More Than Hate…

The drama that has unfolded this past week in our country has left me overwhelmed and speechless (almost).

I did part of my growing up in south Texas, I know a tiny bit about prejudice. My dad was a pastor in a conservative southern church and when he invited an ex-con, black man to
live with us. Les and my father ushered our family into the middle of something that I had no language or orientation for understanding.

Les came and shared our home – he entered a white world. I was naive. I was taught to love people. I thought that was enough. There are so many lessons I learned from this season of my life, but this week I felt like I was thrown back in time. To see people shouting hatred at others in this way made me angry, at least I thought it was anger.

Anger is an emotion that reveals something we love is threatened and we are moved into motion. Hatred is something we harbor to not have to feel the discomfort of something we fear. (my definitions – from interior/exterior work that is still in process…)

As I looked at the online footage and watched the news I slowly and painfully realized that I was actually participating in perpetuating the growth of hatred.

While I hate the philosophy of the kkk, neo-nazi, supremacist groups, etc. AND I have no trouble saying that out loud (and believe anger at this is good) the troubling part to my soul is that I had to honestly name that in looking at these faces and their actions, I was hating the people…

I want to justify my hatred.

I want to qualify it as righteous.

But at the core when hatred is harbored it grows and it seeks a target.  We cannot change what we ignore. We will not allow transformation of that which we deny exists.

Three timely messages have touched me recently and I am marinating myself in them because I want what is hidden to be transformed:

1) It is people on the margins that change the world.  Thank you Dr. Dennis Edwards for standing in the ways of Jesus and inviting me to sit at this table.

2) Meeting our Enemies and our Suffering – Thank you Buddhism for the language of hate/anger being the gateway to love/compassion.

3) John Lennon wrote IMAGINE – Thank you Pentatonix for making this so visual for me to see, I keep hitting repeat.

I want my hatred to be transformed into compassion for all! What if one’s transformation actually does lead to another’s? (Read – Whole it is filled with thoughts on this.)

What if compassion rising is about us having a place to let our hatred be held/seen long enough to be able to breath a love that is breathtakingly risky?

Sometimes compassion scares me, but honestly it also gives me hope, especially when I see it offered to one’s self in the process of real pain. Yesterday I sat across from a couple in their 70’s, they are counting the days vs. decades of living they have left. Tragedy has interrupted their lives and because of this they are reassessing how they view relationship, family and the world. His brave statement inspired me, “I want to wake up now because it changes every step I take forward.”

He breathed love for a moment and had compassion on himself – now he can breath it out into the world.

I believe in this kind of transformation.

I believe that my hatred needs to be revealed.

I believe that naming my hatred is the gateway to deepening my compassion.

I believe love is real.

I know love is radical.

You may think I am a dreamer but I am not the only one…

Do I See What I Bring?

I am sitting here eating my breakfast with Cain and Abel.

The first, but not last, glimpse we have into the complexity of sibling relationships in the Bible. If you haven’t read the story I highly recommend it though I am guessing that at first glance, or Google search, it will reveal Abel God approved of and Cain didn’t quite make the grade.

Abel tended sheep – his offering came from the substance of something he could see moving around, making sounds, it reproduced in front of him visibly and with a force that was akin to his own body’s rhythms.

Cain farmed – his offering came from the substance of seeds that were buried in the hard soil and the product of reproducing was hidden from sight. He had to tend what he could not see and hope for more.

Both were siblings relying on one another – literally for their “meat and potatoes.”  They knew interdependency and working together to sustain a living and also the independence of each having their own way of being with God in creation.

I am making a huge assumption here – though I am a parent and I know a little about parenting our children – Adam and Eve taught their sons about goodness. My leap comes from the text because Eve says, “I have created a new human, a male chid, with the help of the Eternal” (sorry Adam, your seed got overlooked). I have held a newborn in my arms and felt utter joy – hope – vulnerability – abundance.

Stay with me I am adding one more assumption about how they parented these two brothers – they taught them about loss – fear – shame – scarcity.
Cain led the way and laid his offering down. Abel followed as he had seen his brother do. Abel returned to his sheep. Cain didn’t return to his farming, but stayed to see what his brother brought. Did he know in that moment he had more to bring?

