Five Minute Friday: Anniversary

Anniversary

Gentle Reader,

I spent so much time on the phone today. Good conversations, but I’m really feeling the need to crawl up in my introvert ball.

Kate says: anniversary.

Go.

Tomorrow is the thirty-fourth anniversary of my birth. At 1:16 p.m. I will officially slide into the middle part of my third decade.

I’m supposed to dislike that. I’m supposed to feel bad about aging, the gray hairs and the fine lines. Men become “distinguished” with the passage of time. Women are rarely given that moniker. Instead, we are pressured to spend thousands of dollars attempting to make ourselves look as though we are, at most, twenty-one.

Dude. I don’t want to go back to twenty-one. I don’t want to go back to any year of my life. Why should I strive to appear as I did in one of those years?

I like getting older. With each passing day I learn, bit by bit, how to stand my ground when it matters and how to let it go when it doesn’t. I no longer feel too self-conscious to go out in public without makeup. I don’t believe myself to be “ugly” because I have curly hair. I read and grow and think.

I’m glad to celebrate another year because I know that God is with me. Nothing that will come my way in the next days will be anything that I face alone. He is present. Faithful. Good. Kind.

I am happy to be His daughter.

Stop.

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Melted Chocolate Blanket

Melted

Gentle Reader,

I feel quiet.

There has to be a better way of describing the sense that pervades my body. Usually, all cells are on high alert, every neuron firing quickly, every chemical either too abundant or to scarce for equilibrium. Though one who despises feeling and has moments of wishing she could actually become a robot, I feel deeply, constantly and unendingly. Changes in environment give me headaches. A furtive glance from someone, anyone, makes my mind whir, attempting to discern the meaning. One stress-point away from panic. Code Red, all the time, always.

But today: not.

No hum in my brain, no throb in my veins, no ache in my stomach. It’s like I’m cocooned in a blanket made of melted chocolate. Not too hot, not to cold. Just right. (And, if such a thing existed, delicious).

It’s a wonder to feel this way. The husband and I were talking the other night about how we both have a niggling wondering in the back of our minds every moment of each day – Is this it? Will the world break out into war right now? Is someone pressing the button to launch the nuke? Those questions are not unique to our generation, of course. But they sure are exhausting.

Because we all want peace. We all want safety.

At least, I think we do. I hope we do. The screaming heads that make their way to the television screens and the Twitter streams can’t be representative of the majority – can they?

I sip my iced coffee as I look at the screen and wonder where this post is coming from and where it is going. That’s the thing with writing; the author doesn’t always know. My desire is to communicate…something to you today, something that I’m not sure I can find the words for.

The Psalmist says it best:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

– Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

We’ve heard this verse a million times. People love to quote it at those who feel stressed out. Be still, man. God has you. That’s true. That’s not what I want to talk about.

Rûm: to rise, rise up, be high, be lofty, be exalted

StudyLight

Exalt: to elevate by praise or in estimation

Merriam-Webster

So many people clamor for our attention. So many people want to convince us that they, and they alone, have all the answers. Pundits and lobbyists and advertisers and celebrities. People who, more often than not, have no actual expertise in the area about which they are pontificating. But they catch our attention. Because they’re loud and flashy and popular and we all want to be part of what’s popular.

Meanwhile, God doesn’t scream. He doesn’t strive. He doesn’t bully or push us. He doesn’t jump on bandwagons, make false promises or have to “walk back” anything He says. The lesson in confidence and identity is not learned in studying the biggest Instagram influencer or reading yet another self-help article (like we have time or attention for books these days. Yes, that’s me throwing shade. Go get a library card). It’s learned by looking at God.

He is who He is. He will do what He says He will do.

Period.

Let Christ Himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For He, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to His prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, He humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death He died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted Him so high, and has given Him the name beyond all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that is why, in the end, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

– Philippians 2:5-11 (Phillips)

I’ve read, quoted and written about these verses more times than I can recall. Can’t help but dwell on them again as I consider God’s exaltation guarantee. It’s going to happen. The time will come when He will be lifted up. He will be praised. There will be no more debate or questions. Everyone who was, is and has yet to be will hit the deck in adoration.

Isn’t it interesting that He waits? That He doesn’t go on a cable infotainment show to try to prove how great He is? God is utterly, completely, secure in Himself. Human opinion doesn’t rattle Him in the slightest. He’s just not…bothered by whatever the theological equivalent of internet trolls are. He keeps on loving, keeps on tirelessly working to draw people to Himself, keeps on unfolding the plan set in motion since before time began.

Meditating on this reality is, I think, where the melted chocolate blanket feeling comes from. If God is secure and I am in Him, then I am secure. My identity, value, reputation, gifts, talents, all of it. None of it rests on any person who is just as flawed, fragile and feeble as me. I do not have to attempt to dredge up a sense of well-being in this stupid, chaotic world by clinging to a brand or a place or a political party. People don’t like what I write, okay. My name gets dragged through the mud, all right. Someone does hit that bomb button, hello nuclear winter and Heaven.

Someone said to me recently, “What people want is peace. They think they want solutions to this or that problem, but the driving thing is the longing for peace. Only God can bring that.” 

