Five Minute Friday: Moment

Moment

Gentle Reader,

Do you like tuna casserole?

I know. Stupid question. Who doesn’t like tuna casserole? It’s made of love and sunshine.

My husband absolutely hates it because he has no taste. So when I found out that my mom was making it for dinner last night…and Chris is in Alaska visiting his brothers…of course the dogs and I were there. It was scrumptious.

Kate says: moment.

Go.

Banana bread bakes in the oven, filling the air with its enticing scent. The house is completely still. Chores all done, ferocious beasts napping. Outside my front window, bold red leaves reach for the gray sky above, as if challenging the heavens to put on a more beautiful display, confident that such a thing is not possible.

The fragrance and the quiet of this October afternoon, a balm to my tightly-wound soul.

Moments such as these are treasures we often overlook. Our culture teaches us to look for the next thing and long for the more. The simple pleasures of warm socks, an empty laundry basket and a tidy kitchen are lost on us. Are these daily things really blessings? Is it possible to be content, even joyful, in the mundane?

Pause. Take a look around. Ask God to give you eyes to see the gifts that He has given you, no matter how small or insignificant others might find them. Is it the blanket draped across the back of the couch? The text from a friend? A good article you read?

Life is overflowing with good things – even while it is extremely hard. There is always, always, something for which to be thankful.

Enjoy the moment.

Stop.

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Review: Finding Holy in the Suburbs

Finding Holy in the Suburbs

Gentle Reader,

I got a letter in the mail today detailing the time and location of the next homeowner’s association meeting. My immediate response was annoyance. What a waste of time. People arguing about stupid things like so-and-so not moving his garbage can from the curb in a timely fashion. These folks have way too much time on their hands.

Tract houses fenced off from the rest of the world. Mini malls full of things that none of us really need. Tidy little parks, so pristine as to be almost unfriendly.

The suburbs.

The impulse for building the suburbs was to create an idyll: the best of the country with access to the city, the pleasure of a country manor, a place of safety, and strong, thriving communities. These are good hungers; to enjoy, to rest, to work well, to keep your family safe, to grow a cohesive community. But when these hungers a met through shiny suburban packages, they come out sideways as consumerism, individualism, busyness and exclusion.

– p. 14

Hard to argue with that as I type on my laptop while I sit on my bed inside my house that sits next to my pathway on my street.

Ashley Hales knows what it is to live in the numbing suburbs, so she doesn’t condemn her readers for our struggles. Everything in the suburbs is designed to cater to an individualistic mindset, thereby undermining community-building before it even starts. Strange to realize this truth, for we so often imagine that the cities are places of disconnection. Yet it is us, wandering the aisles of the nearby Target, almond milk mochas in hand, who struggle mightily with getting out of our own heads.

Hales goes on:

There is a better way for the suburbs.

– ibid.

Each of the ten chapters explores specific temptations that suburbanites must be aware of and provides creative ways to address and overcome them. Hales begins with the most obvious sin of the Western world – consumerism. We have such a hard time embracing life as it is because we have bought into the idea that “this” or “that” will fulfill all of our deepest longings. Therefore, contentment is continually out of reach and our bank accounts bleed – yet “this” and “that” is never enough. It never ends.

So we must:

…ask for hearts that are not content with the thing itself but hunger for the source of our desires. … May the dust of our idols catch in our throats and awake us to our deathly habits of consumption.

– p. 30-31

That is the point of Finding Holy in the Suburbs. Hales spends 174 pages consistently pointing the reader to her need for the Lord. That might seem like a lot of ink spilled in order to share a fairly simple point, but nowhere is this book repetitive. With careful methodology and a solid understanding of Scripture, Hales first confronts us with the problem, moves us to the crisis point of repentance, then ends with a call to partner with God to bring shalom to the placid-looking streets we travel.

“Your suburb is not your home. It is your place you are called to in exile as you wait for glory. … The call of shalom is to maintain…’faithful presence within’ the structures of our neighborhoods and culture, as we experience God’s presence even in exile.”

– p. 156

As we live within the paradoxical “already” and “not yet” Kingdom of God, strangers and aliens who look like everyone else, we are tasked with bringing the Gospel to those who have yet to taste and see that God is good. The only way we can effectively accomplish this mission is to choose to reject the seemingly-sweet, definitely seductive vision the suburbs places before our eyes each day. Our lives are not about countertops, playdates or neatly trimmed lawns. None of these things are bad, of course, and there is no need for us to flee into the desert, but they do not define us.

We are, instead, defined by belonging to God.

The suburbs shine brightly, beckoning all to chase the much-heralded “American Dream.” Up close, inside, the light is dim, like a barely-flickering low-wattage bulb. We have the light of God within us, brighter than the sun itself. Ashley Hales helps us to see that and to reorder our priorities. Be sure to read this one.

