of the cave.  For any girl, you know what that means and how awkward that was for all involved.  Act cool.  Act like it’s normal for Brad Crawford to be shoving your arse up through a grate. NBD. We were covered in mud and we laughed and laughed.  No one could replace these friends.

I have 1000 memories of people, sacred moments, many more serious than the ones I wrote about.  It’s the ones I wrote about that capture a taste of adventure and Life.  So many other memories would capture the things we wouldn’t choose to share; the things that make caving, watching shooting stars and sitting at the end of an abandoned runway with people more RICH.

My friend Brad (not the one who shoved our rears up a grate) shared his definition of community with me tonight.  “Community - Family. Like minded friends sharing a goal. Living and thriving in the good and growing through the bad.”  Then he asked me a question that made me stop in my tracks.  “But if you remove the goal, what are you?”   

I have found myself wrestling with this question over and over and over the past few months.  Community. Family.  Sharing a goal.  Maybe that’s too complex or you think I’m overthinking it.  But when you get to the stage of life that I’m in, I want my relationships/community to count.  To have weight.  To give life and to receive life. To be on mission together. These days the people I want to spend time with and be with are in a really different season than I am. Mostly families, but it’s worth pursuing because these are MY PEOPLE.  So if getting time with Allison means sitting with her for hours because her husband’s having surgery, then by golly, I’m sitting with Al.  I didn't want to leave today because time with she and my other friend Jen filled my soul.  We had conversation that mattered and their words had weight. We have community and it has not come easy.  If it means driving to Chattanooga or to Charlotte, then that needs to happen. The focus of friendship is beginning to narrow in my life and it is a relief, because no one can replace these friends.

Why is community (using the definition B gave me) important?  Even before Adam and Eve ate the fruit, it says in Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone.  We need one another and there is nothing BAD about that desire.  Nothing.  

As a counselor, one of the first questions I know to ask someone who is struggling is, “Do you have support? Community?”  We know that being and staying healthy requires other people.  The irony here is that sometimes you don’t know who God wants to give you to journey with. Do they have to look a certain way? Be the coolest ones in the room?  Do they have something that I want?  Do they make me feel better about myself?  Do I get my needs met?  

Friendship that matters isn’t built on endless social gatherings, although that is a blast and needed.  Friendship and community that matters means living and thriving in the good and growing in the bad.  And I would add, committing to growing through the bad.  Community sounds like such a beautiful word and concept until crap hits the fan and I want to run.  This past year God in his severe mercy has walked me through a season of being so exposed in my weakness and neediness and I couldn’t even pretend as I had in the past.  And in his kindness he has taught me about community through some key people.  I hope they are in my life for years to come.  It’s been worth every hard and painful moment, and I know it is only the beginning. No one can replace these friends.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Family

A friend of mine asked me if I would be willing to blog about my experience with being single and pursuing friendship with families. Gladly.

Over the past few years there have been many times where I have read, written, cheered and clapped when people (pastors, married friends, single friends) acknowledge the unique challenges and pains of being unattached and childless.  The validation that comes from being “seen, known and loved” is a gift.  However, if it is only one-sided validation then it stops short of what could be an invitation to much deeper and richer relationship.  

Recently I have heard accounts of families who feel a little used due to always being the one to give, invite, minister to and intercede on behalf of singles.  Hear me out here.  I know the Church largely caters to families and Sunday’s can be the hardest day of the week for singles. I see you, single friend.  I know. I am you. BUT (the BIG BUT) sometimes families have a need to get an invitation as well.  You have much to offer families.  What a gift it is to invite others in to your world and to love them and give of yourself!  Yes, it might take a little extra work and preparation, but the effort, thought, and inclusive of children invitation speaks value.  You know how much value you feel when your mama friends get a babysitter so they can go out and celebrate you on your birthday???? Inviting children over is a gift. So what if you can’t have a coherent, full sentence conversation due to toy guns bonking you in the head, someone wanting to twirl, a baby spitting on you, 4 kids on your legs trying to put you in “jail” as you braid hair??? IT IS AWESOME and it is real life. 

I understand there might be some seasons where it is too much, but more often than not I have found that by engaging in the joys and sorrows with my family friends it only enriches and opens my own heart.  God sets the lonely in family.  I have found this to be one of the most healing things in my life.  Does it also deepen the pain of my own longings? Yes, sometimes, but why is that always a bad thing?  It pushes me into God like nothing else can.  


