Five Minute Friday: Build

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Go.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

– Matthew 7:24-25

Hear and do.

Adam, who heard and did not do, bringing chaos to the world. Noah, who heard and did, building the boat when it had never rained. Abraham, who heard and did to a crazy extent, even to the point of sacrificing his son. Rahab, who heard the faintest whisper and did, her faith hanging on a scarlet cord. Jonah, who heard and did not do and heard some more in the belly of a whale and did  but didn’t like it. Job, who heard and did, yet suffered. Mary, who heard and did, surrendering to the call of God.

Obedience. Discipline.

We expect a good outcome. We think the hard road will end.

But look.

When the rain descended, when the floods came, when the winds blew and beat on the house.

Not if.

When.

We pray, “God, increase my faith” but imagine bulging bank accounts and perfect homes. We do not picture the toil and the trouble. But tell me, where is faith built, where is trust grown, if not in the harshest of conditions?

God is not mean. He delights in being good to us, His children. But there are times when He tests us. It’s beyond my feeble mind to sort out what is willed by Him and what arises as a consequence of living in a fallen world. (It’s beyond your mind, too). Honestly, I think it’s pointless to figure that out. Job never did get an answer. He was instead presented with a question: Will you trust Me now?

That’s the test. The pain and the loss, those are the incidentals. That question – that’s what matters.

We can’t answer if we haven’t practiced tuning our ears to the sound of His voice. So hear. Listen to what He has to say. Be comforted and encouraged. Don’t be too proud or stupid to enter into the holy work of submission, of conviction. Then do. Take the hammer and nails that He places in your hand and build. Follow His direction.

For the rain will come.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Quiet

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength...

Gentle Reader,

I missed my people.

I don’t regret retreating from this space. Obedience is always good, even when it’s hard. It always feels right. But while it’s freeing, in this season, to focus on other words in other places, I miss joining the #FMFParty chat with regularity. (Yes, I know it’s only been two weeks). I miss interacting with them and you. I even miss opening that vein that all writers cut time and time again, spilling it across the page for public consumption.

That’s what happens when you release the good for the better. You miss the good. And that’s okay, because it’s still there. Something to come back to, even if it’s not exactly the same.

Tonight Kate moves us to discuss: quiet.

Go.

Public platforms, no matter how small, require noise.

And so going quiet was a conscious decision to trust in the Lord and His timing.

I thought I’d be further along on this writing path than I am. Fifteen years ago, if I imagined being in my early thirties at all, surely there published books or a respected career as journalist involved in the dreaming. That’s the thing – I could have done it. Oh, not the published book part. But the journalism part, that was realistic. I was on that track. I would have been successful. There’s no boasting involved here. I had wanted to write for a newspaper for years. Pursue the stories. Break the news. I had the talent and the drive.

Then God.

Didn’t recognize Him at the time. Didn’t see the graceful motions of His hands, ushering me onto the road He had designed for me.

A quiet road.

By degrees He has made me smaller. I have worried, wondered, if this means lesser. But what is “lesser” in the Kingdom of God? “Lesser” is meaningless when considered in the light of glory. His fame, His name, is what matters. Mine will blow away like the dust, remembered by few, if any at all. Once, this frightened me. Now…I wonder if there is not untold richness and blessing in obscurity. In the letting go of one’s ego, He becomes bigger. Not that He is ever not larger than everything. I simply get out of my own way and begin to see, just a little, how grand He truly is.

So I turn my energy to this other project, one that may only be seen by Him alone. I trust Him. I have faith that even if the tapping and the researching and the editing and the beginning again are nothing more than an exercise of faith that it will be worth it. Even if my headshot never appears on a glossy cover. Even if I’m never recognized by anyone “important.”

I go quiet here to be louder there and even that may be silence in the end.

But He knows.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

What I Want

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Hello, there. You may have noticed my silence last week. I won’t lie – it was good to be away from the laptop. Much as I enjoy writing, I get tired of the screen and the keys. But we’ve talked about my love/hate relationship with technology before, so no need to cover old ground. Besides, that’s really not the point today.

Today is about getting back on the right path.

Over the last couple of months I’ve had more than one person ask, “When are you going to write a book?” Normally I would brush such an inquiry aside; I dislike talking about such things because I never have a satisfactory answer. But it’s hard not to take notice when people who don’t know each other poke and prod at the same spot. Then the 31 Days Challenge came – and my series was a success. People responded. They enjoyed what I wrote.

I don’t know how I feel about people noticing my words and wanting more.

Writers are a strange lot. We are compelled to dribble the ink across the page, but most of us are flat-out petrified of others reading the finished product. That’s why blogging is such a great thing. It’s good writing practice and it also helps in getting used to the idea that there is an audience out there. An audience that somehow connects with you through those letters, jots and tittles.

