Five Minute Friday: Settle

Contemplate

Gentle Reader,

Our Fearless Leader was busy celebrating her book launch, so for the first time in the history of everything, there was no prompt shared around 6:45 (Pacific Daylight Time) last night. I guess we’ll forgive her. This time.

No, seriously: We are all so happy for you, Kate! Your book is awesome. You deserve all the accolades and sales. Truly.

So, this morning, she says: settle.

Go.

We don’t have to settle, you know
For castles made of sand
And kingdoms prone to burn
For frauds who prance as princes
And trends so fast to turn

We don’t have to settle, you know
For offices tucked in corners
And accounts that bulge with cash
For grandiose titles after names
And powers gone in flash

We don’t have to settle, you know
For the building of the platform
And the chasing of the “like”
For the hollowing out of voice
And the statistics, hope they spike

We don’t have to settle, you know
For the things this place can give
And what we’re supposed to want
For all that will fade one day
And the stuff that others flaunt

We don’t have to settle, you know
Because there is more than meets our eyes
Because there is deeper than this
Because there is One who loves us so
Because righteousness and peace, they kiss

Stop.

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Just a Bit of Creative Crisis, Please

Where Now

Gentle Reader,

If this is the first time you’ve ever come across this little blog, first, welcome. Second, apologies. You find me in the midst of wrestling with what direction all this writing is meant to take. Such a “creative person” stereotype, to be filled with doubt, questions and even a bit of self-loathing when considering what it means to have been out here, online, for over a decade. To think about the dozens of journals I have filled since age 12. To sift through sketches, ideas, bits and pieces that have yet to see the light of publication.

That word – decade – is probably what’s causing the consternation. You see, we never stop growing up. At least, we aren’t supposed to. Each new ten-year span brings about change. I remain as curious and thoughtful as I was when I was a child, but there is no doubt that the woman who stares back at me from the other side of the mirror is not the same person she was even a year ago.

There is an itching underneath my skin, the kind that cannot be soothed by potions or ointments. Something is coming. A change whistles on the wind. A longing for…what, I don’t know.

Certainly not fame. There are, of course, times when I covet the spot at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, but I would be a terrible famous person. I want to be able to go places and do things without interference. Essentially, I mind the obscurity less and less. Truly, most of us labor in obscurity. The James Patterson’s of the world, who are able to churn out several books a month, are rare. And, candidly, wedded to a formula. There’s nothing wrong with that; after all, the famous authors are famous for a reason. They are able to quickly discern what works for them and keep at it. The rest of us, we put out some good things, even some great things, but there’s a lot of dross surrounding.

Sadly, I suspect that I am in what I shall term a “dust period,” a time of writing nothing very special at all. It is tempting to step away from here until the magic of inspiration strikes again. All writers need breaks. In fact, a very important part of the creative process is found in doing things like staring out the window, reading about the Treaty of Utretcht, cuddling the newest goddaughter and generally finding anything to do but write all while feeling vaguely guilty that the writing isn’t being done.

But then…I think about what I want this blog to be about. What I want my writing to be about. The words of my journalism adviser roll around in my mind: “Tell the story, whatever the story is.” The truth is that life isn’t always glorious and inspired. More often, it’s mundane. Pulling weeds in the garden, folding laundry (again), wondering what shape my hair is going to take today (as all curly-headed people know, you do not control the hair, the hair controls you), drinking coffee, mild bickering with the husband over what to watch on television. Another truth – writing is much more cussed determination than it is talent. I keep doing it not because I am the best, or hope to ever be the best, but because there is no alternative. Perfection is the impossible dream, right up there with Don Quixote’s quest. If I were to wait for the “right time” or the “best subject,” then I’d never write again.

So – I don’t know where we’re going from here, but I do know that we won’t stop going. Just, perhaps, instead of boldly the scaling the heights of spiritual Mount Everests, we’ll walk through quiet neighborhoods, allowing ourselves to take the slow, less glorious path. Instead of searching these words for brilliance or entertainment, rather imagine yourself linking arms with me, looking ahead, as we talk about everything and nothing at all.

Cozy little picture, isn’t it?

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And Now, The Fish Slapping Dance

Giggles

Gentle Reader,

My house is a disaster. Really. We’re down to the last room in the Grand Epic of Replacing the Floor, which means everything in my bedroom has been shoved into the guest room and everything in the guest room has been shoved into what passes for an office (that nobody ever uses) and there is detritus everywhere. The dogs can’t figure out what’s happening to their environment; in protest of the disruption, they knock over bathroom wastebaskets and generally behave badly.

I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or decamp to the nearest cheap motel.

Attempting to see the humor seems the best choice.

Did you know that Christians aren’t supposed to have a sense of humor, though? I didn’t until recently. Again, belatedly I learn that I have been doing my life all wrong. Must have lost the instruction manual. Apparently we are supposed to be deeply serious people, always and ever concerned with ruining everybody’s good time.

How sad.

Jesus went to parties, you know. As in, He was invited to parties all the time and saw no need to avoid them. Heaven certainly sounds like it’s going to be a gigantic, forever-long party, full of light, laughter and good food. For what is being in the presence of God if not happiness? If not constant smiling?

Is life serious? Of course it is. It’s also absurd. A friend texted me a couple of hours ago, relaying a story she’d seen on the news of a man who broke into a house and began doing laundry. Not his laundry. The laundry that belongs to the people whose house he broke into. Yes, theft is a sin, but that’s funny. What sort of burglar thinks, “You know, I’ll just do some washing up for these fine folks that I’m robbing?”

