A Prayer for Truth

Prayer in 2019

Gentle Reader,

Lord, Creator of all things, infinitely wise, majestic, holy
The One for Whom stars sing and sun shines
All atoms and pieces within held together by Your breath
Never sleeping, always seeing, forever working, full of grace
This year belongs to You

Your fingerprints and mercy cover every hour
The ones past and yet to come
For You sit, enthroned, outside of time, the King
Nothing can contain You, nothing will constrain You
None, no matter size or strength, can stand against You

Your plans and purposes will be accomplished
And all will see that they, that You, are so very good

Three days into this new year and already beset by worries
Pressures and old ways of being, deeply ingrained
I come to You, Beautiful Savior, and sit at Your feet
Here, surrounded by angel’s never-ceasing praises,
You lovingly and rightly speak

Every word that falls from Your lips is sweet
They fill my mind and warm my heart
Even as they pierce my soul – for my good
And with every piercing, comes a whisper of love
A balm for righteous wounds

You are not mean and awful, as some say
But truly kind, wholly true, ever-faithful

God, You count the lies I keep, held tight
Pulled close, afraid to let them go
They are what I know, what I feel, what I can see
If I open palm in release, what, Lord, then?
Exchanging these for truth is an ongoing battle

Yes, the battle – one into which to press, to engage
Yes, the fear – but truth more needed than routine
Yes, the ache – but this too will soon pass
Yes, the step – of faith, of hope, of love, of trust
Yes, the word – please Jesus, yes

You are my Savior, my Friend, my Great Reward
In You, in truth, I dwell this year

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Lead Me, Teach Me

Truth

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)

Truth: that which is in accordance with fact or reality. Verity, certainty, sincerity, honest, accurate, correct. A fundamental characteristic of God; He cannot and will not lie.

Normally, I place little stock in choosing a word for the year. There’s nothing wrong with the practice; I have – rather half-heartedly and forgetfully – done it before. I am wary of probing for deep significance in a single word, however. There is something unsettling about hoping for one string of letters to define or guide a 12-month cycle. I prefer sentences, paragraphs, entire books, because context, the way a word is used as intended by the author, always matters.

This year, there’s a shift in my thinking.

Lead me in Your truth, the psalmist writes. Not a truth. Not any truth. Your truth.

The truth.

In this relativistic society, metanarrative, an overarching story that gives meaning and purpose to all of life, is hardly in vogue. We are taught that it’s never correct to imply, let alone baldly state, that there is such a thing as truth, and that that truth is the same for each and every person. Themes of sin and salvation are rejected for “do what thou wilt,” a maxim coined by the twentieth century British occultist Aleister Crowley. I do my thing, you do your thing, everyone’s thing is perfectly valid.

This is what we like to think we believe, and what we give lip-service to, but just read through a Facebook comment thread (or, better yet, Tumblr), and, ironically, the truth is there, plain as day. All beliefs, behaviors and opinions are not, in fact, equal; the one that wins the day is usually the one that the majority of people in that particular space agree upon. This is not merely a religious phenomenon (see: sports fandoms and political philosophies).

We reject metanarrative while seeking to build one.

As creatures with free will and high thinking skills, we get to choose. Take the story laid out in Scripture or make our own story. Sit at God’s feast-table and indulge in the delicacies or scrounge for scraps from here and there. Completion or cobbled-together-ness.

I have wasted too much precious time and headspace on stories that aren’t true. Stories about the world, about others, about myself, about God. Oh, yes. Christians aren’t immune. We can ignore the delicacies and chase the scraps. Why else would someone like me struggle with a sense of identity or purpose? God says, black-and-white, that I am His child, His royal daughter. God says, clear-and-plain, that He has called and gifted me. I say that I believe these things, that I accept this metanarrative…and then live otherwise.

Perhaps you struggle as well.

This year, I intend to dwell on truth. Not the word itself, but all the words that come from the mind and heart of God. I will sit at His feet, as Mary did on that day so long ago. I want to know, need to know, His commands. His perspective. His way. But not this only; I need to know Him. In a new, deeper, richer way. Because He Himself is truth itself.

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Content Yo Self

Along theWay @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I love Parks and Recreation.

Chris and I watched the show as it aired live. We’ve watched it completely through several times on Netflix. We can quote entire scenes word-for-word. Chris shares Ron Swanson’s love of woodworking and breakfast foods. At any given time I can be heard singing Jean-Ralphio’s classic, “Technically I’m homeless!” Both of us appreciate the beauty that is the Knope/Wyatt relationship. If we believed in spirit animals, mine would be April Ludgate and his would be Andy Dwyer. Chris Traeger and Ann Perkins are amazing land mermaids. Tammy 1, Tammy 2, Jeremy Jamm, Bobby Newport, Lil’ Sebastian…

Don’t worry – I didn’t forget the joy of Tom and Donna:

We are lit-er-ally P&R super-fans.

“Treat yo self” is a wonderful idea. In a culture that’s all about work, work and more work, as well as remaining constantly connected through social media and smartphones, it’s important to build a little space in our lives for relaxation. Eat a cupcake, see a movie, buy an expensive pair of shoes (that you’ve saved money for. Hashtag Dave Ramsey). In moderation, there’s nothing wrong with “treat yo self.”

But you know humans.

We just can’t seem to do anything in moderation.

