Whose Voice is That?

voice

Gentle Reader,

In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried out to my God;
He heard my voice from His temple,
And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.

– Psalm 18:6 (NKJV)

King David is one of the great authors of history. Not only is his poetry beautiful and honest, filled with every human emotion and experience imaginable, the voice in the words is unmistakably his own. A psalm of Asaph doesn’t read the same as a psalm of David. The poetry of Isaiah or Lamentations, while following the same rules of Hebrew construction and grammar, doesn’t sound like the poetry that came from the mind of the shepherd-turned-ruler. The voice of David teaches us how to cry out to God in an entirely unique way.

He makes no apologies, issues no caveats and hides behind no rhetorical devices. He knows that God knows what he is thinking, so when the words pour out of him, he sees no need for messing about. Though several of his songs are quite long, he gets to the point straightaway nearly every time – even if that point is, as in Psalm 51, begging for forgiveness and restoration following great sin.

Simply, David is just himself.

Much like Jesus, the promised Messiah who descends from his royal line, is just Himself.

There is real power in being who God made you to be. Not the kind of power that abuses and crushes others. Not the kind that clamors and scrambles for authority and position. This is the power of security, of knowing that you were designed for this place and this time, given a specific set of gifts and passions so that you can be about the business of glorifying and enjoying God. It is neither arrogant nor self-abasing. It is not consumed by anxiety and the need for self-defense. This is the power of resting in the Lord, in knowing that He is your shield and fortress.

This power is one that I have been without for too long. It is difficult to be a woman who primarily writes about theology, and occasionally politics, the two topics that most would love to ignore, without the cushion of cute kid stories or fun craft and meal ideas. I don’t fit into the generally accepted “Christian blogger lady” lane. And so, out of insecurity, I’ve often tried to smother my real voice – reflective and serious – in sarcasm sauce. My thinking has been: They may not like what I’m saying, but at least I might be able to make them laugh. While I do enjoy making people laugh, and see nothing wrong with doing so if it happens naturally, the forced attempt has been to the detriment of both my writing and sense of identity. I am neither a clown nor a cut-up.

Beyond this, I have tried to anticipate every objection. This usually comes in the form of, “yes, I know…” or “no, I don’t mean…” This, frankly, is exhausting, because, instead of focusing on the message and offering these words as an act of worship of God and encouragement or equipping to you, I wind up expending energy waging a battle that may not even happen. See? The anxiety, the need for self-defense. 

The worst thing – there are times when I’ve attempted to not “write smart.” This is something that I have struggled with my entire life; in my experience, people don’t like the smart girl, and who among us doesn’t want to be liked? The desire for connection and relationship is hardwired. Best to hide whatever unacceptable aspects you possess, and God-given intelligence and a drive to learn have both been unacceptable.

As I move forward in truth, I no longer want to do or engage in any of these things. I want to be like David, warts and all out there for everyone to see, driven to express himself out of love for the God he desperately longed to please. I want to be like Jesus, who, though sorely tempted as we all are, knew who He was and what He was about. I want to walk through this life with my eyes steady forward, quick to acknowledge and correct every misstep but always moving toward my King. 

That, I can only do as me. Trying to be anyone else effectively denies the rule of my King.

This, dear Lord, I have done. Forgive me and help me start anew.

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Beware the Line

send

Gentle Reader,

What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you?

– James 4:1 (CSB)

How often do you examine your motives?

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this recently. I know that it’s unpopular, but I do believe in tone policing, to an extent; there is a way to say something in order to get the message across, however strong it is, while maintaining integrity of self and respect for the other person (which is incredibly difficult sometimes) and then there’s being obnoxious for the sake of stirring the pot. Where that line is, where we cross from attempting to communicate and into poking the bear, is different for each person, for, while we share a common tongue, we are not always speaking the same language.

Tone policing is not the same as deeming a subject taboo. It’s not the same as refusing to engage in conversation on difficult matters. It’s not something that we can do for each other, really, beyond a gentle touch on the shoulder or a low-voiced, calming word. This is all about the individual. There are things that you can say, and ways that you can say these things, that I cannot. There are people who will respond to you who won’t respond to me. Frustrating as this can be (and it is), this is simply part of making our way through this world.

Beyond considering the way a sentence is worded, however, is the deeper issue of why one is about to say or write the sentence, or, indeed, post the meme or link to an article. What is the urge rooted in? What is the goal in sharing?

As I’ve previously written, 2018 was a long, hard year. I had no sense of direction in my writing. The Lord made it clear to me in the days just prior to pulling out a fresh, new calendar that I needed to place my eyes back on Him. That I needed to dwell in and focus on Him and His truth, for this lack of dwelling and focus is what led to the lostness. As I’ve begun doing this – make no mistake, it’s a daily choice – I realized that my motives in hitting “publish” or “send” haven’t been entirely good.