So, on the one hand, it’s encouraging to know that the years plugging away in this little corner begin to produce a harvest. On the other, one or two nasty comments are a whole lot easier to deal with than an honest-to-goodness bad review from someone who matters. Or at least matters in the writing world.

The question remains: When am I going to write a book?

The answer: I’m working on one.

It began in early summer. The big picture came fully-formed. I knew exactly how to start, how to finish and where to go in between. I have chapter titles. I have a document just for notes and ideas. I put an app on my phone just for scribbling little things that come to me at random moments. The first, rough run-through is almost halfway finished.

You think I’d be excited.

I’m not.

I ran away from this project. I deliberately turned away from what I know to be God’s will for me in this season.

There goes any of you thinking that I’ve got it all together.

When we throw our hands up and tell God, “No,” there are always consequences. For me it’s been weeks of discontentment and spiritual “blahness.” Oh, I’ve kept on doing things that I should do. Bible study, church attendance, prayer. But there’s been a block. God knew what it was. I knew what it was. He waited for me to acknowledge it. I tried not to.

Because this project, this little book of mine, is not likely to be well-received.

That’s the other thing I’ve heard more than once lately. “You are never going to be a popular author.” I know what that means. If it’s God’s will that one day this book sits on a shelf in a store and people buy it, a good portion of them won’t respond favorably to what they read. If I could just stay in the funny lane or shift gears into conventional “women’s writing…” But I can’t. That significantly ups the scary factor.

God being God, He decided that this little detente wasn’t going to continue. He pressed on me. Kept bringing it up. We had a moment. Rather literally a come to Jesus meeting. I never win when that happens. (Well, I do, because He’s always good and right and there’s nothing but winning when we submit to Him). In His graciousness, He condescended to hash some things out with me. There was forgiveness and renewal, as there blessedly always is.

This weekend I turned on the computer and called up the book. I didn’t bother going over what I’d already written. That will come later. I started where I left off, all the way back in July.

And it was so, so good.

There was flow. There was logic. I remembered the thesis and how to connect each chapter. I knew right away that this is it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.

God being God, He knew that the fear would set in once more. He knew that I would lose that sense of rightness as soon as I shut it down and walked away. When cares like making dinner and figuring out what to take to a church chili cook-off took precedence in my mind. I’m shortsighted like that.

I crawled into bed early that night, aching all over. (No, not some divine punishment. Just my body being it’s weird self). I reached for a book on my nightstand, but stopped short when the Holy Spirit very clearly said, “Ezekiel Thirty-Three.” Not audibly. Not with a burning bush. Clear as a bell nevertheless. And utterly, completely random. He’s interesting like that. I read:

God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people. Tell them, ‘If I bring war on this land and the people take one of their citizens and make him their watchman, and if the watchman sees war coming and blows the trumpet, warning the people, then if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and ignores it and war comes and takes him off, it’s his own fault. He heard the alarm, he ignored it—it’s his own fault. If he had listened, he would have saved his life.

“‘But if the watchman sees war coming and doesn’t blow the trumpet, warning the people, and war comes and takes anyone off, I’ll hold the watchman responsible for the bloodshed of any unwarned sinner.’

“You, son of man, are the watchman. I’ve made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them. If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked man, wicked woman, you’re on the fast track to death!’ and you don’t speak up and warn the wicked to change their ways, the wicked will die unwarned in their sins and I’ll hold you responsible for their bloodshed. But if you warn the wicked to change their ways and they don’t do it, they’ll die in their sins well-warned and at least you will have saved your own life.” – vs. 1-9 (MSG)

Be chill. I’m not claiming to be either a prophet or a watchman. I’m not predicting the apocalypse. I do know exactly what those verses mean. From the lips of my King to my ear. It’s something we all need to remember.

The Lord commands us to obey Him. It’s both that simple and that hard. (Thanks, Adam and Eve). He tells us to put aside all fear, all distraction, and do what He says. How other people respond – that’s on them. The only thing on us, on me, is to follow where He leads. In my experience, more often than not His leading is decidedly against the current. Against trends and fads. Against accepted norms.

If you’re anything like me and that scares the crud out of you, be encouraged today. God isn’t asking you to save anyone. (Or to control them). He’s not putting the weight of the world on your shoulders. He gives you one assignment at a time, an assignment that only you can complete. A task ordained before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10). He’s not requiring you to swim upstream on your own, either. He is with you every moment, giving you grace, courage and wisdom – even when you don’t have sense to ask for it.

In the end, whatever pain that arises from the strain is absolutely worth it. I would rather see a smile on the face of my Lord and know that I did all that I could to obey Him than have the accolades of a world gone to you-know-where in a you-know-what. He’s given me a job to do (just let that blow your mind; God gives us jobs to do) and I want to be able to say that I did it. Even if there’s a howl and a backlash. Even if the waves crash and beat against me.

A life completely turned over to Him.

That’s what I want.

My journey to faith. (15)