Light Spring Ahead

Recently I moved from my hometown to a place (2.5 hours away) I had only visited, eh, maybe twice. Uprooted from a FULL life of work, college, friendships, friendships so deep they were more like sister & brotherhood, mentors, connections, a church where I grew by leaps and bounds, streets I could have driven with my eyes closed, neighbors who watched me blossom from awkward junior high-er to bouncy college sophomore. Planted in a different culture. Different streets. People who eye me with suspicion (instead of the acceptance born from familiarity). A different school with instructors who expect different things. The list goes on.

And somewhere among that list of differences I lost my balance. BIG TIME.

I started trying to do things “right”…bad bad BAD. I started measuring my performance, in class, with people, at work. I was striving and striving to meet the standard of what it looks like to be a success here. I listened to culture’s voice & the voice of my own insecurities & started trying to be someone else. I started condemning myself for being the Wild Child I have grown into (and who many have condemned & still do condemn me for being). And what happens when we start judging & condemning ourselves? We start judging & condemning others. In my head I was saying “I am better” because that felt better than knowing I had failed to reach the “standard”. Then the atrocity of that way of thinking started to close in on me. Should I change my major? Should I leave this church? I was so caught up in the negatives I couldn’t breathe anymore. Even talking to the people I loved most, I hated the sound of my measuring, counting, judgmental voice.

In my misery I knocked on Heaven’s door again. I was in darkness. I knew my behavior wasn’t of God, but somehow I couldn’t get my head above the terror of failure to gulp true LIFE ((oxygen)). Knocking, knocking, knocking. Hallelujah, my sweet God of Lights came & shown Truth into the darkness.

“Here.” He reached out his hand & gave me what I needed:

just enough clarity to keep going

acceptance

peace

the soft breath of God-air whispering, “my goodness is unending. rest.”

Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do….It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! Galatians 6:16, MSG

God didn’t allow his Son to be crucified so that we could live a limited life, suffering from neck pain due to fitting within the 4 walls of standardized boxes.

The God of the universe didn’t die to make us all the same. Because of the that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns into they dictate.~Galatians 6:15, MSG

The beauty of life now, in this fresh moment, is that I have a clean slate before God. Learning from these recent mistakes, I can spring forward into this season of life. This space with souls circling up around the brilliant light of Eternity. Suddenly, all the bitter things are honey again, gifts offered from the hand of Heaven.

When I cycle, when I study, when I text, when I eat…instead of failures, there is space, light, zest for life. And I want to share it all with others; with everyone I LOVE (in Christ that’s everyone).

It’s a cruel cruel trick 

How we find ourselves

When we lose everything else.

(Sleeping At Last, Woodwork)

Yet There Is

At the start of summer I wrote a post celebrating how joyful God had made me. I broached the subject of how very far he had brought me in his tender way. He had romanced me from anger, fear, & insecurity into joy, peace, & confidence. Sweet. Christian life goal, accomplished, right? (Oh, the naivety of myself 3 months ago. Ha!)

Definitely that post was the story of a season, a hard season with a soft ending. But after a season’s close there comes a new season, and good, easy seasons are not promised. Seasons that are worth it are promised those who are hidden in the Divine. Worth it: I didn’t say easy. Certainly, each season is as different from the next as waves in the ocean, just thousands of water droplets struggling together in a rolling symphony that can caress sand as easily as crush lungs & snap bones.

So he led me from Heights [abundance of joy & confidence & love] into Depths [fear & weeping & heartbreak as well as confusion & hypocrisy] because that was the story of Next Season: Chapter 1. Hanging onto the previous season only hindered my forward motion, but he humbled my heart & inched me forward (at the snail’s pace of my tiny Faith).

Accusations hurt, my friends. Just ask David, the guy who wrote the book of Psalms in the Bible.

