Five Minute Friday: Place

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

“…you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

– Matthew 24:6-8 (NKJV)

See that you are not troubled.

How, Jesus? How do we erase the feeling of trepidation as leaders in Pyongyang and Washington, D.C., continue to breathe fire at each other, uncaring who is singed in the process? We pray, but the fear remains.

God, forgive us in our frail, simple humanity.

As usual, linking up with Kate and all. We seek: place.

Go.

I can’t remember a time without war.

Operation Desert Storm happened when I was in Kindergarten and first grade. Clinton authorized the bombing of Kosovo during middle school. The planes crashed and the towers fell at the start of my senior year of high school. Now I watch the news with an anxious knot in my chest, wondering if we’re really about to go along with Kim Jong-un and reignite the Korean War, a war that never really ended, a war that accomplished nothing. A war that will inevitably escalate until the nations gather once again to slaughter each other across continents.

One set of human beings seeking to strip the other of their humanity.

Will the government reinstate the draft? My husband only has two-and-a-half more years before he is free of being enlisted against his will.

Why should more people die? People caught in the crossfire, people who will suffer because of inflated egos and short tempers.

Gaily, recklessly, arrogantly marching off to war. Just as so many before.

Mothers and fathers, widows and widowers, sons and daughters – left to mourn.

To what end?

No end. Evil is never satiated. Violence is a great, gaping, black mouth, ever-hungry for more victims. It is the mouth of the Devil, that ancient father of lies.

I don’t understand this place, this world. I preach the grace of the Gospel, the solidness of God’s presence. I seek to be a minister of peace. Of reconciliation. My quiet voice – can it, does it make a difference in this place of noise and chaos and boiling blood?

God promises that He will finish what He started. The words He speaks fall to the ground, taking root in the fertile soil of hearts responsive to mercy. A great harvest will result. Nothing returns to Him void. His plans are not thwarted by missiles, His purposes not wrecked by tirades.

That – I must hold to in this place. Though fear pounds in my chest and frustration runs through my mind. He is good and pure and true.

So I, and you with me, must speak the words of truth in this place until we arrive at the other Place, where war and sin are no more.

Stop.

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Photo credit: Thomas Tucker

Five Minute Friday: Try

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I’ve been about a 97% vegetarian for the last year-and-a-half. At first, I craved meat, sure that I wasn’t getting enough protein. Slowly but surely, my body adjusted. Liver function improved. I pushed back against the bad cholesterol that runs in my family. I’ve tried around 100 different recipes, give or take, mostly found on Pinterest. Every two weeks, I stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

This does not mean, however, that I’ve morphed into some “oh, I could never eat junk food again” kind of person. I continue to love junk food. My palette may have been forced to expand, but, at heart, I still want to eat like a teenager.

Today, I ate the biggest Arby’s sandwich I could get.

It was glorious.

Red meat is the biggest “no-no” when you’ve got a crappy liver, but, once a year (on my birthday) from now on, I will throw caution to the wind and have the roast beef (and, let’s get real, the curly fries). There’s enough struggle and striving in life. I believe that God encourages us to find bright spots of enjoyment as often as possible.

For me, it’s the roast beef.

And now all my ethical vegetarian and vegan friends/followers have fainted in horror.

Linking up with Kate and the authors (that sounds like a band name). We:

Go

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

Wisdom from a galaxy far, far away.

We like to hedge our bets – try to do better, try to be there, try to commit, try to pray. What we really mean – I probably won’t, but I want to give off the impression that I will. Because we don’t want to disappoint anyone, ourselves included. We want to say “no” without actually saying “no.”

I’ve experienced this recently in the context of exercise. Having battled extreme fatigue and other ailments all year long, there are nights when I go to bed and promise myself, “I’ll try to exercise tomorrow.” Instead of just being honest – “I am too tired to do anything intense, but I can do gentle things and make time for rest” – I played mind games with myself. I rationalized and justified.

There’s only “do” and “don’t”, “yes” and “no,” sometimes “maybe,” if we really, honestly don’t know if we’ll be able to do something.

But there is no “try.”

You don’t try to write a book, you just write it.

You don’t try to build a business, you put in hours of hard work.

You don’t try to have a good marriage, you commit to your spouse.

You don’t try to love the Lord, you ask Him to give you a new heart.

It’s making choices and taking responsibility.

It’s that whole,

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

– Matthew 5:37 (NKJV)

And it’s knowing that the “yes” and the “no” are sufficient.

Stop

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Photo credit: Clem Onojeghuo

Also linking up with the Ra-Ra Writers.

