Five Minute Friday: Release

Release

Gentle Reader,

As I do not tan but simply reflect light back to the sun, it comes as no surprise that, when I’m tired (beyond the daily level of tired; the sort of weariness that comes with not sleeping well and attempting to cope with a three-day headache), I look like death warmed up. Glanced at myself in the mirror as I dressed this morning and the dark circles were oh-so-prominent. The next time anyone remarks upon them, I think I’ll respond with, “Yeah, but you should see the other guy.”

Paleness also makes finding and purchasing the proper shade of foundation an adventure. Really, Target? You don’t carry a line that includes a shade that sits somewhere between pristine paper before it’s been printed on and WhiteOut? Way to make my life difficult.

Are those bruises all up and down my arms? No, just the veins showing through. Except for that. That one is a bruise. Which I probably got from rolling over too hard last night.

Oh, well. At least I won’t have a football-like complexion when I’m 50.

It’s the little things.

Kate says: release.

Go.

So I’m a pacifist, right? I believe in non-violent solutions and keeping the temper under control. “The fruit of the Spirit is peace” and all that.

Except, I have a nasty temper. I work at being conciliatory. I strive to compromise when possible. I am neither outwardly expressive or explosive. But I have to confess, there are times when I genuinely fantasize about punching someone in the mouth. Usually with a right hook, followed by an upper-cut if he’s being particularly obnoxious. My blood rises, along with my voice (in pitch, not volume) and my fingernails dig into my palms.

People tend to think that pacifism is about cowardice and apathy. It’s not. Certainly not for me, at any rate. Learning to let go of those destructive urges, to release them alongside a slow, count-laden breath, is based in a desire to be free. To walk through life in and with the peace referenced above, and the joy and the love and all the other things that are promised to those who abide in Christ.

I can’t abide in Him if I’m not releasing the anger.

Stop.

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And Now, The Fish Slapping Dance

Giggles

Gentle Reader,

My house is a disaster. Really. We’re down to the last room in the Grand Epic of Replacing the Floor, which means everything in my bedroom has been shoved into the guest room and everything in the guest room has been shoved into what passes for an office (that nobody ever uses) and there is detritus everywhere. The dogs can’t figure out what’s happening to their environment; in protest of the disruption, they knock over bathroom wastebaskets and generally behave badly.

I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or decamp to the nearest cheap motel.

Attempting to see the humor seems the best choice.

Did you know that Christians aren’t supposed to have a sense of humor, though? I didn’t until recently. Again, belatedly I learn that I have been doing my life all wrong. Must have lost the instruction manual. Apparently we are supposed to be deeply serious people, always and ever concerned with ruining everybody’s good time.

How sad.

Jesus went to parties, you know. As in, He was invited to parties all the time and saw no need to avoid them. Heaven certainly sounds like it’s going to be a gigantic, forever-long party, full of light, laughter and good food. For what is being in the presence of God if not happiness? If not constant smiling?

Is life serious? Of course it is. It’s also absurd. A friend texted me a couple of hours ago, relaying a story she’d seen on the news of a man who broke into a house and began doing laundry. Not his laundry. The laundry that belongs to the people whose house he broke into. Yes, theft is a sin, but that’s funny. What sort of burglar thinks, “You know, I’ll just do some washing up for these fine folks that I’m robbing?”

There are two sides to my personality; one is very serious, dark and afraid, the other ever-amused and struggling to hold back giggles at inappropriate moments. This particular blend is what it is. At nearly 34, I’ve about given up on attempting to reconcile how I can, at the same time, be both numbingly anxious and laughing so hard tears spring to my eyes. That is, I suppose, humanity.

I believe in learning, study, contemplation. I also believe in a good pie to the face. I don’t think God minds a good joke. In fact, I think He laughs. Give yourself permission to do the same. Allow yourself to see the funny, the farcical. Perhaps, in so doing, the proverbial silver lining is found.

William Makepeace Thackeray (one of the best names ever) wrote in his novel Vanity Fair,

The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion.

When I frown at the world, when I dwell on all that makes me sad and scared, I find more things to be sad and scared about. When I do the work of looking up and smiling (for it is work, as all choices are), I find more things to smile about. That’s not pop psychology or self-help babble, nor is that a substitute for medication or therapy, if needed. (Real talk: I am beginning to become annoyed at having to place this disclaimer in my writing so often. I wish that anyone who ever reads here would simply, somehow, know what my position is and that I’d never have to state it again). It’s taking ownership of our thoughts an attitudes, something we are advised to do throughout Scripture.

And now, The Fish Slapping Dance. Not because it means anything. Not because it must be analyzed. Because it’s 17 seconds of sheer, unbridled silliness. It’s okay to giggle over this and promptly replay.

Bonus content: The Spanish Inquisition compilation. (Yes, I love Monty Python and yes, Michael Palin is my favorite. Some of my fondest memories involve acting out absurd, stupid sketches with old friends, both original and ones that we blatantly stole from this British comedy troupe. Please don’t sue us, gents. We have no money).

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Just Like an Israelite

Smad

Gentle Reader,

He is a boil on the butt of humanity.

– Ouiser Boudreaux, Steel Magnolias

Do you ever wonder why other people exist?

I do.

Because I am a ray of sunshine. I never do anything annoying. I am never ungrateful or ungracious. I am the epitome of all that is good and lovely. Polish my halo, nominate me for sainthood.

Eyeing the sky now, waiting for that lightning bolt.

