Five Minute Friday: Expect

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

I can’t figure out the world we’re living in. These are surely times that try human souls (thanks, Dickens). Government is a mess, reduced to odd tweets and cringe-worthy memes. Viewers rail against talk-show hosts for being not political enough (or too political) because apparently we decided to just give up reading and wrestling with news ourselves and instead just want someone to stoke the fires of our collective rage. Goodness, is there ever rage. Against Trump. Against Clinton. Against practically every member of Congress.

That foaming and frothing would be enough, but the rage has become personal. Intimate. No longer, it seems, can civility be maintained. Relationships crumble. Strangers shout at each other through the keys. This country is locked in “us vs. them” chaos, only we don’t really know who the “us” or the “them” are.

I didn’t vote for Trump. Made no secret of that. I’m very concerned about what truths lie beneath the surface, truths that begin to bubble up, popping and singeing those close by. Intuition tells me that the firestorm – raging for so long now – has really only just begun. And yet I can’t muster up hatred for those who did tick the box for him. Am I aware that Trump appealed to the misogynistic and xenophobic tendencies running throughout this country during the campaign, and that he continues to do so? Painfully aware. Do I think that those who stubbornly turn a blind eye to the faults of this administration are deep in denial? Yes. Do I think history will look back and see his time in office as one of the greatest missteps the United States of America has ever made? Probably.

But still. I can’t hate people who voted for him. The majority of us, I believe, want the same thing at the end of the day, as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote: life, liberty happiness. We differ sharply on how such goals are achieved, but these are our desires.

I wonder, if we could all just remember that for a second, if we could start putting country and neighbor above party and power, would things take a turn for the better?

Linking up with Kate at the new FMF home. Tonight we:

Go.

I haven’t changed my mind about the nature of humanity. We aren’t basically good. Apart from God, we are capable of good, sure, but our fundamental bent is selfish. World peace isn’t going to suddenly break out. There’s a radical Anabaptist strain to my theology; I believe that it’s highly possible, even probable, that we will only continue a downhill slide, however slow it might be. I suppose I’m just dumbfounded that this election was the thing to expose the darkness. Then again, I know my history well enough to recognize that politics in this country has never been pretty or easy. Perhaps it was inevitable.

The Founding Fathers made backdoor deals. They were hardly paragons of morality. Jackson sent an entire people group into exile and death. Bleeding Kansas. Civil War. Jim Crow. Economic disaster. Riots. Kent State. When I entered first grade, we were at war in the Middle East. Twenty-seven years later, we still are.

I know all of this.

And yet I keep hoping, praying, that somehow, some way, everyone is going to calm down and we can move on. Move forward. Perhaps that is an unreal hope. I don’t know.

I did not expect this…mess. In the back of my mind lived the assumption that cooler heads and steadier hearts would prevail at the end of the day. There’s still time. It could happen.

And so I remain a pessimist trying to see the light in and amongst the clouds.

Even the barest hint would do.

Stop.

I’ve left you on a downbeat, something I’m not fond of doing. I’d much prefer to make you laugh or give you something to think on. But I can’t pretend or say “peace” when there is no peace. This is where we are, in the middle of a swirling storm that shows no signs of abating. A numbness, a sense of disbelief, accompanies the sound of thunder and the crash of waves. How did we get here? How did this happen?

No amount of think pieces can provide an answer. I wonder if those are even in the right questions. Maybe it’s not about how we got here, but what we do now.

Please, if you have a good idea – let me know.

Signature

Photo credit: Nathan Anderson

Five Minute Friday: Help

Along the Way @ mlsgegg.com

Gentle Reader,

Chris has been out of town all week, watching over a group of boys at church camp. I can introvert with the best of them, but that whole absence makes the heart grow fonder thing? It’s true.

Kate says: help (me if you can, I’m feeling down. I love the Beatles).

Go.

The United States of America needs help.

Ever-deepening political divisions. Racial tensions. Continuing economic disparity.

We are at war with ourselves. We have forgotten how to disagree. We call each other names. We threaten violence. Sometimes we even act on the threat.

Instead of practicing loving kindness and thereby modeling a different, better way to those on the outside, the Church rolls around in the mud, pointing fingers and flinging accusations.

I am bone-tired of it. All of it.