If I choose to avoid families and only choose friendship with single people then I am in big trouble.  Here’s who I would have missed out on:


The Burr's.  Ami is my cousin (more like my sister) and her 6 kids and her husband who is truly a brother to me.  This family has challenged me and loved me like Jesus.  I was driving Laura Beth (my namesake - the only blonde on) to a birthday party and I wasn't saying something very nice about the driver in front of me and she quickly called me out. Nice. :)  There are so many things to say here, but they fill my heart.

And I'd miss out on this:


I held Emory since she was just a few weeks old and prayed over her and held her in worship so mama could have a hand free to lift. :)  Greg has challenged, loved, encouraged and been a brother like no other.  Hudson is a charmer and his grin and curls kill me. Don't even get me started on Allison - a friend who has listened to me hour after hour and prayed for me, spoken promises over me and allowed me into her life as well.

OH and how about this family:


My pastor Jarrod, Jen and their boys Liam, Gladden and Rocco.  I don't know if it hurts parent's feelings if you have favorites of their kids, but I have to say that little Gladden (blonde) stole my heart.  He's so sweet.  He was trying to put me in "jail" and so kindly looked up and said with a lisp, "Der are toythz."  Gotta watch my back with that one. He's a charmer and coercive and he doesn't even know it.  I love watching the Justice's parent.  They give such freedom and they don't fall into the trap of pressure to parent someway just because a book or other people think they should  They are AMAZING parent's.  I have learned a ton.

And new friends:

I have a new friendship with Arehearts.  I love being around them.  They are hilarious and easy to be with.  I know their oldest, Carolina, the most.  She stands and sings with me sometimes in church.  She can also do a kick tail version of "Let It Go" with the most passion and pure heart.  I love that the Arehearts invited me to Carolina's birthday party even though I don't have kids. I think I will have more fun than the rest of them. :)

Last but not least:


Everyone needs to have a Marshman family in their lives.  Chrisy is one of my best friends and Hank is too young to be my dad, but too old to be my brother. He's just the best.  Brett and Blake have taught me what it's like to be a big sister to little brothers.  I have learned about seasons of life, prayer, laughter, sacrifice and showing up in all things from the Marshman's.  I love them dearly.


These are just a few of the families that I could highlight.  Don't miss out on investing in families.  It really is selfish in some ways, because of what you gain.  So, go be selfish and invite a family of 8 over for dinner. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Men

Men! Who needs ‘em?  I hear this statement time and again from women who are walking various roads of life.  Some have been deeply wounded by fathers.  Some have risked and have had their hearts broken so they make a vow to stay away from men.  Others take the “strong, independent woman” identity, and make sure it is known that they are “okay” and the last thing they need is a man. 

I have a confession.  I need men in my life.  

“Need” and “neediness” are two different things.  

Need - to require something because it is essential or important
Needy - wanting or needing attention, affection or reassurance, especially to an excessive degree

There’s so much shame associated with “need.”  I think it’s time we busted that out of the water.  

I need my dad to call.
I need Darren to call out vision for a new season.
I need Brad to call me out when I start to shut down.
I need Greg’s words of care for me as his sister.
I need Joe to fix my toilet and get angry when my heart is hurt.
I need Jarrod to believe in me as a woman who can lead, serve and speak in the Church.
I need Fred to ask the hard questions and call out the real Beth.
I need Chris as he is one  of the only people who can sit with me and I not have to explain my family because he was there.
I need Hank because everyone needs a Hank.
I need David to tell me to walk away from a toxic relationship. Not once, not twice, but three times. 
I need Jerrod to laugh with and to be realistic with.
I need Peter to sit down with me on my birthday, put his arm around me as I’m weeping and say, “I believe God wants to give you the desires of your heart.”
I need to see Chris sit at my feet and pray over me and weep as he prays for the “not yet.”
I need to hear Chad say time and again (unprompted) - “There is nothing wrong with you. You are a catch.”

I love my girl friends and my sisters. I love that they know me and we can connect deeply.  They bring their own unique flavor and element to my life, but there is something about the weight of a mans words that have deep impact on the lives of so many women.  And I find this to be a gift. Healing, restorative and deeply moving.

In a world where tv shows, movies, talk shows, etc. act like men are complete morons incapable of washing their own socks and respecting women, I say “enough.”  Are there those weak men out there? Sure. Just as there are women out there who play stupid, say “totes” a lot  and use their looks to further their own agenda.  But I feel there’s not enough honoring of our brothers in a way that calls out the most strong and best parts of who they are.  This could be said of women as well.  We have a lonnnnnngggg way to go in the gender struggle, but what would it be like to really help each other win?  Men platforming, encouraging, and  honoring women and women platforming, encouraging and calling out men to be just that…..men.  I love and deeply value the men in my life.  I need them and am grateful they are ok with that.  



