Five Minute Friday: Intentional

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Thursday, January 18, 1:59 p.m.

Fatigue is breathtaking.

Even after all these years of chronic illness and pain, the days when I can barely lift my head off of the pillow surprise me. Yes, I’m always tired. Always ready for a 3-hour nap. Always down for going to bed early and sleeping late. No, I never feel refreshed or renewed, no matter how many hours I log curled up under blankets. Yet there’s this whole other level of tired, one that defies explanation.

My skin, always pale, turns a shade close to that of White-Out. Dark circles rim my dull eyes. Limbs feel heavy. Heart rate slow. It requires mighty effort to take a shower.

And pressing the keys to form the words that make the sentences that bloom into paragraphs – you’d think I was recovering from participation in a decathlon. Took me a full two minutes to type that out.

Kate says: intentional.

Go.

Friday, January 19, 9:15 a.m.

Done on purpose. Deliberate.

This is what the dictionary tells me the word intentional means. A move from intentions, mere plans, to solid, concrete actions. Plan the plan then do the plan.

In the back of my Bible is a one-year reading plan. Every week mapped out neatly, bouncing from the Psalms to the Old Testament to the New. As I tick the boxes each day, I begin to experience the overarching narrative of Scripture in a new way: human stupidity, God’s great grace. The highs of poetry to the long lists of “begats” to the mind-bending lines of apocalyptic literature.

While this is not the first time I have attempted to read through my Bible in one year, this is the first time that I am determined to finish. And that, I think, is what moves us from intentions to intentional. To avoid remaining in the dream state and to side-step the urge to quit, we must have determination. A stick-to-it-iveness.

In a world of distractions and excuses, determination is a highly foreign concept. Along with its cousins discipline and self-control, words we would like to forget we know. Irrationally, we want to do whatever we want to do while still achieving the things we’d like to achieve. Or, perhaps not achieve. Perhaps we want to do whatever we want to do and just have the achievements handed to us on a silver platter.

Meditate on these words, from the mind of God through the pen of Paul:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

– 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV)

Whatever thing you have been intending to do, small or big, will remain in the realm of theory and possibility without discipline. So lace up your shoes, literal or figurative, and get going. Put in the sweat equity, one drop at a time.

Rewards don’t come via intentions.

They are earned intentionally.

Stop.

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Photo Credit: Jacob Postuma
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Five Minute Friday: Work

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Without preamble, because I slept little last night and it’s difficult to breathe. Kate says: work.

Go.

Smoke fills the air. Ash and dust fill our lungs.

Houston floats. Florida braces for impact.

The Northwest – 1200 fires. We burn.

I am not given to attempting to predict when the Lord will return, but I can’t help but feel that the apocalypse has begun. Natural disasters, wars and rumors of wars. Birth pangs or death knells; hard to decide. A winding down and winding up. My eyes look to the sky above, covered by a layer of yellowish, dirty particulates. I long to see it rend in two, split in half, unable to bear the weight of the Glorious King condescending, once again, to set foot on the earth He holds together.

He declared the work finished. Took His place, seated at the right hand of the Father.

And yet we wait.

Again, the “already” and the “not yet.”

Stop.

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Whatever You Do

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Gentle Reader,

Work.

A job.

I hear your collective sigh.

It’s true. Work is hard. Even if you have the opportunity to do something that you absolutely love, something that you were made for, there are still days that are tough. Coworkers can present real challenges. The monotony can get under your skin. The futility can drive you to pull your hair out. (Like when I catalog a book and then discard that book a year or so later). The financial strain of wondering if the ends will meet this month can keep you awake at night.

Work. It’s not perfect.

It’s also not part of the Curse laid out in Genesis 3. God clearly tasks Adam and Eve with taking care of Eden (Genesis 1:28). He invited them to partner with Him in the care of creation. They had a job to do. This all happened long before the Serpent and the fruit and the blame-game and the flaming sword.

We need to work. The drive to accomplish something, to take part in the creative process (and all work is creative; all work generates a product) is an inescapable part of who we are. God works (John 5:17; Romans 8:28) and we, even in our fallen state, continue to reflect the image of God. He poured aspects of Himself into us, and grows them as we walk in faith with Christ.

