Private Woman, Public Walk

Gentle Reader,

The tree just outside my window transformed seemingly overnight. Sad gray branches suddenly full of green leaves and delicate pink blossoms. Winter has finally passed. Spring, with all it’s bluster and showiness, is here to stay.

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze…

I’ve sung these words more times than I know, and yet, somehow, they remain fresh to me in ways that other words do not. Something in the poetry captures my mind. Perhaps this is because I am inclined to solitude. I don’t mind listening as the wind rustles the new leaves. I like stopping to listen to birdsong. If there’s an opportunity to watch the sun set in real time, I’ll take it. There is such complexity and wonder in nature, such a mark of God’s presence. Others can have the noise of cities and constant movement. I will sit and observe as the clouds change shape.

And yet…

My walk is a public one. My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.

– William Wilberforce

God really does choose the foolish and powerless things of this world (1 Corinthians 1:27) through which to pour His light.

…the logic of the Gospel defies human wisdom and conventional expectations.

Asbury Bible Commentary

I don’t know what God is doing right now, what exactly He is calling me to. I do know that I am most wholly myself when engaged in ministry, whether that be through writing, teaching or preaching. Oh, yes. This shy and often tongue-tied woman has been behind the pulpit (well, music stand) before. It’s exhausting, but I like it. I like it a whole lot.

What I like even more?

Serving.

I want to be of good use in this world. I want to be helpful. I want others to see the hope and love of God when they’re in my presence. Perfect, that’s not a word to describe me, ever, and a state for which I no longer seek to strive. But consistent, constant? Those I like.

What I like even more?

Humble.

The greatest saints I know do the dirtiest jobs, and they often go without recognition. Yet their faces shine with a light that must be akin to that of Moses after he spent time with God (Exodus 34:29-35). They are full of joy, because they serve the King, who sees all. Perfect, they are not either, but definitely consistent and constant. Their wisdom impresses me. Their soft hearts convict my own that is so often hard and impatient. Their complete willingness to do as God leads stirs up a longing inside me.

A longing to be that immediately obedient.

I stood at the front of the sanctuary on Maundy Thursday, loaf of bread in my trembling hands. Thank goodness the pastor thought to wrap the base in a napkin, otherwise my clammy palms would have soaked the crust.

“The Body of Christ, broken for you,” I whispered, seeking to look every person in the eye, even as my vision blurred with tears. Blue eyes, brown eyes. Young eyes, old eyes. Eyes full of life, eyes full of pain.

Hands tore as much off of the loaf as they wanted. Smooth hands, wrinkled hands. Hands of office workers, hands accustomed to manual labor. Chipped nails, glossy nails.

Feet, in sneakers, in heels, in sandals, shuffled over to the cup. “The blood of Christ, spilled for you,” the pastor whispered. Her face, it was shining, a tender smile extended to all.

At once the fear left me and I focused simply on the holy moment. People of disparate backgrounds and experiences drawn together by the sacrament. The remembrance of Christ. The beginning of three days’ somber contemplation before the celebration. The noise of chairs, coughing, the clang of rings against the cup no longer registered in my ears. All I could hear, see, or feel was Christ and His love.

What an incredible privilege!

How wondrous it is, to be part of something logic-defying. How strange, to walk against convention. How utterly impossible, if not for Jesus.

So I will continue, one step at a time. I do not know where this bend in the road will end up, but my business is in the world. My task is among the people. And I think that, because He is a very good God and He knows that I need time and quiet, that there will be space for walking in the woods. There will be moments to feel the breeze. Somehow, solitude and service will join together in the beautiful and mysterious way that bears His mark.

I can’t wait to see what that looks like.

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Worthwhile: Creating a Life of Purpose & Joy in Infertility

Gentle Reader,

“Are you really a woman if you can’t have a baby?”

I’ve been asked this question, in one form or another, many times. It’s on the rude end of the spectrum, and I admit to responding with equal rudeness on occasion. But mostly, I get it. The general assumption, especially within the Christian community, is that woman equals one who gives birth. This is God’s design.

“You must have sinned in a major way. God must be mad at you.”