There are two sides to my personality; one is very serious, dark and afraid, the other ever-amused and struggling to hold back giggles at inappropriate moments. This particular blend is what it is. At nearly 34, I’ve about given up on attempting to reconcile how I can, at the same time, be both numbingly anxious and laughing so hard tears spring to my eyes. That is, I suppose, humanity.

I believe in learning, study, contemplation. I also believe in a good pie to the face. I don’t think God minds a good joke. In fact, I think He laughs. Give yourself permission to do the same. Allow yourself to see the funny, the farcical. Perhaps, in so doing, the proverbial silver lining is found.

William Makepeace Thackeray (one of the best names ever) wrote in his novel Vanity Fair,

The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion.

When I frown at the world, when I dwell on all that makes me sad and scared, I find more things to be sad and scared about. When I do the work of looking up and smiling (for it is work, as all choices are), I find more things to smile about. That’s not pop psychology or self-help babble, nor is that a substitute for medication or therapy, if needed. (Real talk: I am beginning to become annoyed at having to place this disclaimer in my writing so often. I wish that anyone who ever reads here would simply, somehow, know what my position is and that I’d never have to state it again). It’s taking ownership of our thoughts an attitudes, something we are advised to do throughout Scripture.

And now, The Fish Slapping Dance. Not because it means anything. Not because it must be analyzed. Because it’s 17 seconds of sheer, unbridled silliness. It’s okay to giggle over this and promptly replay.

Bonus content: The Spanish Inquisition compilation. (Yes, I love Monty Python and yes, Michael Palin is my favorite. Some of my fondest memories involve acting out absurd, stupid sketches with old friends, both original and ones that we blatantly stole from this British comedy troupe. Please don’t sue us, gents. We have no money).

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Glitter, Fluff and Pink Pages

Heavy

Gentle Reader,

Someone recently asked me what I want my “brand” to be.

Yeah, I’m not in marketing. I don’t know. Maybe “lovable curmudgeon”? Or “tough outer shell hides big gooey center”? Perhaps “read the Bible, people, before I flip this table over”? Or “holy moly, she’s intense and I’d better back away slowly”?

Everything and everyone is a commodity, it seems. Figure out your audience, who you want to reach, and mold yourself to that.

And if you don’t fit any mold?

This is not the first time I’ve written about this topic, so clearly it’s under my skin. I saw something on Twitter the other day – really wish I had taken a screenshot of who said this, but I didn’t, so please direct me to the source if you’ve got it – a few little lines that pointed out that we assume that a man’s perspective is neutral. A man can, and should, write to and for both men and women. If, however, a woman writes, we assume that she’s writing for women only.

That bugged me.

Made me think, too.

How many men have studied the book of Ruth? The book of Esther? Have gone through and carefully picked out the stories of the heroines of the faith, cherishing them as they do the tales of David and the Apostles?

I don’t have answers to those questions. I do wonder, though, how many men subconsciously shrug their shoulders and think, “Nah. Those are chick stories. Nothing there for me.”

Except it’s the word of God.

Of course I’m not claiming that I or any other female writer is on the same level as Holy Scripture. You’d probably find charred ground where my body used to occupy space if I did that. What I am claiming is that this weird divide in the Church runs deep. It’s more than squabbling over whether or not a woman can preach, which solid, orthodox Christians can reasonably disagree on. (For the record, I think complementarians are wrong, but they think I’m wrong, so it’s all good). It’s this bone-deep belief that women don’t have anything of substance to say. That a man can’t possibly learn anything from a woman because “she doesn’t get it.”

But I, a woman, am automatically expected to adjust pronouns and situations in my head when a man preaches or writes. I am expected to “get” what he’s talking about when he relates a theological concept to, I don’t know, a football game or working on a car. (Yes, super broad and stereotypical).

What is that? Why do we do this?

See, my mind is full of more than glitter and fluff. I want to write about, learn about, teach about concepts and stories that are found in other places than the “pink pages” of Scripture. Not that glitter, fluff or pink pages are bad. I’m a fan of glittery shoes and pins, I love me a fluffy blanket and nobody is ever going to convince me that Ruth and Esther are boring or “light.” But I can also discuss theories of the kenosis. I can tell you about the times the Holy Spirit speaks to me when I’m folding laundry. I wrote a book exploring the intersection of suffering and theology. (Shameless plug. Girl’s gotta pay those bills, you know).

In no way do I wish to diminish my brothers. I want to see men functioning in the full freedom and gifting that God has blessed them with. That shouldn’t come at the expense of the sisters, though. I want us to step up and embrace who and what God has made us to be as well (and that really does extend beyond nursery duty).

There’s this chapter in Scripture, Hebrews 11. We call it the “Hall of Faith.” And it is. But it’s also the “Hall of Freaks and Weirdos.” You think Noah let the fact that nobody had ever seen rain keep him from building the boat? You think Joseph was concerned about his branding, how it looked when he told his people to take his bones back to the Promised Land? You think Rahab was worried about losing her clientele when she hid the spies and threw herself into the mercy of God?

We thrill to these stories because they are of people, just like you and me, who dared to follow where God led them. While none of them were perfect (Abraham gets some serious side-eye from me), the overall pattern of their lives was one of focusing on Him. They weren’t worried about an audience, about metrics, about statistics, about who should and shouldn’t be doing what. He said “go,” and they went. As simple as that.

This is what I long for in the Church. How I would love for us to shed the language of “tribe” and “role.” How I ache for us to be still and seek His will. How I wish we would stop trying to put a Jesus veneer on what the world around us is doing and just be what He wants us to be – committed, obedient, loving.

Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be great if we stopped erecting artificial barriers? If we stopped believing, “He/she can’t speak into my life because I only let this type of person do that?” If we stopped crafting articles and sermons based on what we know people want to hear and instead speak and write as God commands?

Sounds wonderful to me.

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