“O Lord,” I prayed, “have mercy on me. Heal me, for I have sinned against you.” But my enemies say nothing but evil about me. ~Psalm 41:4-5a

I was accused and I stopped dancing. I was separated from ones I loved & that sure didn’t make me want to dance. I was uprooted & now live in a new place with no old friends who “get me” & pray for me & laugh with me. In a culture that is just dissimilar from my own enough to make me feel uncomfortable, my hypocrisy parades before my eyes on the exhaust cloud of each Ford F-150 that drives by. I’m a girl who likes the illusion & false security of having bank account in order still unemployed & yet…

…And yet…

….there’s this peace. There’s the sense of a great God below & above holding my infinite place in this Universe; in his Heart.

Somehow I see another miracle already. It creeps in when my hard heart gets softened by a song or by prayer. That the unemployed new girl whose family relationships are tenuous at best, whose dearest friends are scattered around the state (country! globe!), against whose name accusations have fallen, is dancing. That the one whose privilege blinds her to blessings can see the face of her lowly Master with the eyes of her soul.

My Lord gives me glimpses of Heaven in every moment & today he has me dancing for the wonder of it all. The wonder of today. And yesterday. And Up & Down. Heaving sobs & a hopeful future. Proud discontentment breeding contempt & Holy discontentment giving birth to the restless pressing in….to Eternal Life NOW.

His love is everything from season to season. In the letting go & the too-long-holding-on….his arms of Grace are open to me.

What a reason to dance.

Don’t forget that love is all you came here for
Not anything less 

Need I say more? ~Brett Dennen

Imperfect Progress

Since God led me to a place of pedal-to-the-metal faith, I’ve been doing my (faulty) best to be an intentional disciple-maker. Jesus had buddies around him all the time. Not necessarily men & women he found amusing or special, but people he prayed overnight for (seeking divine guidance) prior to approaching with the invitation: come & follow. Not being a Bible scholar, I can only say that it appears to me the trick of his discipleship was, fairly simply, to live. To be present in the lives of those around him. To care for them. To eat with them. To fart with them (I’m making an assumption here. But weren’t they human?!). To spur them into greater acts of love. Jesus let the men & women around him bear witness to the everyday miracles of His life (and ultimately, in their faithfulness as disciples, they bore witness to the one-time-miracle of his resurrection!).

I’m no Jesus, but I do believe he has done & IS NOW DOING miracles in my life. So I’ve tried to be like him, to invite. To say, “Come, follow Jesus with me; come bear witness to the miracles he does in my life.” And I’ve done this with expectant hope of seeing miracles in those whom I disciple as well.

So miniature hooligans have been following me around for 2 years now. I love my alone time, (& still maintain a healthy amount for my own sanity!) but am rarely found going to events or doing activities alone.  Every moment of training I received from the people I’m a disciple of has kept me alive spiritually. The people who have allowed me to be privy to corners of their lives, who haven’t hidden their messes from me & have not condemned me for mine. Those people are game changers & as their disciples, I’m working out the new game in my life. Our weapon is love & few things communicate love to a child (most of my disciples are YOUNG, because…I’m young) like time; sharing adventures & everyday tasks with them. There’s an army rising up & how will they fight if they are not trained?

It’s cool to have these people learning from me, often copying or mimicking my words & behavior. But it’s also extremely not cool. Because they see me text & drive. They hear me yell at my parents. They feel the angry tension that bubbles out in bad traffic. They catch that cuss word that rolls off my tongue as I roll over the curb in the Mickey D’s drive thru. As surely as they follow my example in prayer, in service, in love, they will follow my example in anger, in impatience, in a lack of grace for myself & others.

Lots of days I want to throw in the towel. I want to go somewhere ALONE. I want to nix the whole trying to set a good example thing because CLEARLY my example is not-so-good. But Jesus didn’t ask me to set a perfect example. He didn’t ask me to get it all figured out & then go graft people in. Nope. He said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go & proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)

He didn’t say, if you can’t love perfectly than give up & quit trying to love at all.  Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. (John 13:34-35, MSG)

Jesus did not demand that I BE him. He asked that I love the same way he loved & that I lay down the heavy burdens, not make an even heavier one!

