Five Minute Friday: Settle

Contemplate

Gentle Reader,

Our Fearless Leader was busy celebrating her book launch, so for the first time in the history of everything, there was no prompt shared around 6:45 (Pacific Daylight Time) last night. I guess we’ll forgive her. This time.

No, seriously: We are all so happy for you, Kate! Your book is awesome. You deserve all the accolades and sales. Truly.

So, this morning, she says: settle.

Go.

We don’t have to settle, you know
For castles made of sand
And kingdoms prone to burn
For frauds who prance as princes
And trends so fast to turn

We don’t have to settle, you know
For offices tucked in corners
And accounts that bulge with cash
For grandiose titles after names
And powers gone in flash

We don’t have to settle, you know
For the building of the platform
And the chasing of the “like”
For the hollowing out of voice
And the statistics, hope they spike

We don’t have to settle, you know
For the things this place can give
And what we’re supposed to want
For all that will fade one day
And the stuff that others flaunt

We don’t have to settle, you know
Because there is more than meets our eyes
Because there is deeper than this
Because there is One who loves us so
Because righteousness and peace, they kiss

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Alive

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Kate asks us, on this Good Friday, to contemplate being: alive.

Go.

I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but confronting mortality changes a person.

Another round of blood tests in a couple of weeks. My hope and prayer is that the effort I’ve put into exercising and the changes I’ve made to my diet across the last two months has made a positive impact. Honestly? I’m not exactly holding my breath. I know that God can heal me through whatever means He chooses in this life. I’ve seen Him step in and do His thing. But just because He can doesn’t mean He always will. That’s part of the mystery. Part of the working out of His plan that we can’t understand this side of eternity.

It’s a strange place to be, this holding on to hope but knowing that the news may not be good.

If I’m going to go down, I’m sure as heck going to go down swinging. This stupid liver is not going to rob me of my joy or sense of identity and purpose. It’s just an organ. Just a ridiculously malfunctioning, swollen organ. Whatever.

And so I move toward the Lord, begging Him for the grace and strength for every step. I fail often. I indulge in crabbiness. I have to apologize. I have to repent. He is faithful. Every day, I see a little more clearly. I’m learning that phrases like “ain’t nobody got time for that” and “do it anyway” pack surprising punches of truth.

I don’t have time for drama. Have lost my patience for histrionics. My focus is drawn elsewhere.

I don’t want to exercise, because it hurts, but I do it anyway. Get out of bed, put on the tennis shoes, move the body.

Being alive means something different to me now. I long both for the problem to be solved in this moment and for that moment when the Lord shall return and I’ll have that new body with perfect organs and two functioning eyes. I want resolution in the temporary but my eyes look farther ahead, into eternity.

I might have five decades left on this earth. I might have five years. I don’t know. Nobody knows. I set my eyes upon Jesus, looking into His beautiful face. And I know that, whatever happens to my body, I will be truly alive with Him forever.

Stop.

We call this day Good Friday, and yet for it to be good we must confront the full horror of the Cross. Of the Man hanging there, pouring Himself out. Becoming the very essence of sin itself. Our sin.

There is no Easter without the Cross.

Sit in that darkness with the disciples for the next two days. Allow the Lord to search your heart and draw to the surface anything that’s holding you back from Him. Let yourself accept the fact that you aren’t perfect and can’t save yourself. You simply are a sinner. Admitting that fact brings such freedom! For this Jesus, this Christ, gave Himself for you. He saw you and did everything necessary to save you. He alone can fix the problem that has plagued mankind since the Garden.

True love died for you.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo credit: Jean Gerber

Five Minute Friday: Good

But He was wounded for our

Gentle Reader,

Stepping into the soberness of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with my beloved brothers and sisters of the Five Minute Friday crew. Gracious Kate provides the space. We contemplate: good.

Go.

By no means do I consider myself a poet of any real skill. Nevertheless, this week’s prompt called to mind the following words I wrote years ago:

The Death That Should Be”

The blows to

Strike me down

Knocked my Lord

Upon the crown

The insult designed

To hurt

Threw God upon

The dirt

The streets that

Ran red

Came from Him

Instead

The blackness,

A terror

Enveloped Him,

But no error

The death that

Should be – me

Rather experienced

By He

The pain, the loss,

The separation

All our inglorious

Damnation

Heaped upon

The One

Who created

Shining sun

Who calms the

Storm

Comforts

Forlorn

Struck fire on

Mt. Carmel

Every day –

A marvel

The Lord, the God,

The Master

Replacing me in

This disaster

Do I even

Really know?

What it would mean

To take such blow?

I think I have

No comprehension

Of this Heavenly

Condescension

How can it work

That I am free?

From the death

That should be me?

Stop.

Thank you, Jesus.

My journey to faith. (15)

The Cross and Mary Magdalene

jesus

Gentle Reader,

What might have been going through her mind.

Darkness reigned within my soul for years. My head was constantly filled with evil shouts, driving me to do terrible things. I don’t know why they wanted me. Maybe I never will. All I know is that my heart was cold. I had no life. My lungs ached for a taste of pure oxygen, but all I ever got was the putrid stench of Hell itself.

Seven demons.

Seven.