Thursday, March 20, 2014

I'll Walk With You

When I was little I remember watching my dad act in a Christmas pageant at church.  First of all, let’s just pause at the thought of my dad acting in a Christmas play, but he did.  He would’ve won a TBN Oscar for his portrayal of Simon of Cyrene because he did such a fabulous job.  He didn’t even flinch when I grinned and waved at him as he carried the cross down the red-carpeted aisle.  Bravo, Daddy. Bravo!  

Today I went to see the movie Son of God.  Jesus had perfect teeth and a British robotic accent that was slightly breathy, like Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone (if you are under the age of 30, google it), but other than that I really liked it. I sat there with my friend Chastin (whose “allergies” acted up often throughout the movie), and just soaked it in.  I was dry-eyed until I saw Jesus struggling in agony to carry his cross. Jesus. The only amazing, loving, pure, perfect man to ever sojourn on this earth. Struggling.  Physical pain? Check.  Emotional pain? Check.  Spiritual pain? Check.  Mental pain? Check.  

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  
Hebrews 12:1-3

He endured this and the whole time there was joy set before Him.  Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him.  So that brings me back to Simon of Cyrene. Catholics are familiar with Simon and in most churches there is a picture depicting this scene (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stations_of_the_Cross). 

“Why did this scene move me so much today vs. times past?” 

There is something powerful about WITHNESS, shouldering the burden, walking with someone in the most difficult point of the journey when they cannot carry the load on their own.  It’s the friend who says, “Hey, you rest. Let me carry this for a bit.  You are going to need your energy for the journey, but for these few moments, let me help.”

Jesus was bleeding on his back and sides and a prickly crown was crushing into his head and he had to carry approximately 300 lbs.  

It was too much to do alone. That last mile, someone helped. I am crying thinking about Simon and what it must have been like to look back on that time and to realize he walked with God to his death. 

To walk the last steps with Jesus, carrying the object that would ultimately become a sign of salvation to the world - what was that like? 

No suffering I will ever endure will ever come close to what Jesus endured.  However, because he suffered he cares about our suffering and provides us with “Simon’s” along with way.  


My Simons come in the form of sisters, heart friends, family, my boss, and my beloved church.  Who are the Simon’s in your life?  Often we do not fully experience a Simon moment because we do not want to be that vulnerable and exposed.  IT is painful to be vulnerable and exposed, but to allow someone to enter in to that raw place…..there’s joy.  We need joy on this journey of ours.  

Thank you to all my Simons.  You know who you are. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Friendshp



Friendship. 

In 2002 I met Darren.  We were going to be serving on UT’s campus together with Cru.  He hopped out of the van at the Outback, along with my friend Eric and we started a friendship that has been significant in my life.  Together, along with Eric, my friend Haley and several others who transitioned in and out, made up this little family.  I don’t think I have ever laughed as hard as I laughed when I was with D and E.  Those years were priceless, and in hindsight, fairly easy.   We all wanted to be married (not to each other, just to clarify -:)) and have a family of our own.  We talked about it often, dreamt about it, and we knew the name D would name his daughter, and that his wife needed to wear chaco’s.  We watched each others hearts be hurt and the grieving process and encourage one another to have hope in those particular seasons. We understood.  D would say to me, “Beth, I just see you with some big, strapping man.”  He would usually make this comment after a bad experience or seeing a pic of a guy who had asked me out.  re: not this joker.  Friendship. History forming. 

When D and E left Knoxville, it was hard.  The loss of their daily presence I felt everywhere.  We would still see each other and talk and I realized the history we had was a gift. History is significant.  I’m feeling it acutely during this particular season of life.  Two years ago, I cried like a baby as Eric stood next to D on his wedding day and we adopted Danielle (who does not like chaco's) into our little family.  Or more like she adopted me into hers.  I had prayed for this unknown woman for years and what a joy it was to see D’s longing fulfilled in our Danielle.  Friendship. History. Rejoicing.

