(Again a) Five Minute Monday: Lack

Gentle Reader,

There is a light at the end of the tunnel of busyness.

Maybe it’s a freight train…

Kate says: lack.

Go.

I lack the ability to see myself as others see me.

Yes, of course, we all deal with that. We’re all surprised by the compliments (and criticisms) that seem to come out of left field. But me, I’m far less taken aback by the criticism. Maybe it’s because, left to my own devices, I’m a real pessimist. Maybe it’s because we women are incessantly told that we don’t measure up to an ever-changing standard. Maybe it’s because I spend far too little time immersed in the healing, loving presence of God, something that I suspect is an issue for many, if not most of us. (I might relate hardcore to Martha and her need to get the chores done).

All I know for sure is that, when I’m complimented, I have no idea how to respond.

It’s not false modesty. It’s not fishing for more compliments.

It’s, “Huh. He really likes me. She said something nice. Why?”

Brain can’t make it compute.

A reminder for me: What I say truly matters. Can really make a difference. Because there have to be others like me out there who’ve latched onto the rough words rather than the smooth. There have to be others who, while not engaged in active self-hate, see themselves as…lacking. And in that sense of lacking, then lack the ability to see the good that others do, the good that God placed there.

Lord, I know that I can’t control my tongue. Any bridling comes straight from Your hands. So Father, please, come reign over my words. The words I speak to others. The words I speak to myself. The words I speak to You. Let my lips be ones that drip with the honey of kindness, gentleness, grace and truth.

Stop.

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Brother Come Close, Sister Draw Near

Gentle Reader,

You would not know it upon a glance
But there’s buzzing in my head

A tingle, shiver, crawls up my spine
And I’m filled with darkest dread

Strive to keep my face serene
Arranged along calmest lines

But know when I respond to you
That I’m really not always “fine”

There’s walking wounded all around
And me, I know that crowd

Not too proud to tell you this
Tho ’tis done with head that’s bowed

Yes, I believe in the healing touch
Of God who reigns on high

But His work in us, it is not done,
Without a struggle or a sigh

Groping about on this earth,
Half-blinded, struggling to see

What to do in the midst of fear
That’s wailing like a banshee

His voice is quiet, speaking peace
I must lean close and listen

That I might choose the better path
And in holiness be christen

There are many other roads
To the right and to the left

Roads I’d frankly rather walk
Than this, with all its theft

But they lead not to God above
As Christian learned in olden tale

And so step on, is what I must
Tho the Devil does assail

Do it afraid, that is my choice
None other can I make

Do it despite, that is the call
Even when my heart does ache

Christ promised trouble in this world
And He spoke not single lie

But He also promised, sure and true
To be near when all does go awry

And so tho I may not be fine
Engaged in unseen war each day

From my God I will not turn
From my Savior ne’er will stray

Thus all that I ask of you
Who read these simple lines

Is that you might come to notice
The strain and struggle’s signs

For I need you, as you need me
We journey through together

Not just on sunny mountaintops
But in the stormy weather

So take my hand, and I’ll take yours
We’ll press along, holding fast

I’ll see you, and you’ll see me
The masks we wear, off cast

Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters.

– Romans 12:10a (CSB)

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Five Minute Friday: Reward

Gentle Reader,

When did life get so heckin’ busy?

It’s weird, though. I am so very tired, and yet I have this bubbling energy. Perhaps a new facet of this thing called “joy.” Definitely need a nap or five. Wouldn’t turn down a day at the spa, complete with full-body massage. But I want to go and do and see. Have some adventures.

That’s why I get mad at my body. It consistently lags behind my spirit. Recently I decided that I’d like to climb a mountain, but these bones and muscles are all, “Yeah, how about no?” Annoying. But I’m gonna do it someday. Just you wait and see.

In the midst of all the busyness, I really have missed my writing people the last two weeks. You all speak grace, life and love into my soul. You are the Jesus-kids, the God-folks, the Spirit-poets.

Kate says: reward.

Go.

I can’t see for crap in the dark. Not that I see that well when it’s light; depth perception is not something I’m known for. Hashtag running into things and hashtag always a bruise somewhere. That’s why I suck at sports. Oh, I’ll play, and I’ll have fun, but I’m not going to score the winning goal or anything.

I’m also easily frightened. I’ve seen a grand total of two horror movies in my life, and don’t plan to see any others. Once made the mistake of watching a documentary about Jack the Ripper one night, all alone, because history is great, and I couldn’t even finish it. Give me comedy, always, or give me drama, but nothing scary, please.

So when I got invited to a young friend’s birthday party yesterday, and found out that she wanted to play a game inspired by the movie The Quiet Place, inside the pitch-black church…I was the opposite of into that. But this friend is awesome, and I love her so much, so I accessed what little bit of courage I have and joined in.

As the lights went out and I went to station myself in the sound booth, the first thing I did was smack into a wall. Much grace. Such style.

