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

Immanuel

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1).jpg

Gentle Reader,

Immanuel.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

– Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV)

I feel tingly inside when I think about Christmas.

October may be my favorite month, but this is my favorite season.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year are filled with light and life. The scent of pine and sugar cookies dance in the air. Dogs are decked out in ridiculous Santa outfits. (Not mine. They have respectable red-and-black plaid vests with faux shearling collars). Kids belt out tunes from the church Christmas play at the top of their lungs, never quite getting the lyrics correct. People walk around with little smiles on their faces, thinking of secret goodies for loved ones tucked beneath sparking trees (real and fake). Snoopy and the Red Baron agree to a truce on the front lines.

I love it.

One of my earliest memories centers around Christmas. My dad took my brother and I out to the back steps on a cold, clear night. We could see the marks of our playtime in the thick snow. Petey the black-and-white mutt stood with us, watching. Dad pointed to the brightest star in the sky (probably the North Star, but I’m not sure) and told us how a star just like that guided the Wise Men to a town called Bethlehem, to a baby named Jesus. He told us about the gifts they gave to the baby, because He was the King.

Then, on Christmas Eve, my mom pulled a yellow cake from the oven. She pushed white rainbow-chip frosting back and forth across the top without tearing the cake (something I have yet to master) and then, gently, pierced the layers with candles. Dad lit the match. We sang, “Happy birthday, dear Jesus.”

The simplicity of those moment never fail to stir my heart. Sure, I know all about John 1 and how Jesus is part of the Trinity and has always existed, and so on the deeper level He never had a birthday. I know that the Wise Men probably arrived in Bethlehem (by way of Jerusalem) a couple of years after Jesus was born. I understand terms like hypostatic union and kenosis.

All the systematic theology in the world cannot capture the holy mystery of the Incarnation.

The prophecies and the 400 years of silence. The teenage girl and the announcement. The man who would divorce the girl and is stopped. The census. The trek to Bethlehem. The donkey. No room in the inn. Mary longing for her mother. Joseph freaking out as he’s turned into a midwife. A barn. A hush settling over the animals tucked within as the One who created them all bursts onto the scene with the wailing cries of a newborn. The lowly shepherds. The angelic choir.

The infinite Lord of creation, bound neither by space nor time, chose to lay aside His glory and come to earth in the form of a fragile baby.

I can’t get over that. I can’t explain that. The terms and the thick books don’t do it justice.

God, in flesh and blood.

The stars and the birthday cake somehow make the most sense. Tiny human beings looking to the sky, waiting for the Lord to come. Offering up what little we have, like the little drummer boy. Wanting to show, to say, how much He means to us and failing to fully express the sentiment.

God with us.

God actually with us.

Mind-blowing and heart-rending. He didn’t have to. He’s God. He could have left us to our own devices. We would have deserved that. Instead He gave us what we can never, ever even come close to deserving.

Immanuel.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute (Holiday Interrupted) Friday: Table

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! (If you’re not from the United States, I hope you had a great Thursday). We were pretty chill around here, which is fine by me. The holiday and subsequent shopping (we are Black Friday people, but we do are not the “get up at o’dark thirty” sort) plus getting rid of junk I don’t need took up all of my writing time. I’m coming late to the game. Kate prompts us to write about: table.

Go.

I hate the card game Shanghai. A form of contract rummy, it takes hours to play. Honestly. At least two hours. It’s all about strategy (or strateegery for the SNL fans) and paying attention and holding way to many cards in your hands. Every year my family makes me sit down after the Thanksgiving meal and participate in this self-torture. Every year I say I don’t like it. Every year they think I’m joking.

Or they know I’m serious and just like bugging me. Could go either way.

Once more we gathered around the table, an old farmhouse piece that my dad spent weeks methodically stripping, sanding and refinishing. The dogs – an obese PomChi, a wiggly wiener dog and a teacup Pomeranian who genuinely hates everyone except my mom – nestled at our feet. Forks scraped against plates as we munched on four different types of pie. Cards were shuffled and dealt.

This year, I brought my phone to the table. Opening my “classic” playlist on Spotify, the sweet sound of Billy Ocean’s Caribbean Queen set the tone for the rest of the evening. I broke out my Cher impression. Chris argued with me about song selection. My mom bopped along with Whitney Houston. The strange opening to Midnight Special by Creedence Clearwater Revival played and my brother asked, “What the heck is that?” My dad made up his own lyrics and even entertained us with his one dance move.

I lost – horribly. I always do.

But that’s okay. It’s always okay. I get through those hours and that stupid game because I’m at the table, surrounded by family.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)