pause

I was staring at my computer screen on Tuesday night, working on an article. I’d read through some feedback I got from a respected writer friend. He told me I had several places to move into the active voice.

(I’ve never been very good at keeping the voices consistent when I write.)

This week, I realized why.

As I read back through the parts I needed to change and considered what the active voice phrasing should be, it all rushed back to me. The moment I was describing, the moment of pressing, vulnerability, and the pain the followed.

Writing is pausing.

Good writing should be, I think. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as I relived that moment. I couldn’t keep writing and rewriting. I had to pause and remember. The rush of feelings forced me. To pause.

(I’m also not very good at pausing.)

In a world full of distractions, pausing is so much harder than it should be. Because pausing means pulling out and putting away all those distractions and sitting in the moment, sitting in the pain, sitting in whatever we are trying to avoid with all those distractions.

Pausing makes us feel.

I’m in the heart triad of the Enneagram. But my wing crosses over into the head triad. Much of the research done on this type talks about how fascinating that cross over is for the person. For me, it’s a simple as what my counselor always says to me, “You try and think your way out of your feelings.”

I do. So I must learn to pause, for there is where my feelings lie.

 

include

I am linking up for Five Minute Friday a five minute free write with a word prompt each week. Today’s prompt is “Include.” http://fiveminutefriday.com

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I think we spend most of our lives wondering if we’ll be included.

Wondering if we will get an invite to that thing we heard about. Wanting to be part of that one group of people that seems like a perfect fit for us.

And then our feelings are hurt when the invitation doesn’t come, and once again we see that group of people together and they smile and wave at you, but don’t invite you in.

What might it look like for us to flip the switch? To make room at our table for others rather than hoping to be included at the tables others have prepared? To buy that extra chair and placemat, to dig the leaf out of the closet, open up the table, and make it bigger?

There is rejection in both, surely. One makes you feel more in control than others, I suppose. Both involve a little bit of hope. One feels more empowering than the other, because let’s face it, when someone invites you to their table, we still aren’t sure how long we’ll get a place. We still might feel like the odd one out, the one with the different colored placemat and who doesn’t have the matching glass.

But the other opens your heart a bit more. When we include others rather than ourselves waiting to be included I’ve discovered it makes me much more open to hearing the other’s story. The other one always makes me feel like I’m trying to prove my worth​ in my own story. So what if we all learned to include others rather than worry about being included ourselves?

for what is small is not at all

It was such a small thing.
But it didn’t feel small.
And then I realized… that was sort of the point.
Lots of us have our online “community” of friends. People we interact with on facebook, twitter, etc, that we have not met in real life. We might someday, but for now, we’ve connected online likely because of similar interests or perhaps political views. Either way, it’s a community. It’s different from those in real life, of course, but it still feels faithful to call it a community.
A new and large part of my online community comes from one thing we all have in common: the subscription to a magazine called Christ and Pop Culture. Part of subscribing is a membership to a private Facebook group where we interact on all things Jesus and pop culture related. From there, friendships are “formed” and twitter followings have begun.
This is a story from that community.
I suppose it started when Matt Poppe and I followed each other on Twitter. I have no clue who followed who first. Then Matt wrote this article about why he abandoned the Billy Graham rule. (https://www.fathommag.com/stories/tired-of-making-enemies-out-of-allies) How a desire to keep himself from following through on a sin very much at the forefront of his life – lust – led to something sinful as well: seeing women as the threat. Not the sin.
“it was increasingly difficult to see my sisters as anything other than an unwelcome threat to my righteousness and reputation, a minefield to be avoided rather than a relationship to be nurtured. “ Matt writes.
By the end of the article, I was simultaneously sobbing and cheering. And I’m still processing why. 
Being a woman in church leadership is painful. More often than not. It can range from simply being frustrated with yourself that you didn’t say the right thing in a certain moment to feeling exhausted and overwhelmed at the expectations placed upon you… and most harmful, second-guessing everything you feel in your bones from the Lord about your call. 
It’s that last one I’d like to intersect with Matt’s article.
The church has a long way to go before its marginalization of women ends. From refusing to allow women to stand behind to pulpit to expecting women to see their highest calling as motherhood, the church has hemmed women in so tightly to a cultural narrative that we feel strangled each and every day. It’s hard enough for a woman attending a church, much less one who works for one.
But then this.
 