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary & carry heavy burdnes, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble & gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

The kids see me sinning. They are perceptive & can easily tell I am broken. But they also see what I do with it. Do I cover my sin up? Do I self medicate my pain? Do I let my frustration come out as jellyfish barbs thrown into stinging hearts? Do I put burdens on them, rules they have to follow, standards I can set up to try & catch someone in a trap that will put me above them in twisted holiness?

I want them to see me wrestling. I want them to see me hating my sin but learning not to hate myself. I want them to see their cooky, whimsical, engaging, awkward, hyper, older friend being set free. That’s the miracle they are around to bear witness to: being set free by Jesus himself. God working on me from the inside out. My fervent hope is that they will see this freedom & seek it for themselves. That they will see the relationship that gives me wings & learn to fly on their own!

Making disciples is creating a family. Oftentimes, it is a deeper-than-biological family, but it’s a relationship that sends its members back out in pursuit of their biological family. Disciples of Christ welcome prodigals with open arms but don’t shy away from sending those prodigals amongst the wolves. Disciples are concerned with purpose more than with avoidance of discomfort. We challenge. We encourage. We don’t back down from the mess we see in one another. Disciples aren’t fearless, but they don’t let fear control them. At their finest, disciples have crucified their emotions, their desires, & let the wild & holy Spirit take over.

Last week I worked at a Literacy Program for “underprivileged” kids. One of my disciples accompanied me as a helper each day. I wanted them to see me & other adult Disciple-makers in action. (If all I do is take them out to eat, pamper them, are they really learning the spiritual life skills it takes to live in Christ’s victory?) After some rough conversations that left me wondering if all I’m doing is creating more little Pharisees like myself (hypocritical enemies of King Jesus), I found what is pictured below. Back story: throughout the course of the reading program I would write encouraging notes on the mini Expo boards that the kids used, as the Spirit led. Hippy Jesus type stuff. (Let it be known I was very COVERT about this endeavor, by the way. I wanted the children to receive these as words from God, not from Miss Lydia)

One child writing such words to another. BE STILL MY FLIPPIN HEART!
One child writing such words to another. BE STILL MY FLIPPIN HEART!

Wow. Maybe discipleship DOES leave an impact. They may pick up on the anger, as well as unimportant things like my affinity for thumb rings & chick fil a & reggae music, but they pick up on my words too. They pick up on the life & power that trickles through my soul after deep times of communion with the Lord. They pick up on the deliberate love I try to show. May their eyes be opened to the LOVE God has for US & to his life-changing grace.

We are infinite. As the universe, we hold each other tight.~Sleeping at Last

Kwagala

Sometimes I get it so wrong. I think that in order for me to love people they need to be as easy to love as God is. I think that MY love is the love that keeps things going. I think that love on my terms is real love. Then I wind up running out of love. Because, well, my love has an end. True LOVE doesn’t. In reality, God’s love is the game changer. Not mine. Hey, check it out, the Bible is right again: Real love isn’t our love for God, but His love for us. (1 John 4:10)
So it’s His Never-Changing, Never-Wavering, Constant, Forgiving Love that should shape my life. My paltry mimicry of this love is not the standard. The standard gets down in the dirt with us. It sees our ugliness. It sees blisters oozing puss on our hearts. It sees wounds that wound others. It gets snapped at & accused & still.loves.on. We turn our back on Love & love still covers us.

Finally I visited Africa. 8 years since God brought the first memoir of a child soldier into my hands. 8 years of pinning maps to my wall & clipping Nat Geo articles about “the motherland”. I thought I would visit South Sudan, but God took my hands & walked with me into Uganda. Into dust clouds. Into papyrus marshes. Into tiny stores selling only eggs (unrefrigerated!), coca cola, & motor bike tires. Into shouts of “Mzungu! Mzungu!” Into wide Ugandan smiles. Into culture stress & outrage at male-dominate culture. Into deeper love, but not as I expected.

