Five Minute Friday: Build

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Go.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

– Matthew 7:24-25

Hear and do.

Adam, who heard and did not do, bringing chaos to the world. Noah, who heard and did, building the boat when it had never rained. Abraham, who heard and did to a crazy extent, even to the point of sacrificing his son. Rahab, who heard the faintest whisper and did, her faith hanging on a scarlet cord. Jonah, who heard and did not do and heard some more in the belly of a whale and did  but didn’t like it. Job, who heard and did, yet suffered. Mary, who heard and did, surrendering to the call of God.

Obedience. Discipline.

We expect a good outcome. We think the hard road will end.

But look.

When the rain descended, when the floods came, when the winds blew and beat on the house.

Not if.

When.

We pray, “God, increase my faith” but imagine bulging bank accounts and perfect homes. We do not picture the toil and the trouble. But tell me, where is faith built, where is trust grown, if not in the harshest of conditions?

God is not mean. He delights in being good to us, His children. But there are times when He tests us. It’s beyond my feeble mind to sort out what is willed by Him and what arises as a consequence of living in a fallen world. (It’s beyond your mind, too). Honestly, I think it’s pointless to figure that out. Job never did get an answer. He was instead presented with a question: Will you trust Me now?

That’s the test. The pain and the loss, those are the incidentals. That question – that’s what matters.

We can’t answer if we haven’t practiced tuning our ears to the sound of His voice. So hear. Listen to what He has to say. Be comforted and encouraged. Don’t be too proud or stupid to enter into the holy work of submission, of conviction. Then do. Take the hammer and nails that He places in your hand and build. Follow His direction.

For the rain will come.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

An Embarrassment of Weeping

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2)

Gentle Reader,

I made an idiot out of myself during church yesterday.

Instead of a sermon, my pastor gave everyone in attendance time and space to speak about what God has been doing in our lives. His stated goal was to “make much of Jesus.” I listened as others praised Him for His goodness and provision or shared prayer needs, chewing my lower lip and staring at my Bible. Despite maternal Pentecostal roots, I’m not really one to get expressive during church. Sometimes I’ll raise my hands during a song or groove to the beat, but that’s about it.

I really wanted to take part in glorifying the Lord, though. I wanted to share how He’s been taking me back to these words time and time again over the last two years:

This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.

– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (PHILLIPS)

I wanted to be encouraging. So, with the fluttering heart and shallow breath and sweaty palms that strike any time I gather the courage to speak publicly (a rare occurrence), I stood.

And promptly started to cry.

I’m not a crier in general, and I certainly don’t cry in front of strangers. Nevertheless, mascara-streaked mess was I.

Almost immediately I began to berate myself internally. Nobody wants to see this! Who do you think you are? Why would anyone want to hear a thing you have to say? All aboard the Negativity Express. But (and when it comes to learning how to walk this road of faith, the “buts” are holy stops along the way) this time I took all of that and spread it out before the Lord. I asked if this sense of needing to shut up and sit down was from Him.

In response, He led me here:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
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.

– Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV)

This is a Messianic passage, fulfilled by and in Christ Jesus. He even read the first two verses in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of His public ministry (Luke 4:17-21). I pondered why God would bring these words to my mind as a way of answering my question. It struck me that just as Jesus was about His Father’s business, so are we to be. Is this passage not the Great Commission explained? We preach, we proclaim, we comfort. We do all of this in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

That took me back to 2 Corinthians 4:

This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar—to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us.

– vs. 7 (PHILLIPS)

Those common earthenware jars? Sometimes they leak.

So I have this Spirit inside of me, the very presence of the Living God. But I’m a weak and broken thing. I don’t always have the right words or the right way. Apparently I get up and cry in front of people. That’s a thing I do. I could take the familiar route of shame, shoulders slumped and head hung low. Instead I’m attempting a new perspective. Maybe, just maybe, someone in that room was comforted in witnessing my desire to please God but my total inability to do so in a coherent way. Maybe the mess I was in trying to be bold will encourage her to be bold at another time. And God will be glorified, because that’s the point, tears or not.

I think He smiles upon our efforts to do as He wills. I think He accepts that we are like newly-mobile toddlers attempting to walk on sand. I don’t know why I cried. I think I was just overcome with thankfulness. I do know that He doesn’t condemn me for it, nor does He condemn you, dear one, for the messy ways your love and obedience come out. He just wants that willingness. Things like results and responses are in His hands.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Crafty Creative Kathy

Five Minute Friday: Haven

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday: For a writer, rejection is a badge of honor.

Of course rejection stings. It strikes right at the core, right in that tender spot. To read, “your work has merit, but it’s just not quite the right fit for us” is crushing. I felt the blood rush to my face. I immediately began to question just who in the world I think I am, sending book proposals to literary agents.

Then I looked up the word merit.

And found that it means, “the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.”

I’m choosing to focus on that. My work has value. It may have been rejected. I may come through this process bloody and bruised. At least I’m stepping into the arena. My prayer is that God would give me a spine of steel so that my head will never bow in shame. For rejection comes. It comes to everyone who must write.

I realize, in this feeling of being sucker-punched, that I am a writer. No matter if my name never appears on a spine. No matter if no book of mine ever gets a MARC record. (Sorry, library talk). I am a writer.

Speaking this truth to myself now as a sense of smallness washes over me again and tears blur the screen. Don’t pity me. They are the tears of a fighter.

Kate asks to write about our: haven(s).

Go.

The wind brushes against the rosebushes, moving pink blossoms, green leaves and honey-colored trellises in a waltz whose tune only nature knows. Rhythmically the heavy flowers bob and weave, flashing their bright yellow pistils here and there. In and out, up and down. The trees join in with a joyous rustle.

We never see the wind and yet we know it’s there.

So, too, the Holy Spirit. In the middle of the busy and bluster, He fills me with a knowing. A belonging.A deep and abiding feeling that cannot be categorized. I am stilled in the chaos at the sound of His whisper. I strain, longing to hear more. He speaks life and truth. Never aloud. Never contradictory to the words on the thin pages of my Bible. He tells me that I am safe when the adrenaline rushes. That I am beloved when I wish the floor would open and swallow me whole. That I do not have to lash out in anger. That it will turn out all right.

I cannot stay home all day, every day, much as I often wish I could. And so He is my Haven, my Rock, my Fortress. He pulls me close. If I lean in, I can hear His heart, filled with holiness and love. The beat drums into me the sweetest kind of peace.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Michael Fertig