Five Minute (Someday I’ll Do This On Time Again): Goal

 

Gentle Reader,

Spent my Thursday night with a friend at church, trying to sleep on just-this-side of uncomfortable hospital mattresses. We watched a silly television show, ate chocolate, partook of a face mask that made us look like swamp monsters, and chatted into the wee hours. Most importantly, we served three families who are looking to improve their lives. We had the honor of sitting with them during dinner, then cleaning the kitchen while they rested and prepared for the next day.

Loving like Jesus does is a beautiful thing.

Kate says: goal.

Go.

This might surprise you, but I’m not particularly goal-oriented when it comes to my writing.

Not in the traditional sense.

I used to want a multi-book contract. To see my name on the New York Times bestseller list. To write posts that go viral. To develop a big following on social media.

Now…none of that matters.

Of course I wouldn’t turn down a book contract. Of course I’d be delighted to see my name alongside major authors. Of course I’d feel honored if something I wrote spread far and wide. (As to the big following, it’s too scary). I’m just not chasing that stuff anymore. I may not know a lot, and I may have had to learn the things I do know the very hard way, but I can say with confidence that none of the above is fulfilling. None of the above meets the deepest need of my life.

That deepest need? To be loved. To be seen. To be accepted. To have purpose.

Only Jesus does that. Only He reaches down into my heart and draws the broken pieces together. Anything good this world has to offer, it’s just bonus. Extra. Nice and all, but not necessary.

I’m not a super-spiritual saint. Chances are good that as soon as I hit “publish,” I’ll be distracted by something false and shiny. But I know, in that place of knowing in the center of my being that cannot be shaken, that Jesus is the real treasure. Him – not what He provides, but Himself.

My goal, then, is to glorify Him in every word, whether they are read by the many or the few.

Stop.

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Five Minute (Monday): Well

Gentle Reader,

Did attend the chat last week, but neglected to go and see what the prompt was, thus this belated entry.

Completely unconnected thought: I have never dyed my hair. Well, I guess that’s technically not true; one summer, several years ago, I had some low lights put in that were about two shades darker than my natural color. Wild, I know. But yesterday, I found myself thinking, “I should go blonde.” Utterly random and it 99.9% won’t happen because I am lazy and/or a hippie when it comes to my hair – obviously, or I’d be straightening these locks every morning – but you never know. I might show up looking like a completely different person one of these days.

Kate says: well.

Go.

LORD, you have treated your servant well,
just as You promised.
Teach me good judgment and discernment,
for I rely on Your commands.

– Psalm 119:65-66 (CSB)

If you’re ever feeling down, turn to the psalms.

The whole range of human emotion is expressed in these poems. We are given permission, by their inclusion in holy writ, to be the fragile, frail people that we are. We are given space to cry out to God. To doubt, question, and wrestle. To express the desire to call down fire on someone’s head. (Don’t tell me you’ve never felt urge). The psalms are the sinner’s songbook, full of fear, passion, and rage.

And yet the stanzas are so much more. Time and again we watch as the author shifts from complaint to praise, from worry to wonder. The pen stills as the heart drops into a steadier rhythm. Despite the brokenness, despite the pain, despite the suffering, God is good. Like the true Father He is, He guides His children into places of peace and wholeness. When we are done fighting and fussing, He draws us into His lap and whispers words of love.

Yes, Lord. You treat Your servants well. We raise our hands in praise to You not because of the perfection of our existence, because it is not perfect, but because of the perfection of Your presence. You enable us to walk the path You have set before us, sometimes sure and swift, sometimes halting and hushed. This path, it leads straight to the heart of the better country, the place for which we are made and for which we ache.

Yes, Lord. Teach us good judgment. Teach us discernment. We rely on You.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Name

Along the Way Graphic Template

Gentle Reader,

It’s storming outside. I don’t mind. There’s something soothing in the rain, the wind, and the strange grayish light. Suits my current mood.

Kate says: name.

Go.

Marie: bitter.

Louise: renowned warrior.

The middle names of my grandmothers, given to me the day I was born.

I’ve been bitter. Unprocessed anger and cherished grudges revealed in sarcasm that’s just fury with a smile painted on. Replaying old conflicts in my mind like favorite movies. Miserable in the feeling, but accustomed to it.

Jesus changes the meaning of my name. He changes me. He holds my clenched fists in His hands and gently guides me to pry my fingers off of the rage. I am not bitter, but free. I carry with me the fragrance of His presence. I can love, because He loves. I can forgive, because He forgives.

Renowned warrior, I don’t know about that. I’d much rather be known as a gentle lover, someone with a warm smile, a listening ear, and open arms. And yet, there is a core of steel that runs through my middle. Whether it’s refusing to let illness define my life, or working to improve things in my community, or praying for a long (and growing) list of teenagers, or encouraging someone to do something brave and scary, or daring to declare that there is truth and His Name is Jesus…

There are things I will fight for. Never with a weapon. Rarely with a raised voice. But I will fight.

The difference is that what I fight for now no longer leads to bitterness. Jesus worked that change in me, too. It’s all about the hope, the joy, the love.

Stop.

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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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