A Prayer for Truth

Prayer in 2019

Gentle Reader,

Lord, Creator of all things, infinitely wise, majestic, holy
The One for Whom stars sing and sun shines
All atoms and pieces within held together by Your breath
Never sleeping, always seeing, forever working, full of grace
This year belongs to You

Your fingerprints and mercy cover every hour
The ones past and yet to come
For You sit, enthroned, outside of time, the King
Nothing can contain You, nothing will constrain You
None, no matter size or strength, can stand against You

Your plans and purposes will be accomplished
And all will see that they, that You, are so very good

Three days into this new year and already beset by worries
Pressures and old ways of being, deeply ingrained
I come to You, Beautiful Savior, and sit at Your feet
Here, surrounded by angel’s never-ceasing praises,
You lovingly and rightly speak

Every word that falls from Your lips is sweet
They fill my mind and warm my heart
Even as they pierce my soul – for my good
And with every piercing, comes a whisper of love
A balm for righteous wounds

You are not mean and awful, as some say
But truly kind, wholly true, ever-faithful

God, You count the lies I keep, held tight
Pulled close, afraid to let them go
They are what I know, what I feel, what I can see
If I open palm in release, what, Lord, then?
Exchanging these for truth is an ongoing battle

Yes, the battle – one into which to press, to engage
Yes, the fear – but truth more needed than routine
Yes, the ache – but this too will soon pass
Yes, the step – of faith, of hope, of love, of trust
Yes, the word – please Jesus, yes

You are my Savior, my Friend, my Great Reward
In You, in truth, I dwell this year

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Lead Me, Teach Me

Truth

Gentle Reader,

Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.

– Psalm 25:5 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Truth: that which is in accordance with fact or reality. Verity, certainty, sincerity, honest, accurate, correct. A fundamental characteristic of God; He cannot and will not lie.

Normally, I place little stock in choosing a word for the year. There’s nothing wrong with the practice; I have – rather half-heartedly and forgetfully – done it before. I am wary of probing for deep significance in a single word, however. There is something unsettling about hoping for one string of letters to define or guide a 12-month cycle. I prefer sentences, paragraphs, entire books, because context, the way a word is used as intended by the author, always matters.

This year, there’s a shift in my thinking.

Lead me in Your truth, the psalmist writes. Not a truth. Not any truth. Your truth.

The truth.

In this relativistic society, metanarrative, an overarching story that gives meaning and purpose to all of life, is hardly in vogue. We are taught that it’s never correct to imply, let alone baldly state, that there is such a thing as truth, and that that truth is the same for each and every person. Themes of sin and salvation are rejected for “do what thou wilt,” a maxim coined by the twentieth century British occultist Aleister Crowley. I do my thing, you do your thing, everyone’s thing is perfectly valid.

This is what we like to think we believe, and what we give lip-service to, but just read through a Facebook comment thread (or, better yet, Tumblr), and, ironically, the truth is there, plain as day. All beliefs, behaviors and opinions are not, in fact, equal; the one that wins the day is usually the one that the majority of people in that particular space agree upon. This is not merely a religious phenomenon (see: sports fandoms and political philosophies).

We reject metanarrative while seeking to build one.

As creatures with free will and high thinking skills, we get to choose. Take the story laid out in Scripture or make our own story. Sit at God’s feast-table and indulge in the delicacies or scrounge for scraps from here and there. Completion or cobbled-together-ness.

I have wasted too much precious time and headspace on stories that aren’t true. Stories about the world, about others, about myself, about God. Oh, yes. Christians aren’t immune. We can ignore the delicacies and chase the scraps. Why else would someone like me struggle with a sense of identity or purpose? God says, black-and-white, that I am His child, His royal daughter. God says, clear-and-plain, that He has called and gifted me. I say that I believe these things, that I accept this metanarrative…and then live otherwise.

Perhaps you struggle as well.

This year, I intend to dwell on truth. Not the word itself, but all the words that come from the mind and heart of God. I will sit at His feet, as Mary did on that day so long ago. I want to know, need to know, His commands. His perspective. His way. But not this only; I need to know Him. In a new, deeper, richer way. Because He Himself is truth itself.

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Reorient

Reorient

Gentle Reader,

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LordSix years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.

– Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 25:1-5 (NKJV)

We all know that hindsight is 20/20.

And we all know that sometimes we choose to learn the hard way.

Last year was one of lostness, bookended by difficulty, filled with doubt.

Relationally: unexpected shifts. Deep wounds that are not yet fully healed.

Politically: exhausting. I don’t know anyone, wherever they land on the issues, who feels energized by the current state of the American system.

Spiritually: an overall sense of boredom. Dryness.

Creatively: instead of rightly celebrating a decade in this world of blogging, humbled by and joyful about sharing this journey with you, I felt shamed by it. Surely by Year Ten an agent, a contract and a traditionally published book would have materialized. Some outward, tangible sign of success.

Mentally: the darkest time in several years. Plagued by both rising anxiety and the fearful numbness of sorrow, anger and bitterness too large and heavy to step away from and objectively address. As I continue to be slow to realize and feel my own emotions, this only dawned on me recently – but it absolutely showed here, in the writing.

Simply, I should have taken the entire year off. Closed the laptop and refused to place any kind of value on comments or statistics. (Difficult to do in the wildness of the internet age, when everyone is a “maker” of some sort and is competing for a even moment’s notice from a vast audience). Trusted that people would still be there to read when I came back. I didn’t, and the writing suffered. Much of what I produced wasn’t great. Nor was it focused on what truly matters, on what I consider my calling and mission to be.