The prophet Daniel prayed:

O Master, great and august God. You never waver in Your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love You and do what You say. Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable. We’ve done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around Your clearly marked paths. We’ve turned a deaf ear to Your servants the prophets, who preached Your Word to our kings and leaders, our parents, and all the people in the land. You have done everything right, Master, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame, the whole lot of us—people of Judah, citizens of Jerusalem, Israel at home and Israel in exile in all the places we’ve been banished to because of our betrayal of you. Oh yes, God, we’ve been exposed in our shame, all of us—our kings, leaders, parents—before the whole world. And deservedly so, because of our sin.

Compassion is our only hope, the compassion of You, the Master, our God, since in our rebellion we’ve forfeited our rights. We paid no attention to You when You told us how to live, the clear teaching that came through Your servants the prophets. All of us in Israel ignored what You said. We defied Your instructions and did what we pleased. And now we’re paying for it: The solemn curse written out plainly in the revelation to God’s servant Moses is now doing its work among us, the wages of our sin against You. You did to us and our rulers what you said You would do: You brought this catastrophic disaster on us, the worst disaster on record—and in Jerusalem!

Just as written in God’s revelation to Moses, the catastrophe was total. Nothing was held back. We kept at our sinning, never giving You a second thought, oblivious to Your clear warning, and so You had no choice but to let the disaster loose on us in full force. You, our God, had a perfect right to do this since we persistently and defiantly ignored you.

Master, You are our God, for You delivered your people from the land of Egypt in a show of power—people are still talking about it! We confess that we have sinned, that we have lived bad lives. Following the lines of what You have always done in setting things right, setting people right, please stop being so angry with Jerusalem, Your very own city, Your holy mountain. We know it’s our fault that this has happened, all because of our sins and our parents’ sins, and now we’re an embarrassment to everyone around us. We’re a blot on the neighborhood. So listen, God, to this determined prayer of Your servant. Have mercy on your ruined Sanctuary. Act out of who You are, not out of what we are.

Turn Your ears our way, God, and listen. Open Your eyes and take a long look at our ruined city, this city named after You. We know that we don’t deserve a hearing from You. Our appeal is to Your compassion. This prayer is our last and only hope:

Master, listen to us!
    Master, forgive us!
    Master, look at us and do something!
    Master, don’t put us off!
    Your city and Your people are named after You:
    You have a stake in us!

– 9:1-19 (MSG)

We do not live in a theocracy and we have not replaced Israel. We haven’t been carried off into exile. It’s not an exact parallel. Still, Daniel’s prayer is moving. His words stir up something painful in me. I know that there will never be Paradise this side of Christ’s return, but I wonder – what would this country look like today if the Church hadn’t slacked off? What if we hadn’t wasted time fighting about Calvinism and who can preach and what kind of clothes people can wear? What if we had just shared Gospel, cared for the widows and orphans and never began screaming about our rights? What if we hadn’t mixed the “American Dream” with the message of salvation? What if we hadn’t bought into the lie that Republican always equals conservative which always equals Christian?

I wonder what would happen now if we, like Daniel, took the posture of mourning. Of repentance. If we took on the burden of really caring about our country, in the way that truly matters.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Create

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

At least 75 people died during a Bastille Day celebration in southern France after someone drove a truck into a crowd.

What was the freaking point of that?!

My heart is heavy. People assume that pacifism means passivity. It doesn’t. The violence presses on me. The cries of the bereft ring in my ears. I want to do something. Yet I have struggled with how or if to write about the events of recent weeks. I’m a white Christian woman living in an essentially ethnically homogeneous area. Two of my uncles are on the police force in a large West Coast city. I haven’t experienced the injustice that others have.

What can I do? What can I say? What should my response be to those who kill in the name of race or religion?

I want to scream. STOP IT!

Hate doesn’t make any sense. Skin is just skin. Nobody has control over what shade God paints them. I’m a little darker than an albino and guess what? I’m not superior to anyone. I’m not #blessed because I’m pasty. Let us all collectively pull our heads out of our behinds and get over it. Additionally, other people’s choices in the way they live their lives – religion, sexuality, whatever – are theirs to make. By all means, have convictions. Disagree with ideas. But if your religion or philosophy or political bent moves you to name-call, belittle or even kill others who are not like you, then you either need to renew your understanding of said religion, philosophy or political bent or get a new one entirely.

