Reorient

Reorient

Gentle Reader,

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LordSix years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.

– Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 25:1-5 (NKJV)

We all know that hindsight is 20/20.

And we all know that sometimes we choose to learn the hard way.

Last year was one of lostness, bookended by difficulty, filled with doubt.

Relationally: unexpected shifts. Deep wounds that are not yet fully healed.

Politically: exhausting. I don’t know anyone, wherever they land on the issues, who feels energized by the current state of the American system.

Spiritually: an overall sense of boredom. Dryness.

Creatively: instead of rightly celebrating a decade in this world of blogging, humbled by and joyful about sharing this journey with you, I felt shamed by it. Surely by Year Ten an agent, a contract and a traditionally published book would have materialized. Some outward, tangible sign of success.

Mentally: the darkest time in several years. Plagued by both rising anxiety and the fearful numbness of sorrow, anger and bitterness too large and heavy to step away from and objectively address. As I continue to be slow to realize and feel my own emotions, this only dawned on me recently – but it absolutely showed here, in the writing.

Simply, I should have taken the entire year off. Closed the laptop and refused to place any kind of value on comments or statistics. (Difficult to do in the wildness of the internet age, when everyone is a “maker” of some sort and is competing for a even moment’s notice from a vast audience). Trusted that people would still be there to read when I came back. I didn’t, and the writing suffered. Much of what I produced wasn’t great. Nor was it focused on what truly matters, on what I consider my calling and mission to be.

God knows what He’s talking about. Such a blunt, easy concept to grasp. God is God and I am not. Still, after many years of walking this road, I forget. Today I wonder if it’s not the forgetfulness that hurts us more than the outright rebellion. A little step here, a little step there and soon, like the man progressing toward the Celestial City, we’re off track.

Lost.

When God told His people to take a weekly break, He meant it. He understands, far better than we do, the limitations of humanity. It’s not just our bodies that need rest. Our minds, hearts and souls need space, too. Indulge me for a moment; take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds. Feel your lungs expand and your ribs press against your abdominal muscles. Let that breath out, slowly.

While the admonition to control breathing to calm the brain has been around for ages, only recently has science started uncovering how it works. A 2016 study accidentally stumbled upon the neural circuit in the brainstem that seems to play the key role in the breathing-brain control connection.  The circuit is part of what’s been called the brain’s “breathing pacemaker” because it can be adjusted by altering breathing rhythm (slow, controlled breathing decreases activity in the circuit; fast, erratic breathing increases activity), which in turn influences emotional states. Exactly how this happens is still being researched…

How Breathing Calms Your Brain, And Other Science-Based Benefits Of Controlled Breathing

When God told His people to let the land rest every seven years, He meant it. He understands, far better than we do, the limitations of the soil beneath our feet.

A fallow field is land that a farmer plows but does not cultivate for one or more seasons to allow the field to become more fertile again. The practice of leaving fields fallow dates back to ancient times when farmers realized that using soil over and over again depleted its nutrients. A three-field rotation system was used in medieval times in which one field was always fallow.

Agricultural experts debate whether the practice of fallow fields is necessary in modern farming and, if it is, how often a farmer needs to let a field go fallow. Most, however, agree that the practice at some interval or another is beneficial, and for dryland farming, it is particularly useful. All other factors being equal, fields that lie fallow do tend to produce better crops the next year.

What is a Fallow Field?

God is God and I am not.

That’s the truth.

On the first day of this new year, I reorient myself. This little space and these words belong to Him. My purpose isn’t to get an agent or a contract or a traditionally published book (though I’m sure that I will always want these things). When I write, I write for Him. I seek to learn, know and share His truth.

The other words will fade away. All the positive words of famous authors and of viral bloggers. All the negative words that tear down and obfuscate.

His words, they will not.

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(Late Again) Five Minute Friday: Praise

Creative

Gentle Reader,

I don’t remember what I was doing last Thursday night that meant missing both the chat and writing. Probably sleeping. And so my life motto shall be: “And thus, she slept.”

Kate says: praise.

Go.

I never imagined that I would become an armature music historian, especially not the sort who takes really deep dives into specific bands and time periods. I don’t have any musical ability whatsoever. (Some tell me that I sing well, but I don’t believe them). Nevertheless, here I am, wishing that Mark Lewisohn would hurry up and get the next two volumes of his massive Beatles biographical trilogy written and published because the 800-plus pages of the first book are just that good.

Lewisohn writes about more than the Beatles. He sets them in their context, the grungy, depressed Liverpool of the late 1950s, a major port city whose inhabitants were looked down upon by much of the rest of the country. Yet this place produced an impressive number of bands, all of whom helped to drive rock ‘n’ roll forward in some way.