The game progressed. At one point I made my way cautiously down the very not-up-any-building-code-ever stairs. Because some new people in my life have discovered that it’s easy to make me jump, and this is funny to them, I about fainted when I came around a corner and encountered one of the “monsters,” who walked away chuckling. A bit later, this same monster made a noise and hit me with a pool noodle, which resulted in me gasping and kicking, and my ankle connected with a table that was inconveniently placed.

Honestly, it was pretty funny – once the shock and the “I’m going to die!” passed.

And so I’m full of warm, fuzzy feelings today. Relationships – they are the reward. Possessions, they don’t matter. I’m not going to look back and think, “I’m so glad I bought ______.” I will, however, always remember fondly the night I played a silly game with some teens and a few adults who consistently behave like teens. (We do have our serious, mature, adult-y moments). I will always be glad to have spent those hours eating cake, laughing, conspiring with my soul mate and wrapping my arms around the birthday girl.

That’s a shift for me. Not the understanding that people are what counts. But desiring to fully invest in new relationships. Insecure, shy, timid – those have all been words for me in the past. I’m working out what it looks like to break through those self-imposed barriers and be a woman who embraces life. Because I just want to love. And love is bold.

Stop.

Of course that was longer than five minutes, but everyone in this group constantly breaks that rule. Sorry, Kate!

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Quiet Places

Gentle Reader,

…He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.

– Luke 5:16 (CSB)

I have a complicated relationship with food. Some of it, I’m not supposed to eat, but I eat it anyway, just not all the time. Some of it makes me sick, a list that grows longer each year. Some of it is deeply disappointing, like carrots, which I love but didn’t improve my eyesight even though I ate them religiously as a child. (Grin to my parents). Some of it is just disgusting; cilantro, which takes like soap, and meatloaf top of this category. (I will not eat meatloaf, ever, even if it is your great-grandmother’s amazing recipe).

At this point my diet is fairly limited. Lots of vegetables, lots of fruit, some grains. Dessert more often than I care to admit, but I do try to exercise some self-control over my raging sweet tooth. While this all really does help me in the fight against liver disease, and has led to amazing cholesterol and blood pressure numbers, there is a boredom factor. A woman can only eat so many salads before she wants to throw something.

Thinking about this in light of today being Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.

Believers are not supposed to draw attention to ourselves when we choose to fast (see Matthew 6:16-18), but this day naturally brings about the discussion of what to give up for Lent. (Note: Observing Lent is not required, and is a matter of personal conviction). Some people choose to give up sugar. Some coffee (God bless them). Others let go of social media or television. There are a lot of options and no one choice is better than the other. Fasting isn’t about the thing being given up, but rather about using energy and time to refocus on the Lord.

Fasting from food isn’t the best option for me. It’s not totally out of the ballpark; I could skip a meal and probably be fine. In fact, I have days when the train wreck that is my internal organs decides to get messier and I simply can’t eat. In the past, I’ve given up sugar – real talk, not completely successfully – and learned a lot about how I turn to food for comfort when I should be turning to Jesus. But overall, if I don’t want to end up passing out or in the hospital, I have to stick to a pretty regimented system. God knows that.

God also knows that I’ve been real lax in my time with Him lately.

It’s odd, because I genuinely love to study the Bible. Once I’m in there, rustling the pages between the battered faux leather cover, I’ll stay there for hours. One verse leads to another leads to another and then I’m looking up obscure Greek words. It’s fantastic. I love the way the story of redemption spans centuries, continents and peoples. I am deeply, eternally grateful that God took the time to speak to us through the different authors.

But…I’m also human. And it doesn’t take a lot to throw me off track.

I’m a week behind in my “read through the Bible in a year chronologically because you’re a big nerd” plan. A month behind in my study of Isaiah. At first I was exhausted after helping at winter retreat. Then I got the flu. Then some other stuff happened. Instead of carving out time with the King of Kings, from Whom comes my strength, I just…kind of floated along.

Then I wonder why I’ve felt crabby the last few days.

This year, Lent is less about what I’m giving up and more about to what I am returning. Jesus, our model in all things, needed time away. He needed to disconnect from the noise and the crowds. He needed to hear the heart of His Father. So, too, myself.

I don’t need to binge watch that show.

I don’t need to mindlessly scroll through social media.

I don’t need to ignore my alarm in the morning and then panic because I slept late.

I need God. Need time spent at His feet, listening to His voice. Need to allow Him to decide how I spend the hours. Need to allow myself to move away from the noise and bustle. Need to remember that He is in charge, no me. Need to remember that He has the wisdom, not me.

Maybe you don’t observe Lent. That’s fine. But if I were a betting woman, I’d say there’s a good chance that you, like me, need to set down your smartphone and pick up your Bible. And if that’s not you, if you’re engaged in good habits and keeping Jesus at the center, then please find someone who needs your gentle encouragement.

Because as we move toward Easter, we remember that Jesus walked alone so that we don’t have to.

We walk, together, with Him.

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