Five Minute Friday: Support

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

First, apologies to my writing buddies. I have neglected to interact with your comments and visit your sites for the last two weeks. Life just gets in the way sometimes.

Second, we are slowly but surely sliding into Autumn. I can hardly contain my glee. Cooler temperatures, overcast skies, sweaters, boots, warm socks. I love it all.

Not chat party for me tonight. I put off exercising until late in the day due to yet another smoke invasion. (How I hope and pray that these fires die down soon). While the gang was tapping at the keys, I was yelling at my television, telling the lady leading the program that she’s a sadist and that no, I would not do another set of push-ups.

Kate asks us to: support.

Go.

Antéchomai: to hold before or against, hold back, withstand, endure; to keep one’s self directly opposite to any one, hold to him firmly, cleave to, paying heed to him

StudyLight

Remember, the New Testament wasn’t written in English, not even that of King James I of England (VI of Scotland; it’s complicated). It can be helpful to study the original language – Greek – in order to gain a deeper understanding of the text. One needn’t be a scholar; being able to read or pronounce the words in the ancient tongue is definite bonus points territory, but all that is required is access to the internet, the ability to use a search engine and a desire to learn.

So, an-tekh’-om-ahee.

We find this word in 1 Thessalonians 5:14,

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

– NKJV

Uphold the weak.

What does that look like? What does it mean to support the weak? And why is this a command given to us?

Maybe it has something to do with these verses, quoted in this space before, quoted so often in Christian culture,

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 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. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

– NKJV

Jesus is our example. Through the process of sanctification, the Holy Spirit makes us more like Him. As our Lord was humble, patient, kind, loving, all the things we think of as good, so, by grace, must we be. It’s a “go and do likewise” thing. We throw ourselves onto His lap and beg Him to carry us when we just can’t take another step. So we, receiving strength and grace from the Source of life itself, are then able to support our brothers and sisters who can’t take another step. We help them come to the feast table, the mercy seat. Then, when we ourselves are weak, our brothers and sisters help us. On and on it goes.

Sometimes this looks like dropping off a warm meal. Sometimes it’s listening while resisting the temptation to offer advice. Scrubbing floors, rubbing backs, babysitting, discussing Scripture, praying together, weeping with those who weep.

For we are all weak, are we not? In our frailty and the incompleteness of our sanctification, strength lasts but a short while. We are constantly, consistently having to return to the Lord, crying out for Him to breathe life into us once more.

It is our privilege to help each other do so.

Stop.

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Review: Emerald Isle

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Mike Trainor’s life is mere existence since a terrorist bomb killed his beloved Mary the week before their wedding. Then an overbooked airplane forces him to sit by a beautiful young Irishwoman who is the spitting image of his dead fiancé….

Sometimes I write lengthy reviews.

Other times I simply tell you, “Read this book.”

This is one of those times.

Andrew Budek-Schmeisser is a beloved friend, one of the few brave men who actively participate in the Five Minute Friday writing community. His humor, intelligence and faith reach across the miles through his words, drawing the reader into reflection. He is unfailingly generous in his encouragement, always finding ways to cheer on anyone with whom he crosses paths. Having developed a real camaraderie with him over the last couple of years, I was in no way surprised that his fiction is as deep and surprise-filled as his blog posts.

Emerald Isle tells the story of Mike, Annie and Mary. From the rolling green hills of Ireland to the heat of Austin to the concrete jungle that is Chicago, with many stops between, this is a story of secrets, vengeance, love lost, hopes shattered and faith tested. It is a tale of a man caught between two women – but not in the way you expect.

While much Christian fiction is saccharine and formulaic, Emerald Isle is refreshingly different. There’s enough action to keep the plot rolling and enough character development to keep the reader attached. In some places, I laughed out loud. Others, my heart ached. If this book were made into a movie, Liam Neeson would easily have a role (I won’t tell you who he’d play). He’d kick butt and take names.

But not as a lone wolf. What I really appreciated about the action elements is that Andrew knows what he’s talking about. He’s been in battle. There are no superheroes in this novel. Results are achieved only through teamwork. Andrew carries this principle beyond the comrades in arms and, in a fascinating exploration of culture, family ties are forged through means other than blood and marriage.

Most importantly, Mike, Annie and Mary’s story prompts the reader to contemplate both the large and small ways in which God is present and working. From Chapter 105:

See, and You can correct me if I’m wrong, I think You’re just too big to understand, starting cold. All that Old Testament stuff, it put me on overload. I bet a lot of people went on overload from that. Started making rules and stuff, making so if we did everything just right you’d like us.

Only, that wasn’t it at all, was it? The answer was always so simple. You loved us from the beginning to way past the end. All we had to do was turn around, see those open arms waiting for us.

Finally You couldn’t stand it anymore, and You came to prove it by dying for us. Dying, and taking all the shame and guilt and general crap we should have felt for the way we lived, ESPECIALLY the way we lived when we thought we were doing good. We protected our hearts from You by building walls of laws and rules and stupid little rituals, while You wore your heart on Your sleeve. And on the cross You bled out, that heart pumped all your blood overboard, until only water came out when the centurion stuck You with the spear.

And that blood went down to join other blood from other victims on that hill, but You made it something different. You made red robes, red for kingship, red for blood, red for love.

My soul sings, reading that.

There’s more to be said, but I won’t say it. I’d give too much away if I did. Just head on over to Amazon. You know what to do.

