Five Minute Friday: Practice

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Gentle Reader,

I’m actually writing this on time. And I even got to pop in and chat for just a second. Wild.

Onward, before the benadryl kicks in. So much sinus pressure. Stupid allergies.

Kate says: practice.

Go.

I drop to my knees, grateful for the thick yoga mat beneath me. Sweat drips from my brow, dotting my forearms. Again I wonder why I am awake earlier than I want to be. Why I am putting my body through the torture of physical activity. A disgustingly chipper voice encourages me to get back into plank position. With a heavy breath, I plant my hands on the mat and press my toes onto the slides.

Pull legs into a crouching position. Push out into a straight line. Use abdominal muscles to make the movement. Press down on the slides, legs out into a v-shape. Back into a line. In again.

Arms shake. Core tight. Legs ache. Lips tremble.

They say that fitness is a journey, not a destination. It’s all about the practice. About being better than you were yesterday. One more rep, a little heavier weight.

So, too, I think with our faith.

The Kingdom is then, in eternity, a place for us to look forward to with hope. But it’s also now. Right here. Inside you and me. We are called to a different way of living. Different ethics, different perspective. We get to participate in the beautiful, difficult work of sanctification. We get to show the world what it is to live for and with Jesus.

We don’t always get it right. Sometimes we fall to the mat and wonder why we even try.

In those moments, in the sweat, in the pain, in the weariness, the Spirit says: Get back up.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Build

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Go.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

– Matthew 7:24-25

Hear and do.

Adam, who heard and did not do, bringing chaos to the world. Noah, who heard and did, building the boat when it had never rained. Abraham, who heard and did to a crazy extent, even to the point of sacrificing his son. Rahab, who heard the faintest whisper and did, her faith hanging on a scarlet cord. Jonah, who heard and did not do and heard some more in the belly of a whale and did  but didn’t like it. Job, who heard and did, yet suffered. Mary, who heard and did, surrendering to the call of God.

Obedience. Discipline.

We expect a good outcome. We think the hard road will end.

But look.

When the rain descended, when the floods came, when the winds blew and beat on the house.

Not if.

When.

We pray, “God, increase my faith” but imagine bulging bank accounts and perfect homes. We do not picture the toil and the trouble. But tell me, where is faith built, where is trust grown, if not in the harshest of conditions?

God is not mean. He delights in being good to us, His children. But there are times when He tests us. It’s beyond my feeble mind to sort out what is willed by Him and what arises as a consequence of living in a fallen world. (It’s beyond your mind, too). Honestly, I think it’s pointless to figure that out. Job never did get an answer. He was instead presented with a question: Will you trust Me now?

That’s the test. The pain and the loss, those are the incidentals. That question – that’s what matters.

We can’t answer if we haven’t practiced tuning our ears to the sound of His voice. So hear. Listen to what He has to say. Be comforted and encouraged. Don’t be too proud or stupid to enter into the holy work of submission, of conviction. Then do. Take the hammer and nails that He places in your hand and build. Follow His direction.

For the rain will come.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Saying No to the Good

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I should have written this last Monday.

Didn’t want to.

Still don’t want to.

Enough with the teeth gritting and the foot stomping and the insisting on my own plans. Either I believe God has the best for me or I don’t. Can’t have it both ways.

For around two years now (give or take as I don’t remember exactly) I’ve maintained a posting schedule. Every Monday, every Thursday night/Friday. I’ve taken breaks here and there. Sometimes I’ve written more than the usual two entries. But always, in the back of my mind, was the routine.

This has been a very good thing. Much as I need to write, I’ll let other tasks and priorities push the time at the keyboard to the bottom of the list. Having a self-imposed schedule has helped me to remember, or maybe to learn, that the words matter. What I have to say matters. I have been given this ability for a reason and to let it go unused is like slapping God’s face. I’m not being dramatic here. I firmly believe that each of us was created with passion and purpose. Our talents and drives are no accident.

I love the bloggers with whom I’ve had the privilege of interacting. The internet can be a nasty place, the cloak of anonymity moving some to unleash the venom and the vitriol. Not so with the men and women whose words have encouraged, challenged, entertained and convicted me. Across the miles we form a network of genuine care and support.

