The Next Thing

Fear is a focus on phantoms of the theoretical future. But the future is God’s, not mine; mine is only the present moment. I am fearful because I’m thinking I have to live the rest of my life. But I don’t. I only have to live the next five minutes. To me belongs obedience; to Him belongs outcomes.

— from “The Next Thing,” Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Andree Seu, 2006

I find it encouraging to know that I only have to do the next thing. I don’t have to conquer my fears, fix my marriage, instill a lifetime of knowledge into my children, be good… I only have to do the next thing in obedience. I am posting this post in an effort to remember this!

Andree Seu (with an accent on the first e; I don’t know how to type that) is a writer in WORLD magazine. Actually, if I read WORLD, I usually only read her article. I like her. I found a book of her essays at the thrift store for 25 cents. I don’t understand everything, but I like how she thinks things out on paper.

The Mark of the Christian

The Christian really has a double task. He has to practice both God’s holiness and God’s love. . . Not his holiness without his love: that is only harshness. Not his love without his holiness: that is only compromise. Anything that an individual Christian or Christian group does that fails to show the simultaneous balance of the holiness of God and the love of God presents to a watching world not a demonstration of the God who exists but a caricature of the God who exists.

— from The Mark of the Christian by Francis A. Schaeffer, 1970

This concept of holiness and love entwined is behind all the mistakes Christians make. One of the double strand gets loose and my son is in his bed crying because of hurt feelings. Another of the double strand gets loose and we do something on Sunday that is not worshipful. Well, those are just two small examples. Christians make big mistakes, too, and a lot of bitterness and bad feeling builds up because of them. Or an ignorance of the true God grows in people’s hearts.

So we move past the unkindnesses. We strive to be loving.

So we strive toward true holiness. We move beyond the neglect toward God.

Slowly and imperfectly the double strand twines together to form what a Christian looks like, and this is what the Holy Spirit does in us.

Ekphrastic Poetry Challenge

Writing poetry about a specific work of art is a good exercise to keep my writing skills sharp, and it conveniently combines my double interest in art and literature. The poetry magazine, Rattle, puts on a new Ekphrastic Challenge every month where any poet can submit a poem (for free) written about the work of art Rattle chooses. Then, after the month is over, the editor of Rattle chooses a winning poem and the artist of the artwork chooses a winning poem. I’ve never won, but it has been fun trying. Sometimes the artwork is such that I have nothing to say about it. But the art for June is my favorite yet! So I thought I’d share it. I already submitted a prose poem, but I might try to write another one. The country road is an image my whole life rides down (Oooo… maybe I can use that metaphor in my poem…)

Here’s the link: http://www.rattle.com/ekphrastic/. Enjoy!

Unless You Bless Me

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Genesis 32:26b

I’ve heard a lot of things said about this passage, and certainly there’s something there. A wrestle with God. At night. A demand for a blessing. A name-change. A blessing granted.

It’s very strange. What would it look like for me to wrestle with God? My thoughts tumbling against words of Scripture. My personal prayers punching through the devout holiness of a church service. My depression spiraling holes through the hope and joy God has always provided.

Or is this wrestling with God only something that happens before the blessing of justification, the beginning of sanctification? Maybe fighting with God now is just rebellion. Or getting out of bounds.

I’m back to my post now after helping herd large calves back into their pen. Good thing there was a full moon. They were on the road and had strayed a long way. They had been eating grass for awhile and were not in the mood to move, which tried my husband’s patience to no end (that was a direct quote). So maybe God also likes it better when we’re feisty and willing to move. Maybe He’s more likely to bless us then, even if we’re not exactly where we belong, and we need a lot of herding. Moral of the story: don’t get fat on the neighbor’s forbidden grass when there’s a pile of nutritious corn silage dumped right into your pen. Another moral: if you do find yourself out of the pen, get up and cross a road a few times, moo really loud (i.e. let God know that you know where you are). God doesn’t want you out of the pen, and He won’t ignore you.

Mr. and Mrs. Roussel

Mr. and Mrs. Roussel by Edouard Vuillard, 1896

Marriage is a joining: Mr and Mrs, man and wife, flesh of my flesh. But the minds still operate apart. As close as we get together, touching forehead to forehead, there’s still that bony skull in the way. The Mrs. Krohn part of me says “I am you; why are you saying these things I would never say?” The Amy part of me draws my forehead away from his as a little rebellion against the whole marriage deal. Sometimes I’ve found myself in the same room as my husband, but not touching, not connecting one bit. Bone of my bone, but the bones don’t fit.

And then there are times, even when bone of my bone is walking a different way across life than I am, tenderness applies a little surgery, and my forehead is resting against his shoulder. It doesn’t matter that he is still mostly stranger after eleven and a half years. It doesn’t matter that he can’t remember much at all about me or things that happened after we were married.

There’s a voice that God uses to draw us together. It lisps. It starts talking about my mind, or his mind, and it drops the d at the end. So it says “mine” and means both of us. I don’t know how this works, and sometimes I like to deny it, but then, I find myself resting my head against his, and I’m curled up in our joined world again, a refuge that takes me by surprise when I find it.