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I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Stumbling Servants

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

It is a privilege and a pleasure to serve, even in the chaotic and frustrating moments, because it is a privilege and a pleasure to do as Jesus did. It is an honor to be a vessel for His truth, grace and love.

Took an unplanned break last week. I joined my church family in a large community service project and just ran out of time and energy to sit and let the words flow.

There were some tough spots. I butted heads with people I love. It’s a rough-and-tumble and often dysfunctional family, this one that Christ has bought and created by the shedding of His blood. We’ve got sharp edges and soft spots and somehow always manage to ram our sharpness into another’s softness. Our ideas and ways of doing things don’t always align. Sometimes we get derailed in disagreement, forgetting what the goal really is.

That goal? To serve God by serving others. No strings attached.

This little family of faith to which I belong has had a bumpy year. We could have easily imploded over this event. Instead, as I reflect on the last month, I see a quiet, gentle work of God. We are in no way, shape or form perfect people. Far, far from it. But He used us. He prodded here and pushed there to move us beyond the sticking place. We learned some much-needed lessons. We pressed into some difficult conversations. In the end, we worked as a team – maybe a team that doesn’t always win the game, but a team that makes the plays.

Truth is: The people with whom I worship with week after week can frustrate me like no other. But isn’t that how it is with family? They drive you up the wall, but you love them. You don’t always understand the choices they make. You give them side-eye sometimes. But that love is never in question.

We know that God says we are His children. So I wonder if He looked upon us – sweaty and stumbling and maybe a little crabby – with the kind of expression that crosses a father’s face as he watches his toddler learn a new skill. It’s messy. It’s hard. But when that toddler finally makes progress, hair flying every which way and hands covered with peanut butter – the father beams.

There’s always those little spots in our minds, those unevangelized places, that don’t grasp and rest in the kind of love God has for us. We can recite the verses and say the right things. But there’s a part of us that remains scared. What if I don’t do this right? Holiness, sanctification, submission, obedience – all commanded, all Christ-enabled. Perfectionism? Not so much.

Meditate on this verse with me –

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

– Romans 5:8 (NKJV)

While we were still sinners.

The people with whom we, church folk, interacted at that event did not speak, behave or dress the ways we thought they should. They haven’t always made wise choices. They may have had addictions or come from chaotic, broken backgrounds.

Guess what?

They’re just like us.

Jesus didn’t require us to clean up our acts before He offered help.

Again, holiness gets a big “yes and thumbs up” from God. He doesn’t save us so that we can keep on doing whatever we want. We don’t get to bend the definition of sin or remove certain cherished activities from the category. That’s cheap grace. What Christ did for us certainly wasn’t cheap. It cost Him everything. Nor does He save us so that we can spend the rest of our lives under the tyranny of perfectionism. The Bible is full of stories of regular people who loved God but messed up – and God remained steady in His love for them.

Just like us.

We cannot hoard this treasure. The homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, the sick, the broken – God loves them, just as He loves us. We don’t need to fear them. We need to listen to them, then tell them. Tell them of the God who made the stars, of the atom-splitting choice in a garden, of sin and struggle, of grace and resurrection.

Then we need to turn around and remind ourselves of these things.

Onward, stumbling servants. Get back up when you skin your knees. Resist the urge to retaliate with someone slaps your face. Seek forgiveness when you need and grant it when asked. Beg God for wisdom. Beg Him to make you gentle. Lace up your boots, gird your loins, roll up your sleeves.

We may not do it perfectly, but the work awaits.

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Five Minute Friday: Speak

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

On one thing we can all agree: What a week it’s been.

Linking up with Kate and my buddies. We: speak.

Go.

There are many things I could write tonight. Many things I could say.

Only a few need to be shared in this moment.

One: To my brothers and sisters of color, I am sorry. For the times I shrugged off an inappropriate joke. For the times I’ve been afraid of you because you are different from me. For the times I didn’t seek to understand. For the times I didn’t listen. I want to be better, to do better. This is not about politics; not about left or right. Not about looking good for anyone. It’s about publicly owning what I need to own. From here on out, I wish to be more aware and more sensitive. I want to build bridges instead of walls.

Two: White supremacy isn’t just hating people of other races. The groups that converged in Charlottesville last weekend would gladly do away with me – whether that means kicking me out of the country or killing me. Because I’m ill. Because I can’t have children. Because I struggle with depression and anxiety. White supremacists seek “purity,” whatever that means, and I’m certainly not that. There’s a good chance that you aren’t, either.

Three (I shared the following on Facebook earlier today): Many speak of the Civil War as being fought over state’s rights. For the sake of argument, let’s say that’s true. I need someone to explain to me why anyone is angry that the state governments are choosing to remove Confederate symbols from public display.

Think about it.

Finally: I follow several African-American Christian leaders online. They are all asking the same questions – Why can’t our white brothers and sisters see how this hurts us? How these things stoke the fires of hatred and prejudice?

We should listen to the people who have to deal with what these things stand for every single day.

Stop.

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Also linking up with Suzanne Eller and the Ra-Ra Writers

More information:

 

The Myth of the Kindly General Lee

 

What Would Jesus Say About Confederate Symbols?

 

On Trump and Repentance

 

The 1850s Response to the Racism of 2017

 

Social Conservatism vs. Tribal Nationalism

 

Lost Cause of the Confederacy (this is from Wikipedia, so use it as a jumping off point)

 

Alt-Right, Alt-Left, Antifa: a Glossary of Extremist Language

 

Charlottesville: Race and Terror (a must-watch 22-minute video)