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I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK IN EXCHANGE FOR MY FAIR AND HONEST REVIEW.
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Five Minute Friday: Who

Nature Song

Gentle Reader,

These are the last bright, colorful days of Autumn. Squirrels race to pack their secret warehouses. The dog’s coats grow thicker. Soon, clouds roll in. Rains drip and drop. Then, snow. But right now – a dazzling display. A brilliant declaration of the existence and abiding presence of the Creator.

Kate says: who.

Go.

On Autumn nights
Clear and sweet
The crystals dance
Across the sky
Waltzing to an
Ancient melody – steady
The one that
God dreamed up
Nature tunes its
Instruments to the
Hidden music – delicate
Frogs croaking in
Shadow next to
Crickets, grass, water
High above all
Cries the owl
“Hoo?” or maybe
“Who?” a question
The answer I
Do not have
But God knows
God, He sees
God, He hears
Caresses little owl’s
Head and says,
“For this, now,
Is why I
Made you, bird.
Steady, keep watch.”
I snuggle down
Beneath the sheets
Content to dream
While owl stays
Guard to keep

Stop.

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Just Don’t Write About It

Trust

Gentle Reader,

I suppose this has become a series. Should probably think of a title for it.

How does “Everyone is Crazy” sound? Ah, I can hear the protests. Stop using that word! It’s ableist! Everyone thinks differently, obviously, but as someone who takes a pill every night in the attempt to keep her mind functioning properly, I don’t use “crazy” as an insult. I use it as a shorthand for “let’s put some Prozac in the water supply so maybe everyone can chill out a little, okay?”

Anyway.

It’s popular to publish “listicles,” those sometimes-annoying pop-up articles that proclaim to reveal “10 Secrets to Younger Looking Skin!” or “5 Steps to Becoming a Master Underwater Basket Weaver!” The exact opposite of popular is publishing articles discussing the intersection of theology and politics, or, as I like to think of it, pavement doctrine. You know, the way in which we walk out this thing called “faith” on a day-to-day basis. Actually, as I read these sentences, I realize that it’s okay to write about pavement doctrine, as long as you, the author, choose to stay in a specific lane on the road. “Conservatives” have their favorites, as do “progressives.”

When you go hop-scotching around, discussing the flaws on all sides…well, you lose subscribers. Occasionally get roasted on social media, but that’s kind of a badge of honor, right? My skin is certainly thicker than it used to be.

So why put yourself through that?, people ask. Just don’t write about it.

Would that I could. Can’t so I won’t.

Do you know that Christianity is an intellectual faith? Certainly relationship with God is not only about the mind, but nor is it about closing the mind. This is so obvious, so essential to the truth-claims that we make, that I cannot understand how so many operate from a place of…not stupidity (I don’t believe that anyone is actually stupid, meaning incapable of thought), but willful ignorance. Anything outside of the tidy little boxes we prefer is nothing about which we wish to know or understand.

Consider the issue of abortion. I am a pacifist, so I am as pro-life as you can get. The ending of human life by other humans is abhorrent in all its forms. Do you know that this, oddly, puts me outside of the pro-life movement much of the time?

Think about it. The Republican Party has positioned itself as being anti-abortion, correct? The rallying cry is “overturn Roe v. Wade!” Never mind the fact that overturning simply kicks the issue back to the states, who will make their own laws, rather than making abortion illegal. And if abortion were made illegal, would the GOP then legislate things like equal access to contraceptives (men can buy condoms at the store no problem; women need to visit the doctor for a prescription) which would mean shaking free of the insurance lobbyists and actually reforming the healthcare system?

The Democrats are no better. The party fights amongst itself right now, attempting to determine if abortion-on-demand will become a litmus test for membership. Loud voices begin to make it quite clear that pro-life people are not welcome. Never mind that pro-life people would likely help pass things like true healthcare reform and sensible environmental protections, planks on the Democratic platform. This makes it seem as though there is no place for people of faith.

That’s the problem with both party loyalty and single issue voting. Neither allows for nuance.

Our faith should enable us to think critically. We should be comfortable with nuance. That might sound strange, because the truth of salvation is so starkly black-and-white. It is. Jesus, and Jesus alone, saves. And what happens after that? I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: We live as Revelation 21 people in a Genesis 3 world. This means that we should clearly see that all systems are made by humans, who are fundamentally warped, and as such, no philosophical stance regarding the role of government is going to have every answer. No political party is going to get it right every time. No president is going to usher in a golden age.

Because golden ages, no matter what the history books say, don’t exist.

Mediate on these words:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

– Psalm 20:7 (NKJV)

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