Not a Pet for Me to Love

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Gentle Reader,

Several years ago I had a months-long bout with bronchitis, and since then every single cold goes straight to my chest, leaving me with a cough like that of an elderly chain-smoker. It’s both insanely attractive for others to hear and incredibly energy-zapping for me. (Not to mention a good ab workout. Gotta find the silver lining). Because I can’t just get a little sick, like regular people. No, my disaster of an immune system and malfunctioning organs wage a battle royale, first allowing in any and all viruses because hospitality matters, then attempting to shove out the guests by any means possible.

There isn’t even a Trojan Horse involved. My body hangs out the “welcome” sign for everyone, then goes into panic mode when that “welcome” is accepted.

What does this have to do with anything?

I’ve had time to catch up on my chronological read-through of the Bible, that’s what.

Two little sentences capture my attention:

When the king heard the words of the law, he tore his clothes. …

“…because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God…”

– 2 Chronicles 34:19, 27a (CSB)

King Josiah of Judah follows hard on the heels of two disastrous rulers.

Manasseh, son of the great King Hezekiah, undoes all the work of his father; he worships just about every false god there was, engages in witchcraft, sets up an idol within the Temple precincts and sacrifices at least one of his sons on a pagan altar (2 Kings 21:1-18; 2 Chronicles 33:1-9). God reaches the end of His patience with Manasseh, and the king is taken captive to Babylon – where he repents (2 Chronicles 33:12-13). Because the Lord responds to every act of sincere repentance with forgiveness and restoration, Manasseh is returned to Jerusalem, where he sets about cleaning up the mess he had made.

Too little, too late. When Manasseh died, his son Amon came to the throne, and he did all the evil that his father had done. Judah was on a collision course with judgement.

So how in the world do we wind up with Josiah?

This brief and righteous blip on the timeline?

In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a youth, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David…

– 2 Chronicles 34:3a (CSB)

There are moments when I wish the biblical writers had maybe left out a few genealogies and given us instead a little more detail in the stories, and this is one of them. Then I remember that the Holy Spirit preserved everything necessary to life and salvation on these pages, and I have to trust that I don’t need to know why Josiah made this decision. What matters is that he did. Prevenient grace caused him to look around, to see the devastation of his country, and to long for something better. Rather than turning from the convicting, holy presence of God, Josiah walked toward Him.

Thus his response upon hearing words from the Book of the Law.

Then the court secretary Shaphan told the king, “The priest Hilkiah gave me a book,” and Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.

When the king heard the words of the law, he tore his clothes. …

“…great is the Lord’s wrath that is poured out on us because our ancestors have not kept the word of the Lord in order to do everything written in this book.”

– 2 Chronicles 34:18-19, 21b (CSB)

Overcome with emotion, the king rips up his clothes. A sign of mourning. His words reveal the dread and sorrow he feels. For ten years he had pursued God. He had done the work of destroying all places of pagan worship throughout the country. He had set out to restore the Temple. All looked good and right.

But there was something in the words.

Something that sliced Josiah’s heart.

He sends his officials off to seek counsel. They go to a woman named Huldah, a prophetess. She tells them that destruction and judgment are coming – but not during Josiah’s lifetime. God sees his mind, his soul. He knows how Josiah yearns to follow Him, to do what is right.

There’s a breath, a space. The passion and purity of the king, his immediate movement to restore worship of the True God among his people, provides respite. In my mind I hear silence. Utter clamness between the chaos of the sin of Josiah’s father and grandfather and the calamity that is to come, the fire and rage of Babylon.

A moment to repent. That is not fully embraced.

What made Josiah different? Why did his people not follow his example? Why does 2 Chronicles 36 roll right into a string of weak, pathetic kings who quickly forget Josiah? Who quickly forget God?

Asking these questions leads to self-reflection, for that’s what happens when you study Scripture. The Spirit breathes life into the black ink upon the white background. The letters pierce my mind, the sentences weave between the cracks in my heart. Why do I not follow the example of Josiah? Why am I so often weak and pathetic? Why do I easily and quickly forget God?

Where are my torn clothes?

