These Words of Mine

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I’m not serious enough for the academy. Nor am I funny enough to go into comedy. Too liberal for my conservative friends and too conservative for the liberal ones. A Christian and a feminist in a time and place when many think the two cannot coexist. It’s a strange space in which to dwell.

This is on my mind today because people have asked me recently why I write the way I do. Why a piece on a Monday bordering on (but never quite crossing into) the academic followed by a piece on a Friday in the style of a stream-of-consciousness journal entry? Why the polemical cozied up to the fluffy? Why the sarcasm tucked into the serious?

I don’t think about my “craft” or “art” that often. (Seems awfully pretentious to use those terms in relation to these little scribbles). I don’t consider the why or the ways. Rarely do I plan or outline. I sit down, I write. That’s it.

My version of thinking out loud, I suppose.

The juxtaposition of the deep and the wide, the theological and the absurd, the reflective and the shallow found here isn’t an attempt to be either clever or jarring. I don’t know how to write any other way because I don’t know how to think any other way. Yes, let’s talk Kierkegaard and textual criticism and politics and then in the next breath shout “irregardless!” in the affected Southie accent of Sully and Denise. (Thank you, Tina Fey). Let’s hopscotch from Jonah’s anger to the unabashed delight found in eating a fresh chocolate chip cookie. Let’s intensely study the role of women in church and society and then riff on that weird thing that one dude said.

Maybe it’s a little manic. I don’t know. I just can’t handle being serious all the time. I can’t. The bent of my nature is toward the gloom and the doom. A certain heaviness always weighs upon me. If I don’t tackle the sunlight and the laughter, I’m done for. I know that there are important issues. I know that things are happening. I know that responses must be weighed, measured and crafted. I understand the responsibility found in casting my words to the wind.

Yet I believe that silliness is a must. We need silly. We need fun. We need to laugh so hard that the sound ceases and the tears of happiness roll. Without the precious gift of humor, we’ll be swallowed up and washed away by tsunamis of fear and bitterness. And just what would be the point of that?

I wonder what might happen if we began to be known for our smiles instead of our frowns. Again, I know. We have responsibilities. We bear the Gospel message. We must stand for justice. There are bills to pay and kids to raise and relationships to tend. There are deadlines and housework and doctor visits. Hard, bad things happen and we suffer.

But what if, somehow, all of it was navigated with a smile, a chuckle and a gentle hand? What if we moved about on this earth as people who understand that joy – even happy – is a good thing? A necessary thing? As people who understand that faith and sour expressions are not meant to go together?

I do not mean denial or hiding. What we need to do is give ourselves permission to giggle. To unplug from all the deep, heavy stuff and sigh with laughter. The deep, heavy stuff will be there later. Just for a moment, set it down. Let it go. Throw your arms open and do a ridiculous little dance. Poke fun at the big, scary thing.

God knows we’ll be crushed if we don’t laugh. Wit and sarcasm are liberally sprinkled throughout the Bible. And have you seen some of the animals out there? Ridiculous.

Sometimes we just need a release. We can come back to the important things later. We need to pause and say, “This is so weird and I’m tickled over it.” Like a bright little buoy bouncing on choppy seas.

That’s why I write the way I do.

My journey to faith. (15)

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Sola What?: Conclusion

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This post was edited September 26, 2014. Edits appear in red italics.

Gentle Reader,

We have barely scratched the surface of the history and theology surrounding the solae and the various issues associated with each. Scores of books have been written on these subjects; it is an impossible thing indeed to do them justice on a blog.

So, how to conclude? I quote Jonathan Edwards:

He that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.

As there is one theology but many who examine it, there are bound to be disagreements. There are bound to be differences in view and opinion. Does this mean that we Christians cannot live in love? Must I breathe hate toward my Calvinist brother or sister? Must sweeping and ignorant judgments be passed by Protestants upon the Catholic Church? I say no.

I also say that we must not sugar-coat truth in order to make it more palatable. Extra-Biblical doctrines have no place in the life of a Christian. We must cling to that which is found in Scripture, that which is spelled out clearly for us. In this clinging, we must pursue unity. Not uniformity, but unity.  

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.  I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they may be one as We are one — I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.

“Father, I want those you have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent Me. I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I Myself may be in them.” – John 17:20-25 (NKJV)

My journey to faith. (15)

For all posts in the Sola What? series, go here.

