The Final Countdown

You are loved.You are cherished.You are worth it.

Gentle Reader,

Thanks to the band Europe for the post title. (If you don’t know the song, head to YouTube immediately).

Twenty-four inches worth of snow covers my area, with more falling as I type this. Long, fat icicles hang off of the rain gutters. Paths snake this way and that through the drifts in the backyard, blazed by doggy paws. The roads are covered with a thick layer of ice, turning a simple trip to the grocery store into a death-defying event. I am inclined to stay home, curled up under a blanket.

I sense the Spirit stirring within, drawing me to something different. I’m not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I know He’s guiding me to make certain changes. For example: Buy an alarm clock and leave the phone in the living room. (He’s quite specific).

Everything within me responded with, “Oh, yes.”

I’m tired of busy. I’m tired of being constantly connected. I’m tired of not being able to turn off my mind. I appreciate technology (obviously) but I want some space. I want some quiet. Because who cares if I miss a Facebook message? I can answer it tomorrow. What does it matter if I don’t keep up with the Twitter feed? Or see the Instagram post? Or get the text immediately?

For two nights I’ve read a book in bed instead of scrolling through a social media feed. And it’s fantastic.

I need to unplug.

Another thing I know I need to sort out has to do with building up a skin barrier thick enough that a certain person isn’t able to get under it. (No, I’m not referencing my husband). My temper is the long-fused, slow-burning sort. It takes a lot for me to get genuinely angry. In this situation, with this person, the flame is dangerously close to the powder keg.

We’ve all got someone like that in our lives. Someone who just knows how to press all the right buttons. It’s awful. I’m tempted to set aside my pacifism and just get in one good punch. (I’d probably break my hand).

I need mental distance.

In the last twelve months I’ve done more writing than at almost any other point in my adult life. Between this space, guest posts, The Book Project of Which We do Not Speak and my private journal, the words pour out. And I know that I am being gently, painstakingly led to say “no” to some stuff, some good stuff, in order to devote more time to the words.

I need courage.

All of this is wrapped up in a single word: Rest. My life looks nothing like that of those around me  – and it’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s even designed by the One who spoke the universe into being. When I lose sight of that, when I stray into the swamp of keeping up with others or into the desert of comparison, discontentment drops like a hammer.

It’s time to step away. Get quiet. Listen.

So, dear reader, as we mark out the last days of 2015 and step into a fresh year (with no mistakes in it, as Anne Shirley would say), my encouragement to you is this: Rest. If you need a nap, take one. If you need to go to bed earlier, crawl under those covers. If you need to say “no,” do it with firmness and don’t look back. If you need to get out of a toxic relationship, go. Turn off the computer, ignore the phone, catch that episode another time. Remember:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

– Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

Don’t pick up what He has not asked you to pick up. Lay down the heavy loads, the worries that keep you up at night. Be you, the you He has made and called you to be (Ephesians 2:10). Most importantly, get your focus off of yourself. Look up. Look around. See what there is to see. Find where He might use you. Because somehow, in doing the work we were designed to do, in letting go of the other, the greatest rest is found.

Let’s leave the old struggles behind. Let’s make the choices we know we can make in His grace and power.

You and me together, walking the road of faith.

Following close behind the Lord.

My journey to faith. (15)

On Not-So-Silent Night

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

“No room,” he says,

“No room for you,

here at this, my inn.”

Joseph sighs and Mary cries

On not-so-silent night.

The pains, they come

Crashing like waves

As God in flesh

Arrives

On not-so-silent night.

At long last

A place is found

Among the animals

And the hay

On not-so-silent-night.

Joseph holds her hand

As Mary strains to push

With one last gasp

Jesus – yes, Emmanuel

On not-so-silent night.

God in flesh,

The Word who spoke

The universe

Reduced to wordless howl

On not-so-silent night.

Angels announce

And sing their song

To shepherds in the field

Whose sheep join in the chorus

On not-so-silent night.

They hurry off to see this thing

Rushed on by Spirit’s push

Come upon the humble barn

Housing tired trio

On not-so-silent night.

With unmatched awe

And rapt attention

They kneel around the manger throne

No offering to give the King

On not-so-silent night.

The Lord of Lords

Graced the earth

With Himself –

A mystery

On not-so-silent night.

My journey to faith. (15)

Merry Christmas

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

The snow falls gently, pushed here and there in the slight breeze. The street is quiet. The tree continues in its long, silent vigil.

In my heart, anticipation builds.

Advent winds down. The day is coming. Our minds draw back to that night so long ago, when the cries of a newborn pierced the air. The Word, whose voice called all of creation into being. Whose hands hold the atoms in place. He set aside His rightful glory, His awesome majesty, to save His people from their sins.

To save us from our sins.

I wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope that you allow yourself time and space in order to reflect on the amazing mystery of the Incarnation. I pray that you are blessed with a renewed sense of His lovingkindness and intimate presence. May you be surrounded by loved ones. May your days be filled with joy and peace.

My journey to faith. (15)

You Keep Using That Word

Along the Way @mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Major side-eye to all the media outlets screaming that Dr. Larycia Hawkins was suspended from Wheaton College for wearing a headscarf.

Major side-eye.

Read the statement from the Wheaton administration.

Read this brief article by James White (who drives me up the wall on many occasions, but knows what he’s talking about when it comes to this topic).

And then just stop and think for five seconds.

What if this was an Islamic university? Or Mormon? Or Buddhist? Or whatever? In a different religious context, would the administration be within its rights to suspend a professor if its members believed that said professor was in violation of agreed upon theological statements?

That’s the issue here. I wouldn’t expect, for example, an Islamic university to keep me employed as a professor if I taught students that Jesus is Lord. I wouldn’t expect a university that identified itself with atheism to keep me employed if I taught intelligent design. Consider any variation you like. The outcome is the same if any person violates the standards and practices of any place of employment, university or otherwise.

All over the place people are claiming that Wheaton’s suspension of Dr. Hawkins is nothing short of bigotry. Slapping that label on this case minimizes true instances of hatred and intolerance. As Inigo Montoya says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Guess what, #specialsnowflakes? None of the following is an example of bigotry:

  • You’re wrong.
  • I disagree with you.
  • That doesn’t make sense.
  • “X” violates “y.”
  • These are our standards.

I don’t know Dr. Hawkins. I’m not going to speculate about her motives or beliefs. I can appreciate what I think is her call for everyone to just calm the heck down and remember that we’re all human beings. We should be respectful of each other and tone down the rhetoric. At the same time, I find her statement regarding Muslims and Christians worshiping the same God massively simplistic at best (and yes, I am aware of the commonalities between the two religions). At the very least it is in need of contextualizing and explaining. Further, her desire, expressed on her Facebook page, for “a large scale movement of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs” is nonsensical. No Christian woman needs to don an item of clothing containing religious significance, an item of clothing closely entwined with real oppression, in order to show herself loving and kind toward Muslim women.

The most bizarre thing about this situation? Almost all of the outrage is coming from people who identify as Christian. As I scrolled through the comment sections of several articles on this topic this afternoon I was surprised to find that many outside the faith see no problem with Wheaton’s action. I expected the reverse to be true.

That says something.

My journey to faith. (15)