In this book Whole, Steve’s second question from the text is

 

Am I my brother’s keeper?

This question is a defensive move but what is he really trying to defend when God is only asking him to look up vs. belly-button gazing? God is asking him to notice his anger not stuff it, run from it or justify it but to name it.

God’s pursuit of Cain is IN his anger. Could God be asking Cain to hold both joy/loss to see that fear/hope are interwoven, that scarcity/abundance is where God meets us.Could our anger be an invitation to notice where we are gazing?

I am Cain – I know the fear of investing in what feels hidden, watering soil and wondering IF anything will come up, let alone be harvestable. And so I have murdered my brother/sister by trying to choke out the nagging voice of comparison, rather than pausing to look up and see the face of my Creator.

I am Abel also – I have brought my very best to God and laid it down and then been “murdered” for it (misunderstood/judged/abandoned feels like murder to me).

“There is something terrifying about giving your best to god when you don’t know how you’ll get what you need.”

Relationships are hard! They require a continual returning to this place of being with one another and for one another in our differences and in our struggles. IF we try to do this with our eyes only on what is in front of us that we can see, we will miss the greater gift of what is struggling to come to life in and through the work of being in relationship.

“When you’re honest about where you are, and when you choose to trust instead of mistrust, you will be given the opportunity to test it out on another human being—your brother or sister. Trust isn’t a concept. It’s a way of being in relationship in which you seek mutual flourishing.”

I sat next to a 10 year old boy last night and in his squirrelly playfulness of hitting me and trying to get a rise out of me he interlaced his fingers with mine, rested his head on my shoulder and whispered – “I love you.”

Somewhere deep inside of Cain was a little boy that knew how to rest against the one he loved. He knew because he risked bringing an offering and there is no mention of him being asked to. Somewhere between the idea to give and the actual offering he began to fear and trusted scarcity vs. God. Wouldn’t a loving God see this shift and seek to guide him into a deeper place of returning to that sacred shoulder of love?

Someday I will be sitting across the table from this little boy that will be a man. I don’t know if he will be able to offer interwoven fingers and whispered words that sear my heart, but I do know that now is real. In this moment we have tasted abundance together. He will forget and it will be my responsibility to remind him of the goodness that is deep within him when he too finds and discovers both Cain and Abel within.

My breakfast is cold and my tea now has a curdled look on the top of it, but I want to thank Cain and Abel for being with me this morning – both continue to teach me about this risky and beautiful struggle of looking up…

Where Are You?

Three mistakes in my last post that are to be honest a bit embarrassing – seriously “add media” button was not there a couple days ago. Did I mention blogging is vulnerable for me????

As I was sitting beside the lake today, working on trying to gather some insight/inspiration to write about, this boat comes ripping through the water at high speed and disrupts the glassiness of this peace-filled moment. I grabbed my phone and took a picture, why? I had no idea. Hang on this is going somewhere…

In his new book Whole, Steve Wiens pulls five key questions out of Scripture and invites the reader into layers of a question vs. “the” answer.

First question – Where are you?

God asks this question of the man and the woman – he created.

in the garden – he designed and built,

blue-print of the geography was pretty clear – to the one who designed it.

Do you get the dichotomy of God’s question here?

Come on he had to know “where” they were, but the real question was did they know? AND were they willing to say it out loud and not run?

Sitting in the Adirondack chair by the lake, I knew where I was sitting physically – Wayzata public beach – but the question ringing in my head held a deeper layer – I have been hiding from words…language….writing…

“Are you willing to walk toward vulnerability so that you can go on a journey of restoration?”

Where are you? Is about the many layers we all have within us to compensate when we feel that we are not where we think we should/could/would like to be – and shame ushers us into hiding/denying/justifying/strategy/etc.

I have a deep longing for people to experience God in and through their sexual and spiritual journey – inviting them to discover and return to their truest essence of being. There are days/hours/moments when I actually believe and savor this longing and I respond to it so full heartedly that I can face any obstacle that is before me.

AND there are days when the ache of brokenness in this world overwhelms me and I hide by renaming this longing as idealistic, unreal, stupid, crazy…

“The work of restoration starts with the desire to come out of hiding and return to the radical vulnerability of complete trust.”

So what do I really trust in?