God is not supportive of hate, so let’s not try and drag Him into this. (If you throw Romans 9:13 at me I will throw both a systematic theology textbook [not Wayne Grudem’s] and a book on basic interpretation at you). The load is all on us. God can and will release us from that load, but we’d best be owning it first. Hate is sin. It is evil.

We need to repent of it.

Go.

Kate says: create. A word loaded with meaning. There are so many ways to take this pompt. But my mind is on one track. What is my role in creating a church (both general and specific) environment where hate cannot thrive?

We started talking about all of this the other day in a Voxer group I’ve been part of for a year-and-a-half. One of the ladies told us about how her employment situation has forced her to work with someone different. Someone “other.” They’ve had conversations. Shared experiences and viewpoints. Listened to each other.

That’s the second step, after repentance. When we choose to lay down our assumptions and prejudices and actually engage with someone, we’re doing the work.

Problem is, we’re lazy. We want the beauty of peace, but we don’t want to labor for it. We want God to swoop in and *poof!* it all away. Make it bright and shiny and clean. Come on, now. Don’t we know our Bibles better than that? (I know the answer, and it is sad). When, aside from the moment of justification, does God do that before the culmination of history?

He doesn’t.

Repentance makes us right with Him so we can turn around and get right with others and then model that vertical and horizontal rightness for the rest of the world. There’ll be no human-created utopia this side of Eternity. We’d be great fools to expect that. We’d be perhaps even greater fools to think that we are given leave to sit idly by as darkness rolls on. That’s the tension we live in, knowing that our efforts will not bring about world peace but knowing we are not allowed to quit. We are people of light, children of day (1 Thessalonians 5:5). As God patiently molds us into new people (2 Corinthians 5:17), He pours into us everything that is required to obey His commands (Hebrews 13:21).

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

– Matthew 22:36-40 (HCSB)

No days off. No “but I don’t like him!” No “but she annoys me!”

No “I hate…”

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Rodion Kutsaev

Five Minute Friday: Miss

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

My hands are slightly sticky, covered in the leavings of new petunias. They spill over their dark plastic containers, trailing across the front steps. Purple, white, pink. Bits of periwinkle and a golden yellow flower – I don’t know its name – fight for space in the grand spring display.

Early evening sunlight makes its way through the closed drapes. A rectangle of washed-out orange settles on the carpet near my feet. The dogs are still and quiet in the recliner, watching the street outside the window. A fan pushes the hot, heavy air this way and that, ruffling the deep green leaves of a potted ivy. The sound of shovel piercing earth rises above the rumble of the washing machine. The top drawer of a shallow gray dresser turned living room table-catchall sits ajar.

Pensiveness settles on me like a blanket far too heavy for the weather. Would that I could trade it out for a light cotton sheet sprinkled with lavender water.

Kate says: miss.

Go.

It’s strange to miss a place you’ve never been.

Tonight I miss Heaven. Tonight I miss seeing my Lord’s precious, beautiful face. Tonight I soak in the words of the psalm, its poetry conjuring up faint images of the world to come, images just beyond sight:

What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
    I’ve always longed to live in a place like this,
Always dreamed of a room in your house,
    where I could sing for joy to God-alive!

Birds find nooks and crannies in your house,
    sparrows and swallows make nests there.
They lay their eggs and raise their young,
    singing their songs in the place where we worship.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies! King! God!
    How blessed they are to live and sing there!

And how blessed all those in whom you live,
    whose lives become roads you travel;
They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,
    discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and
    at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!

God-of-the-Angel-Armies, listen:
    O God of Jacob, open your ears—I’m praying!
Look at our shields, glistening in the sun,
    our faces, shining with your gracious anointing.

One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship,
    beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God
    than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.
All sunshine and sovereign is God,
    generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
    It’s smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

– Psalm 84 (MSG)

Tonight I am losing my patience in the waiting, in the missing, for the place I’ve never been and the God I cannot see. I am heartsick unto tears. Trump and Clinton and bathrooms and nastiness and ignorance and violence.

Lord God above, tomorrow there will be more. Needs, issues, conflict. My Father, my Savior – stamp these words upon my spirit:

…let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

– Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

Etch them into my very being. Grace me with the grit to keep on.

But now, in this moment, just let me miss my home.

Let me miss Your embrace.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Devan Freeman