Five Minute Friday: Rain

Rain

Gentle Reader,

First FMF in a month. First of the Autumn season. (Autumn beings September first. Don’t @ me).

Kate says: rain.

Go.

Lord God, You see my heart
And every other hidden part
All the things I want to keep
From unkind prying eye’s sweep
You count the tears upon the sham
See the way my mind does scan
For safety, danger, or middle world
While my hands in fists are curled
Jesus, rain upon Your weary sheep
Torrents of grace, so streams grow deep
That I may walk with head held high
Even if I don’t know the why

Stop.

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New Perspectives on Old Hates

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Gentle Reader,

January.

How I hate this month.

Two seasons have depressed me ever since I was a child: the long, intense days of high summer and the first weeks after Christmas. In this part of the world, January is always gray, mushy and slow. When I was in school, there was always the stress of the semester’s final exams. As an adult, tax documents start trickling in, reminding me just how much I still owe on my student loans. (Seriously. Do they even count the payments I send in every month)? Usually I can’t wait to flip the calendar page.

Rolling into 2018, I resolved to attempt to see these drab days from a new perspective. I asked God to grant me the eyes to see all the little beauties, the delicate blessings, scattered throughout the hours. Instead of staring at the disgusting, muddy slush that lines the street in front of my house, I gaze at the deep teal afghan draped across the back of the couch, a gift from my husband. Instead of wishing time would move faster and I could start playing in the dirt, I remember that the soil needs rest in order to produce the flowers and food I love. Instead of allowing cold temperatures to lure me into total hibernation, I keep struggling to get up at a stupid hour to exercise. (Some mornings are more successful than others).

Many look at January as a magical time, filled with the wonder and possibility of moments yet lived.

Me? I’m just working at not being a complete curmudgeon.

The other day, my eyes fell upon these words:

Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead.

– Proverbs 4:25 (CSB)

As if I was being introduced to the concept of looking forward for the first time, my mind whirled. I fired up my new (and very exciting!) Logos software (a free download!) and plugged in the verse reference. Jamison, Fausset and Brown comment that this chunk of a larger proverb (vs. 20-27 are to be taken together) directs the reader to:

…pursue a sincere and direct purpose, avoiding temptations.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (via Logos; volumes available online here)

John Wesley adds:

Direct all thine actions to a right end, and keep thy mind fixed upon that way which leads to it…

Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

Pursue. Direct. Fix. In my mind’s eye I watch these words tumble around, as if tucked inside a clothes dryer next to the sock that’s always missing its mate.

To shift to a new perspective is no simple task. We are creatures of habit, even the most Type B, laid back, go-with-the-flow folks. Our minds get stuck in loops. Because a thing was a way at one time, the thing, and similar things, will always be that way every time. Breaking out of those thought patterns requires real effort.

The key to victory?

I asked God…

This January is really no different from any other January that has come before in my nearly-34 years of living. The snow is dirty, the skies are heavy, the glamour of winter has worn off. But instead of hanging my head, pressed down by the weight of cabin fever (even those of us who prefer the indoors are susceptible), I am learning to lift it. Instead of looking to the left, wondering why she has it so much better, or to the right, longing for what he has, I am learning to look forward. There, right in front of me, drawing and empowering me in every step, is Christ.

The sincere and direct purpose, the right end, is the Savior Himself. Not what we think He should give us. Not the temporary things we think will make us happy. Not name, fame or acclaim. God, Lord of All. Him. Just Him.

This January may, in the essentials, be no different from the others, but my experience of it is. The world is a slush-ball, but I don’t mind it so much. A cloak of depression still flits around my shoulders, but it doesn’t consume me. I’m looking at Jesus. He is beautiful. Radiance and mystery.

I sit quietly, waiting for Him to point out the things I so often miss by looking down or off to the side. And I begin to see, to really see, that, no matter what, no matter how bad the day, He is always there.

That is enough.

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Gaudete

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2)

Gentle Reader,

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione et obsecratione cum gratiarum actione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.

Expectation.

Preparation.

Hope.

Rejoice.

In one week the stockings come down and the presents unwrapped. A brief moment of cheer set against the bleak backdrop of encroaching winter. The days get shorter, the nights, colder. Twinkle lights and fires glow, pushing back the dark.

It doesn’t really matter that nobody knows exactly when Jesus was born, or that He probably did not pierce a winter’s night sky with His first cry. Celebrating Christmas near the time of the solstice makes sense. Nature itself provides the observant with a handy display, a physical manifestation of the weariness that we have all felt at one point or another. Bare tree limbs poke at the drab sky. First snowfalls have long turned to mush or melted away entirely, leaving a sickly-colored earth behind. Animals, when they stir at all, move slowly, as if gravity has become stronger.

What better time to stop and remind ourselves of the wonder that is the Incarnation?