God, thank You for the gift that is Your Word, Jesus Christ sent to seek and save the lost like me. Thank You for the treasure that is Your words, those that came directly from Your lips and those that arose from people’s relationship with You, all of which You kept safe for us, for me, so that we could have relationship with You as well. Thank You for Your faithfulness in convicting me about my sin. For loving me as I am yet not being content to leave me in that state. Teach me, Father, to see my sin not as a beloved, cuddly pet for me to love but as a beast intent upon devouring me. Teach me to respond as Josiah did, with torn clothes and a broken, obedient heart.



Finding My Voice

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Gentle Reader,

Something has clicked for me.

It began on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, referenced in this post. I certainly don’t think that social media is the place to air each and every thought and emotion. I don’t think blogging is the appropriate place for that, either. Nobody likes a constant stream of word-vomit. Discretion and wisdom are necessary in the online life (not to mention the “real” life). It’s important to consider what and how we share. Some things are great for general discussion. Others should be kept between trusted friends and family. Still others are meant to be hashed out with God alone.

So I’m not about to pontificate on every issue under the sun. But neither am I going to go out of my way to avoid voicing an opinion.

I’ve been doing that. Keeping silent. Honestly, part of that is because I think a lot of what passes for urgent these days is just a waste of time. People need to get off the computer and go do something worthwhile. Volunteering at the shelter has really changed my perspective. There are much bigger things going on in the world than what kind of meat to eat or if meat should even be eaten at all.

But it’s more than that. My friendships span a wide spectrum. Vegans and carnivores. Atheists and Christians. Pro-vax and anti-vax. I’ve often been reluctant to “like” or “share” a post because “what if so-and-so sees I did?” I’ve shied away from leaving comments because “what if so-and-so gets angry?”

And then the clicking.

First, I realized that it made no sense whatsoever that I would allow others the freedom to share their views, even views that I highly disagree with or find offensive, while not allowing myself the same freedom. Second, I realized that if a friendship falls apart because of differing takes on such trivial matters then it wasn’t really a friendship to begin with. Third, and perhaps most crucially, I understand the difference between attacking a person and criticism of a stance. No longer do I tolerate someone who chooses to be insulting on a consistent basis but I don’t at all mind someone who challenges my way of thinking. If I can be challenged, then I can challenge others. That’s healthy discourse.

All of these thoughts were subconscious. I haven’t been able to articulate them until today.

The third point in the above stirs me. We as a society have conflated personal attack and ideological criticism. We assume that anyone who holds a different position is saying something nasty and personal. We don’t know how to handle relationships that aren’t 100% square in all things. All too often we run away from anyone who dares to disagree. That bothers me a great deal. I don’t want to live in a world where everyone thinks exactly the same as I do. Heaven forbid I ever start to think that I can’t learn anything from anyone, that my way is the only right way. (Obviously I’m not talking about Jesus here, so don’t even start to think that I’m saying something about all religions being equal).

Disagreement is normal. It’s fine. It doesn’t have to be vicious.

I’ve chosen to step out and share my thoughts about some controversial things on my Facebook page. I said the Affordable Health Care Act is a joke because it’s not true reform at all, though I hardly place all the blame for that on the shoulders of the President. I said that I’m tired of articles that talk about how much the Church sucks because the people who write them are largely of my whiny, lazy, self-centered, entitled generation; a generation who, as a general rule, refuses to acknowledge its own responsibility in anything. I came out as a pro-vaxxer. (This last one may actually lose me some friends and I seriously don’t get it. I don’t understand why this is such a heated topic. Or even a topic for debate at all. But again, I fully support everyone’s right to think that they want).

You know what?

It felt good.

So, so good.

I didn’t call anyone names. Just said what I thought. It’s fine with me if other people disagree. We can talk. If they don’t want to talk, if they want to walk away, that’s fine, too. Sad, but fine. I have no control over anyone’s response.

Maybe it’s because I’m 30. Maybe it’s because I had a tumor. I don’t know. I’m just done with being scared. I’m so, so, so tired of letting other people have that much influence over me. I’m disgusted with the stupid, ridiculous fights I see over minute, ultimately meaningless details when there’s a lost, broken world dying for truth. I’m over all of it. Sure, I’ll tell you what I think and I find a new sense of freedom in that, but I’m not going to fight about it. I have better things to do.

Frankly, so does everyone else.

My journey to faith. (15)

The Wall and the Wave and the Whole

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Gentle Reader.