This whole section has in view an acquisitive society, the competition for material things and the pleasure they bring. It begins with the manifold desires of individuals that need to be satisfied; so individuals mobilize, each one, to seize the desired object. When they step outside the self, they engage in competition with other persons, even to the point of fierce conflict. So intense is the desire for possessions that they are ready to commit murder (Barclay).

Asbury Bible Commentary

Possessions are not merely things we hold in our hands. We all, each of us, are tempted by the desire to possess authority and power. This doesn’t always look like stepping on other’s to get the corner office. This can be as simple and subtle as thinking, “Why can’t you all see? Why can’t you admit that I’m right? Are you stupid?”

An attempt to diminish the imago dei in another. If I see them as somehow less-than, then I don’t have to check my words or explore my motives. I can let them have it.

When I crossed over from “there are things that are happening and they are very alarming and we need to talk about them” and into “seriously, you’re a bunch of morons and I don’t like you,” I don’t know. I suspect I went back and forth over that line a few times. Sometimes I would communicate as well as I know how and the discussion would be fruitful. Other times I would poke the bear because I felt angry and the bear is dumb.

Oh, the humanity.

This side of Heaven, we will struggle. We are never going to get this exactly right. Yet we must not shrug and think, “Well, it’ll never get better, so whatever.” It can get better. We can get better. Not perfect. Better. We who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within are not helpless, hapless, hopeless slaves to sin.

There are things happening, in society and in our churches, and they are alarming and we do need to talk about them. In our talking, there can’t be justifying or sugar-coating. But we don’t have to go to war. We don’t have to beat each other with words. Jesus never did and He is our example. He said a lot of hard things, spoke a lot of truth that people didn’t want to hear, but He never stepped outside the bounds of love.

Lord, make us more like You. Teach us to examine ourselves, by the light of Your Spirit, not that we may engage in self-condemnation but so that we may grow into who You designed us to be. Help us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. And when we do speak, grant us the self-control to keep our tongues from lighting a deadly fire. By Your grace, in Your power, and in Your Name, Amen.

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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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To Wait on the Lord

wait

Gentle Reader,

Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.

– Psalm 25:5 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Wait.

Is there a worse word in any language?

Many, many articles have been written about our so-called recent inability to delay gratification, but this has always been a struggle. After all, the Apostle Paul wrote many centuries ago that patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit, something that we can’t manufacture on our own, and he did so as part of a list of contrasting character traits; sinful ones to the left, godly ones to the right. I can imagine that, in his day, people complained about the mail taking a month to arrive, while elders shook their heads and told stories about walking uphill in the snow, both ways.

Patience is hard. While it is true that some of us might have more of a bent toward handling the wait well, overall it’s just not something that humanity is good at. And so, as we walk with the Lord, part of His activity in our lives is to shape us into the people that He designed us to be. We become more like Him – millimeter by often screaming millimeter.

Frustratingly, this includes learning patience.

Pause and let this sink in: God teaches us to be patient because He is patient. Specifically, He is patient with us.

Patience is a God-trait, part of His nature. Looking at it from this angle helps us to realize that waiting is so much more than annoyed thumb-twiddling. God is ever-active, always working to draw the unsaved to Himself and to draw the saved into deeper relationship. In a mystery that none of us are fully equipped to explain, He, who could force anyone to do anything at any time, allows us the freedom to choose. If we don’t learn the lesson the first time, He’ll bring it up again. And again, until we’re ready to move forward in and with Him. He never gets tired and He never gives up.

The parallel does break down, because we, of course, are not God, and so we don’t see the whole picture. And unlike God, we have to submit ourselves to a higher authority. However, I believe that we can look at the character and activity of God and draw this conclusion: To wait is to engage in a robust activity.

For God: While He waits for us to get on board in a certain area, He keeps on working in another area, where we’re more receptive.

For us: Like a good physical workout, our spiritual muscles strain under the effort it takes to set aside our desire for right now and submit to His will and timing.

Waiting on the Lord is more than this, though. It isn’t as if we have to wonder if His response and work will be good for us. As we learn to depend on Him, we learn to anticipate His kindness. We learn to stay near and to be attentive. Like courtiers in a medieval court, we hover close to the King, ready to move when He moves and (learning to be) content to stay when He stays.

Yes, patience is hard. Waiting is challenge. Giving over the right to rule our own lives has to be done time and time again.

Ah, but as we are, bit by bit, transformed, there’s the prize!

Maybe not even what we were seeking, what we were asking for.

Maybe – God Himself.

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