Having read piles of blog posts about the experiences of other “Mzungus” (white people/Westerners) in this country, I expected to fall in love. I expected a fresh awakening that left me hungry to stay & do MORE. I expected to look into Ugandan eyes & experience a kind of love I had never known before. By day 4 I realized that wasn’t going to happen. I was disappointed until I realized: you can’t be awakened to something for the first time…twice! I’m awake! Since 2009 I’ve been living a love story (His love moving us forward, remember, not mine) that started in the hills of Jamaica (“Little Africa”–go figure!) where the Holy Spirit hands clasped both my shoulders & shook me alive. Alive to love. Alive to poverty & pain. Alive to everywhere that is not comfy, plush, white middle class America. Alive to REAL life. Life that risks everything, that scurries down a dark shaft in search of one lost miner, that searches the couch cushions for one coin some might call worthless.
I expected Africa to be a first chapter in my life. But that’s not the order of my story (guess what? Lydia’s not writing it…). Uganda is not the first or last chapter, it’s simply a sweet & difficult plot twist.
It’s another deep gash in my heart bleeding the same blood that poured from the side of Christ as He gasped his last breath. The wounds with no Neosporin. The women whose necks are graced with 50 pound loads instead of pearl necklaces. White-collared corruption that kills as many as the HIV stigma & condom-less sex. Those with homosexual tendencies thrown gracelessly into prison & labeled MISFIT.

Trips like this don’t come with closure. There’s no tidy bow to put on the end of something so confusing, so beyond me. There’s just a tiny faith plant in the garden of my heart that is weather beaten by the tragedies. Weather beaten, but somehow stronger. Somehow more green, somehow growing bigger & more vivacious against the odds. Because there’s this paradox. This belief that’s sometimes a rainbow over my soul & sometimes just a tender whisper in the dead of night {Housefires, Good Good Father}. That the worse things get, the more good God is. That His goodness is His identity, & not at all relative to what I see or feel, eat or don’t eat. Whether I accumulate cancerous cells, or millions of dollars, goodness is of God. The deeper the badness goes, the better the goodness gets. I’m a mango & somehow tragedies are scoops taken out of yellow flesh, making room for love & hope. Do I understand it? HA! No. But that little faith tree in my heart reacts to what is beyond me. It feeds on a food that I can’t articulate.

For the past 6 years my playground & battle ground has been the uncultivated love of God. Traveling, I expected to see something new, big, wide. I saw new things, but no new rest for my soul. There is only one green pasture where my soul-feet can stumble to for real rejuvenation. The world is big & wide but never bigger or wider than His love. Seeing more places may show me more physical reflections of who He is but nothing is so sweet & expansive as the wilderness of His love.

May we fall in love every time we open up our eyes. ~Sleeping At Last

Telling Jesus stories through a Ugandan translator!
Telling Jesus stories through a Ugandan translator!

Today.

Told a friend that I was going to Africa. Her response?

“You get to go to your home land!”

….the place from which stem bloodlines of many precious ones who have become family (to me).

Today I leave.

Today I put my toe in the big puddle of a new continent for the first time.

I cross the Atlantic.

I rush through the airport & sit too close to smelly people.

I am herded like a cow through line after line.

I see Amsterdam through glass.

I smell the red dirt for the first time.

I let blessings I have received (deodorant, sanitary pads, truth, and love) slide through my fingers into the hands of new friends.

Today I obey & rejoice!

I will thank you, Lord, among all the people. I will sing your praises among the nations. For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. ~Psalm 108:3 & 4

Blessed to be a blessing,

Lydia

Holy Broken

My dark heart, on blast in my actions, drives me to glimpse God’s heart in fasting. He reveals much in Isaiah 58, Behold you fast only to quarrel and to fight….Is such the fast that I choose?….Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord? It pleases Him when we commit to restraining our flesh that His Spirit may grow stronger within us, but never at the cost of peace. Never at the cost of justice. Never to turn our eyes inward, but to turn them Upward.