People tried to help me. My family hated to see me in such a state, I know, but they feared me as well. I would lash out at them. I would throw things. Sickness rose up and flowed out of me. I wanted to hurt them. I wanted to hurt myself. I couldn’t understand why. In the few moments of clarity I did have, I would try to apologize. I would try to make it better, let them know that I loved them. But those moments were few and never lasted. Always, always the darkness came rushing back in, more powerful than before.

I was adrift. Lost. Helpless.

Alone.

The prayers of the righteous did nothing for me. The demons laughed in my head. They weren’t coming out any time soon. I wanted so badly to wage war against them, but they were too strong. I just couldn’t. I was too small, too feeble. I was a slave to them. They compromised me. I couldn’t choose.

I was defiled. Unclean. Ugly.

Unlovable.

They told me all sorts of twisted lies. I know they wanted me dead. I do not know why I did not end up that way, save for the grace of God. Why would He be keeping me back from such a fate, though? Hadn’t He abandoned me over to this clinging evil?

Didn’t He think I was worthless?

And then…

One day…. It dawned just as any other day. I slept little then. In a perpetual state of exhaustion, I wandered. My mouth spit nasty curses at those I passed. My clothes were ragged, my hair uncombed. I felt the vacancy of myself screaming out at the world. Did no one see? Was there nothing to be done?

Then… He came.

Jesus.

He looked right into my eyes, and, oh!, how I could hardly bear it! The demons within instantly fell silent. I fell to my knees, powerless before this Man. This Lord. I wanted desperately to look away, to crawl into a hole and hide from that everlasting light. But I remained, riveted.

“Mary.”

He said my name!

He commanded the demons to come out of me. They battled Him, throwing me to the ground, thrashing my body. It was no use. They were no match for Him. One by one, they detached themselves from me, leaving me a battered mess on the ground at His feet. I was too stunned to think or even breathe. Then… Jesus, He knelt down. He lifted me to my feet, that same intense gaze boring into my own.

I knew in an instant that I could never leave His side. This was it. Jesus was all that mattered. I would do everything within my power to be with Him, to support Him, to learn from Him. I wanted to sit forever at His feet.

Was it years that followed? I don’t know. I lost track of time with Him. Time didn’t matter to me. I know now that it should have. I knew that He was the King, come to set us free! Any day He would reveal Himself, march on Jerusalem and overthrow the conquering Romans. The whole earth trembled with the excitement of it!

I wanted to be part of it, to be part of Him. It didn’t matter to me what sort of position I had, as long as it was in His house. That’s all I knew. I didn’t want to go back to the dark place of yesterday. I wanted to live in His warmth and His truth. I knew that I was special and worthy to Him. I don’t know why. He simply declared it to be so, and how could I say anything less?

Then…

Passover came. It was terribly significant, this meal, to us, the Jews. This night, however, there was something…more. Something dreadful hung in the air. I recognized the presence of evil, but I hoped that Jesus could stop it. He ate the meal with the 12, while we women served. I heard Him say strange things about being betrayed and this being the last time He would eat the Passover. I didn’t want to entertain those thoughts.

I knew that the religious leaders hated Him. I knew that they loathed how He struck at the heart of their lies and legalism. How they envied His crowds. I even knew how they had threatened Him before. I was simply confident that Jesus would accomplish His mission, and put everyone and everything in its rightful palace.

He and the 12 – well, no Judas had left earlier – left to pray. We women cleaned up, enjoying each other’s company, discussing Jesus’ teachings. It grew very late, and we soon drifted off into sleep. Suddenly, John burst through the door, sobbing intelligibly. The older women coaxed him to sit, offering him something to drink. Finally, through his wrenching tears, he shouted –

I already knew, somehow.

Jesus had been arrested.

It was a nightmare, worse than anything I had ever experienced. I had to be there, though. I had to be at His side. A few of us women and John followed the proceedings as best we could. It was a sham, a mockery of justice. This was not the worst of it, though. All the disciples had abandoned Him. I found out later that Peter had even denied knowing Him.

They beat my Lord! They stripped the skin off his body! His blood ran red everywhere! They slammed thorns into His skull! He was twisted, mutilated, unrecognizable. Teeth were missing, His beard patchy from where they ripped it out, His gentle, beautiful hands broken.

Those same hands that raised me up.

And His eyes. Oh, His eyes! The depth of pain, of loss, and the deepest, tenderest love.

He looked at me, our gazes locking as the first time we met. Again, I wanted to run. All I could do was sob.

They hung Him on a cross. The crowd mocked him, hurling obscenities and insults at this Man who had never done them wrong. I watched Him die, breath by agonizing breath. Incomprehensibly, He cried out that God should forgive them. Why? Why forgive them this wretched act?

Finally, He was gone.

This was yesterday. Today I am stripped bare once more. Bereft of an anchor, drowning in a cold, endless sea. The taunting voices of evil swirl around me once more, though they have not yet gotten in. I don’t know what’s stopping them. I am without hope.

Why, Jesus, why? I know You could have stopped them. I know You could have ended it. Yet now You lay in a tomb, silent and still. Do You somehow still see my pain, my questioning? Do You know that I am nothing without You?

Why?

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