Tonight D and Danielle are upstairs asleep in my sweet gift of a home.  They also have little Addie (not the name “Bailey” he had told us repeatedly that he would name his daughter all those years when he was single).  I’m smiling as I think about the journey with them and how rich it is/was to be a part of that. What a gift.  So, tonight they were asking me questions about life and we were catching up and I wasn’t going to “go there” with them because I am on my own nerves with my disappointments, but they asked and I began to share with them my journey of the past year.  The highs and the lows and the very lows and the joy and the pain and the awakening of hope and the diminishing of hope and how the battle is real.  They were locked in and WITH me.  The look of pain on their faces and smiles at other moments moved me.  But what moved me the most was this.  This friend who has walked with me for 12 years, who has longed for and prayed for me and desired the same things that I have, looked at me and said, “Beth, one day, maybe April or May, you are going to be sitting in Sequoyah Hills park, the suns going to be shining on your face, and you will begin to feel it again…..you will begin to feel hope again.  Right now in the disappointments, it feels diminished, but it won’t always be like this.”  It was sacred space.  


The issues here isn’t about what my disappointment is or what it isn’t.  It’s not important here, because what’s important is this……hope will rise.  It will come when you least expect it.  Sometimes hope is hard fought for and sometimes it is just what is to be received, but God wants to give us hope, and hope comes from trust.  Trusting that the Father is good even and especially in the times of mystery.  The times of mystery where there  ARE NO ANSWERS! The only answer we get is Jesus himself.  I”m learning that is enough.  My friends gave me a gift tonight - they spoke the promise of hope when I do not feel it.  We need friends who will carry that for us during seasons where we struggle.  Jesus, thank you for giving YOUR PRESENCE in this season of mystery.  Thank you for giving me friends.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Worst Missionary Ever

I just got home from a day of back to back appointments. What a gift to hear people share their lives.  However, I find myself sitting on my couch wondering how can I receive God’s grace today? In THIS moment.  I had what I would rank as being in my top 3 “I’m the very worst missionary, person, human, staff person, counselor, friend on the planet” moments today.  It ranks right up there with the time I told a student her tongue was like gangrene.  Not one of my finer moments in life.  I feel sad.  I feel sad at how my words can hurt and cut.  They linger in the air and I would give anything to take them back or explain them away, but there is no such app, button or time machine.  While I might not have the magic app, what I do have is the choice to own my words and ask where they came from?  There is ownership and forgiveness and grace.  There is the gift that doesn’t feel like a gift - a severe mercy - that will come from this careless wrong.  I pray that this will mark me. Mark me in such a way that I will never be so careless again.  

This morning started off with my face on the floor praying for God to use me however he wanted. It is easy to be on your face when you feel you are “good.”  Being on your face in the midst of failure brings a new and deeper sense of depravity and need for God’s grace and mercy.  So bring it on, but just as importantly, I pray I am marked in such a way as to never do again what I did today.  But here’s reality.  My cousin Ami just texted and said, “I’m laughing.  He’s pulling you out of your wholeness and into His.”  YES!  I can get my counseling degree, counsel others, pour out my life, read books on the heart, give talks about renewing the mind and being self-aware and it is not good enough.  IT is not about my wholeness, or lack thereof.  It’s about stepping into HIS wholeness in my brokenness.  He is the one who lifts my head.  He is the only one who can forgive sins.  He is the one who can heal all the sweet students and staff and friends and family who I have hurt along the way.  I’m not trying to go “all bad” on myself here, but to honestly acknowledge that I am thinking that today might be a game-changer for me and to that I am grateful. 

Anyone else feeling broken or shame today?  Chip Dodd in Voice of the Heart (see, I can’t get away from this stuff :)) says,

In brokenness we are offered the opportunity to see our powerlessness
and neediness.  These painful circumstances often break us of our pride-
filled defiance against needing and break us of the fear that our lack of
power will result in rejection.  


Shame is also the emotion that makes us aware of our incompleteness.  It helps us see that we need others.  There’s a shame that leads us to God, but then there’s an unhealthy shame (Dodd would call it, “impaired shame”) which leads to self-rejection.  “In impaired shame we have learned to equate humility with humiliation, failure with uselessness, and inability with worthlessness.  This makes healthy shame toxic.”  So we have a choice today. You and me.  Do we let shame and brokenness lead us to repentance and to receive a grace that frees? Or do I think grace is too good for me and wallow?  Jesus’ invitation is to the poor, lepers, sick, prostitutes, tax collectors, liars, demonized, and even to a pharisee like me.  He’s invitational to you today as well.  If you are too scared or full of shame to limp to the throne then call me and I will limp with you and together we will find grace and mercy in our time of need.