Of course I’m just as irritating to others as they are to me. That’s who we are, what we do. All knocking against each other. Bouncing and pushing and poking. God, in His infinite wisdom, works in the midst of that jostling, patiently shaping us into the people He wants us to be. Easy to forget when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Hard to see when our eyes are clouded by the anger that always follows being mildly inconvenienced.

One day the Israelites started complaining about their troubles.

– Numbers 11:1b (CEV)

It’s funny, how we read the Old Testament and wonder how those people could be so stupid. They saw the sea split, the food fall from the heavens, the cloud and the fire. They experienced the Lord in great, mighty and amazing ways. The evidence of His existence and role as ruler was before their eyes each day. How could they complain? How could they doubt Him?

I wonder if we ever have the clarity to see ourselves as we really are.

We are no better than the Israelites who lived so long ago. They had the chance to step out in faith. The choice to live each day in the midst of mystery, trusting that He would always protect and provide. And sometimes they did so. Sometimes they got it right. Yet an entire generation died in the desert because the sometimes became rarer and rarer. That doesn’t mean that none of that group experienced the forgiveness of God. Scripture tells us that He always responds to sincere, heartfelt repentance with grace. That does mean that they didn’t get to experience all that He had for them.

Me today.

I’ve been cranky for awhile. Could be the weather. Could be the not sleeping well. Could be because I can. Really don’t know. All I could do today was complain. And complain. Ugh, I have to take care of this? I have to go do that? I’m so annoyed. I don’t want to. Stupid person on the road in front of me get out of the way. Mumble, grumble, definitely not feeling humble.

I wonder what I missed today. Since I kept my eyes down, on my problems (that aren’t really problems), it was impossible to see anything good. Impossible to notice the little drops of grace and peace that I know are scattered throughout the hours.

The Lord heard them and became so angry that He destroyed the outer edges of their camp with fire.

– Numbers 11:1b (CEV)

That’s something, isn’t it?

We don’t talk too much about God’s anger. It’s uncomfortable. If God can be angry, then that means we have some responsibility in this situation we call living. We make choices and they have consequences. While I truly believe in the love of God and will preach it until my dying day, part of that love is His anger. Not the reckless, fickle kind of anger we feel because we have to run an errand and we’d really rather take a nap. His anger flows from love. His affection for us is so fierce, deep and unending that He roars when we reject Him. He convicts us when we stray not because He delights in it but because He wants us to be safe, happy, fulfilled.

He’s destroying the outer edges of my camp with fire. My soul is squirming under His gaze because I know. I know I’ve been selfish today. I know I’ve focused on the wrong things. I know I’ve been whining about the provision and opportunities He has placed in my lap not because I’m amazing but because He is. I have dared to think that there could, perhaps, be something better.

When the people begged Moses to help, he prayed, and the fire went out.

– Numbers 11:2 (CEV)

Beautiful.

At any time, we can turn around. We can talk to God. We can say, “Lord, I know I’ve been an idiot today. Please forgive me. Please help me.” And He will. As quickly as the fire begins, it dies out. The hand of conviction becomes the hand of mercy. Really, it always was, for conviction is a mercy in and of itself.

I am just as they were. I really can’t say that I wouldn’t have complained about manna or longed to go back to Egypt and slavery. I’d like to think that I’d be just like Caleb and Joshua, confident and brave in their faith, but I know myself. As I sit here, eyes heavy because I am writing this later than I usually do, I am hit once again by the enormity of God’s grace. He could have wiped me clean off the planet today and been more than justified (not that He has to justify any action, because He’s God). But I’m still breathing. I get another chance.

May I learn to never take that lightly.

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Photo Credit: Andre Hunter
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Five Minute Friday: Regret

Regret

Gentle Reader,

Sometimes, I mentally check out of life a little bit. Been a rough two weeks, physically-speaking, thanks to unstable weather patterns. Some tough days with anxiety and the really irritating thing that my brain does in getting fixated on a topic, which means I must learn everything I can about it, to the exclusion of all else. (I genuinely hate that. People with OCD know that our obsessions and compulsions are irrational and impact us negatively). My house has been a wreck and will continue to be in various stages of disaster for probably forever because once you start replacing the flooring, it’s the domino effect.

But, anyway. Climbing out of the hole.

Kate says: regret.

Go.

If you say you have no regrets, then you’re probably lying.

Almost fourteen years ago I had the chance to attend a prestigious university. The credits I had accumulated at our local community college would have transferred easily. There was a scholarship on the table. The university is close enough to home that I could have commuted, thus avoiding dorm life. (I would have been a terrible roommate). My application had been accepted. I had a great meeting with the Dean of Admissions.

I didn’t go.

I was afraid. To make the drive. (Yes, I hate driving that much). To leave behind the environment I knew so well. Of failing. Also, of succeeding.

But nobody can live in the regret.

If I had attended this university, I might not have met my husband. I might not have figured out that I didn’t want to pursue a career in journalism. I might have ended up somewhere else entirely, a different person. And while none of that may have been bad, it may not have been good, either. I might not have been happy. I might not have developed in my relationship with God, which is the truest treasure of my life.

Now, today, is all we have. It’s pointless to ponder “what might have been.” Pointless to dwell in the past or to attempt to predict the future. Yes, we all have regrets, but we all also have the ability to look to Heaven and say, “Lord, teach me to see the beauty in this moment. What do You have for me right now?”

Acknowledge the regret and feel the pain, but don’t let that keep you from moving forward.

Stop.

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