To see in black and white a fellow believer (and married man no less) call me “sister” broke me. My heart stopped a little and then the tears came and I was just… awash with gratitude.
He called me “sister”.
Like I said, it started so small, and then I realized why it wasn’t small at all.
I’m on my second career, my third home, my fifth car, my third computer, my second guitar. I’ve been called a feminazi because I dared say women have equal value than men in the eyes of God. I’ve been discounted for my theological hutzpah because I only do family ministry (and not “real” ministry) I’ve been emotionally abused by a boss who was also a pastor, and I have been not-so-gently nudged behind a pulpit that I wasn’t sure I was ready to stand behind.
My own story is as complex and it is layered, common as it is unique, and sad as it is joyful – just like the tears when I read Matt’s tweet. For no man has ever be willing to say that to me personally, in the context of Christianity. NONE.
The church has a long way to go. May these moments as small and as big as a tweet serve to push it further down the road.
Us women need it.

 

in the bleak midwinter

I’ve always been more comfortable in melancholy and sadness, more so that the average human being. It’s something that 2017 taught me to lean into more, but also be careful of, since it can lead to unhealthy ways of thinking and skewed perspectives on reality.

So I’ve been in a place where I’m learning to own this part of my personhood, but trying hard not to let it sink me deep into a place where I don’t belong. It’s a tricky tightrope, one I’m thankful to walk because it means I’m learning healthier ways to find proper perspective, rather than just the tried and true “snap out of it” attitude that is so prevalent in my culture. And I’ve never been more aware of that as I have this Advent season.

This advent season has so far been full of a lot of joy… but also a lot of sadness. It’s usually just sadness for me, so I’m thankful for those joyful moments. I’ve also learned to be thankful for the sad ones because in both I learn more about who God has created me to be, and who he wants to mold me into being.

And there are few things that help me see these truths in the way music does.

Christina Rossetti is one of the greatest poets of the 19th century in my mind, having written more than 50 by the time she was 16. (This is my story, too, those hers were much much better.) Her sense of longing and sadness has always resonated with me, and never more so than in the song In the Bleak Midwinter. I own several versions of the song, with my favorites being the Choir of Christ’s College and The Brilliance’s version from the Advent, Volume 2 album.

In the bleak midwinter,
frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
 
Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
 
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.
 
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

yet what I can I give him: give my heart.


The beauty of this poem for me is how it perfectly juxtaposes both despair and sadness… the despair and sadness of being a follower of Christ. Every day I am wrecked by the ravages of the Fall, and yet every day I live in the reality that Jesus came, lived, and died for me. For the rescue and redemption of this world.

Our hope lies in the truth expressed in verse two, that heaven cannot hold our God… that he will come to reign. The ravages of the Fall have made me poor, living in the bleak midwinter.

So what can I give him? I can give him my heart.

the book of joshua – remain



This is Day 15 of a series of posts for the month of October. I’m joining Kate Motaung over at Five Minute Friday for the annual Write 31 Days challenge.  I will write about themes found in the book of Joshua each day, with a different word prompt. 

Today’s prompt word is: REMAIN


It’s far too easy to read quickly past a phrase in Joshua 7:12, “I will not be with you anymore.”

Achan had sinned. He broke the covenant God made with his people by taking some of the devoting things for himself. This break int he covenant affected all of Israel, not just Achan. And that’s why they lost at the first battle of Ai. The Lord didn’t remain.

I can’t help but wonder if God being the one who fought for Israel during this time wasn’t intended for a developing of trust and dependance. This is not something that comes naturally for us. We depend on ourselves first. Then maybe those in our circle. But God is rarely our first go-to. So maybe their victories, that could only happen because God was doing the fighting, were intended to bring about a true dependance on the only One who was be depended on.

Because nothing should strike more fear int he hearts of God’s people than knowing he has left them.

I can’t help but wonder what it must feel like to God when we leave him.

God doesn’t leave us now. Under the new covenant, Jesus ushered in a new age where the Holy Spirit is left with us as a comforter, the veil was torn in the temple, and we have full access to God. All the time. I never worry he’s gone. I know he remains.

But I rarely remain.