Hello There

Hi

Gentle Reader,

It’s amazing how quickly this break has gone by. I’d like to say it was because I was having immeasurable amounts of fun, but the reality is that I spent quite a lot of time coming and going. My companion in this travel? Doctors. Just shy of two weeks ago, I had my gallbladder removed. Despite several tests coming back negative for problems, pain persisted (and worsened), so the surgeon decided it was best to get it out of there. And it was. A 2 millimeter stone was blocking one of the ducts (considering that the ducts are 1 millimeter in diameter, this was an issue) and the other ducts were twisted and misshapen. This little organ attached to the liver was never going to get better on its own.

Recovery hasn’t been awful, though I don’t recommend popping in of an afternoon and having an organ removed, no matter how small. The worst part has been my inability to use the prescribed painkillers, as they made me sick. (I’ll spare you the gory details). My belly button, sadly, will never be the same again and I look like I was shot three times in the abdomen. I’ll no doubt have some pretty amazing scars by the time all is said and done. Still, I’d rather have scars than excruciating pain every time I eat.

That’s not all that happened during the Great Blogging Hiatus of 2012, however. In no particular or significant order, here are some things I learned:

1. Sometimes the words won’t come.

I fully expected to journal like mad during Lent, thinking that I would surely need some sort of creative outlet. I think I wrote twice, maybe three times in my little notebook. At first, this unnerved me. If you consider yourself a writer of any sort, you expect to have words. You love words. They are your gloriously varied colors with which to fill the blank canvas with the mocking, blinking cursor. If you don’t have words, what do you have? I’m certainly not a speaker. I’d much rather do all communicating by email, but nobody wants to cooperate with me in that.

This lack of words turned out to be a good thing. While I continue to doubt my suitability for any type of speech-making, I found myself battling through the tongue-tied anxiety that continually plagues me. I said things. Important things, silly things. Sometimes just groans. I yelled at God once. I apologized later.

Sometimes the words won’t come out onto the page, but they will come out via the tongue. That’s scary – and necessary.

2. You can’t force reconciliation. 

The Lord is in the business of reconciliation and restoration. I’m pretty sure He invented the ideas. As His child, there have been multiple times when I’ve been prompted by the Spirit to reach out to someone I just really didn’t want to reach out to. (That’s how I know when something is from God – when it’s definitely not my idea). I don’t like conflict and I like the messy business of repair even less. I have, however, had largely positive experiences in this arena.

Until now.

I had a falling out with someone awhile back, and we haven’t spoken in over two years. I have no delusions as to what reconciliation would look like. I don’t expect to be close friends or even friends at all. What I would like is to be able to associate with this person in a loving way, especially since we have mutual friends. I’d like to not feel hot with fear and run the other direction when I see this person in the store. So, I sent out a little note. Nothing major. Just a, “It’s been a long time and I would like to reconnect.”

No response.

You can’t make other people participate in the process of reconciliation. I think that’s partly what Paul meant when he wrote that we are to be at peace with all people (Romans 12:18). I’ve done all that I can; all that God wants me to do. I can be at peace with this person, even if it is not reciprocated.

3. Love grows.

I love Chris more today than I did all those weeks ago. He patiently took me to every doctor’s appointment his schedule would allow, and if he couldn’t be there, made sure I wasn’t alone. He held my hand and prayed with me right up to the moment the nurse wheeled me into the operating room. His was the first face I saw when I came into recovery. He didn’t once make fun of me for sleeping with the two stuffed animals I carried over from childhood. He set his alarm and got up every four hours to feed me saltines and painkillers. He held my hair back when I couldn’t keep those saltines and painkillers down.

My man is amazing. I see Jesus in him every time he assures me that we’ll be taken care of, no matter what the check register says. I see him working to put aside his own fears, knowing that I need encouragement. I literally cannot imagine my life with anyone else, and don’t even want to try.

4. Casseroles and cards come from the heart.

I don’t even begin to know how to thank my church family for bringing us dinner, for the cards that arrived in the mail and the prayers I know were sent to the Throne Room on my behalf. We’re not a perfect family. In fact, we’re pretty dysfunctional. That’s what makes the love we have for each other and the grace that is given all the more amazing.

5. There is something about family.

A few days after my surgery, we went to my parent’s house as we usually do for Sunday dinner. I was still pretty out of it and in a lot of pain. It felt so good to lay on the couch and know that Mom, Dad and my brother, Ben, were all nearby. This family isn’t perfect, either, but I feel safe there. I can show up without makeup, hobble down the stairs and cry ’cause it hurts – and that’s okay. Nobody minds.