A negative state of mind can only change if it is consistently flooded with truth. A cynical person can learn to see the bright side only by regular exposure to that which is positive. An anxious, fretful woman banned from using medication must turn to truth and positivitiy the second she begins to stew and worry. To that end, I am participating in the 2015 edition of the Siesta Scripture Memory Team. I’ve got to put good stuff into my soul to drive out the bad that so naturally and easily arises.

Little did I know that the first two verses I chose to memorize would have such depth.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” – John 15:9 (NKJV)

Usually we focus on the “abide” part. We wonder what it means, what it looks like. Truly, the definition is fabulous: “accept or act in accordance with.” So abiding in Jesus’ love means to accept it. To live in it.

I’ve read this verse more times than I know, and this go-around pricked me with something new. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.” Jesus is telling His people, His disciples, His friends, that He loves them exactly how the Father loves Him. By extension, He loves us exactly as the Father loves Him. We can further surmise that He loves His people just as the He loves the Father, just as the Spirit loves Him, and so on. Dwell on that for a minute. The Holy Trinity has existed in perfect, never-disjointed relationship for all eternity past and will exist in perfect, never-disjointed relationship for all eternity future. The love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit never ends. There is no limit to it. There is no reaching the bottom.

So much beauty. So much comfort.

There is also confrontation.

God’s love isn’t about smoothing things over. It’s not about maintaining the status quo. Jesus walked into the lives of His disciples and turned them completely upside down and inside out. He challenged how they thought, how they acted, how they felt. He’s still doing that today. The constant, unending love of God is first like hitting a brick wall then drowning in a fathomless sea. We go through the wall first. We see the gore of the Cross, the most loving act in history, and we are crushed.

Then the waves rush in. Instead of washing us away, they somehow rebuild.

“He must increase, but I must decrease. ‘ – John 3:30 (NKJV)

I believe that John the Baptist fully embraced the meaning of these words. He knew that Christ was the star of center stage. He knew that his mission was about pointing people to the only Savior. John knew precisely who he was and who he wasn’t.

And that’s because of the Lord.

When we accept and act in accordance with the love of God, we come to understand who we are. There is so much freedom to be had in that understanding. We can walk in confidence. We can speak the truth. We can create healthy boundaries. We can love others without an agenda.

We – I – need the wall and the wave in order to be whole. Love confronts and love comforts. There are times when the most loving thing that God can do is bring us face-to-face with our nastiness. And when we take a good look in that mirror, God never fails to hold us close.

Broken by the wall, rebuilt by the wave.

Made whole.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Dare

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Gentle Reader,

‘Tis the time. The five minute time. The (kind of) Friday time. It’s Kate. It’s the crew.

It’s a: dare.


I have many sweet memories involving my teen-aged girlfriends. We’d all pile into someone’s room, or a tent in the backyard, and giggle over girlish things until the wee hours of the morning. Or until a parent yelled at us. We’d eat ourselves into a sugar- and pizza-coma.

It was beautiful.

One hot, sticky, early-autumn evening, we were squashed in that tent, sharing secrets and gushing over a certain older boy we all had a crush on. And, of course, we played “Truth or Dare.” It escalated. It always escalated. The gal whose house we were staying at had one of those wonderful creatures known as a cute boy next door. So, naturally, we tried to get his attention all evening.

And then someone dared me to run around the tent. In my pajamas.

I did it.

It was awesome.

We squealed with laughter and wondered if he’d seen me.

I wonder what happened to that girl. When did she get so bogged down with worries? What happened to the girl who would run barefoot through sprinkler-soaked grass while her friends smothered their faces in pillows to keep from screaming?  Her stride was confident, her smile easy and free.

I want to find her again.


I really do what to find her again. I want to find the part of myself that was able to let go of cares. Maybe that’s why I’ve been watching and listening to so much comedy lately. It’s a heavy world these days and I just want to get a little lighter. Feel a little brighter.

I’m thinking that maybe you, dear one, want that, too.

So, a challenge. Have some fun tomorrow! Do something, eat something, watch something, listen to something, sing something, read something that brings a smile to your face. Just because. Don’t think about calories or schedules or the “should’s.” Find a little slice of blessing in this here place and devour it. Soak it up with gusto.

And know that the Lord sent it to you.

My journey to faith. (15)