Being for the Benefit of Madam G

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Gentle Reader,

Thank you, John Lennon. (If you don’t get the reference, please leave this site and go listen to all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band right now).

Whenever I don’t stick to my self-imposed writing schedule, I have a sense of needing to apologize to you. As if I’ve failed. And I did fail the last two weeks, physically. An out-of-nowhere cold knocked me flat. Then the smoke of annual fires rolled in. The world is a haze of sepia and ash. My garden, vegetables and flowers alike, looks awful, as if it, too, is struggling to breathe.

As I’ve coughed and sniffed and worked to keep my lungs inside my body, I’ve thought a great deal about this blog. Something about this being its tenth year of existence is extremely bothersome to me. Instead of feeling grateful, I am discontented. I think I finally know why, or at least a bit of the why.

For so long I have kept to regular posting. I’ve worked hard to have at least two articles a week appear here, rain or shine. I like routine. I like discipline. I understand the value of both.

But I can’t do it anymore.

Authors always debate how much inspiration really matters. Many, far smarter than I, believe that it’s the grit that counts. You sit down at the same time, every day, and crack on. That has generally been my attitude. No big thing can be achieved without the small, plodding steps.

I am beginning to see, however, that there is value in looseness. Maybe it doesn’t always have to be about schedules and SEOs and striving. Maybe there is wisdom in publishing only when you truly have something to say.

I have a novel that I haven’t touched since February and an idea for another rolling around my head. It’s time to give space and energy to those pursuits.

And so Madam G, for the foreseeable future, will post only when she wants to. It is to her benefit to retreat a little. (That’s a creepy third-person thing there, but I had to reference the title somehow). Participation in Five Minute Friday will continue, because that community means a lot to me and the prompts manage to meld discipline and inspiration in a way that never seems to run to dryness. Newsletters will continue, but in a more sporadic fashion.

I continue to be thankful for and honored by your presence. The fact that more than a handful of you choose to read these words never ceases to amaze. We’ll still see each other. The journey is far from over.

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Choose the Quiet

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

…aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands…

– 1 Thessalonians 4:11b (NKJV)

In 2002, Gary Jules covered the Tears for Fears song “Mad World” for the movie Donnie Darko. While I have never seen the film, the soft piano notes at the beginning of the song are instantly recognizable. I know that a quiet, breathy male voice will soon tell his story, a story that doesn’t quite make sense. Of course, with a title like “Mad World,” it’s probably not supposed to make sense.

I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad…

Repeated throughout the song, these phrases could be my anthem. I find it funny, as in odd, how the art of reasonable conversation has been lost. I find it sad, too. I find it odd how impossible it is to turn off the noise. Sad, too. Blame social media, blame news organizations, blame whoever and whatever you’d like to blame, but there is no denying the tension that hangs in the air, thick and oppressive.

No denying that our world is, perhaps, a mad place.

And so my verse for the year.

We have to live here. No jumping on a ship bound for Mars. Nothing would be different on Mars, anyway, because we’d be there. The problem is us. We’re stuck with that fact, stuck with each other. Yet we don’t have to live as though this is all there is. We don’t have to maneuver for the best position, the greatest influence, the largest pile of stuff. We don’t have to scrabble and scrape and step on each other. There is a different way.

That way is hēsycházō.

…to keep quiet; to rest, cease from labor; to lead a quiet life, said of those who are not running hither and thither, but stay at home and mind their business; to be silent, i.e. to say nothing, hold one’s peace…

Old / New Testament Greek Lexical Dictionary

Did you know that you can rest? Did you know that it’s okay to have empty spaces on your calendar? Did you know that you don’t have to speak to or about every single issue? Did you know that it’s okay to unplug and unwind?

Did you know that quietness is a command?

God knows more and better than we ever can. How easily we forget this truth. Our minds can’t handle the 24-hours news cycle, which seems to have shrunk to 8 or less. Our hearts can’t handle the constant stress that comparison brings, an inevitability in the age of Facebook and Twitter. Our spirits can’t handle screaming and straining every moment of every day. We are finite. Fragile. Made from the dust that I am constantly working to banish from my home.

Yes, it is true that burying our heads in the sands of denial and ignorance does no good. We are commanded to be quiet, but we are also commanded to be watchful (see Matthew 24:42-44, 25:13). Knowing what is going on is necessary. Making time to engage with the issues of the day is important. This life of faith does not equal mush-brain and hiding. We have to think. We have to learn. We have to grow.

What we don’t have to do is deny our fragility.

Before God made people, He made a garden. He stepped back and looked at everything – mighty trees, dainty flowers, cascading waterfalls. He heard the snuffling of furry creatures and the fluttering of bird’s wings. He paused, took it all in and declared it good.

If God, who has no need for rest, took the time to enjoy the simple beauty of a garden, then who are we to think we can cope with incessant noise?

There is business. There is work. Bills have to be paid and food has to be on the table. Homes must be cared for and jobs must be done well.

There is also the silence of snow falling at midnight. The rise and fall of a dog’s chest as he naps. The feel of a clean pair of socks.

We need space. We need to turn off the computer and tune out the ping of smartphone notifications. For an hour or two. Just long enough to sip coffee and gaze out the front window. Just long enough to gain control over raging emotions and lashing tongues. Just long enough to keep from gossiping. Just long enough to keep from committing to too many things out of guilt or fear. Just long enough to remember that God carries the weight of the world, not us.

We need to choose the quiet.

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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)

Five Minute Friday: Keep

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Gentle Reader,

All the awesome ladies and all the fantastic dudes. The Twitter party. The discussion about cilantro. (For the record, it’s horrible).

Kate. Five Minute Friday. We: keep.

Go.

I was supposed to post on Monday. It’s my day off, so I have time to think and choose my words carefully. It’s my self-imposed writing schedule, without which I will put off the need to tap the keys because it’s not as “important” as other stuff.

But I couldn’t this week.

I had to keep quiet.

Can’t write when I’m angry.

It was a hard lesson to learn and one I’ve definitely not perfected, but I have been foolish enough in the past to hit “publish” on a post that just didn’t need to see the light of day. I’ve used this blog to get in little jabs at people, little digs. That’s never right, and there have been a couple of times when those punches have been thrown for no reason at all. As in I had the wrong information. As in I made a completely unfounded call.

Yeah.

If I must express emotion in written form, I’ve learned to confine it to my journal, where God alone sees. Then it doesn’t matter if it’s coherent or kind. It doesn’t matter if there are large scribbles between paragraphs. I get to tattle on people and blow off steam. Nobody gets hurt in the process.

Strange thing, this learning to keep quiet while at the same time learning to speak up. I know I touched on this last week, but it’s an unfolding reality for me. Words are powerful – but silence can be equally powerful. Both require wisdom and bravery.

So I’m keeping it in for now. Keeping quiet until the heat fades and I can approach the topic from a place of appropriate passion and godly grace.

Stop.

When God decides that it’s time for you to grow, it doesn’t come easily. So many lessons about silence and speech. And a realization that, while I may not be explosive, I really do have a bad temper. I heard somewhere once that sarcasm is just anger with a smile on. While I love a good zinger, there is some truth to that. Some truth that I need to examine more closely.

My journey to faith. (15)