So I know, that in seeking Him, I have been a Pharisee (that nemesis of Jesus we all pretend not to be). For the family member who intrudes on what has become “my” time receives a snippy retort. And suddenly I have not loved God, but myself; for every human who walks on this planet, and in the halls of my home, bears God’s image on earth ((for good or for evil)). It is revealed that my seeking is now motivated by what I can get instead of Who He Is. How I yearn to be available to His call. How often I miss the mark by the log in my eye (Matt. 7:5).

Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.~1 John 4:8

Oh, that my days may be acceptable to Him.

It is imperative that I live broken because of the paradox of Christian existence. This paradox is that though my days on earth will never be flawless & sweet aromas to Him, yet, in Christ, they always will be (even in my legacy of sin & hypocrisy?!). How can it be so?

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.~Psalm 139:6

What mad contradiction it is as I cry out with the saints: I BELIEVE; oh, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)! Like roots & weeds, the good & bad exist alongside each other within us. In our Lord, the weeds can be strangled, and the plant can grow strong, sending off seeds on the wind in every direction, until He gathers us all, in holiness, to His rest. But we must acknowledge our imperfection. We must live with two realities before us: 1) my sin, 2) His glory. The sin to make us broken, the Glory to lift up our heads, to be a gentle palm beneath the chin saying, “smile, HIS is the victory, ain’t no grave gonna hold you down[Crowder].”

But He Himself [Jesus] will be refreshed from brooks along the way. He will be victorious.~Psalm 110:7

I can measure His love as tidy as a tablespoon of turmeric: Jesus came, He lived covered in woodchips & sinlessness, He set into motion a movement of followers that would bring every nation to Him in worship & then…He died as a criminal.

For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. ~Colossians 1:19&20

Teach me to feed my body with food & my soul with Your word. Free from trying to nourish my soul with the temporary food of this life. Only sometimes overlapping the two when my body is sustained by the strength of Your Word (may it be so!) in a fast that pleases You.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. ~Galations 5:24

For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.~Psalm 138:6

Idol Moments

Everything I do, I love. Catch me on a Tuesday, I’ll be in the middle of teaching swim lessons and–for the most part–lovin’ it. During the summer, I’m downtown loving to mentor kids and running, wide-eyed & happily ragged at camps for inner-city youth. Find me at the table Wednesday night, studying, and I’ll be obsessing over the beauty of the Spanish language. You’ll hear me nursing the alphabet backwards and forwards, listening to sound clips and laughing when I discover the word pedo. In the mornings during class, I’m adoring my classmates & my school. Sunnyside up? Yes. But I go a step too far, far too often. I smile and praise God for all he has given me. I drive to yoga practice listening to music, full of thanks, happy. And I think, what if I had more? More music? More time for yoga? More money?
In my mind I begin to take inventory and calculate just what (and how much of it) will give me lasting contentment. Suddenly I’m moving like molasses–no longer free but chained. Chained to the idols I’ve made out of blessings. Fearful, grasping to maintain my ideal reality; worshipping the created instead of the Creator ((who I love)). Grasping for creative control instead of joyfully submitting to his–grand, divine, world-wide–will. Obsessed with what makes me feel good. Such a slight turn to what I want instead of what he wants. A Satan slip that turns my heart away from God. A lack of surrender. A lack of dependence. A rebellious, finger in his face, “God, I’ve got this. I’m good without you. This is all I need.” With my heart I’ve declared that the blessings He has given me are what I need instead of his.glorious.self. I’ve switched the search to seeking spiritual sustenance in yoga, in music, in family, and friends, and travels–in the sweet treats of this realm–instead of in his presence.
Here. In the truck. On the yoga mat. In the classroom. His presence is my solitary source of life. Real life. The umbilical cord is prayer. This upward lifting of my carnal eyes are the avenue for transformation I’m responsible for walking through, moment after moment.
He is the only source of life. I forget that, and I plummet. Cling to this Truth, and up I climb, higher & higher into his marvelous light!