I have often wondered what it must have been like for Jesus to fit Himself into a tiny baby body. He never stopped being God. He never forgot what it was like to be limitless and glorified. How odd it must have been for Him, to find His voice, the one that said, “Let there be light!,” reduced to the helpless squalling of an infant. How odd it must have been for Him, the first time He felt the pangs of hunger. I wonder if He ever looked at His mother and felt just a little sad, because He knows what it is to love the way mothers do and He knew her heart would be broken. I wonder if He ever experienced frustration over His lack of limb control or hated to have His diaper changed.

It doesn’t make sense, does it, that He would do this for us?

Yet He did.

He who heard the sound of angels now heard the snarfling of a donkey. He who breathed in holy incense now smelled the sweat and blood of a young woman. He who felt the weight of majestic robes now felt His earthly father’s beard brush against tender skin. He who rightly rules over all found Himself hidden away in a cave-barn.

I wonder if the angels stared at Him for a good long while before breaking into their song. I wonder if they were truly baffled at what He had done. I wonder if the animals in that cave understood that they were in the presence of the One who had made them. I wonder how the Father felt. I’m sure Satan laughed at the absurdity of it all.

The Incarnation will never be fully understood by us, this side of Eternity. Any question we might have answered will only lead to more questions. This is something that we accept on faith. God became man without sacrificing His Godness. This just is. We have to relinquish control and embrace the mystery.

Gaudete, my friend. Rejoice. Your King has drawn near.

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Photo Credit: Walter Chavez

Same Age as Jesus

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man…. He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counselor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;—all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him.

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.19.2

He was only 33.

Well, ish. Nobody really knows for sure exactly how old Jesus was when He gave up His life to save us. Tradition places Him in His early- to mid-thirties. There’s no reason to argue with that; it doesn’t matter how old He was when He died. What matters is that He did – and that He busted out of the tomb on that holiest and happiest of days.

He is faithful in all things. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to indwell all those who call Him Lord, and so He does.

“…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

– John 14:26 (NKJV)

He will teach us all things. A process that never ends.

Therefore, I find myself pondering the life of Christ in a new way.

I find it very odd to be the same age (or roughly thereabouts) as Jesus was when He took up the rough-hewn cross. He is, of course, eternal. Always existing, never created. But His humanity, the mysterious Incarnation – it was cut so short. Only a few gray hairs would have peppered His head. His face would have been relatively unlined. His body would have been full of strength and energy.

As they say, the prime of life. For us sinners, this age often means that the mistakes of youth are past and the winding down of middle age is yet to come. Barring illness, this is the peak of physicality before the downward slide (because no matter how well you eat and how much you exercise, getting older is a thing that you just can’t escape).

This moment on His timeline, this box on His calendar – He chose to sacrifice Himself.

When we read these words –

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

– Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV)

– we tend to focus on temptation as being exclusively tempted to bad. This is true. Yet consider that the Devil would have tempted Jesus with all the good and ordinary things that any man wants – a stable career, a loving marriage, children, a happy home life. I think of the men I know, those in their thirties, who want all these things. Who work for all these things. Who are full of plans and hope.

Jesus’ plan was to give hope by dying.

All the ordinary things He would have wanted, for His humanity was just as complete as yours and mine, lacking on the stain of sin. He set them aside. I certainly want comfort, security, rest. He lacked all of these things as He traveled about, inviting people into the embrace of Kingdom. He had no home. No income. No wife to smooth His furrowed brow. No children of His own to bounce on His knee.

An ordinary-looking man, as Isaiah wrote,

He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.

– 53:2b (NKJV)

But nothing ordinary about Him at all.

I am moved by His sacrifice in a way I’ve never before experienced, a way that I can’t quite express. It makes me ache to know that the Infinite Lord of all creation, who holds everything together by the power of His sustaining word, experienced the cruel anguish of loneliness. Of painfully standing out in and remaining apart from the crowd. He did not have what any of His male contemporaries had. He did not embrace the women who followed Him as anything other than sisters. He had no possessions. No position.

Jesus wasn’t just tempted to sin. He had to have been tempted to set aside the plan and follow the path of family and friendship, the very path that most of us walk without question. No wonder He retreated so often to pray. The tomb of Lazarus and the ground of Gethsemane cannot have been the only places witness to His tears. How He must have missed the intimate, equal, happy fellowship of the Father and the Spirit! How it must have hurt to be separated from them, even if only in a limited way for a limited time.

For He, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to His prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, He humbled Himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death He died was the death of a common criminal.

– Philippians 2:6-8 (Phillips)

Utter obedience. Not just the obedience of the cross, an agony horrific enough itself. The obedience of daily, even momently, setting aside His human longings, showing us how to be fulfilled and content without any of the usual trappings.

What a marvel He is.

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