While fear may have struck the heart of the men when they realized God wasn’t with them, I also am sure grief was, too. Joshua tore his clothes in grief when he discovered several of his friends had died in the defeat at Ai. 

God’s holy anger burned. And his blessing left them.

Grief must fill God’s heart when we don’t abide in him. Choosing instead to leave, we chase after the idols of our heart, just life Achan chased after his. We always have the option of remaining in God’s love thanks to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. God remains., no matter what idols I chase. He is the steadfast one, faithfully remaining to show me his love.


the book of joshua – try


This is Day 13 of a series of posts for the month of October. I’m joining Kate Motaung over at Five Minute Friday for the annual Write 31 Days challenge.  I will write about themes found in the book of Joshua each day, with a different word prompt.

Today’s prompt word is: TRY



I know sometimes I read the stories of the Old Testament and feel like God’s people didn’t even try.

Maybe it’s because we hear so many stories of how they screwed up and God kept chasing after they holiness. It never seemed to end… he kept on chasing them because they stopped… trying? I don’t know. They stopped something.

We’re never like that, right? Post Exodus, Israel had 4 generations worth of bad habits to undo. I’m not talking about remember to floss. This was about what god to worship. They were still God’s people during their time in Babylon. Yet they didn’t act like, choosing instead to worship a multitude of pagan gods part of Egypt’s culture.

So I guess I should try and give them a little slack. They must have been trying. But wandering the desert for 40 years couldn’t have been easy. Only knowing (and maybe not even fully trusting) the end game must have been hard. I like to know what’s going to happen between point A and point B. God’s people didn’t know what it was going to look like to get to point B, the Promised Land. Day by day, they took orders and did what God commanded 9most of the time). I would complain, too. I would be worried, too. I might even take some stuff I wasn’t supposed to in order to feel more secure about that stuff in between.

Sometimes the trying may be half-hearted. It almost always feels like that for me.

the book of joshua – invite

This is Day 12 of a series of posts for the month of October. I’m joining Kate Motaung over at Five Minute Friday for the annual Write 31 Days challenge.  I will write about themes found in the book of Joshua each day, with a different word prompt.



Today’s word prompt is INVITE.

So when I decided to write on the book of Joshua for the Write 31 Days challenge with Five Minute Friday, there were four unknown prompt words. Each Thursday night, for years, Five Minute Friday has revealed a word to inspire our writing. But for the Write 31 Days challenge, we were given all the words. Expect the (4) Five Minute Friday prompts words.

I say this because today is a prompt word I didn’t know about, and I couldn’t think of anything about the word “Invite” that has to do with the book of Joshua. Because there is nothing about this book that involving inviting. There’s a lot of plundering, a lot of commanding, a lot of conquering, a lot of war. God doesn’t “invite” his children to take over the Promised Land. He commands them. Joshua doesn’t invite his people to roll the large stones against the mouth of the cave where the kings were hiding. He commanded them to. The cities did not invite God’s people in, the fought against them.

So here I write… trying to figure out, with a prompt word that is the opposite of everything this book is about …what to say.

But maybe that’s the point.

While I think there are many inviting things about the gospel, obedience doesn’t always look like one, especially to someone who hasn’t experienced the heart transforming work of Christ in their lives. These commands God gives can feel rigid and unsettling. Controlling and demanding. Unfair and… well, a buzzkill.

But God was not just commanding the people in Joshua. Nor is he just commanding us. He is also inviting us into a better story. A story he’s written, yes, but one that will ultimately lead to blessing and not defeat. This invitation is not about us and the story that we want. It’s about the best story. The right story.
The true gospel is an invitation to freedom and not a prison full of demands. Our God does ask for obedience, but ultimately that obedience leads to a promised land.

the book of joshua – write

This is Day 11 of a series of posts for the month of October. I’m joining Kate Motaung over at Five Minute Friday for the annual Write 31 Days challenge.  I will write about themes found in the book of Joshua each day, with a different word prompt.

Today’s word prompt is WRITE.

It took me years to understand the history of Israel, our history. I still am missing a lot, but the more I read and study, the more the string of history, holding together the lives of God’s people, makes sense to me.

The time and place of God’s people in the book of Joshua is what I would label as “penultimate.” For generations, they heard about how God would give them a Promised Land, a lang flowing with milk and honey,  He promised to make them a great nation, and that a great King would come from their lineage. 