“Ah, Lord God! It is you who has made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm!” ~Jeremiah 32:17, ESV

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God.” ~Romans 8:6-7, NLT, emphasis mine.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God…For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”~Hebrews 3:12&14

will I go?

Visiting the Wycliffe (Bible Translators) headquarters in Dallas last week, I guess I asked for it. The Holy Spirit came knocking (per my own bold request) on Sunday night, solidifying all I’ve known to be true since 8th grade….I’m destined to follow God’s call overseas, and following that call is not going to be easy. There is a reason not all languages have translations of the Gospel. Living overseas is hard. Trusting God (rather than your own ability to pull up them bootstraps!) to provide your daily bread is not comfortable. Living oceans away from your family….daunting at best. Let’s not even mention the powers of darkness at work.
Life is full of heartache (wherever you live) and following Jesus takes immense courage.

Another follower said, “Master, excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have my father’s funeral to take care of.” Jesus refused, “First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.”
~Matthew 8:21-22, MSG

So there I stood, in the highest building at the International Linguistics Center, as they sang:

Letting go of my pride
Giving up all my rights
Take this life and let it shine*

How can I give it all up? I can’t escape the thought. I’m standing on the brink of the rest of my life and all my weak heart can cry is: I love my life! I love Little Rock! I want to stay.
Yet, I know what staying would mean. Happiness laced with hollowness. Wondering. A curiosity that would never leave me be, that would make me restless everyday of my life. The knowledge, achy like a stomach cramp, that I had not said “yes” to the Lord of my life. How can I slam the door in his face? How can I sing the songs….

Surrender?

do you people know what that means? I thought, as everyone sang happily around me. It means no more truck rides with inner-city kids and hot Cheeto fingerprints, no more Halloweens spent driving from one side of my beloved city to the other; no more drop-in visits to friends who have known me since before adolescence, friends who rode the high school roller coaster with me; no more knowing the ins & outs of one place, one people.
No more weekends at mom & dad’s.
Will I get to see my sisters…even once a year?
God, I love my life.
It is a gift.
Is it an idol?

You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own. God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God. ~1 Corinthians 6:19-20, emphasis mine

Do I love my life more than I love the God who gave me life? If I truly believe that all good things come from God why would I run away from him instead of towards him?

He has given me time, talent, & the treasure of my heart & free will. He won’t force himself on me, but he allures me towards the adventure my soul longs to play its irreplaceable role in.
And all I can do is shake in my little gray Skechers:

Surrender.

Truly, it is the only option. I don’t have to be smart enough. I don’t have to be healthy. I just have to be willing. I just have to trust him. It is hard to sing the words:

It will be my joy to say
Your will
Your way*
(Chris Tomlin, Lay Me Down)

…so I will whisper them, tears flowing from the depths of my shattered heart.

I surrender. I will go; I will go if You go with me.

And He said to him [Moses], “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”~Exodus 33:14, ESV

He is enough. Who else has a bottle full of the tears I’ve shed since birth? Who else loves me enough to make me whole? No small part of my heart is isolated; He cares for every inch of my eternal soul.

Make your light shine, so others will see the good you do and will praise your Father in heaven. ~Matthew 5:16, CEV

Dare to follow him, and join the deluge of people who have taken the plunge into the ocean of his grace;
His grace for you.

LYDIA2

Judy Griffith (pictured in blue) spent her life translating the Bible for people groups in Papau New Guinea. What will your legacy be?

https://www.wycliffe.org/

10 Lessons of Hope

I have accumulated some great nuggets of knowledge over the past year and I want to share them! Not because I know it all, or even half of it all, but because I know different things than you do, and sharing our lessons is a good way to practice loving each other and living wise.

