Five Minute (Saturday): Culture

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Gentle Reader,

2:20 p.m. on a Saturday and I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open. Haven’t slept well this past week. Thursday saw me knocked down with a wicked migraine, which is bad enough on its own, but some delightful panic attacks at 10:30 p.m., 12:18 a.m., and 3:05 a.m. made the pain so much worse. Why the panic?, you wonder. Down to faulty brain wiring. I flung the blankets off of me each time and fairly jumped from the bed, awakened by internal alarm bells tripped for no reason, ready to fight.

But yesterday was busy, full of things like volunteering and having lunch with a new friend, so I dragged myself away from the cocoon, despite still feeling tempted to rip my right eye from its socket. It’s the blind one, anyway. I don’t need it.

Kate says: culture.

Go.

[Caroline Bingley, addressing the giving of the label “accomplished” to a woman] “…A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, all the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women.  [Elizabeth said]. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”

– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennett. Josephine March. Anne Shirley. Laura Ingalls. All literary heroines of mine. All women who dared to swim against the culture’s current, in one way or another.

Interesting, isn’t it, for one who has been fairly determined to remain the flower on the wall, to be attracted to characters who were not afraid to stand out?

There’s an eshet chayil, a woman of valor, somewhere inside me. One who isn’t afraid to be noticed. One who is unbothered by the opinions of others. One who can be bold and brave, but also gentle and tender. She’s always been there, for this is who God created His daughters to be. It’s me who has squashed her. Tried to fit myself inside some mold of acceptability and accomplishment.

There’s something stirring now. Rather, Someone. Calling me out of that mold, that trap. And it feels very much like being broken into tiny pieces. There is real pain in letting go of what is comfortable and known. Real ache in squeezing one’s eyes shut and taking the leap of faith.

But I know, somehow, that God’s hand is there to stop the falling.

Stop.

Related to the above: I will no longer be sending out a weekly newsletter. One, I suck at it. A newsletter is not something I ever wanted to do, but tried because it’s part of “brand building.” (Ew. Gross. Ugh). Two, life is busy, and about to get busier, and a newsletter is not a priority. Thanks to those who subscribed!

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Sisters: Someone Else

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Gentle Reader,

While He was going, the crowds were nearly crushing Him. A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, who had spent all she had on doctors and yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the end of His robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are hemming You in and pressing against You.”

“Someone did touch Me,” said Jesus. “I know that power has gone out from Me.” When the woman saw that she was discovered, she came trembling and fell down before Him. In the presence of all the people, she declared the reason she had touched Him and how she was instantly healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

– Luke 8:42b-48 (CSB, emphasis mine)

Jesus is on His way to save someone. A little girl, twelve years old. Her father begs Him to do it. The Savior is compassionate. Loving. He turns toward the house. His feet begin to take the path that will lead Him to her side.

Jesus is always on His way to save someone.

The saving doesn’t always look the same.

The question we all have: Why did so-and-so get healed but this other person didn’t? We don’t understand why one is snatched from cancer’s grip while another is crushed by it. Makes no sense. God hears our prayers, we are told. We believe it. So why, why, does He sometimes say “no?”

Why does He seemingly go out of His way to save her, to heal him, while others are left reaching for His robe?

I can’t answer that. Nobody can, and anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.

This where we see life and death holding hands. This is where we are confronted by our lack of control, by our inability to place all experiences and people into neat and tidy boxes. This is where we learn to say, through gritted teeth, “…even if not, He is good.”

Is He? Is He really good as He walks toward the little girl? Is He really good in letting the woman follow? After all, He is God. Incarnate here, wrapped in frail flesh, but still God. He knows her. Knows her pain. Knows her deep loneliness. Why does He not stop and hep her first? Look her in the eyes? Hold her?

I did throw a glass across the kitchen once. To my annoyance, it bounced instead of breaking. I threw it again. That time, the crack, the splintering. Shards fell from the wall, scattering across the floor, throwing rainbows onto the ceiling as they caught the afternoon sunlight. A flash of beauty in brokenness.

And I thought, “I really understand very little.”

What if the God who is outside of time and therefore not bound by its strictures really does know everything, and better than us? What if “why?” is not the question, but “what?”

As Jesus walks, He opens up space for faith exercised in the midst of suffering. This weak woman, likely anemic after years of constant bleeding, is drawn to Him. Imagine her. She takes a breath. A deep one. Musters up the bit of energy she has and presses her way through the crowd. Weaving between the bodies. She crouches. Shaking hand reaches out, into the space He has left for her.

And it’s not about the healing, though that matters. Not about her body, though God cares for it.

It’s about her soul.

Not the “why?” of her suffering, but the “what?” of her faith. The Person.

What He will do.

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For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.

Sisters: We Few, We Not-Always-Happy Few, We Band of Sufferers

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Gentle Reader,

Apologies to the Bard, to King Henry V, and to St. Crispin.

While He was going, the crowds were nearly crushing Him. A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, who had spent all she had on doctors and yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the end of His robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are hemming You in and pressing against You.”

“Someone did touch Me,” said Jesus. “I know that power has gone out from Me.” When the woman saw that she was discovered, she came trembling and fell down before Him. In the presence of all the people, she declared the reason she had touched Him and how she was instantly healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

– Luke 8:42b-48 (CSB, emphasis mine)

What is it like to be sick?, you wonder. I know you wonder, because some of you are brave enough to ask. The asking is not offensive. I’d rather an honest query than the silence of judgment or speculation. After all, the words “liver disease” automatically conjure up images of bottles, needles and pills (never mind that equal damage can be caused through poor diet). Surely I must have some awfully scandalous activity in my past.