Here’s the thing that would have driven me CRAZY if I were one of God’s people back then: that I didn’t know what the fulfillment of all those promises would look like. Especially once generations and generations were born and no land was given over, a nation was enslaved, and no great King was coming. (They had to wait a reeeeeeally long time for that one.)

At the same time, as I grow older, I’ve learned to appreciate that someone else is writing my story.

I knew, once I decided to enter the ministry, that I would have a limited amount of control over where God would send me. The choices were still mine, but ultimately God would clear the path I was intended to take. I can remember agonizing over the future as 20-year old college girl, desperate for God to give me a neon sign telling me which major to chose and then which job offer to take once I graduated.

And I still wrestle with this sometimes. But I also know that as long as I am not living a sinful and rebellious life – that the choices i make are honoring to Him – that I am ultimately not out of God’s will. For He is planning all this stuff in the background to prepare the way He would have me go.

I want no one else writing my story. Not even me.

the book of Joshua – remember

This is Day 10 of a series of posts for the month of October. I’m joining Kate Motaung over at Five Minute Friday for the annual Write 31 Days challenge.  I will write about themes found in the book of Joshua each day, with a different word prompt.

Today’s word prompt is REMEMBER.



The parting of the Red Sea in Exodus gets all the glory as far as seas parting in the Old Testament go, so it’s not as well known that another one happened at the Jordan River in the book of Joshua.

God dried of the land in both cases, not just merely parting the waters and making his people sludge through the mud. As if parting the waters so his people could cross wasn’t impressive enough. The ark needed to make it with them and God was, in his covenant faithfulness, providing yet another way for his people to flourish by getting them into the Promised Land. The priests’ feet were lifted up on dry ground and once they crossed the waters returned as if nothing had happened.

After they all finished crossing, God commanded Joshua to have one man from each tribe take a stone from the river, right where the priests stood firmly, and take them where they set up camp for the night.

God wanted the children of these people to have a sign, revealing the great work God had done from them in this place. He wanted them to remember. “So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” -Joshua 5:24

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome each time I am feeling full of doubt and uncertainty is to remember. 

REMEMBER who God is and what he has done for me.
REMEMBER who he created me to be, and his call upon my life.
REMEMBER that my identity lies solely in his work and not my own or another’s.
REMEMBER that He is always faithful and He is Sovereign.
REMEMBER that he loves me. No matter what.

the book of Joshua – listen


This is Day 9 of a series of posts for the month of October. I’m joining Kate Motaung over at Five Minute Friday for the annual Write 31 Days challenge.  I will write about themes found in the book of Joshua each day, with a different word prompt.

Today’s word prompt is  LISTEN.



A lot of commands fly about in the book of Joshua. Things that seems normal “go and spy and find out what we’re up against”. Things that seem crazy, “March for seven days and you’ll win. I promise.”

There was much to be done. They were taking over the Promised Land. Kings had to be defeated. Cities overtaken. God’s people were obeying (most of the time), listening to what he said and following through to be successful the physically take over the land.

But what about spiritually?

In chapter 5, they set aside time to circumcise the new generation. This can be a “huh?” moment in a book mostly about war. Was it wise to delay a whole section of men fighting for a period? This wasn’t something they could do in a day and be ready to fight the next.

In Old Testament time, circumcision for the Jewish people was a sign of their covenant relationship with God. Circumcision rarely occurred for people outside the Jewish faith. (The only recorded exceptions were the slaves of Jewish people.) This act of obedience was the sign of a new start – leaving the old ways from their time in slavery behind them.

And the commander of the Lord‘s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. – Joshua 5:15

Nothing is recorded about God’s people training for war in a physical sense. There is no talk of sword fighting drills, running laps and push-ups (the jr. high girl inside me just started hyperventilating at the thought of doing wall sits for volleyball). Nothing at all to suggest Joshua put his people through rigorous training to prepare them for the fight ahead. But they did prepare God’s way.

We often forget that preparing for anything that God has called us to do is just as much about listening and it is about doing. In this moment, when the command of the Lord’s army appeared before him, Joshua knew. He knew that preparing for battle wouldn’t be about the proper way to plunder a city. It would be about listening o God’s direction and knowing he was with them.