Five Minute Friday: Just

Gentle Reader,

What a week.

I’m feeling better, but so sluggish. As if the virus chose to leave the parting gift of zapping what little energy I possess.

Kate says: just.

Go.

She cut her hair short. Danced the Charleston. Was an early adopter of store-bought bread. Loved beautiful clothes.

In the time that I knew her, my Great-Grandma Jessie was a slim, white-haired lady, but she held onto the sass. She wore leather jackets, made bets on how long car trips would take and had an opinion on every topic under the sun. She was also gentle, kind and unendingly generous; as a teenager I admired a garnet ring she wore and she slipped it off her finger and pressed it into my palm. Only later did I find out that the ring was her retirement gift after years of working in a department store.

I want to be like her.

Family lore says that when someone tried to convince Jessie to move to a different expression and practice of faith, she replied, “I was born a Pentecostal and I’ll die a Pentecostal, thank you.” I love that so much. While I’ve never spoken in tongues or taken a ride on a chandelier (big smile for my charismatic friends), a bit of Jessie’s tradition comes out in me when I pray. I feel compelled to use my whole body. Hands moving. Rocking onto the tips of my toes and back again. There is something electrifying about knowing that, while I am here, I am also there, in the throne room of God.

Prayer doesn’t have to be long-winded or eloquent. Some of the strongest praying people I know stumble over their sentences. What prayer does have to be is more than “just.” Oh, I’m just praying. No, my dear. You are standing against the Devil himself every time you take your petitions to Jesus. You are in the arena, engaged in the battle, even when you don’t have words, when your prayers are silent and tinged with tears.

Not “just” anything, but the thing. All that you’ve learned from Scripture and sermons coming together in a bold act of faith. Choosing to believe that God really hears and really will respond.

What fierce people we might become, if we learned to take prayer seriously.

Stop.

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Five Minute (Monday): Confident

Gentle Reader,

Spent last week laid flat by flu. Feeling fuzzy and tired today. But I’ve missed my keyboard, and missed our conversation.

Kate says: confident.

Go.

This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ, and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. This is so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. This is according to His eternal purpose accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In Him we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.

– Ephesians 3:8-12 (CSB)

It’s no secret that I love Paul. I know; as a woman I’m supposed to at least be suspicious of him because of things he wrote about my gender and our role in the church, but if you read those passages in context (so important), you see that he was not a misogynist. Far from it. If he viewed women as “less than,” there would be no praise for Phoebe or Junia in his letters. He wouldn’t have bothered to instruct Euodia and Syntyche to get their conflict under control. He certainly wouldn’t have submitted to learning from Priscilla.

But I’m digressing here.

I love Paul because he didn’t put on airs. He was an Apostle, commissioned by God that fateful day. He had authority to tell people what to do. Yet he calls himself “the least of the saints.” This man, who I’ve always imagined to be on the shorter side and a bit too thin because he forgot to eat regularly, a man whose face reddened easily under both the influence of holy passion and hot temper, wrote some of the most eloquent, beautiful letters in history, not to promote himself, but to spread the Gospel message.

Of course he did so because he was moved by the Holy Spirit. Let us never forget the very human personality holding the pen, though. I think Paul wrote because he knew exactly who he was. In a way that few of us do, he looked himself full in the face. The least of the saints, the chief of sinners, the man consenting to murder.

Paul was not confident in himself.

He was confident in God, Who took the least, the chief, the murderer, and saved him.

Saved him from himself.

If we’re honest with ourselves, when it’s late at night and the house is quiet, when all we’re left with is the nagging sense that this is not how it’s supposed to be – self, that’s who we need saving from.

Jesus will do that for you.

You can be confident in that.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Build

Gentle Reader,

Spent last night at a middle school basketball game. Brought back memories of my own years playing the game. Always had fun, but I was never good. Glad I discovered that my talents lay elsewhere. It’s easy to get over the disappointment of not being a great athlete when you busy yourself by being in plays and writing for the school newspaper.

Kate says: build.

Go.

Do you wanna build a snowman?

I don’t know how much of the white stuff we’ve gotten today, but it’s been coming down for hours. The big, fluffy flakes that are beautiful at Christmas but annoying by February. Long, heavy icicles dangle from the tree just outside the window, breaking off every so often, disappearing into the drift below. The few hardy birds that stick around during the winter months circle above, searching for something. Both of my dogs alternate between sighing and snoring, bored with being cooped up in the house but unable to fight the urge to sleep the hours away.

Can’t blame them. Feeling drowsy myself.

I wonder about my pioneer ancestors, the ones who trekked across the country in the hopes of making a better life for themselves. Their moments of stir-craziness must have been worse than ours. Granted, much of their time was taken up with simply surviving, but still. And for them, not a soul for miles around, the lowing of cattle too stupid to take shelter in a barn the only break in the silence.

Normally, I love silence. I love having the space to breathe and think. But at this point in the season, it’s just oppressive. Almost as if the snow wants to smother us.

Yet, for all my crankiness, it’s still a wonder to me that each flake is unique.

With that, my thoughts turn. Are there seasons in Heaven? What kind of home is God building for us there? Will I have the greenhouse I currently long for, filled with lovely flowers and the freshest fruits and vegetables?

When I think on that…maybe the snow’s not so bad. Maybe it’s still beautiful. Maybe it’s still a wonderful expression of God’s great creativity.

Maybe I can go ahead and be grateful for this moment.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Where

Gentle Reader,

I am not energetic. I know I am not energetic. I’d like to be. The spirit is there. The flesh is stupid.

But sometimes, I get excited and let myself run around.

Inevitably, the crash.

It hit last night.

Kate says: where.

Go.

“Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it that you’re seeking?” Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve carried Him away, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.”

– John 20:15 (CSB)

This is one of my favorite scenes in the Gospels. All of Jesus’ friends were devastated by His death. It was not the end they were expecting. In a darkened room, doors locked, Peter sat, his betrayal playing on a tortuous loop in his mind. John, the youngest, probably tapped his foot incessantly, full of nervous energy. Everyone else in various states of contemplation and distress. The air thick with the heaviness of mourning.

The women?

They go out.

They didn’t scatter when Jesus was arrested. They didn’t run from the foot of the Cross. Now, they moved toward the epicenter of their grief.

Then Mary, who had been tormented by demons for years before a commanding word from Jesus set her free, stayed. After the other women had left. After Peter and John, shocked by her announcement that the tomb was empty, had been to investigate. Her mind couldn’t comprehend what her eyes saw.

She doesn’t immediately recognize her Savior and Best Friend. She just wants to know what happened to His body. She’ll take it. She’ll care for it. One last act of love and devotion for the Man who saw beyond her agony, who lifted her out of the pit.

How was Mary going to handle the dead weight of a man in his early 30s? Where would she take the body? What would she do with it?

Then He says her name. Gently, I imagine, but with all the authority of the One who fashioned her in the secret places.

It wasn’t about where she could take Jesus.

It was about where He would take her.

Stop.

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