Just Like an Israelite


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)


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.


Photo Credit: Andre Hunter


Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

For the first time that I can remember, someone described me as being tender. Sensitive, even. This person seemed to think that these are good, positive character traits.

I do not like this.

Many have wondered if I have emotions. There have been jokes throughout the years about how I must be a robot. I must be some kind of frost princess. And now, someone perceives me in an entirely different way. Those few sentences have acted like a needle, the bearer of which reached in and popped my protective bubble. All of these…feelings…threaten to spill out.

It’s awful.

Anger, I can do. Righteous or otherwise. Anxious and depressed, obviously. But to put words to those emotions, to say, “So-and-so hurt my, ugh, feelings”? To say, “Please stop doing _________, I don’t like it”?


Vulnerability. No, thank you.

I’ll take stoicism for $500, Alex.

Those of us who have been around church for any length of time have heard one of the most famous verses having to do with the heart:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?

– Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)

From this, we gather that we cannot “follow our hearts” as is so often encouraged in movies. We learn

There is nothing so false and deceitful as the heart of man; deceitful in its apprehensions of things, in the hopes and promises which it nourishes, in the assurances that it gives us . . . The constant yearning of the heart is to gratify its propensities to pride, ambition, evil desire, and corruption of all kinds.

Asbury Bible Commentary

I know that my heart (or, in our modern understanding, my mind) plays tricks on me. There’s a reason I take medication every night. I am a living, breathing example of a human’s inability to jump on, without question, every line of thought and every train of feeling. I have to critically examine those thoughts and feelings. We all do.

The heart, which the ancients understood to be the decision-making center, is not to be blindly trusted. This is not a false statement, but as is so often the case, we take the truth and run with it until we wind up in Legalism Land. Never let them see you cry. Put a brave face on. If you’re sad, you’re sinning. 

We have read something into the text that isn’t there.

Consider these verses, so often glossed over:

 Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

– Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 22:37; 2 Corinthians 4:1 (NKJV)

Feelings should not, and really cannot, be divorced from faith, or any other part of our lives.

The lights twinkle on the Christmas tree, casting a soft glow throughout the room. Candles flicker next to the Willow Tree figurines. Mary and Joseph, shielding the newborn Savior. She looks as though she pats His back in order to soothe Him. He wraps his arms around them both.

Who was ever more vulnerable than Jesus? The King of Glory, knowing exactly what was going to happen, wrapped Himself in frail flesh. He had no delusions of a quiet life. Never had a moment when He believed He’d die in His bed, at a good old age. Who better than He ever showed us how to connect with and express our emotions in healthy ways? He cried as a baby. Cried when His friend died. Cried when the people wouldn’t listen. Flipped some tables and yelled, too.

Feelings are God-given. No, we can’t obey them. I can’t slap my husband just because he makes me angry. But we shouldn’t ignore them. We shouldn’t buy into the notion that the only acceptable feeling a Christian may experience is happiness. If my husband makes me angry, I need to open my mouth and tell him why. Tell him what’s bothering me, what hurts me. (Without swearing, which, let’s be real, is a struggle).

We don’t want to be hurt. I don’t want to be hurt. We think that putting on the mask, bearing the abuse, never speaking up, will somehow make it better. Somehow make us impervious to damage. The act doesn’t work. The feelings remain. They grow. They intensify. Then, one day, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself throwing a glass across the kitchen, sobbing for reasons that you can’t begin to identify.

I am tenderhearted. A large part of me recoils in typing that. I may not reveal this tenderness in conventional or easily-understood ways, but nonetheless, it’s true. I can’t read books or watch movies that involve animal death. My heart burns over the idiotic choices so-called Christian leaders make these days. I panic in crowds. Behind this tough outer shell lies a gooey center.

Perhaps this is who you are, too, dear reader. Perhaps you’ve worked very hard so nobody but the Lord ever sees your tears. If so, be brave with me. I suspect there may be new experiences of strength and grace found in taking down the wall and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.


Photo Credit: Jamez Picard

The Detox Diaries: Serotonin, STAT!


Gentle Reader,

Low serotonin in the house tonight,

Everything – it’s making me cry!

Feels like I’m gonna lose my mind

Norepinephrine makes me – shaky!

(Sung to the tune of “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO. Do not take that as an endorsement).

I’m slightly emotionally unstable today. That’s okay; it’s just part of the process. The chemicals have to re-balance themselves and the synapses have to learn new patterns. Literally everything is making me cry.

Couldn’t make it to work today because of insomnia and dizziness –  cried.

Ate some turkey bacon for breakfast – cried.

Played with Blue (the wiener dog) – cried.

Snuggled with Benny (the fat Pom-Chi) – cried.

Bible study – cried.

Iced mocha made with almond milk – cried.

Took a shower – cried.

Read a few chapters of The Sentinels of Andersonville – cried.

Thought about painting my nails – cried.

Made the bed – cried.

And there are tears in the corners of my eyes just typing all that out!

