Five Minute Friday: Expect

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

What outcome are you trying to control?

That question came from the lips of one of the ladies interviewed for the Hope*Writers online conference. (Wish I could remember who). The twelve sessions with authors and editors were worth listening to for that one piercing arrow alone. Anxiety is directly linked to control, or lack thereof. So what is it that you, that I, am trying to control?

Thinking along those lines leads directly to the heart of fear. If we can look full-face at the core with all of its blood and gore, we can begin the process of dismantling it in the grace and truth of Christ. Going beyond the fear into the reason for the fear is an important step in finding freedom from the fear. Deal with the cause, not the symptom.

Maybe I’m slow, but that’s exciting and new to me.

Kate says: expect.

Go.

Every woman struggles with the urge to hide her true self. We feel we are too little and too much all at once. More often than not, the image we project through behavior, clothing, ambition, home decor or a million other little things is just that – an image. Who we hope to be, who want to be, who we think we should be.

It’s our armor.

Our defense.

Because we expect to be hurt. People let us down. Fathers. Friends. The men we should never consider dating but wind up with for far too long. Mothers. Children. Coworkers. Husbands. Ourselves.

We want to be authentic. We want the outer to reflect and celebrate the inner instead of masking it. We want to let the guard down.

It’s hard.

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending my church’s district women’s retreat. The setting was picturesque, the music moving in the richest way, the preaching profound. But what got me, what really got me, was the experience of having my calling as a teacher affirmed in front of a group of mostly strangers. I had opened my mouth and blazed forth with opinions and suggestions regarding the importance of Bible study. I expected to be shut down or at the very least for people to just roll their eyes and move on.

I never expected to be built up.

It broke something deep inside of me.

I’m always apologizing. Always toting around a vague sense of guilt and a strong sense of shame. Always worried that I’ll offend or have offended someone and they’re just waiting to pounce. Always trying to control the environment. Not in a direct, manipulative way. In a, “I don’t want so-and-so to be mad at me way.” Sure, I have what I’ve been told is a very direct (okay, blunt) writing voice, but that doesn’t carry over into my “real life.”

I’m done.

This day, May 19, I’m done.

The pastor at the retreat invited us to hang out with the Samaritan Woman of John 4 all weekend, taking us a little deeper into her story every session. The woman couldn’t just sit there and magically wait for the freedom Jesus offered her to change her life. She had to grab on. She had to take what He was giving. She had to fling herself into the mystery of grace, not knowing what would come next as a result.

She had to expect the good.

I can’t fulfill my calling or experience the abundant life Christ offers if I keep expecting the bad, if I keep shrinking back against the wall. I’m tired of being bound up. I’m tired of avoiding new relationships because old ones have been bad. I’m tired of keeping silent.

I’m tired of expecting the worst at all times. I know bad things are going to happen. I’m not trading in dark glasses for rose-colored ones. Rather I want clear vision, straight-ahead vision, eyes-on-Christ vision. To see the good and expect the good. And when the bad comes, to see it in the light of the Good, Good Father.

Like a flower just beginning to open, full of hope and promise.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden

Five Minute Friday: Forget

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I had planned to join the party last night, but a headache and planning lessons for the Pre-K Sunday School class kept me away. (How did I become the preschool teacher again?)

Kate asks us to: forget.

Go.

The Right Dishonorable Lady Derptina Idiocia McJankerstein. Also known as “Moronica Jones.”

I named my liver.

Would like to forget about her because she’s stupid and refuses to work properly. We aren’t speaking right now. I have nothing to say to her. She keeps giving me a gigantic middle finger.

Rude.

But I can’t forget about her. I have to watch what I eat and walk what feels like 100 miles a day (it really only averages out around three; that’s all my body has energy for) to try and make her happy. Despite these efforts, there’s no pleasing her. She just stays swollen and gives me pain and nausea.

Whatever.

The Lord led me to these words the other day as I indulged in a good, frustrated cry:

Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.
Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes bulge with abundance;
They have more than heart could wish.
They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;
They speak loftily.
They set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue walks through the earth.
Therefore his people return here,
And waters of a full cup are drained by them.
And they say, “How does God know?
And is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.
Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.
When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
As a dream when one awakes,
So, Lord, when You awake,
You shall despise their image.
Thus my heart was grieved,
And I was vexed in my mind.
I was so foolish and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish;
You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,
That I may declare all Your works.

– Psalm 73 (NKJV; emphasis mine)

Much as I’d like to forget about that malfunctioning organ, I can’t. And so I cannot, must not, forget about God. He alone is my strength, my comfort, the uplifter of my head.

When the tears stain my face and the pain is great, He is there.

And He is good.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo credit: David Marcu

Five Minute Friday: Dwell

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Got to enjoy some time chatting with my fellow writers, but I confess to being distracted.

I’m worried that I’m going to forget underwear.

Headed out for a ladies retreat tomorrow evening. I’ve packed my clothes. Checked more than once to make sure that the underwear is present and accounted for. It’s right where I left it.

Still.

Kate asks us to: dwell.

Go.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.'”

– Psalm 91:1-2 (NKJV)

Dwell is defined as, “to live or stay as a permanent resident; reside; to live or continue in a given condition or state; to linger over, emphasize, or ponder in thought, speech, or writing.”

Live. Stay. Emphasize. Ponder. Linger.

In the secret place.

One of my favorite hymns is Rock of Ages. Often when I’m feeling anxious, snippets of lyrics float to the forefront of my mind. Let me hide myself in Thee. Helpless, look to Thee for grace. Wash me, Savior, or I die.

God invites us to dwell in Him. Not just with Him. In Him. Tucked safely in His lap, our ears pressed against His chest so that gradually all sound but that of His lion’s heart fade away. The tears run from flood to trickle. Breaths, staggered and shallow at first, turn slow and deep. The knots in our souls unwind, untangle.

God dwells in us (John 15:4). The moment of salvation finds Him taking up residence. The King comes to sit upon His rightful throne. He promises that we will never again be alone. Never without resources. Never without a defender. Never without guidance.

This reality stabs me with the peculiar ache that arises from the inexplicable gentleness with which He convicts and disciplines those within whom He dwells. Paul David Tripp says it best – when we willfully sin, it’s not because we don’t know it’s wrong. It’s because we don’t care.

God, His Holy Spirit, dwells within me. Earth-shaking. Paradigm-shifting.

And yet still I rebel.

Tender, how tender, is His voice. He does not sugarcoat. Nor does He attack. He simply tells it like it is. Me, the wayward sheep. Me, the cranky child. God, the Lord of all.

Let me hide myself in Thee.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)