The bolder sort move from the question to these assertions, which never fails to leave me wondering what Bible people are reading. The God I know is the essence of grace, love and truth. He is not vindictive. He doesn’t engage in tit-for-tat. Can you imagine if He did? We’d all be lost.

This, my friend, is why we must know our theology well…

To read the rest, head on over to Rachel Marie Lee’s site. While you’re there, stay awhile. You’ll find encouragement and hope in her words. Grateful to Rachel for sharing her space with me!

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A Shattering Peace

Gentle Reader,

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

– Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

Don’t you crave this? Not only the peace, but the being called a child of God?

Christians experience joy and self-fulfillment as they contemplate what God is now doing and what He will do when He fully establishes His kingdom at the second coming of Christ. … The reference to the peacemakers involves more than simply avoiding conflict or even attempting to reconcile warring parties (5:9). It stems from the OT understanding of peace (shalom) as comprehensive wholeness and well-being. Those who pursue this kind of peace do all they can to promote the welfare of others (cf. 5:38-48). Since God actively desires wholeness for all persons, He gladly will claim as His own [children] those who share in this enterprise.

Asbury Bible Commentary

Here’s the thing, though: The pursuit of comprehensive wholeness and well-being, for self and for others, doesn’t always feel peaceful.

Such is the nature of obedience. Following where God leads is exactly what we should do. It is the way of fulfillment, of true life, of deep holiness. But it’s not always fun. In fact, sometimes it’s very much like standing at the proverbial fork in the road, knowing in your bones which way to go while also knowing that the next step will take you off the edge of a cliff. Into thin air. Into the wild and unknown.

The other road, it winds away from God and His will, but at least you’ve got footing. It’s familiar, though lacking.

I am desperate for peace. Faulty biology leaves me with a brain consistently on red alert. Experiences, both far and near on the timeline, have me looking over my shoulder. The world is large and noisy. I am small and quiet within it, just trying to get through without causing too much trouble or drawing too much attention. Always ceding space. Allowing my voice, my words, to be smothered. Or claimed by others, never daring to challenge them.

God, He tells me that this isn’t really peace.

And I know that. Because the familiar, it’s frustrating, even as I cling to it.

Something within is begging to be set loose. Perhaps has been for a while. There are things I want to do, things I want to try, desires and dreams and passions long ignored. Pushed aside for…what? Mediocrity? Safety? Keeping others comfortable?

That can’t possibly be the life God designed for me.

Can it?

And so peace can be pain. Deep, sharp, heart-rending pain. Because you can’t be made well and whole until Jesus pulls you apart and puts you together in a way that is for His glory and your best. You can’t step off the cliff until you trust that His hand is there to catch you.

You can’t be a peacemaker until you’ve experienced the peace that shatters your orderly world.

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(Again a) Five Minute Monday: Lack

Gentle Reader,

There is a light at the end of the tunnel of busyness.

Maybe it’s a freight train…

Kate says: lack.

Go.

I lack the ability to see myself as others see me.

Yes, of course, we all deal with that. We’re all surprised by the compliments (and criticisms) that seem to come out of left field. But me, I’m far less taken aback by the criticism. Maybe it’s because, left to my own devices, I’m a real pessimist. Maybe it’s because we women are incessantly told that we don’t measure up to an ever-changing standard. Maybe it’s because I spend far too little time immersed in the healing, loving presence of God, something that I suspect is an issue for many, if not most of us. (I might relate hardcore to Martha and her need to get the chores done).

All I know for sure is that, when I’m complimented, I have no idea how to respond.

It’s not false modesty. It’s not fishing for more compliments.

It’s, “Huh. He really likes me. She said something nice. Why?”

Brain can’t make it compute.

A reminder for me: What I say truly matters. Can really make a difference. Because there have to be others like me out there who’ve latched onto the rough words rather than the smooth. There have to be others who, while not engaged in active self-hate, see themselves as…lacking. And in that sense of lacking, then lack the ability to see the good that others do, the good that God placed there.

Lord, I know that I can’t control my tongue. Any bridling comes straight from Your hands. So Father, please, come reign over my words. The words I speak to others. The words I speak to myself. The words I speak to You. Let my lips be ones that drip with the honey of kindness, gentleness, grace and truth.

Stop.

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