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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I Lied (Kind Of)

Tired

Gentle Reader,

When I wrote that I needed to take a sort-of break from writing, I was telling the truth. I don’t want to stick to a posting schedule right now. What wasn’t true is that I lack inspiration. I mean, I do. In a way. I am working out where God wants to take this little blog of mine. I want to be faithful to His leading.

But.

What I did not say is that I am tired. Very, very tired.

Over the last coupleish years, I have written about controversial topics and taken positions on those topics that are often unpopular among some. The rise of Trumpism, as distinct from traditional conservatism, has been deeply bothersome to me, but what has truly been alarming is the ongoing attempts to justify his lifestyle and actions (as well as those of the current administration and Congress) using Scripture. The combining of biblical worldview and ethics with a particular party and set of political positions, leading to the assumption that the two are the same, is incredibly annoying. The outrage over peaceful protests makes no sense to me; you may not agree with the position of the protester, but you can’t deny they have that right. On and on it goes.

In recent days, the Twitterverse has labeled me both a fundamentalist for affirming the literal, bodily resurrection of Christ (you know, the central article of the faith) and a liberal for finding a recent statement regarding social justice to be equal parts unnecessary, needlessly divisive and far too vague. As to the resurrection, I’ve heard that it’s not needed; one can be a Christian without believing, which makes zero sense because then what the heck are you here for? As to the statement, I’ve been told to take it at face value, to not consider the positions, teachings and other statements of the framers and initial signers, which makes zero sense because context matters.

Like I said, I’m so tired. Not only is the political world a dumpster fire, but Gnosticism rears it’s ugly head once more, a Gnosticism that denies the resurrection and a Gnosticism that elevates the spiritual over the material. I don’t really have a dog in either conflict, so to speak, because the one is taking place within Anglicanism and the other within the Reformed movement. After all, I’m just a breath away from being a heretic, by virtue of holding to Arminian and egalitarian positions.

Grin.

Actually, I have been called a heretic this week for not signing the statement. But here’s the thing: I have spent the last year purposefully looking for and following biblically sound men and women of color. I live in a fairly ethnically homogeneous area, so I don’t have much opportunity to interact with people who don’t look like me. I thought that it was important for me to seek out those whose theology is sound but whose lived experiences are different from my own. I wanted to hear their perspectives and stories.

I haven’t always agreed with everything these people have said (when is that ever true?), but I have learned. A lot. There is real, ongoing pain and struggle. Heartache that I and many others are largely unaware of, because it’s not part of our daily lives. So while I can and do agree with significant chunks of the theology contained in that statement – the affirmations – I can’t get in line with the denials. I can’t divorce social justice from the Gospel. Submitting to Christ necessitates that I work to help and care for the marginalized and oppressed. Committed, solid believers can disagree on what that looks like on a practical level, but we can’t disagree that Scripture consistently testifies to God’s commanding His people to do justly.

(Side note: I don’t know all of the ins and outs of this particular social justice fight. As I said, I’m not Reformed. A lot of what the Calvinists argue about leaves me looking at them with a strong side-eye. I do know that certain people have gotten into Twitter snits, which isn’t helpful in any way. I can and do extend charity to the authors of the statement; it’s possible that they did not mean to come across the way they did. Basically, I wish that the leading personalities on all sides had gotten together and had discussions).

So tired.

That’s why I haven’t wanted to write. That’s the real reason. I’m exhausted in trying to explain, over and over again, things that seem so obvious to me. I make my conservative friends mad. I make my liberal friends mad. And I weep as I watch the Body tear itself apart not over doctrine, for the most part (save for the strange resurrection debate), not over orthodoxy, but over orthopraxy, the way the faith is lived out. I watch brothers and sisters who genuinely, strongly hold to Scriptural teaching beat each other up over whether Republicans or Democrats should be in power. I observe and sometimes participate in complete distractions to the Great Commission.

I’m a Bible teacher. Down at the bottom line, at the base, I want people to know Scripture because I want them to know who God is. I want people to love Jesus because He loves them. I am the farthest thing from perfect or smartest, but I strive to look at every issue through a biblical lens. I want to live out the ethics of Christ. Frankly, we (the hugely general, extremely broad, American church as a whole “we”) aren’t doing a good job of that. Our lack of knowledge, lack of wisdom, lack of love, lack of patience, lack of grace and lack of understanding the “now” aspect of the “not yet” Kingdom clearly, glaringly shows.

That “we” gets me into trouble, too. I don’t have a problem acknowledging the corporate, communal nature of our problems and sins. This doesn’t mean that I own things that I don’t need to own or feel that I have to atone for a group. It just means that I see the Body as my family, my peeps, and we have problems, which means I have problems. We rise together and we go down together.

I have done what Paul says not to do. I’ve grown weary of doing good. I am so, so ready to throw in the towel on this blog, on teaching. I’m ready to delete all of my social media accounts and disappear. The worst part of it all is that the weariness washes over me following interactions with fellow believers. This should not be. Satan stands and laughs as the children of God rip each other to shreds.

We must do better.

But this is not all. The last drops of energy are drained from me by something personal, something that shakes me to my core and causes me to question whether I can write or teach or do anything of value at all. The sensitive places, the areas in which I struggle, are simultaneously hit, repeatedly. Violation, denial and then attack. I am, simply, vulnerable and discomfited and I hate that.

So, there you go. There’s the full truth, albeit with some vagueness that I believe to be necessary at this time. I have a lot to say, but right now, I need to say a lot of it privately, to God alone. My thoughts and words, coming from a place of exhaustion and anguish as they do, probably really only make sense to Him. They don’t always make sense to me.