Is this longing within me coming from God? Could it truly be part of why I exist? Is this audacious longing something I am meant to carry of God’s goodness? What if I dared to let my longing hear the question of “where are you” as an invitation?

The way I view God is how I will hear God’s voice. 

So…sitting by that lake, the longing rose again and I let it linger.

Boat guy disrupted my space.

I felt the reasons of why I have been hiding from writing rise.

I let them.

I also admitted to God why I was hiding from writing and this is what I heard:

  • You don’t even know how to add a photo to text – electronics are tricky…
  • You only get to write about sex – there is more within…
  • You can’t write about this, there are experts – there are and they are awesome….
  • You suck at structure – yep and maybe that is okay…
  • You have a snarky attitude that slips over into sass – hello and God wants all of me…

What if God asking us where we are is more about God’s wanting to clothe us in something other than shame? I mean he did offer animal skins vs. leaves (which would dry up and become brittle in a day or two and let’s be honest would definitely cause itching in very delicate parts of the body – shame kinda does this to us).

In the end, I guess I took that picture because I needed to be disrupted and in waiting long enough to actually hear more than just the familiar voice of shame, the lingering waves reminded me that I am on a journey of wholeness!

Also I have to note that the one driving the boat was having a blast…his timing was perfect.

NOTE: Quotes are from the book – you really want to get this and read it for yourself, I promise!

I liked his shoes…

A few years ago I met this new pastor that came to the church I was attending at the time. He impressed me with his style of preaching, his plaid shirts but really I liked his shoes…not spiritual (to some) but it is true and I own it that my eyes check out his shoes before I see his eyes.

Our first encounter was less than what you might call ground breaking to building a friendship – I basically emailed him with a request and he turned me down flat with “No I don’t think that is a good idea at all, but thank you very much.”

Ultimately he had to eat crow (it was a good idea) but hey I kind of like that our story includes the forged places of having to pursue one another with vulnerability and trial and error.

Now fast forward nine years and yes we are still friends (occasionally he reads my emails) only now he is writing books.

My friend’s name is

Steve, StevO (I will never call you this).

He is

husband to a beauty

dad to three adorable little men

author of two books

pastor to a quirky community (yes I include myself as a part of the quirky)

bourbon lover

cat-averse human being

avid reader

intro/extrovert (depending on the situation)

lover of language

AND

he experiences the world in stories.

His first book New Beginnings is something that expands traditional language of creation into a way of seeing and living with creation as a part of us and our journey every single day of our lives.

His second is coming out later in August (I think the 22nd is the official launch date, but really I know you can get it now).

WHOLE – Restoring What is Broken in Me, You and the Entire World

Did you catch the “entire world” portion? Wholeness is not something that is about me, alone, figuring IT out, but instead it is about being with others and in this together as we make great and sometimes really dumb errors.

“…true restoration for one person leads to restoration for another, or it isn’t restoration.”

My brokenness is real and yet I/we (okay I know this is an I statement but I want to feel like we are in agreement) get really good at hiding, masking, renaming or just plain wallowing in it.Â

What if I am truly made to be whole?

What if wholeness is less of a place and more of a process with one another?

So here is what I am going to do, I am going to step into a scary place myself and do some blogging this month – about Steve’s book, I think there are some great things to be said.

Why is this scary? Thank you for asking, I am not especially fond of blogging  (my last one was almost years ago) because maybe I struggle with some perfectionism, okay maybe I also struggle with an inner fear of not having anything worth saying.

Damn – this is part of my brokenness…

Christmas Carol Favorite

I have a favorite Christmas carol – night-clouds-summer-trees

I am not sure when it became my favorite, but it is something that moves me

emotionally…I get teary and reflective

physically…I find myself lightly swaying.

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining

I love the stars, the silence of night time, the stopping of a world that seems to constantly be in motion and often without any real meaning to that motion.

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

This past year has been a year of experiencing the birth of my first grandchild, while the birth of my children changed my life forever, this birth forever changed my view of forever.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

The world that I wake up to every morning is in turmoil and seeking to make sense of what is – dare I say – senseless, yet we keep “pining” forward (I think I like the word pining rather than sin, but honestly I think sin is about a yearning for something different).

Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth

And here is the line that gets me every time and causes me to get teary and begin swaying, my soul is meant to feel it’s worth. My soul is meant to be weighty, my soul is both heavy and light, my soul is ever in motion longing to discover and become more ALIVE – I was made this way and it is not something I need to hide or manage, I must feel my soul’s worth

AND

in turn feel

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

because hope truly is a thrill, a surge, an itch, a hunger and it makes me want to stand up and shout – hell no, the world doesn’t get to define the goodness of God. 

because

yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

and yes there are times I will fall on my knees, times I will dance in the face of evil, times I will weep in the sorrow of loss, times I will burst into laughter because I

hear the angel voices

declaring that this night, this day, this season of life is truly divine because at the heart and core of my crafted soul is a knowing that

in His Name, all oppression shall cease

not because ceasing is ending something, but instead ceasing is about us pausing and remembering that

Oh Holy night, the stars are brightly shining 

because there is no place that God is not and there is nothing that God will not partake in when it relates to us, because we ARE created to bear the image of God.

So yes I do have a favorite Christmas carol, and if you share space with me I might shed a few tears and sway a bit off beat when this song comes on, but know this is me learning to listen to what moves me to remember and claim that

holy nights are divine 

if we have ears to hear.

Merry Christmas

Love That Costs Us Something

What is my focus on?

We all have that one person. The person we would deliver a well-deserved, serves-you-right smack across the face in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself. It is in the moment when I want to get real and give that person exactly what their behavior REALLY deserves that I must come to the realization that my focus is not on the other person, but on myself.

It’s hard to admit, but sometimes I find myself in this place.

Life would be so much easier if we could see one another without judgement or competition despite our differences. More than I know, both judgement and competition rob me from truly seeing other people and loving them well.

When I am focused on someone else’s behavior, the person who is on center stage is not the person who is in the “wrong” but me, myself, and I.

Derek Tasker in his book “An Exploration into God” writes:

“I wonder what would happen if I treated everyone like I was in love with them. Whether I like them or not, whether they respond or not, and no matter what they say or do to me. Even if I see things in them which are ugly, twisted, petty, cruel, vain, deceitful, and indifferent – what if I just accepted all that and turned my attention to some small, weak, tender, and hidden part? What if I kept my eyes on that until it shined like a beam of light, like a bonfire I can warm my hands by and trust it to burn away all the waste – which was never my business to meddle with.”

Can anyone love like this?

This kind of love looks dangerous. It takes your breath away. Who could love like this? Who would ever risk loving like this? Love like that would place everything about myself at risk. All of my desires and hopes and dreams would be placed on the back burner, and that would not be fair… would it? Everything inside of me says, “NO! Why should I forgive that person? They don’t deserve it – and it would not be fair to me if I forgave them.”

Love like this is not cheap – not cheap at all because it would cost us everything. As I reflect on Easter Sunday and Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, I am reminded of his love. His love that cost him everything, all to forgive us. His focus was not himself and the wrongs we have committed against him – but only on his deep love for us.

God, give me the desire to love like you do.

~ becky

 

 

A Year-end Ministry Review

Giving thanks for this year

With the holidays upon us I can’t help but let my thoughts drift to the life of Jesus. As I think about the threads we see throughout Jesus’ life, I keep returning to two things in particular: His deep love for Scripture and His deep love for people.

These two things are hallmarks for how we at Truessence want to be about the work of healing relationships between women and men. Here is a small peek into what this past year of ministry has looked liked.

In pastoral counseling…

We seek to be a safe and trusted resources for pastors, ministries, and churches when life crises impact individuals, marriages, and communities. I cannot begin to tell you how wildly sacred it is to enter these vulnerable moments of raw, exposed sexual shame, wounded vows, or crushed dreams.

As I sit with people who feel like their identity is being swallowed up by shame from sexual choices, I repeatedly watch a mysterious strength come and help them reach toward the hope of God resting within them. In these moments, I am reminded that there is nothing beyond the healing heart of our God.

“Becky’s pastoral counseling walked our marriage out of unimaginable darkness. We marvel at our new vantage point today and could not be bigger fans and advocates of Truessence’s ministry.”  – Married couple

In socratic Scripture studies…

In creating environments for studying Scripture in the ancient socratic method, we seek to encourage pastors and leaders—women and men of all ages—to ask the important questions: to see how we are a part of a bigger story God is weaving. We believe it is imperative for church and community leaders, pastors, and teachers to know they can be in the process of learning how to live out the truths they are teaching.