Not that kind of scandalous. Plenty of rebellion, but no drugs. Plenty of late nights, but no drunkenness. (The few times I did set out to get hammered, I just got sick after a few drinks. And that, I recognize as Jesus, protecting me from my own stupidity, maybe shaking His head or rolling His eyes as He did so. Lovingly, of course). The breakdown of my body is, simply, the result of losing the genetic lottery in a world gone haywire. I am a walking, talking testimony to the truth of Genesis 3.

It sucks.

Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to suffer well. To be an example of courage, endurance, faith, and resilience.

I want to be courageous. I want to endure. I want to have faith. I want to be resilient.

But as I look at my arm, bruise growing darker because the good phlebotomist was off his game today but I had to get the tests done anyway, I want to throw a glass across the room. Watch it explode into pieces too small and jagged to reassemble. Then I want to throw another. And another. I want to hear the satisfying clangs and pings of destruction, a destruction that I cause, as a destruction that I do not cause, and have no control over, rages within.

What is it like to be sick? 

It’s tension. All the time, always. Wanting to take a deep breath unencumbered by the constant pain my side, the pain that trails up to my collar bone and down to my hip, the pain centered beneath my ribs. I hate my liver, if it’s possible to hate an organ. It’s piece of crap. I want a new one.

Except, I don’t. Even though I’ll probably have to get a new one someday. And that means more slicing and dicing, more long scars across my abdomen, and whole lot of pharmaceuticals.

It’s being old before my time. Sort of, because I will throw myself into whatever activities I can with as much energy as I possess until that’s no longer an option. But the white streak in my hair, the one that started with the shock of surgery, grows. Spreads. I don’t mind it, on an aesthetic level, because I can’t be bothered to stress out that much about my hair, which always does whatever it wants to do anyway, but on another level, it’s a reminder.

Along with the aching joints. And the constantly itching skin. And the eyes that betray my weariness, every time.

It’s that woman, so tired, so scared, sneaking up behind Jesus and brushing His robe with her fingers. In that action, it’s as if she says, “Don’t look at me. Don’t notice me. Nothing else has worked. I’m desperate. Maybe this will help. Maybe it won’t. I’ve heard about this Jesus guy. I don’t know what else to do. God, please let this work.”

I get her.

Separated by centuries and cultures, we are nevertheless sisters.

This passage is not a promise. It does not contain a magic formula. Faith in Christ does not equal an absence of trouble. I’ve told you this before, but I’ll keep telling you as long as I have breath, because, even those who intentionally battle against prosperity non-gospel ideas are influenced by them. We can’t make it compute in our minds that salvation of the soul, restoration of the mind, and renewal of the heart often, maybe even always, makes no change in our physical state.

Because the end is the same for us all.

What is this passage then? What is the point?

Sit with those questions for now.

Settle in with the discomfort of life and death joining hands.

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For all posts in the Sisters series, go here.

Five Minute Friday: Offer

Gentle Reader,

Fifteen or eighty-five.

In my heart, I’m fifteen, complete with the attendant maturity level. (I don’t know if this is due to spending increasing amounts of time with actual teenagers or if this is just…me). My body, though, it’s about eighty-five today. All my joints hurt. If my hands had the ability to speak, they’d yell at me right now for making them type. Every knuckle throbs.

Nauseated. Why? Because it’s Thursday.

Accidentally fell asleep for three hours this afternoon.

Looked in the mirror a bit ago. Ghostly pale face. Dark rings around my eyes. Why the Victorians were into this fragile, wilted-flower look, I’ll never know.

Nothing fun about it. But a most excellent reminder to dwell on thoughts of Heaven, to hope for renewal, to have faith in restoration, to remember Jesus.

Kate says: offer.

Go.

Evan Welcher reminds people of God’s love for them every day on his social media accounts. Literally; he posts the words “God loves you” every single day. The simplest of offerings with the most radical potential to change lives. Three little words containing an eternity’s worth of meaning.

I am thankful for his consistency, for I am easily distracted from this fundamental truth. You know, the Devil, he doesn’t play fair. He knows where the weak spots are and goes after them continually. If he can get me to doubt God’s love, then he’s won that battle. I am wrecked when I take hold of the lie.

That’s got me thinking about the words I offer to others. If everyone needs to know that God loves us (and everyone does need to know), then I think perhaps we need a revival in our speech, a scrubbing of our tongues. For if God loves us (and He does), then shouldn’t it be natural for us to use words like beloved, darling, dear and precious with each other? Not in a creepy or saccharine way. In the way that reminds us of who we are in Him.

So hear me tonight. Because God is love, and He loves you:

You are the beloved. You were created by the Master Artist, placed into this context for a reason. God does not make garbage.

You are the darling. God watches you sleep at night, like the proud Father He is.

You are the dear. You are the apple of His eye. He is proud of you every time you make the hard choice to obey Him.

You are the precious. Every breath is given to you as a gift of grace.

The world and the Devil in it will throw a lot of other words your way. Instead of accepting them uncritically, take each one and hold it up in the light of truth. There, the darkness dissolves.

Stop.

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