But we’ve never heard of most of these bands.

Gerry and the Pacemakers?

Rory Storm and the Hurricanes?

Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes?

Or if we have heard of them, we know very little.

The Searchers?

The Merseybeats?

The Rutles? (Please, somebody get this joke).

Our lack of knowledge does not equal these bands lack of worth or talent. I imagine they brought great joy to their listeners. I can picture little clubs all across Liverpool filled with music, dancing and laughter (and not a few fistfights between “Teddy Boys”; this was a rough city in a different era). Of course they all hoped to make it big. They wanted the recording contracts and the big concerts. But it doesn’t really mean anything, it says  nothing about them, that this was never achieved.

Difficult for us to understand in a society built on achievement. If you’re not receiving the praise and adulation of thousands, then who are you, really?

Still you.

Still placed at this exact point on the timeline for a reason.

And in the end, it’s all going to fade, anyway. I realize that that seems defeatist, even nihilistic, but it really isn’t. Knowing that God Himself is the only thing that is going to matter when we’ve sloughed off these mortal shells frees us up to write, paint, make music, build things, tend gardens, design clothes, knit, experiment with recipes…without having to compete. Without having to base our sense of security and self on analytics.

Be creative, even if nobody but Jesus ever applauds.

That is more than enough.

Stop.

Also, my theme song.

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Five Minute Friday: Create

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

At least 75 people died during a Bastille Day celebration in southern France after someone drove a truck into a crowd.

What was the freaking point of that?!

My heart is heavy. People assume that pacifism means passivity. It doesn’t. The violence presses on me. The cries of the bereft ring in my ears. I want to do something. Yet I have struggled with how or if to write about the events of recent weeks. I’m a white Christian woman living in an essentially ethnically homogeneous area. Two of my uncles are on the police force in a large West Coast city. I haven’t experienced the injustice that others have.

What can I do? What can I say? What should my response be to those who kill in the name of race or religion?

I want to scream. STOP IT!

Hate doesn’t make any sense. Skin is just skin. Nobody has control over what shade God paints them. I’m a little darker than an albino and guess what? I’m not superior to anyone. I’m not #blessed because I’m pasty. Let us all collectively pull our heads out of our behinds and get over it. Additionally, other people’s choices in the way they live their lives – religion, sexuality, whatever – are theirs to make. By all means, have convictions. Disagree with ideas. But if your religion or philosophy or political bent moves you to name-call, belittle or even kill others who are not like you, then you either need to renew your understanding of said religion, philosophy or political bent or get a new one entirely.

God is not supportive of hate, so let’s not try and drag Him into this. (If you throw Romans 9:13 at me I will throw both a systematic theology textbook [not Wayne Grudem’s] and a book on basic interpretation at you). The load is all on us. God can and will release us from that load, but we’d best be owning it first. Hate is sin. It is evil.

We need to repent of it.

Go.

Kate says: create. A word loaded with meaning. There are so many ways to take this pompt. But my mind is on one track. What is my role in creating a church (both general and specific) environment where hate cannot thrive?

We started talking about all of this the other day in a Voxer group I’ve been part of for a year-and-a-half. One of the ladies told us about how her employment situation has forced her to work with someone different. Someone “other.” They’ve had conversations. Shared experiences and viewpoints. Listened to each other.

That’s the second step, after repentance. When we choose to lay down our assumptions and prejudices and actually engage with someone, we’re doing the work.

Problem is, we’re lazy. We want the beauty of peace, but we don’t want to labor for it. We want God to swoop in and *poof!* it all away. Make it bright and shiny and clean. Come on, now. Don’t we know our Bibles better than that? (I know the answer, and it is sad). When, aside from the moment of justification, does God do that before the culmination of history?

He doesn’t.

Repentance makes us right with Him so we can turn around and get right with others and then model that vertical and horizontal rightness for the rest of the world. There’ll be no human-created utopia this side of Eternity. We’d be great fools to expect that. We’d be perhaps even greater fools to think that we are given leave to sit idly by as darkness rolls on. That’s the tension we live in, knowing that our efforts will not bring about world peace but knowing we are not allowed to quit. We are people of light, children of day (1 Thessalonians 5:5). As God patiently molds us into new people (2 Corinthians 5:17), He pours into us everything that is required to obey His commands (Hebrews 13:21).

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

– Matthew 22:36-40 (HCSB)

No days off. No “but I don’t like him!” No “but she annoys me!”

No “I hate…”

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Rodion Kutsaev