Only God can bring the peace because only He is peace. In knowing and loving Him is found the strength, the iron will, the sheer cussed stubbornness to keep going. Preaching the words that glorify Him. Working for the things that please Him. Loving as He loves. Even when someone whips those words back at you like a cat o’ nine tails. Even when the job never gets done. Even when hate would be easier than love.

We have a chance to be truly different when we follow Christ. In fact, that’s kind of a big part of the point. Transformation isn’t just about Eternity. It’s about the here and now. No screaming, scrabbling or stabbing for us. Instead, let’s walk through this world with quiet dignity and grace, leaving footprints of mercy and justice wherever we go. Let’s embrace and live out our status as culturally dissident residents of an alien nation, illegal spiritual immigrants who won’t assimilate into the larger society. Not because we are reactive and hostile, but because we hold onto the peace of the melted chocolate blanket.

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Five Minute Friday: Vacation

Vacation

Gentle Reader,

My mom is gone this week, visiting family. I’ve been tasked with checking in on her dog, who hates everyone. No, he really does. He’s a Pomeranian, a breed known for fiercely bonding to one human and one human only. That’s exactly what this pipsqueak has done. He’s practically beside himself with grief but he won’t let anyone comfort him. Instead, he tries to bite all of us.

Kate says: vacation.

Go.

We didn’t go on vacation often when I was a child. The money just wasn’t available for stuff like that. So, when my mom sensed that we were all getting tired and stress out, she would declare a “vacation day.” The phone would be unplugged, chores would be ignored, naps were encouraged. We would watch old movies (if my dad got to choose, usually a John Wayne flick) and have picnics on the living room floor. If the “vacation day” occurred during winter, sometimes she would crank up the thermostat so we could all walk around in shorts and pretend that spring, rather than another blizzard, was just around the corner.

I didn’t know it then, but my mom was making the most out of what we had. She found ways to turn cabin fever or the inability to play due to sunburns into something fun. Laying on the floor eating a fudgesicle. Playing checkers with my brother, classical music playing (which prompted us to dramatically narrate our games). On warm, clear nights, sitting on a blanket in the front yard, watching the stars while the crickets chirped and the frogs croaked.

Simple. Unrushed.

What I also didn’t know is that she was actively modeling Sabbath rest. Now, as an adult, it’s extremely important to me to get away from the usual from time to time, even if it’s just by closing off the laptop and refusing to do more than read a book for a few hours. Doing so allows my brain to ooze out my ear, the grotesque phrase that I like to use when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to disengage. Strangely, and probably by design, some of my best thinking and processing occurs when I’m not focused on anything in particular.

Get away this weekend. You don’t have to go far. You don’t even have to leave your house. Just do something fun and restorative. The options are only as limited as your imagination.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: If

Repent

Gentle Reader,

So I was asleep on the couch before 6:00 p.m. last night and woke up long enough to wash my face, throw on some sweats and drop into bed.

Kate says: if.

Go.

Like all human beings, there are moments when I intentionally stir the pot or poke the bear because I want to see what happens. It’s like when you fight with a sibling; you know what buttons to push to really drive him crazy. And it always ends with everyone in angry tears.

But when I write about serious issues, it is not my intention to just throw a fire cracker into a circle of people so I can watch them freak out. It’s because I’m observing and participating in what’s happening in our churches, in our country, and it’s all disturbing. Deep, soul-roiling disturbing. I don’t pretend to be the smartest or to know the most, but I know enough to be able to confidently assert that faith and politics, whether of the conservative or liberal variety, have been conflated to the degree that party/ideology is seen as the savior.

We’ve very much become “Jesus, and…” people. Defending abhorrent actions of leaders, believing that the end justifies the means. Jesus and the Supreme Court appointee that we want. Jesus and the passage of this law. Jesus and us in a position of power. 

If we don’t step back and critically, even mercilessly, evaluate our actions, positions and words, we are in danger of truly destroying our witness in this country. People who are far smarter and wiser than I bluntly say that we need to repent. Those who don’t follow Christ need to see us, hear us, repent.

God, forgive us, forgive me, for focusing on the temporal. You tell us that we are strangers and aliens. You tell us that this world isn’t our home. You tell us that we are to be servants, that we don’t have permission to oppress others. You say that if we love You, we will show it by obeying Your commands – to love others, to speak truth, to do justly, to walk humbly. Empower us, Father, to make the choice that we cannot make on our own, which is to be about Your business. To prioritize Your will over and above all else. Help us remember that Your church spans the globe and encompasses all nationalities, ethnicities and languages. Our identity is found in You, not in the soil upon which we were born or live.

Forgive us for turning a blind eye to sin or attempting to justify it because we think we can get something out of the person or the decision. Forgive us for remaining silent in the face of evil. Forgive us for ignoring the bleeding man on the road. Forgive us for our pride and our complacency.

Holy Spirit, lay Your hand of conviction heavily upon us. Show us where we, where I, have gone wrong. Grant us eyes to see and ears to hear. Cleanse us, Jesus. Renew our hearts. Fill us with holy love and zeal. In the Name of Christ, Amen.

Stop.

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