Our jobs are not the problem. The world in which we do them is the problem.

Futility and monotony are direct results of sin. When Adam and Eve worked in Eden, they didn’t feel frustrated. They had a sense of fulfillment that is always just out of reach for us today. Oh, we might grasp it now and then, but it never fails to fade. Thankfully, there is an answer. There is a place that we can come back to for an attitude adjustment however many times we need one, which, for me, is multiple times a day.

That place? Colossians 3:23-24 –

Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (NKJV)

These words stand in the greater context of whole of Chapter 3, in which Paul talks about the character of the new person (the one who has been made new in Christ) and the importance of shunning sin, summing up with a Household Code that illustrates, briefly, how the Christian family is supposed to function in light of their newness and their turning away from sin. The words about work are directed to bondservants, those who served the family. (Note: “Bondservant” is a term that is best understood to mean “slave.” I don’t have time to get into this, but there are many great articles that delve into the New Testament and slavery. I suggest starting here).

Though  first directed to a specific group, this command can and should be extended to all believers, whether working outside the home or in. For example, in my house laundry is never-ending and a severe pain in the rear. I tend to fixate on having it “done” as often as possible. Chris has the uncanny ability to sense an empty laundry basket and put something in it. I just about can’t stand it. But as I wash, fold and put away his socks for the umpteenth time, what am I really doing? Who am I really serving?

When I’m at the library  putting that week’s order into the system or shuttling a cart of moldy donated books out to the dumpster, it’s easy to get bogged down and feel like I’m not getting anything done. It’s tempting to cut corners and rush through an assignment. But what am I really doing as I correct MARC records? Who am I really serving?

As we continue to think about the abundant life and what it really means, these are important questions. If I work only to serve myself or if I work to please other people, then I have a problem. I need to examine that. And sometimes changing jobs or careers is necessary, even commanded by God, in order to escape that malicious cycle of discontentment. But we’re never going to escape the struggle of work in the life, no matter how important the title, how great the pay, how cool the office. The job is never going to give us the identity or completion that we desire. Instead, we must constantly be shifting our attention back to Christ and do whatever is before us with…well, gusto. With heart.

Whether it’s changing the thousandth diaper of the day or heading up a massive corporation, walking dogs or digging a ditch, filing papers or styling the stars, do it with the sense that God is watching. Do your job to please Him. Work from a place of stability, the kind of stability found in knowing who He is and who you are. Navigate your workplace – the home, the office, the studio, the classroom – with integrity and honesty, as a true child of Almighty God.

And when you forget to do that, like I so often do, just start over.

My journey to faith. (15)

The Detox Diaries: Mistakes

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Gentle Reader,

I made a mistake at work. The kind of mistake that makes people upset. Really upset.

When I was made aware of this mistake, I was mortified. Like, earth-please-open-up-and-swallow-me-now mortified. Not even the fact that it was an honest mistake, that I had been trying to be helpful, soothed my feelings. Irrational visions of a screaming boss and pink slips danced in my head. Trying to do what I could to own up to my responsibility and smooth the situation over as much as possible, I sent out an email to the offended parties, apologizing and assuring them it would not happen again.

And then I went into the staff bathroom and cried.

If this had happened a month ago, I would have been mildly embarrassed. I would have sent the emails, beaten myself up a little and moved on.

Not today.

Dabbing at my eyes to prevent my make-up from smearing, I heard the Spirit speak clearly:

That was a brave thing to do.

The tears didn’t stop right away and the sense of being a slug is with me even now. But that one sentence kept me from falling over the precipice. I looked at myself in the mirror and affirmed what I knew to be true: I am loved, chosen, accepted and redeemed. In light of eternity, this mistake is nothing. I am a daughter of the King, a Princess.

Today’s heaping serving of crow was a valuable lesson. First, even though it was painful and embarrassing, I chose the path of integrity. Instead of getting defensive, I owned up to what I did. And then not only did I hear God, I listened. Instead of latching on to lies, I grabbed hold of truth.

I think I’m going to cry again.

Stupid withdrawals.

Grace and peace along the way.

For all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.