In our Western, industrialized, competitive context, we swing from frenetic labor to “I’m going to go into major debt because I want that boat” without much thought. We are always striving, in work and in play, to keep up with…someone. Something. It’s rather ill-defined. We know for certain, however, that we are always and inevitably coming up short. Nothing is ever good enough. We are never good enough.

So onto the next deadline so we can get the next iPhone that we’ll have to make payments on by logging more hours.

Strangely, despite all the overtime and the missed vacation days, we lack discipline.

Really, we do. It’s not good that 40 hours a week is often understood to actually be 60, with little to no overtime pay. Or, if overtime is given, a tongue-lashing from the numbers guy comes along with it. “Yes, we need you to do this project that requires 87 hours of work but you have to get it done in 39.5. Kthanksbye.” There is no satisfaction accompanying a job well done, because the job is never done.

No discipline Monday-Friday equals no discipline on the weekends. Stay up too late, sleep too long, spend too much, drink too much, eat too much, shop too much. Hungover, emotionally or physically, we head back into the workweek, the ever-revolving hamster wheel of tasks and expectations.

On and on it goes.

Paul wrote:

…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

– Philippians 4:11b-12 (NKJV)

We don’t know how to do any of that. We don’t know how to be content in plenty. We don’t know how to be content in leanness. We don’t know how to be content, period.

Because we’re looking at the wrong things.

The big house isn’t going to silence the soul-gnawing sense of desperation. The corner office isn’t going to make the sacrifice of family and friends worthwhile. The string of letters on the parchment paper won’t bring peace. The money in the bank won’t achieve security.

Paul goes on:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

– 4:13 (NKJV)

We quote this verse out of context all the time. I know I have.

Paul is grateful, and in spite of periods of difficulty, he has learned to be content (v. 11). Note that he learned this! He did not rely on favorable circumstances for his joy and strength. He found these in a higher source: in Christ (v. 13).

Asbury Bible Commentary

Doing “all things” isn’t about achievement. It’s about facing whatever the day holds in the knowledge that Chris is always present. Does that mean we deny problems? No. Force ourselves to shun treats? Of course not. Put simply, “all things,” for the believer, are mere things. Seasons. Times. Moments that pass. Christ is the end-goal, the treasure.

Knowing this is the only way that we can be content, and out of that contentment arises the ability to set boundaries. I don’t have to do the work of three people. I can say “no.” I don’t have to buy this thing that I don’t have money for. I can enjoy what I already have. Understanding that Jesus is King and that we are His children means that we don’t have to strive. We don’t have to get caught in the rat race or possess all that is shiny.

Of course, we cannot attain this perspective on our own. We’re not amazing like that. The only way we can conclude that this life, this world is not all there is and that something else matters a whole lot more is through the power of the Holy Spirit. We have to ask for His eyes. We have to ask Him for faith.

So, yes, work hard. And treat yo self. Just remember, neither in the working nor the treating does contentment lie.

Find it in the arms of Jesus.

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Still Typing After all These Years

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Ten years.

A decade.

Three books. An entry in an anthology. Appearances on other sites. Hours wrestling with shortcode. Discovering that I like wrestling with shortcode and other aspects of web design. Over 700 posts. (Somewhere around 800 if you count the ones I’ve purged).

You’d think that I would have run out of things to say by now.

I’ve crossed the line into being an “old timer” within the blogging community. I remember the days when Facebook notes were the thing and I had a LiveJournal account at one point. Before that was the glory and grandeur of MySpace. (Remember Tom)? If there was a free, online platform for me to try, I tried it. Blogger, Google+, TypePad…

If I were doing this the “right” way, I’d give you a list of things I’ve learned and tell you how to build a “successful” blog. I would wax poetic about how wonderful it is to be a writer. But I listicles aren’t really my thing and the most important lesson I can share with you is to never write when you’re angry. While it is wonderful to be a writer, it’s also difficult. It really cutting veins open and splashing blood on the page. Even the most detached, clinical of us knows the struggle and vulnerability inherent in hitting “publish.”

Honestly, I’m at a loss as to how to mark this anniversary. A lot of life has happened. I’m not who I was when I began this practice of putting my words out there for any and all to consume. I had hopes of gaining influence back then. Maybe a little money. Now the number of subscribers I have scares me; it’s a great privilege and responsibility. I can’t be flippant about speaking into anyone’s life. My bank account has seen very little action, which, let’s be real, is discouraging. It’s hard when nobody seems to want your stuff. But that just means the value of my books will go up after I die, right? Starving artist and all that?

Guess my twisted sense of humor remains the same.

Admittedly, I wonder if anything I write truly matters. Do I make a difference? Has anyone come to know and love the Lord even a little bit better because of something they’ve read here?

Maybe I won’t know until Heaven.

Maybe it’s not even about that. Maybe it’s only and always about simply being faithful to share the Gospel the best way I know how. The rest is between the internet surfer and God.

So, I continue on along the way. Certainly older, perhaps a little wiser, definitely with more grey hair. Oh, and scars. A lot more scars. Literally and figuratively.

Thank you, dear reader, for journeying with me. It is my honor to walk this road with you. I wish I could sit across a table from you, see your face and hear your story, while we indulge in some fried chicken and chocolate ice cream. (I’m a medically-mandated clean eater. That meal sounds fabulous to me right now). Until such time when our meeting is possible, I will continue to imagine you on the other side of the screen. I will continue to pray that you come to know and rest in the limitless love of the Savior who gave His all for you. May you be encouraged and equipped to live faithfully in this crazy world.

Onward.

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Photo Credit: Christin Hume