“I can think of few things in my life that have been as transformational to my understanding of myself, the Bible, and the character of God as these socratic studies. –  Pastor who attended her first socratic study this fall

“In all of my theological training and learning, I have never been impacted as deeply and profoundly as I have been when studying socratically. It has changed my life. – Pastor who regularly attends socratic studies

Noticing the new life

I hold a vast well of gratitude for what has been planted and what has come to life this year—both in counseling and through studying Scripture. If Truessence is a ministry you feel compelled to invest in, I’d love to invite you to do so. Because of your continued financial support, we are able to:

  • Bring hope in dark places through counseling.
  • Provide environments for leaders to engage with Scripture in new ways and, in turn, bring what they learn into their circles of influence.

Here are a four specific ways you can support Truessence.

$25  $75   $150

“I invest in Truessence because I dearly want to give couples the opportunity to receive counseling that I never had.” – Monthly giver

A few months ago, as I was on a plane headed to a community experiencing a sexual crisis with deep wounds, I became overwhelmed by sadness. I began taking deep, yoga-like breaths to keep from wiping my nose on my seat mate’s shoulder.

Oh God how will I hold these people? Can there be hope in this hard place?

As I breathed I closed my eyes and saw an image of Jesus on the cross, hardly able to breathe. He began giving His breath me and to this community so we could continue the ministry of deeply loving God’s people.

And so, on behalf of myself and the Truessence Board, I’d like to express our gratitude for the ways your support has allowed us to invest in the lives of others this year. Keep us in your heart as we seek to listen carefully to where God is leading us in this next year of ministry.

May you breathe our God in and out with joy,

~ Becky Patton and the Board of Truessence

“Your Image of God Creates You”

Just the other day, I got an early birthday present from a friend.

It’s a book.

Which is actually, the very last thing I thought I would want, only because I currently have five books that are half finished, three purchased waiting to be read, and seven on my “wish list” in Amazon.

With a touch of a smile, he slided this book across the table at me and asked me to read the introduction while he got some coffee.

I proceeded to find these phrases:

“…we each tentatively contribute our little part to the great truth of God.”

In that moment, it felt as though the words were penned for my heart. Richard Rohr, one of my spiritual tutors whom I have yet to meet in person, is a man who continues to encourage and challenge me.

So I turned the page to one of the first meditations…

 “Your image of God creates you.”

And suddenly this book became a river inviting me to dive in to the wonder of how my image of God is creating me.

I know I have said this before, but we are made in the image of God, and while these are great words, it isn’t something that is exactly definable. But, I’ve learned that when I have had a static view of God­–omnipotent and already finished–then I also have settled for a static view of myself.

Do we really think the very best we can hope for is this static, no movement type of personality that is forever going to be stuck in what has been?

I do believe God is omnipotent, but I don’t think this means God is finished, with me, with the world, with creating new things…

IF I think God has already done the best work (after all it is recorded in scripture), then I leave no room for God’s creativity to be a part of this situation, this fear, this day. So I am hanging onto the truth that God is busy creating every moment, of every day, in ways seen and unseen.

“Your image of God creates you.”

God in me is continually at work and how I view God, engage with God, interact with that creative aptitude of God – this will in turn create me.

I have vivid memories as a child of returning to the altar and surrendering my little life over and over to God. While I am not really sure about the accuracy of my theology at the tender age of six, what I do believe is each of those trips to the altar, the bending my knee to surrender, this has become a part of creating me and a pattern of learning to return to God.

“Your image of God creates you.”

My image of God as a little person holds a distinct sense of being invited, received, and seen at the altar over and over and over. Through my adult eyes it may seem silly and rather unnecessary part of my faith, I can’t help but wonder if, from God’s vantage point, God was creating something in me.

So I my question today is this: How is your image of God creating you? Are you willing to be in the motion of being created every minute of every day?

Thank you my friend for these words of wisdom. My challenge with creation right now is to let this book be a slow savoring vs. a quickly devoured meal. Wisdom can only burn me when I linger long enough to let the language seer my soul and begin creating something in me.

