Five Minute Friday: Protect

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Long days. Little energy.

I press the heat pad against my abdomen. Here, on the couch, battle rages. My head hangs low. Beads of sweat run down my neck. Sleep beckons.

Kate says: protect.

Go.

The good Lord knew what He was doing when He made dogs.

Petey, the mutt, was the first. All of my earliest memories include him. To this day I remember the feel of his curly, black-and-white fur beneath my fingers. He could hear cheese being grated. He slept on an old quilt, in a corner, wedged between two couches. During the night he would get up to check on us.

Murphy, the Papillon, loved to shove her blue rubber bone underneath a big pillow and dig at it. She was beautiful, with her long flowing fur. Except for her rear. That always had to be cut into what we called “turkey butt” to avoid…issues. She loved to sit with me while I read, munching on sunflower seeds. One for me, one for her.

Bugsy, the Shih Tzu, did a dance whenever he wanted a treat. His paws slapped the ground in a beat only he could hear, ending in a little bow. He had a wide smile. My brother would blow in his face and Bugsy would snap at the air, defeating his foe every time.

Blue, the Dachshund, obsessed with playing fetch. From dawn til dusk. His long body snakes around corners, a little bit of belly dragging the ground. Sturdy legs carry him here and there. Sometimes he jumps, suddenly, into my lap, full of happy licks and wiggles.

Benny, the PomChi, all round softness. He is by my side at all times. He grows old and slows down. He doesn’t mind that I have to rest so often. He’s happy to keep my feet warm. His sigh of contentment makes me feel safe.

Other dogs – Patches the puppy who died too soon, Tramp who was a girl so her name never made sense, Bella the super-crank, Rags the nut, Pippa the terror and Fuzzy the handsome Pomeranian who just needed more room to run. Each one has loved me, loved my family, well. (Except maybe for Pippa, who really only loves my mom).

In this harsh world, God gave us a loyal, loving creature. One who supports and accepts us at all times. Dogs are evidences of His constant care.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Matthew Wiebe

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

Five Minute Friday: Unite

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2)

Gentle Reader,

I did it. I typed “untie” instead of “unite,” just as I knew I would.

Kate asks us to ponder this deep word tonight.

Go.

Arrogance is the enemy of unity.

There’s no such thing as simple disagreement anymore. So often discussions dissolve into grudge-matches, winner take all. Sycophants take the place of friends. The teeming, scraping diversity of life is replaced with an echo chamber. We surround ourselves with others who are too afraid to challenge, too afraid to question.

Too afraid to be themselves.

Pride clouds our vision. We fail to see our own shortcomings. We hone in on the insecurity of those around us. We pick, we prod, we poke. We tear down.

We think we’re smarter than we really are.

I am fearful tonight. Or perhaps weary and wary are better words. In this age of “tolerance” it becomes ever-more acceptable to be blatantly intolerant. Everything is an argument. Politics. Church. Medical treatment. Women’s issues. No acknowledgement that expertise is real and we don’t all have it in every single area. Refusal to accept that there really are things that people can differ on and it’s okay. Fewer and fewer seem to be able to say, “I think you’re completely wrong on this, but I respect and love you still.”

No. Instead it is, “Fine. You don’t agree with me? You’re a moron and I won’t listen to a thing you have to say.”

Superiority complex.

Lack of a teachable spirit.

In the world: Christians today turn away from doctors in favor of barely-concealed foreign spirituality, attempting to blend the gobbledygook with our faith. We cling to leaders that appeal to base prejudices and fears. Our divorce rate soars.

In the house: We look down our noses at the congregation down the street. We complain when the service is too long. We whine when the babies cry during prayer time.

I wonder where we are headed, those of us who claim to follow Christ. Too often we embrace the attitude of the world. We leave our brothers and sisters behind over silly things, in search of “better.” We tune out our pastors. We gobble up books and articles that soothe our itching ears instead of challenging us to think and struggle.

There are mountains to die on, but we aren’t dying on them.

We’re slitting our wrists over molehills.

The work of repentance isn’t easy. To fall to our knees before the throne and confess that we have been stubborn, hard-headed and sometimes flat nasty is humbling. To admit that we do not, in fact, know it all takes a mind broken of its self-importance. To accept God’s correction, in whatever form it comes, takes a shattered heart.

To be a Christian is to be teachable. It is to know that we are not the be-all, end-all fount of knowledge and wisdom. It is to know that at any time we can be proven wrong.

To be a Christian is to embrace the unity of diversity.

Stop.

My apologies for the disconnected nature of this post. It’s difficult for me to express what I’m thinking. I see pride increasing everywhere I turn and the people of God are not immune. We must become aware of this. Our pride keeps us from each other and it keeps us from the Lord. If we are not willing to learn from and be corrected by each other, how will we ever be willing to learn from and be corrected by Him?

God, make me sensitive. Give me eyes that are wide open to my faults and failures. Give me ears to hear the ignorance that flows from my mouth. Grace me with the ability to submit to the wisdom and leadership of others. Grant me wisdom to know when to stand my ground. Above all, Lord God, make me teachable.

Break my legs if You have to, but make me humble.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo credit: Ryan McGuire