Here we go…

  • Wherever you are, be there. Community is built by people who invest in the lives of those around them rather than spend time searching for the group to be in. I realized this last summer when I noticed that the “favorites” list on my phone was over a page long, and full of people I did not talk to on a weekly basis. I had accumulated a list of the people I thought I needed to be with, and that had only served to damage the community God had placed me in. I trimmed the list down to seven people: it is far more user-friendly now, and I do not so often feel stretched out and stressed by the demands myriads of friends used to place on me.

“There isn’t anything on earth like relationships to make you holy.” ~Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself, 146

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” ~Acts 9:11, ESV

  • Be refreshed by the things you like to do. If you tend to overwork yourself (like me), you may find no space in your life for activities you enjoy. Change that. You need to do frequent, inexpensive things that you find refreshing. God gives us these pleasures as blessings; they help us through the ache of everyday life. For me it is yoga, and writing in my journal. Other people go on walks, cook, or build bonfires outdoors. (**Beware of idolatry: don’t turn these blessings into curses by giving them the heart that only belongs to God.**)

“But a heart alive is a heart that is awake and curious and pressing in to more.” ~ Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself, 115

  • Be (extra) kind to minorities. Not because they are any more desperate or less important than the ethnic majority, but because, odds are, things in their family tree haven’t gone so smoothly. Why else would they be far from their biological roots? Just subtly offer to pay for dinner when you’re out with a friend who is a minority member, or get plugged in to a mentoring program for at-risk youth. America has a situation on her hands. What are you gonna do about it?

“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 7:12, ESV

  • Own what you’re good at. I’ve wasted too many compliments, shrugging them away, saying, “Oh, it’s nothing, I’m not that good.” Take the compliment! Don’t be puffed up with unrighteous pride, but don’t apologize for being good at something either. I struggle with math and science but I’ve wowed some college instructors with essays and short stories. God has made me this way so I can serve HIS amazing purposes!

“God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.”  ~Ephesians 2:10, CEV

  • Learn to say “no” to demands people place on you. Practice it if you have to; I did. This is especially difficult and of key importance if you have an enabling personality. Ask God, not men, what he would have you do with your time.

“Made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what is our job and what isn’t. Workers who continually take on duties that aren’t theirs will eventually burn out.” ~Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, 27

  • Be OKAY with not knowing. No one knows it all. Don’t drive yourself mad searching for the answer to every question that flies through your head in a day. *You don’t have to win the arguments.* Doing research, learning, and seeking council is good, but no amount of historical data or advice or analysis can set your heart to rest. Only God offers real rest. Trust him as you spend a lifetime learning the truth.

God, show me the truth and show me the lies.

      “We are not uncertain about God, but uncertain of what He will do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.” ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, 120

  • Beware of people who do know. Again, no one knows it all. The president, scientists, your parents, your mentors, your pastor, your therapist, they may have pieces of truth that cultivate discernment within you but they do not know it all. Our not-knowing is what makes us human, and spurs us forward to humble reliance on God. His ways are **not** our ways. Look out for people who have the answers to all your questions. Imagine a librarian who, when asked for books about World War II, starts reciting her personal knowledge of the war. You’d probably walk away slowly and Google it later. Surround yourself with people who don’t have all the answers, but are quick to point you in the right direction.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”~1 John 4:1, ESV

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” ~Hebrews 5:14, ESV

  • Grieve. It’s OKAY to cry when you leave a job you have only had for two years. It is OKAY to spend an entire afternoon writing down memories of a loved one who passed away. If you need to weep, weep. If you need to take time thinking and wading through your emotions, set aside that time. You can experience the pain now or let it snowball for the rest of your life. God wants to bring healing to the pain in your heart, it’s part of your restoration.

