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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The Hard Things

Gentle Reader,

Following my month(ish) fast from social media, I’ve changed the way I use the medium.

If I’m going to be on it, then I want to share things of value. Hard things. Deep things. There are conversations that need to be had. Ugly truths to confront.

Selfies aren’t bad. Fun stories aren’t bad. For me, in this season, the balance is simply tipped toward the thoughtful.

I read a lot of theological stuff. And political stuff. So I’m going to share that. I’m going to offer my imperfect commentary. Because I see a church that isn’t dealing well with the world around us. Instead of grappling with ideas and opinions, we whine that we no longer have a place of privilege. Instead of accepting the consequences of our belief with integrity and dignity, we moan about civil liberties.

Is it hard to be rejected? Tough to be mocked? Yes. Get used to it.

We who long to see those around us come to Christ had better learn to ask them the right kind of questions. To keep our heads cool. To develop a thick skin. To earn the right to speak into their lives. We need to know what we believe, why we believe it and be able to present the Gospel with love, simplicity and logic.

We are each given a voice. I am choosing to use mine in a way that I hope draws those who call themselves Christians to consider whether the way they live that out is consistent. Because the world is desperate for our consistency. We cannot preach peace and then turn a blind eye to a massacre at a gay nightclub, twiddling our thumbs as evil men who dare call themselves pastors rejoice in murder. Nor can we preach sin and the Cross and then say, “Oh, that thing the Bible calls sin? It’s really not.” There is no end to that slide.

I also hope to draw those who are not Christians to consider the Gospel. The real Gospel. Not this “Jesus and…” crap that far too many promote. You know what? The God, the faith that most people reject – I reject it, too. Because it’s not what’s real, what’s true.

We who are indwelt by the Spirit of the Living God do not belong to this world, but we do live in it. We’d best start learning how to navigate that tension. We’d best shake off our spiritual stupor and wake up. Grow up. Learn to think deeply and well. God is all about your heart, but He’s all about your mind as well. About time the two began to connect.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Odyssey Online

 

Five Minute Friday: Grow

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Wicked headache yesterday. Spent my time curled up on the couch, attempting to sleep it off. The dogs made sure to get up in my face to see if they could provide any comfort by way of hot breath and calloused paws. The husband brought me an iced coffee in the hope that a jolt of caffeine would soothe the pain. Pain pills and ice packs later, I’m upright but not entirely human.

Kate says: grow.

Go.

I’m taking a break from social media.

Facebook and Twitter can be great things. I’ve connected with wonderful people across the miles through those platforms. My church family shares prayer requests and praises on our group page. There are times when social media is beautiful.

Then there are times, like right now, when it’s a time-sucking waste. I don’t care what dress some flash-in-the-pan celebrity wore to the latest narcissistic awards show. (How is that even a trending news item, anyway?) I don’t care that someone to whom I barely spoke in high school wants to be friends now. I don’t care about Farmville or whatever it is the kids are playing these days. I don’t care about David Avocado Wolfe and his octaves of sunlight and other ridiculousness that is relentlessly shared.

But I stay engaged, despite the not caring. Because I want to be distracted. From what is good and better. From what I need to focus on right now.

Growing up is hard to do. Again, social media is not the great ill of the world. It’s a useful tool. Did you read that correctly? A tool. Not a means of measuring the quality of friendship. Not a way to feed the gnawing hunger for recognition. Not a good use of the hours we have been given when other duties and delights are clearly shoved to the background.

I have a love-hate thing going on here and I’ve crossed into the “hate” phase. In a world of immediacy, I crave distance. Quiet. While I’ll never completely abandon social media, especially as a blogger, it’s time for me to take a soul inventory. What needs to go? What needs to stay? What should be added? How is God directing me to order my days so that He can grow me into the woman He wants me to be?

