Five Minute (Monday): Convenient

commit

Gentle Reader,

Missed the chat. Missed writing. Missed sending out last week’s newsletter.

I was up in the snow-covered woods with a bunch of teenagers.

I have many thoughts on that. Later.

Kate says: convenient.

Go.

Marie Kondo teaches us to ask, “Does it spark joy?” If there is no joy, it goes. Aside from the spiritual undercurrents swirling around her ideas for dealing with clutter and organizing your life (please, read her book and watch her Netflix show with discernment), her question isn’t a bad one. What are the things weighing us down? What do we need to let go of in order to move forward?

Ah, but it’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? Because some of the things that weigh us down are, in fact, things that we do need to keep. Things we need to wrestle with. Things for which we need a new perspective. If we chucked anything and everything that doesn’t draw out our smiles, that isn’t immediately convenient, we would be hopelessly selfish creatures, entirely lost in our own ever-changing whims and desires.

It is less about sparks joy in us and more about what sparks joy in the heart of our Father.

Even when it’s not convenient.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act,

making your righteousness shine like the dawn,
your justice like the noonday.

Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for him;
do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way,
by the person who carries out evil plans.

– Psalm 37:5-7 (CSB)

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Influence

Gentle Reader,

North Idaho has decided that mid-January is the right time for winter to begin. Its residents have been spoiled with unseasonably warm temperatures (for the most part) and a distinct lack of the white stuff, which has been falling from the sky since I got up a little after five this morning because the dog simply could not wait for breakfast any longer. It’s pretty. I recognize the privilege that it is to sit here in my cozy house, drinking coffee while I read the book our youth group is going through. But…I’m not sure that I’m prepared for six-to-eight weeks more.

Kate says: influence.

Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching.

– Titus 2:7b (CSB)

I am the non-energized bunny, always ready for a nap or five. The odds of me taking on some great, extended adventure exist within the realm of imaginary numbers. I don’t tackle anything in life with gusto. Give me peaceful walks among the flora and fauna, a la scenes in a Beatrix Potter story. Quiet days. Interesting conversations with friends, pitched at reasonable volumes. 

Not exactly what anyone thinks of when they hear the words “youth worker.”

The first official ministry thing I ever did was run a small group for middle school girls. I still remember their names. I was so young, still discerning the gifts and passions God had given me. If time machines were real, I’m sure I’d cringe at some of the things I said to them. Thankfully, the Lord is big and kind enough to work through our missteps and mistakes.

Life went on. Marriage, work, writing, illness, volunteering. I know now that my heart is to teach Scripture to whoever will listen so that they can receive and respond to the God of, in, behind and around the text. I’ve led adult groups. Briefly served on the church board. Stood as the kid wrangler during children’s classes.

Today – full circle. With the teens again. Chris started a year ago. He knew, right away, that this was where he was supposed to be. It’s taken me longer. Some days, I’m still not sure. I’m older now (34 is practically ancient in our society), so my role has changed. Before, there was a seven or eight year age gap. Now, it’s two decades and more.

I’m stepping into that spiritual mother role. Or maybe spiritual auntie. Someone with a lot more life and lot more scars under her belt. They don’t need me to have all the answers. They don’t need me to be perfect. But they do need me to be honest. And they definitely need me to point them to Jesus at every turn.

God, let me wield this influence well.

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Five Minute Friday: Better

better

Gentle Reader,

Truly glad to rejoin the crowd of flash-writers. Two months away from this blog did me good, but I sure did miss them.

Kate says: better.

Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a “law” in our colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this?

John Wesley, letter to William Wilberforce (emphasis mine)

Are all of them together stronger than God? What an excellent question, and one that Wilberforce must have contemplated on multiple occasions during his decades-long battle to bring an end to the British slave trade (and, by extension, slavery itself). One that I myself have wrestled with often. And yes, sometimes, all of them together have seemed to be stronger than God.

What villainy is this? Another great question, the answer to which may be summed up in one word: sin. The evil that humanity can do knows no bounds. That’s not just the big things. The “real sins.” How about gossip and slander, the death by a thousand piercing cuts?

But is that evil stronger that good? Are the wicked stronger than God?

No.

Weary one, lift up your head. I say this to myself even as I say it to you.

There is a better country up ahead. The road may be long, winding and filled with unexpected dangers. But you do not walk it alone. We are together, shoulder to shoulder, forging ahead to the Celestial City, though we be battered and bruised. Better yet, Jesus is with us. Every moment. Every breath.

His presence, through Spirit and through word, empowers us to go on.

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Five Minute Friday: Burden

Neighbor

Gentle Reader,

Attended my first homeowner’s association meeting last night.

Handy that that experience lends to a lot of thoughts around this prompt.

Kate says: burden.

Go.

Chris usually goes to the meetings because, honestly, I just haven’t cared to. As long as my neighbors keep their yards clean and are generally quiet (meaning no blaring music at midnight), then it’s all good. Do your thing. But Chris couldn’t go, and we got a passive aggressive letter from the HOA board in the mail that annoyed me, so I forced myself to remain in real pants past 6:30 p.m., signed myself in and sat at a table in a crowded American Legion hall.

The first hour-ish was boring. A lot of complaining about sprinkler systems that none of us have control over. Because Idaho is all about de-regulation, the designers of the neighborhood apparently didn’t have to file irrigation plans with the city, and some of the irrigation boxes are actually on private property, so a good chunk of them can’t be located by the landscaping company, who have been fired because of expenses, etcetera, etcetera. Riveting.

Then came the discussion about the people who have failed to pay their homeowner’s dues. As the young kids say, it was lit.

I get it. There are always going to be those who feel they are above the rules. They should be held accountable. Of course. No problem.

But what about those who experience sudden job loss? Idaho is a “right to work” state, so anyone can be “let go” at any time, for almost any reason. What about those who are sick and struggling to pay medical bills? If it were me, and I had to pick whether to pay the hospital or the HOA, I’m paying the hospital. What about those who have to choose between setting aside money to pay a yearly fee and using that money to provide for their children? The kids win, hands down.

So, I asked the board what the communication process looks like. I believe that we all tend to assume that other’s life experiences are much the same as our own. We theoretically understand that the poor are always among us, but we don’t always move from the theory to the reality. Does the board reach out to the individuals? Do they take the time to listen to the stories? Could we set up a separate fund that homeowners can voluntarily contribute to throughout the year to help cover shortfalls? Maybe that fund could function as a scholarship that those who are struggling could apply for?

Did you know that if you ask those kinds of questions, you are a socialist?

Jesus makes it super clear that loving others often entails coming alongside them, helping them shoulder burdens when appropriate and, if necessary, teaching and empowering them to make better choices in the future. We do exactly nobody any good when we sit there in our smug superiority and shame them. As if we are immune to sudden devastation! Any one of us can lose everything at any time. Nobody is guaranteed a trouble-free life. Nobody is even guaranteed the next breath.

I am weary of living in a culture, both secular and church-ly, that grows angrier, blinder and harder by the day. God, open our eyes to our selfishness. 

Stop.

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