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Five Minute Friday: Anniversary

Anniversary

Gentle Reader,

I spent so much time on the phone today. Good conversations, but I’m really feeling the need to crawl up in my introvert ball.

Kate says: anniversary.

Go.

Tomorrow is the thirty-fourth anniversary of my birth. At 1:16 p.m. I will officially slide into the middle part of my third decade.

I’m supposed to dislike that. I’m supposed to feel bad about aging, the gray hairs and the fine lines. Men become “distinguished” with the passage of time. Women are rarely given that moniker. Instead, we are pressured to spend thousands of dollars attempting to make ourselves look as though we are, at most, twenty-one.

Dude. I don’t want to go back to twenty-one. I don’t want to go back to any year of my life. Why should I strive to appear as I did in one of those years?

I like getting older. With each passing day I learn, bit by bit, how to stand my ground when it matters and how to let it go when it doesn’t. I no longer feel too self-conscious to go out in public without makeup. I don’t believe myself to be “ugly” because I have curly hair. I read and grow and think.

I’m glad to celebrate another year because I know that God is with me. Nothing that will come my way in the next days will be anything that I face alone. He is present. Faithful. Good. Kind.

I am happy to be His daughter.

Stop.

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Review: Mere Hope

Mere Hope

Gentle Reader,

Mixed feelings about this little book. Maybe that’s because I’m naturally cynical.

In Mere Hope, Jason Duesing instructs the reader to do four things: look down (hope’s foundation), look in (hope’s fountain), look out (hope’s flourishing) and look up (hope’s focus). Each of these steps is centered on the overarching theme of remembering Jesus, meaning that we are to live each day intentionally conscious of His presence and work in both our lives and the world at large. In this first chapter, Duesing writes:

By the Middle Ages the use of the phoenix as a Christian “resurrection bird” faded, but throughout other forms of literature, the avian myth appears to convey and remind of Christian hope. … What I love about the phoenix…is that just at the darkest moment, when you think this majestic creature has died or given its life for another, it is reborn, returning to life. … The foundation of our hope rose from the ashes of death; “something greater than the phoenix is here” (see Matthew 12:41). This mere hope is good news, for ours is a cynical age without much hope.

– p. 5

Given the chaos of our world and our growing awareness of it due to the constant connectivity of the internet, particularly via social media, this is a good reminder. All is not lost. The darkness, no matter how great, isn’t going to win. Our Savior, though He died, lives. We must continually reflect upon this truth.

I particularly appreciated the chapter on looking out, which seeks to move us from reflection to action:

…mere hope flourishes when it is employed in the service of others.

– p. 94

Just as we easily forget that God really is in charge and that evil really isn’t going to win, we also forget that our job is to go out and not only preach the Good News, but to take care of people. The two go hand-in-hand, for as James wrote, faith without works is dead (2:17). While it’s just a short jump into the terror of believing that our works keep us in right relationship with God (wrong thinking that has to be consistently battled), it’s an equally short jump into a “they need to pull themselves up/nobody ever helped me and I’m fine” mentality. This is not the example of Christ. He rolled up His sleeves. So, too, must we.

What brought me up short while reading this book was Duesing’s mediation on Evangelical Stoicism:

…Stoicism that is high on morality, asceticism and indifference plays well into our day of mutual challenges to “just grind it out.” … We are experts at “toughing it out.” … We have gotten very good at being proficient and we know how to get by. … In the face of the decline of cultural morality we hunker down and huddle up. Yet, simple joy, faith, hope and thankfulness are conspicuously absent as we “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

– p. 118-119 (emphasis mine)

Duesing is right in his claim that Evangelical Stoicism exists. I think he is wrong that it arises as a result of cultural shifts or societal pressure, however. I cannot speak to other parts of the world, but here in the United States Evangelical Stoicism exists because of the movement’s intimate connection to the very Western value of individualism, as well as the ever-present specter of the “American Dream.” As I alluded to above, it is with great difficulty that we expunge the “bootstraps” notion from our psyches. Thus, while Christianity itself has an extremely interdependent mindset, broken people living and working together in the power and for the glory of God, that way of being is largely foreign to us, here and now. We know how to be Stoic. We know how to strive. We know how to put on a brave face.

I agree with Duesing’s remedy for the problem: look up. Refocus on the Gospel. Our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world have no choice but to daily, moment-by-moment put all their trust in Christ. We get distracted by…stuff. Bank accounts, jobs, Netflix, whatever. You know what gets you, just as I know what gets me. In order to shrug off the shackles of “keeping up with the Jones’,” which is certainly a major element of our Stoicism, we have to forcefully remind ourselves that we are nothing without Him. A constant awareness of the Gospel and what it means – suffering and death for you and me – is the only thing that will break us out of our individualistic shells.

Overall, there’s nothing really wrong with this book. The author has a Calvinistic framework through which he views the world, which isn’t my jam, but no biggie. He doesn’t beat the reader over the head with it. I do find Wayne Grudem’s endorsement annoying, given his political activities in the last few years, but his standing as an author and teacher in Southern Baptist circles (this book is published by B&H Books, part of Lifeway Christian Resources, the publishing and distribution arm of the SBC) means that most first-time authors of that particular denomination would seek out his approval. Given what I know of the publishing world, I get why Duesing and his team went there.

I would have preferred some practical application tips or discussion questions at the end of each chapter. What does it look like to put mere hope into action? How do we move from the realm of the theoretical to “feet on the pavement” living? As one who really is naturally cynical, that would have been helpful. In the end, though, I do appreciate Duesing reminding us to continually look to Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

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I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK IN EXCHANGE FOR MY FAIR AND HONEST REVIEW.
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