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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Being for the Benefit of Madam G

Get Back

Gentle Reader,

Thank you, John Lennon. (If you don’t get the reference, please leave this site and go listen to all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band right now).

Whenever I don’t stick to my self-imposed writing schedule, I have a sense of needing to apologize to you. As if I’ve failed. And I did fail the last two weeks, physically. An out-of-nowhere cold knocked me flat. Then the smoke of annual fires rolled in. The world is a haze of sepia and ash. My garden, vegetables and flowers alike, looks awful, as if it, too, is struggling to breathe.

As I’ve coughed and sniffed and worked to keep my lungs inside my body, I’ve thought a great deal about this blog. Something about this being its tenth year of existence is extremely bothersome to me. Instead of feeling grateful, I am discontented. I think I finally know why, or at least a bit of the why.

For so long I have kept to regular posting. I’ve worked hard to have at least two articles a week appear here, rain or shine. I like routine. I like discipline. I understand the value of both.

But I can’t do it anymore.

Authors always debate how much inspiration really matters. Many, far smarter than I, believe that it’s the grit that counts. You sit down at the same time, every day, and crack on. That has generally been my attitude. No big thing can be achieved without the small, plodding steps.

I am beginning to see, however, that there is value in looseness. Maybe it doesn’t always have to be about schedules and SEOs and striving. Maybe there is wisdom in publishing only when you truly have something to say.

I have a novel that I haven’t touched since February and an idea for another rolling around my head. It’s time to give space and energy to those pursuits.

And so Madam G, for the foreseeable future, will post only when she wants to. It is to her benefit to retreat a little. (That’s a creepy third-person thing there, but I had to reference the title somehow). Participation in Five Minute Friday will continue, because that community means a lot to me and the prompts manage to meld discipline and inspiration in a way that never seems to run to dryness. Newsletters will continue, but in a more sporadic fashion.

I continue to be thankful for and honored by your presence. The fact that more than a handful of you choose to read these words never ceases to amaze. We’ll still see each other. The journey is far from over.

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Sketches: Dirt

Dirt

Gentle Reader,

It’s really hot. It’s stupid.

So, let’s talk: dirt. (Prompt submitted, once again, my my own brain).

I could have been a farmer’s daughter.

My great-grandparents owned a farm in Idaho, near but not quite in the panhandle, where there is a town named “Onaway” because it’s on-a-way to elsewhere. He played on a traveling baseball team part of the year. She taught in a one-room schoolhouse at one point. My dad and his four brothers spent many hours out at their place, forced to bake something every Saturday morning before being released to run through the fields and orchards, chucking rotten apples at each other and jousting on bicycles.

My dad’s first job, around age 14, was working for another farmer, driving tractors and moving big, metal sprinkler poles. The kind with wheels attached. (Google if you don’t know what I’m talking about). He’s the quiet sort, so it didn’t bother him to be out on his own, working in the dirt.

It doesn’t bother him now, either. Though the great-grandparent’s farm was eventually sold and it never worked out for my own parents to buy land and raise animals that would never be slaughtered because we would get too attached to them, he still works in the dirt. Mows the lawn, prunes the roses, plants trees. He hates the heat this time of year (as do I), but he finds being out there, taking care of things, relaxing.

Perhaps the funniest thing he’s done when it comes to dirt and plants was the time he allowed an offshoot from a rosebush to grow in the middle of the yard. Drove my mom nuts. She wanted him to cut it down. He mowed around it week after week, wanting to see what it would do. The fact that it annoyed her was just a bonus, of course.

My mom would always plant geraniums or petunias in pots, lining them up neatly on the stairs that led up to the porch. When I was about 13, I began helping her with the process, learning how to gently spread the roots and place them in deep, soft, wet soil so the plants wouldn’t go into shock. I found it very soothing – me, the not-outdoorsy, doesn’t really like to get dirty person, completely fine with plunging her hands into a bag of potting soil. If my memory serves correctly, one year, I think the last year we lived out on the two-and-a-half acres in the single-wide trailer, I did all of the geraniums myself. They always looked so happy in their terracotta pots, deep green leaves and red blooms reaching for the sun.

I turn to my own plants when I’m feeling anxious. There’s something immensely satisfying about chopping a woody rose cane to the ground. Nothing better than watching the vegetable garden spring from seeds to delicious food. I could do without having to weed, but even that isn’t bad when done in the morning, when it’s cooler, while listening to music or a podcast. I send the ladybug army in to eat all the nasty, destructive little creates. Sit on the back porch and watch the birds flit from tree to tree, the ones that we snagged at a giveaway because we bought our house at the wrong, worst time and had no money to put into landscaping. Admire the baskets hanging from the pergola, fresh vines draping over following a ruthless pruning.

The dirt, and what it produces, is delightful.

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