I don’t have clear answers to those questions, but this I do know: The feeds don’t satisfy. They are junk food, empty calories. I need substance.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Alexander Filonchick

Finding My Voice

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Gentle Reader,

Something has clicked for me.

It began on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, referenced in this post. I certainly don’t think that social media is the place to air each and every thought and emotion. I don’t think blogging is the appropriate place for that, either. Nobody likes a constant stream of word-vomit. Discretion and wisdom are necessary in the online life (not to mention the “real” life). It’s important to consider what and how we share. Some things are great for general discussion. Others should be kept between trusted friends and family. Still others are meant to be hashed out with God alone.

So I’m not about to pontificate on every issue under the sun. But neither am I going to go out of my way to avoid voicing an opinion.

I’ve been doing that. Keeping silent. Honestly, part of that is because I think a lot of what passes for urgent these days is just a waste of time. People need to get off the computer and go do something worthwhile. Volunteering at the shelter has really changed my perspective. There are much bigger things going on in the world than what kind of meat to eat or if meat should even be eaten at all.

But it’s more than that. My friendships span a wide spectrum. Vegans and carnivores. Atheists and Christians. Pro-vax and anti-vax. I’ve often been reluctant to “like” or “share” a post because “what if so-and-so sees I did?” I’ve shied away from leaving comments because “what if so-and-so gets angry?”

And then the clicking.

First, I realized that it made no sense whatsoever that I would allow others the freedom to share their views, even views that I highly disagree with or find offensive, while not allowing myself the same freedom. Second, I realized that if a friendship falls apart because of differing takes on such trivial matters then it wasn’t really a friendship to begin with. Third, and perhaps most crucially, I understand the difference between attacking a person and criticism of a stance. No longer do I tolerate someone who chooses to be insulting on a consistent basis but I don’t at all mind someone who challenges my way of thinking. If I can be challenged, then I can challenge others. That’s healthy discourse.

All of these thoughts were subconscious. I haven’t been able to articulate them until today.

The third point in the above stirs me. We as a society have conflated personal attack and ideological criticism. We assume that anyone who holds a different position is saying something nasty and personal. We don’t know how to handle relationships that aren’t 100% square in all things. All too often we run away from anyone who dares to disagree. That bothers me a great deal. I don’t want to live in a world where everyone thinks exactly the same as I do. Heaven forbid I ever start to think that I can’t learn anything from anyone, that my way is the only right way. (Obviously I’m not talking about Jesus here, so don’t even start to think that I’m saying something about all religions being equal).

Disagreement is normal. It’s fine. It doesn’t have to be vicious.

I’ve chosen to step out and share my thoughts about some controversial things on my Facebook page. I said the Affordable Health Care Act is a joke because it’s not true reform at all, though I hardly place all the blame for that on the shoulders of the President. I said that I’m tired of articles that talk about how much the Church sucks because the people who write them are largely of my whiny, lazy, self-centered, entitled generation; a generation who, as a general rule, refuses to acknowledge its own responsibility in anything. I came out as a pro-vaxxer. (This last one may actually lose me some friends and I seriously don’t get it. I don’t understand why this is such a heated topic. Or even a topic for debate at all. But again, I fully support everyone’s right to think that they want).

You know what?

It felt good.

So, so good.

I didn’t call anyone names. Just said what I thought. It’s fine with me if other people disagree. We can talk. If they don’t want to talk, if they want to walk away, that’s fine, too. Sad, but fine. I have no control over anyone’s response.

Maybe it’s because I’m 30. Maybe it’s because I had a tumor. I don’t know. I’m just done with being scared. I’m so, so, so tired of letting other people have that much influence over me. I’m disgusted with the stupid, ridiculous fights I see over minute, ultimately meaningless details when there’s a lost, broken world dying for truth. I’m over all of it. Sure, I’ll tell you what I think and I find a new sense of freedom in that, but I’m not going to fight about it. I have better things to do.

Frankly, so does everyone else.

My journey to faith. (15)