Five Minute Friday: Inspire

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

Fatigue drags me down. I am one with the couch. This is okay; everything that needed to be done today is done. The sun just begins to dip in West, filling the trees with golden light.

Linking up with Kate and all the peeps. We: inspire.

Go.

Inspire. A transitive verb, according to Merriam-Webster, “to influence, move, or guide.” The sigh that rises from deep within upon gazing at a sunset or arriving at the the top of a mountain. The pounding heart as the ears bask in the playfulness of Mozart’s “A Little Night Music.” The peace that descends as the eyes sweep across the serene beauty of Monet’s “Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies.” The creativity of God first, then others, pulls at something within and moves us to create.

Yet there is more.

The archaic definition, “to breathe or blow into or uponto infuse (something, such as life) by breathing.”

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 

– Genesis 1:1-2 (NKJV)

Ruach Elohim. 

The Breath of the Creator.

All that breathes, all that lives, finds its source and sustenance in the Breath.

 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

– Colossians 1:15-17

He is the inspiration. He holds us together. Nobody taught Him how. Nobody instructed Him in the ways of air and lungs. Nobody gave Him an example of wind rustling prairie grasses, something He could copy or perfect.

Ruach Yahweh.

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.

– Isaiah 11:1-2 (NKJV)

The Breath of the I AM.

The mystery of the Incarnation. The Man’s nose inhaled the air. His mouth exhaled the mind and heart of God.

The same Breath clears away the dust and the cobwebs that threaten to overtake our souls. The same Spirit now dwells in us.

It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

– John 16:7b (NKJV)

Never leaving, never forsaking.

Always inspiring.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Collect

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Oh, my.

What a headache.

An evening stroll a some forbidden ibuprofen later, I feel close to being a human again. Not quite. I probably need to sleep for about fourteen hours for that to happen.

Kate wants to know what we: collect.

Go.

Usually when people ask me what it is that I collect, I respond with, “Nothing.” On the surface, that’s true. I do have six abdominal scars, but it’s not like I chose to have those. Aside from my beloved books, I feel passion for no material objects. Albums filled with stamps make no sense to me. Tchotchkes just gather dust. I tried collecting antique gloves at one point because I think they’re cool; I got as far as three pairs, but I had no idea how to display them, so into the giveaway bag they went. I even joke with my husband on a regular basis that we can probably throw away our marriage licence, since we never look at it.

Maybe it’s the OCD.

Maybe it’s that I can’t think in a cluttered space.

If I stop and really consider this question, though, there is something that I do indeed collect: regret.

The past haunts me. Past sin, past mistakes, past hurts, past left turns instead of right. It doesn’t help that I’m a history nut. Looking back is fun for me. But all too often, I get stuck there. On comes the self-condemnation. I need no one to stone me, for I stone myself.

Of this habit, Jen Wilkin writes:

Regret…causes us to dwell on past mistakes or hurts, robbing us of joy in our present circumstance and often dragging us back into old sin patterns. As a child I learned to sing the words of Charles Wesley: “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free.” How often have I needed those words as a reminder that the power of my past sins (or the past sins of others against me) is broken in Jesus’ name. He replaces my historical liturgy of sin with one of holiness. When I become discouraged about giving in once again to a past sin, the “lifter of my head” remind me that though I am not yet who I will be, I am not who I was. He draws me from the past back to the present with an assurance that sanctification is slowly doing its work today. He keeps me from rehearsing my past hurts by reminding me to forgive as I have been forgiven. We can combat the “bad news” of the past by remembering and trusting the good news of the gospel.

None Like Him, p. 75

There’s always something new to be find in the Good News.

This kind of collection weighs us down in a way that Christ never intended. The “sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1) doesn’t have to be today’s sin. It can be the sin of the past, the stuff that makes us feel bad and heavy and stupid and so very worm-like. Dwelling in regret can keep us from running the race with perseverance – because our eyes are on the starting blocks instead of the finish line.

If we’re going to look back, then let’s see the red. The beautiful, amazing, life-giving, soul-saving blood of Jesus, splashed across every bad deed, every unkind word, every nasty thought, every pain-filled moment. The red that replaces the collection of regret and sorrow with a collection of grace and hope.

From that renewed viewpoint, let’s go forward and collect the joy that is ours by right of redemption.

Stop.

Yeah, this was longer than five minutes. Now enjoy this hymn.

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Photo credit: Ryan Moreno

Also linking up with (for the first time): Suzanne Eller and Holley Gerth.