– becky

Interrupted by Christmas | A Choice

Today as you gather with family around a tree, a manger or a whisper of hope, may you unwrap the truest essence of Christmas, a choice.

This one choice has led to the mystery of Christmas surrounding, entering and changing history.

When we choose to say “yes” to God, it takes us deep into the mystery.

None of us know where the mystery will take us, but what we do know is that carved into the path of our journey is the resource of redemption,

God with us…

Jan Richardson says,

“In the shadows of Mary’s assent to ‘let it be’ lies the possibility that she–or we–can choose to let it not be. God leaves the choosing to us…”

God leaves the choosing to us. Why? So that we can hear the simple cry of vulnerability, taste a salty kiss on unblemished skin,

see the innocence of hope, breathing in and out and hold the mystery of God’s life in our arms.

It was a choice of “yes,”  that when unwrapped led to the first Merry Christmas.

So today what gift of choice will you unwrap? And what kind of history will it create?

From my family to yours,

Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.

~ becky

Am I wearing lust?

The power rests where?

His voice was loud, his manner was harsh and his words were stinging, “When you wear that short skirt you cause men to sin and fall into the traps of lust.”

Really? I have that much power?

So if I wear my shirt buttoned up to my neck, expose no skin and ration my eyes to the ground then I have the capacity to keep a man from falling into the traps of lust?  This is a load of power as women and also it makes me wonder how do we actually view men?

Are men incapable of making decisions of what they will choose to think?  A short skirt, revealed cleavage, a bit of flesh has this kind of power to totally render a man into the depths of mindlessness….yes I think it can, but only when men are trapped, held in bondage by an identity that is not real.

MEN – often trapped behind the cultural norm believe that consuming a woman visually is “normal” BUT men are not meant to be trapped by beauty, rather in communion with beauty.

If men believe that what is outside of them has more power than who they were created to be from the inside, then they are surrendering and often unknowingly

abdicating their deepest identity….

running from their own capacity…

hiding behind bars…

Genesis 1:26 says that we are made in the image of God and the God I know does not abdicate identity, but rather continually calls me to wrestle anything within that hides, mars or stains that image.

It is not in the absence of wrestling, but actually in the presence of that wrestling that God shows up and invites us to experience something more than the “traps of lust.”

WOMEN – if we truly believe we hold this kind of  power over men we can use it in manipulative ways:

luring them in…

ignoring their capacity…

dumbing them down…

I wish it was not so, but I have to admit that I have fallen into this trap and used this power over men at times – YUCK!

I have also felt the sticky looks of lust coming to consume me and wanted to turn from men, blaming them instead of standing in the image of God that is within me to turn that lust away.

STORY – Shopping at my local grocery store there is a clerk that I watch as he literally consumes women with what feels to me like lust.  His eyes run up and down each woman’s body as they go through the checkout, never resting upon their face and meeting their gaze. Appearing innocent, he holds the receipt in a way that requires women reaching over and offering him a view of flesh.

I hated his line, I loathed this action and I continually avoided him. My view of him was nothing more than the lust that seemed to consume the air between us.

One day he randomly “took over” my carefully chosen line and reached his hand out for my basket – so gently I heard within, “Can you risk seeing MY image in him?”

I held his gaze, looked deep into his eyes, kept talking to him and calling his eyes to mine, daring to believe there was something deeper, something more. As he handed me my receipt, he looked me square in the eyes and I thanked him.

When I returned to my car, I began to shake and wondered what had just happened?

Why did this hit me this way?

Why did I even care?

Genesis says that humankind –  man and woman – are made in the image of God, and this young man has somehow forgotten his deepest identity and instead has traded it for one that is trapping him. Maybe nothing else will change, but for a moment I laid down my anger,  stood up in my truest identity and together we held the bonds of lust away from us both.

Now I look for his line, I seek him out, I want to stand face-to-face, not away from.

WOMEN – does it matter what we wear, how we dress? Yes, but what matters most is the motivation of how we wear something.

MEN- do women cause you to fall into the trap of lust? No, I believe in the strength that you have been given and I want to stand with you as you wrestle.

Seeing beyond...

You were made to see beauty, without the bars of lust!