God knows what He’s talking about. Such a blunt, easy concept to grasp. God is God and I am not. Still, after many years of walking this road, I forget. Today I wonder if it’s not the forgetfulness that hurts us more than the outright rebellion. A little step here, a little step there and soon, like the man progressing toward the Celestial City, we’re off track.

Lost.

When God told His people to take a weekly break, He meant it. He understands, far better than we do, the limitations of humanity. It’s not just our bodies that need rest. Our minds, hearts and souls need space, too. Indulge me for a moment; take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds. Feel your lungs expand and your ribs press against your abdominal muscles. Let that breath out, slowly.

While the admonition to control breathing to calm the brain has been around for ages, only recently has science started uncovering how it works. A 2016 study accidentally stumbled upon the neural circuit in the brainstem that seems to play the key role in the breathing-brain control connection.  The circuit is part of what’s been called the brain’s “breathing pacemaker” because it can be adjusted by altering breathing rhythm (slow, controlled breathing decreases activity in the circuit; fast, erratic breathing increases activity), which in turn influences emotional states. Exactly how this happens is still being researched…

How Breathing Calms Your Brain, And Other Science-Based Benefits Of Controlled Breathing

When God told His people to let the land rest every seven years, He meant it. He understands, far better than we do, the limitations of the soil beneath our feet.

A fallow field is land that a farmer plows but does not cultivate for one or more seasons to allow the field to become more fertile again. The practice of leaving fields fallow dates back to ancient times when farmers realized that using soil over and over again depleted its nutrients. A three-field rotation system was used in medieval times in which one field was always fallow.

Agricultural experts debate whether the practice of fallow fields is necessary in modern farming and, if it is, how often a farmer needs to let a field go fallow. Most, however, agree that the practice at some interval or another is beneficial, and for dryland farming, it is particularly useful. All other factors being equal, fields that lie fallow do tend to produce better crops the next year.

What is a Fallow Field?

God is God and I am not.

That’s the truth.

On the first day of this new year, I reorient myself. This little space and these words belong to Him. My purpose isn’t to get an agent or a contract or a traditionally published book (though I’m sure that I will always want these things). When I write, I write for Him. I seek to learn, know and share His truth.

The other words will fade away. All the positive words of famous authors and of viral bloggers. All the negative words that tear down and obfuscate.

His words, they will not.

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Five Minute Friday: Crowd

Against

Gentle Reader,

It’s been a week of glorious Autumn weather. I’ve been wearing socks. I put on a beanie for my walk this morning. The air is crisp. Leaves on the trees begin to change color, subtly for now, waiting a few more weeks to put on their full, glorious display.

I’m so glad the seasons turn. Goodbye, Summer. I don’t miss you.

Kate says: crowd.

Go.

I’m an adult. On an intellectual level, I understand that I should not care what others think. I cannot look to the crowd for a sense of identity, place, purpose or value. Further, I am a Christian, one who went to school to get a degree that enables me to use the fancy words like “justification” and “sanctification.” I understand that the One to whom I am ultimately accountable is the One who matters. I understand that I must listen to His views (commands, really) and live accordingly.

I’m also human. So of course I care. Not to the degree I did as a teenager, when I was desperate to fit in. But even at 34, it stinks to be ostracized. To find yourself in the minority. To know that there’s rumors and whispers fluttering behind your back. To have your confidence greatly shaken.

Tonight during the #FMFParty chat, Kate said to me:

I’m sorry, friend. Remember: We don’t need to have confidence in OUR ability, only in HIS ability . . .

Something I remind myself of often these days, but was grateful to hear from a sister. It’s a hard hole to climb out of, this one I find myself in. Doubts push down on me. Fear presses from the side.

Anita chimed in:

I have confidence in your ability! You wield words like a conductor wields a baton.

Brought me to my (figurative) knees. I want to use words that way. I want to create prose (and occasionally poetry) that is both beautiful and useful. I want to, somehow, some way, glorify God.

Then I said, to a couple of new(er) writers:

You belong here. Your words matter. Pull up a chair and stay at the table.

I read those words aloud. And I’ll be real: I wonder if they apply to me, too.

There’s been a crowd that tells me that I don’t belong, that I don’t matter and that I need to leave the table if I choose not to conform. Satan, the Accuser of God’s Children, echoes their sentiments. Give up. Give in. Shut up. How tempting it is, because there’s pain in rejection. Tempting, too, to allow seeds of bitterness to take root.

God speaks:

I am not really writing to tell you of any new command, brothers of mine. It is the old, original command which you had at the beginning; it is the old message which you have heard before. And yet as I give it to you again I know that it is true – in your life as it was in His. For the darkness is beginning to lift and the true light is now shining in the world. Anyone who claims to be “in the light” and hates his brother is, in fact, still in complete darkness. The man who loves his brother lives and moves in the light, and has no reason to stumble. But the man who hates his brother is shut off from the light and gropes his way in the dark without seeing where he is going. To move in the dark is to move blindfold.

– 1 John 2:7-11 (Phillips)

If I give up, give in and shut up, I am moving in the dark. If I indulge in bitterness and wallow in hatred, I am moving in the dark. If I want to be in the light – and I do – I can’t hit back at the crowd. Nor can I allow them to imprison me in fear. I have to keep climbing out of the hole, fixing my eyes upon Christ, the One Who promises to complete the work He began in me.

The One Who made me a writer.

With Him, I am never alone, though the crowd may not go with me.

Stop.

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Photo Credit: Remi Yuan
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