This is tough for a woman who’s never been particularly expressive with her emotions. I’ve always had them. They just don’t usually cause me to become a dripping mess. I know I’ll feel even-keeled once more when this process is complete. It’s comforting to be aware of what’s happening inside my brain and know that it doesn’t have to color my life forever.

That perspective? Comes entirely from God. It’s only be two-and-a-half weeks, but the ways in which He has encouraged and sustained me leave me in awe. I have no doubt whatsoever that He will continue to guide me, even carry me, through this maze.

He’ll carry you, too. All you have to do is ask.

My journey to faith. (15)

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.


Sock Seams

IMG_20131125_191853Gentle Reader,

I’ve been in a funk.

A multiple-year funk.

The last major work I finished writing was for the Women of Faith contest a couple…actually, possibly three years ago. I forget. And reading? I pick up books only to discard them. The mojo just hasn’t been there, not for anything greater than the hammering out of a post or the quick run-through of a familiarly-plotted novel. Words, lovely black-faced words on fresh white pages or screens, haven’t been as friendly as they used to be.

I was only vaguely aware of this funk until last Monday, when the volunteer coordinator at the shelter I’m volunteering at asked me if I had any life-goals.

Cue panic, stage right.

The truth is, I’ve been focusing on getting through each day. Sometimes on surviving the day. Or the hour. I used to spend so much time berating myself for not having brought about the end of world hunger with a Pulitzer and Nobel winning piece of elegant prose. I used to feel ashamed for not having accomplished more at such-and-such an age. I used to think that it was necessary to have a five-year plan and that if I didn’t check every item off the list, I was a complete and total failure. Then the world caved in. Getting out of bed and taking a shower became the major milestones.

For someone who isn’t wildly expressive, I sure do live on the extremes. Plan out five years or plan out five minutes. No happy middle ground.

This simple question, coming from a place of completely innocent curiosity, settled on me like a thick, smelly blanket. What are my life-goals? Why can’t I think of any?

In the midst of this gloominess, I picked up Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission by Amy Simpson. The hubby had gotten the book for me over the summer, for my birthday. It had been sitting on my nightstand for weeks, untouched. I’m sure I sighed when I picked it up and thumbed through the crisp pages. Why not read? Nothing else to do.

While I’m not the heavy predestination-y sort, I do believe that God orchestrates things for our good (Rom. 8:28). I think there are times when we’ve been wandering around for long enough and He lights a spark under our rears. Where I could barely get through the introduction before, now I couldn’t stop reading. And, gloriously, I came to this sentence:

The problem is, many people can get treated for the rest of their lives and learn to manage an illness, but will never be “over it.” (p. 114)

This screamingly-apparent truth brought new light to the question of life-goals and the answering thereof. While I firmly believe that God can and does bring total healing to people if that is within His plan for them, I also firmly believe that it can be within His plan to withhold total healing. I know that this is true because of sock seams.

I’ve worn socks my whole life. I’ve never had a problem with them. For the last two weeks, I’ve had to turn my socks inside out. I can’t stand the seams. This isn’t just a “oh, seams are annoying” and you carry on kind of thing. No. I have to turn my socks inside out. I’m afraid that the seams will get between my toes and I won’t be able to fix it. If I am in a situation where I can’t fix my socks, then it must be a Very Important Situation. I don’t like Very Important Situations. If I turn my socks inside out, I can avoid the discomfort and, possibly, Very Important Situations.

Does that really make any sense?


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). – Mayo Clinic

I thank God that I have what you might term a “mild” case of OCD. My obsessions and compulsions usually revolve around little things, like sock seams and getting my tape dispensers at work lined up exactly. But I know what it is to feel a physical ache and a great, gnawing worry when things aren’t “just so.”

Life-goals and sock seams. And then this, in my Sunday school lesson:

There are other children of God who are hurting and need to be comforted. – Rob Prince

Amy Simpson put a lot of effort into her book. She surveyed pastors and congregations to get a feel for the prevalence of mental illness within the Christian community. My friend, it’s everywhere. The person you sit next to at church could very well be slogging through mirky depths of sadness. Could have chewed her nails to the quick out of fear. Could think that he’s getting special messages during the sermon. There are people in pain and confusion, from the new guy in the back row to, gasp!, the pulpit itself. And even though we’re learning to talk about it more, we still struggle. We still don’t have ministries that seek to serve the mentally ill; it’s no wonder that this is often referred to as the “no casserole” disease. We stigmatize. We fear. We label.

We think of victory in terms of completion. The Christian lives a victorious life if she is no longer struggling, no longer tempted. I think that’s an incomplete definition. Victory is found in turning your socks inside out and going about your day. It’s acknowledging that, yes, there is pain, but that pain will not defeat.

I don’t know if I will ever write a book that gets published. I don’t know that you’ll ever see me work the talk-show circuit. I’m sure I’ll have more days like today, when I wonder if I should really be adding my feeble voice to the cacophony. I do know what my life-goal is, though: Hope. I want to share hope with people. I want to comfort the hurting children of God.

Especially if they’re irritated by sock seams.

My journey to faith. (15)