I’m honored that you, dear reader, take the time to come here and read these words of mine. I appreciate your comments. I like that we’ve kept it civil all these years, even when we disagree. I like knowing your thoughts.

Now the thing that I don’t want to write.

I have this book I’m working on. I don’t talk about it much, not even with my husband. It may never be published. Nobody else may ever read it. The completion of the project could be nothing more than an exercise in obedience. No, God hasn’t given me some extra-Biblical revelation. (Smack me upside the head and rightly call me a heretic if I ever claim that). He hasn’t appeared in a vision and commanded me to write. Nevertheless, there’s a message in my mind, one that I cannot shake.

And so, my friend, I have to step away from here.

Oh, I’ll still post. I’m not giving up Five Minute Friday anytime soon. Count on that. There will be other times I won’t be able to resist sharing and you’ll see me pop up in your feed. I simply can’t promise any regularity in this particular season and I don’t know how long that will last.

We all know that there are only so many hours in the day. I have a job and a marriage and ministry commitments and family and friends and just the stuff of life, like laundry and bathing the dogs. I’ve got a limited supply of health and energy with which to accomplish those tasks and pour into those relationships. So, for now, I have to say “no” to the good that is this blog. I have to let myself focus on this book.

Lack of new content is the kiss of death in the blogging world. I know that. My stats are going to drop off. I’m going to lose subscribers. Ninety-nine percent of me hates that reality. I’m going on eight years here. I don’t want to have to rebuild, small though my reach may be.

But the one percent, the tiny sliver of me that knows that obedience is better than clicks and sometimes holy pruning hurts, realizes that it’s a price worth paying. I want to be able to say with confidence that I did as the Lord asked of me to the best of my abilities.

So, Gentle Reader, I’ll be seeing you.

Just not as often as I’d like.

My journey to faith. (15)

In With the New

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Gentle Reader,

Taking the last few weeks away from the blog has forced me to consider the time and effort that good, solid writing requires. I have had the beginnings of a serious project lined up since late summer, but fear and allowing myself to be distracted have kept me from starting. To craft a book, the kind I know that I am supposed to, is a serious commitment. What if I can’t do it?

Interestingly, I discover that I have had to work to keep the fear and the distractions going. The Lord has been pulling one thing after another out of my life; I have to find things to replace them. Once I actually sit down with all those research materials and start plucking at the keyboard, I know that I’ll be lost in the process. I know that I will regret not starting sooner.

Such is the nature of disobedience.

So, what are my resolutions or goals for 2013?

They can be summed up in one word: Discipline.

I want the self-control to (in no particular order):

1. Develop a writing schedule (subject to flights of inspiration and battles with writer’s block, of course). I’m getting nearer to 30. It’s time to be truly adult and serious about this.

2. Begin AND finish the project to which said schedule will be devoted.

3. Read through the entire Bible. I have a reading plan and a chronological study Bible that should aid in this. (In the past, I’ve always gotten bogged down in the Kings/Chronicles narratives. You’d think it would be Leviticus…).

4. Memorize 24 passages of Scripture, via the LPM Siesta Scripture Memory Team.

5. Disconnect from social media for long stretches of time.

6. Refuse to be part of any gossip or drama. Period.

7. Stop trying to people-please. This means speaking the truth at all times.

8. Stop indulging whiners or victims. We all have hard times, we all have bad days, and of course it’s okay to blow off steam or get emotional. I’m happy to stand beside anyone in that. But there comes a time in some when patterns begin to emerge and enough is enough.

9. Turn my anxieties over to the Lord. I have not yet learned to be “anxious for nothing” (Phil. 4:6) but I think that may come in the casting of the burdens upon His lap (1 Pt. 5:7).

10. Wake up at the same time every day. This might be the hardest thing on this list. Life with CFIDS is complicated, but becomes moreso with variances in sleep routine.

11. In relation to the above, I need to stick to the walking/yoga/stretching.

The first four goals on this list are the only ones with specific, attainable-this-year outcomes. The rest are all lifestyle changes that I’ve been working on for awhile now and may well continue to work on into the coming years. And that’s okay. I believe that we are all too obsessed with measurable achievement. Some victories are small and never seen. Some things are never finished this side of Heaven.

Easily enough written, but that list is mighty overwhelming at the moment. Thankfully, in the quest for discipline, I am not left alone:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.- Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

My journey to faith. (15)