6. A public platform is a powerful thing.

It is fearsome to be a blogger. I never know who might be reading these thoughts of mine. That can be a heady thing – tracking site statistics, engaging in comment conversation, looking for just the right “hook.” While none of these things are wrong in themselves, I became acutely aware of how easy it would be to use this site in a God-dishonoring way. I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I have very few. I can’t fix anyone’s life. If I use this little corner of the Internet to promote myself… Well, I hope that’s the day my laptop explodes.

I’m not kidding. Everyone’s got an opinion, a thought, an idea. I want to point you to the One whose opinions, thoughts and ideas really matter. Without Him, I am nothing.

7a. Memorizing Scripture actually works.

I’d like to say I’m bad at memorization, but the truth is that I just don’t. It’s a matter of laziness. After going through such a difficult Autumn, I made memorizing Scripture one of my goals for 2012. Those words have become a lifeline.

I have long struggled with having assurance when it comes to salvation. This stems from my perfectionism and anxiety, to be sure. Having seen far too many Dateline specials about surgery screw-ups, I was deeply afraid of dying on the table – and ending up in Hell. As panic began to set in, I felt the Lord speak to my spirit. Would I choose to trust the words I had put into my heart? Would I rest in the words that I have poured over, picked apart and studied? Would I believe that the blood of Christ really is enough?

It would be nice if I could tell you that my response was easy, but I wrestled. Would He really be with me in that operating room? Would He really accept me into His arms if the end of my time had come?

7b. It’s my choice.

There are very few things in life that I can control, but one of those things is my reaction. I can say “yes.” I can say “no.” I can freak out or access the calmness of God. I can do things my own way or seek His wisdom. It’s my choice.

Lying on that hospital bed, listening to my husband pray, it dawned on me that I had to choose. Faith really isn’t just a one-time decision. It’s a moment-by-frightening-moment deal. So, with a deep breath, I told God, “Okay. I trust You. I trust that You have saved me and that You will be with me. I won’t worry. I am persuaded. You are strong.”

I had to choose. It’s a mind-stretching and heart-wrenching thing sometimes. I came through the surgery and I believe that I would have been welcomed into Heaven had I not, but the journey’s not over. There are mounting medical bills and it’s not entirely clear how we will make the house payment this month. Again I will have to choose whether to give in to the fear or allow God’s strength to enable me to stand and do battle.

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Life is Good As it Is

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Gentle Reader,

A month ago I was told that it will be very difficult for me to get pregnant, if not impossible. There is a good possibility that I am experiencing what is known as Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), thought to be brought on by a viral infection or an autoimmune disorder. As CFIDS is also thought to stem from these causes, I was not surprised as I read through the information.

As I’ve shared this news with others, I’ve gotten very sympathetic responses. The trouble is…well, I don’t feel like I need sympathetic responses.

I’m genuinely okay with not being able to get pregnant. If it’s in God’s plan and it happens, I have no doubt that I would love that child dearly. But I’ve never had the desire to experience pregnancy. Nothing about it appeals to me. Now, don’t read that and assume that I hate children. I don’t. I think they’re hilarious, insightful and beyond precious. I’ve just never had that drive to grow one inside me.

I don’t have, as one blogger calls it, “a wound that never heals and leaves a dull ache.” I don’t feel like less of a woman. Was Eve a woman simply because she had children? No. She was a woman because she was created that way. The intrinsic nature of womanhood is not directly tied to the functioning of the uterus and ovaries. It is tied, rather, to the pieces of God’s image woman reflects.

Perhaps this makes me an oddity. I don’t know. All I do know is that I don’t toss and turn at night, agonizing over the fact that I won’t experience that sacred nine-month mystery and then hold a wee one in my arms.

The pain that women who face infertility when they long to be pregnant is real and completely legitimate. I don’t wish to minimize that in any way. I also don’t want to pretend that I feel what I don’t feel. While I appreciate the kind words and the loving prayers, what I’d really like is acceptance. This might sound very harsh to you, but you don’t need to pray that God will open my womb. You don’t need to pray that I will be comforted in my grief. I don’t feel grief. I am convinced that there is a plan for me, as I am, and that His plan is good. Moreover, I take these words as His promise to me:

Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby.
Fill the air with song, you who’ve never experienced childbirth!
You’re ending up with far more children
than all those childbearing women.’ God says so!

– Isaiah 54:1 (MSG)

I can think of at least two dozen little ones whose lives I am privileged to be part of. I smile as their faces flash before my mind’s eye. I get to be the Auntie with the listening ear and the sugary treat. I get to be one who influences the lives of far more children than I perhaps could if I had my own.

I hope to one day adopt; I can think of nothing more honorable or amazing than that. For now, I am happy with my husband, my dogs and all those beautiful kids. Life is good as it is.

My journey to faith. (15)