“There is hope for your future, declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 30:17, ESV

“Jesus wept.” ~John 11:35, ESV

“Smooth sailing does not make a good sailor.” ~Louis Zamperini, Devil at My Heels

((for more on grief check out Prayer as a Place, by Charles Bello))

  • Ask God what his special love language is for you. Heather Nelson (http://sunshinedreams2u.blogspot.com/) told me this at a retreat a few weeks ago, and little did I know, God would reveal our special language to me less than an hour later. I stood next to a window and the sun slowly peeked around a thick tree. The white rays pierced glass and kissed my forehead. Sunlight. Sunshine. That is one of the way God speaks to me, letting me know he is near. Today I basked in that same glow, feeling alive and rejuvenated by this tangible taste of everlasting love. Perhaps he speaks to you in dreams, or via shapes or sounds. Just ask!

“And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” ~Ephesians 2:17&18, ESV, emphasis mine

  • If you are not a slave to God, you are a slave to death. In a way, slavery is our only option. But the slavery of God leads to fruit, to life! With God as our master, we find true freedom and the ability to rest in his grace and do good things. The other option is default mode: remaining in bondage to our own fickle, wounded hearts. None of our decisions are for good when we live by the flesh, but though the war rages on when we live by the Spirit, we are able to surrender to God’s excellent plan for the redemption of our souls and this planet.

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” ~Romans 6:16-18, NIV

“Give your life away in exchange for many lives, give away your blessings to multiply blessings, give away so that many might increase, and do it all for the love of God.” ~AnnVoskamp, One Thousand Gifts, page 197 (http://www.aholyexperience.com/)

Have a new year filled with hope, friends. Happy 2015!

Rope Route to Rest

Don’t clean up to come. Even in the heated sin-moment turn we can, upwards. Soul lifted high when eyes are too heavy with remorseful tears. The refuse we find ourselves wrecked in is not bigger than redemption: sanguine drops of Jesus etched into human heart history ages ago. In the hating, the lying, the cussing, the spitting, the yelling, the venting at computer or dog or self or other, look up and find the rope strong enough to lift. Don’t hesitate because of the nasty you haven’t got clean of: you can’t clean you anyway, trying only makes you more dirty. Unclean is the only way we can come, out of our soil, into his Son.

Amazing grace the sweetest thing, this I know.~Crowder

Let there be less focus on the beautiful big words we’ve bivouacked next to steps God guides us through and more preoccupation with the transcendent power of living in God’s love right this minute. This solitary moment is a speck on eternity’s sandy shore yet in it we have access to the great God our Maker. Don’t neglect to latch your soul onto this moment, let it come alive, climbing the rope to heavens peace like a muscly gymnast using only upper body power. Let us climb not by the strength of our forearms nor the gnarled stout of abdomens but by the divine rope within us tied tight by Jesus’ outstretched arms.

In trust let him tear down the tower that you stand on, built by wounded ego, trampled on child hidden behind. Put away pithy apologies to the Prince of Peace and put in their place war by God almighty strength, bowing no longer to Satanic bonds. Throw vices off your chained neck. Let wretchedness no longer rub shoulders raw. Flex spirit muscles and use prayerful pleas from the heart to overcome belittling whispers claiming that the rope God offers isn’t really there, that what you hold onto isn’t made to carry such weight, that the unreliable rope will snap (because, as the lie goes, your nasty is heavier than everyone else’s). Wrong. You know it won’t snap because you know the Vine from which it grows. You’ve tasted his power and felt his kiss on the sweaty skin of your soul.

Four letter words are allowed in his presence because he knows once your soul desert experiences the eternal oasis you’ll spit them out for the fire on your tongue. Fire that crackles fervent fury for injustice inflicted on family members who don’t look remotely like you.

When your boss makes you feel like a thumb tack stuck in Titan toe…

When your hair is not pretty,

Your muscles not strong…

When your career has chewed you up and spit you back out…

Or your marriage has done the same,

When you are tired and pulled on from every direction…

When no one seems to notice how much or how little you do…

Then they will know that I love you. ~Revelation 3:9

Up, up, up. Point that soul in the higher direction, ask for the good way, and walk in it, that you may find rest for your tired, tired soul (Jeremiah 6:16).