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!

Advertisements

Finale: An Age of Indulgence

I finished strong; Monday I had a Starbucks date with a friend and drank hot water from a ceramic cup. I tipped the baristas but did not purchase anything. Huzzah!
In an era when saying “no” to something that feels good is unacceptable, I am learning self-control. What a contradiction, or paradox perhaps is the better word (I think it’s sort of working). Telling myself “no” has led to fits of annoyance inside of me comparable in rationality to those pitched by a mouthy four-year-old when his mom says, “no more ice cream”. *Disclaimer: Asking God to show you the true state of your heart leads to intense feelings of degradation and humility*
A few books have led me to look at disciplines and (GASP) self-denial as ways to draw closer to God. One is Crazy Love, by Francis Chan (http://crazylovebook.com/.) Another is 7, by Jen Hatmaker (Jen led me to the more specific idea of a “spending fast” http://jenhatmaker.com/home.htm.) The last is Simple Obsession, by Jamie Zumwalt (not 100% relevant to the idea at hand, but too good not to mention! http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Obsession-jamie-west-zumwalt/dp/0967978157.) These books have been tools in God’s hand over the last seven months as He chisels away at my, well, my stupidity, really. The gratefulness I feel nearly matches my ignorance and trust me, that’s impressive.

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Colossians 2:20-23

Having money and using it is a good thing. Do not hear me saying I disagree with that. My proof? Today is day two off the fast and I’ve bought a T-shirt and eaten out. Enough said. The general rule is, if God made it, it is good. Not buying is not the point.
I’ve summed up the September experiment in three words:
annoyed
confused
hopeful.
Annoyed because during the fast I could not get everything that I wanted just when it suited me. Cry me a river.
Confused that the poor and the rich seem so far apart in innumerable ways and I cannot see God’s hand in it, though I look fervently. Thank you, Father, for allowing me to learn from both ends of the financial spectrum.
Hopeful for I am certain that God knows exactly what He is doing.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few~Matthew 7:13-14

What if the way really is difficult?
What if we are truly supposed to love others more than we love ourselves (people we don’t even know?!)
What if loving others involves personal contact?
Discomfort?
What if our actions will follow us into the next life?

And I heard a voice from Heaven saying, “Write this: blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”~Revelation 14:13

What if that lady kind of frightens me and also smells funny?
Get over yourself, Lydia. Next thing you know God might ask you to take up your cross.
He wouldn’t dare.
He would.

The term balancing act comes to mind. My mistakes are a guarantee, but it’s a short fall into His arms.
Hang with me, guys. I’m not sure what will be next for this blog. I’m on a path of discovery that is as unpredictable as it is wonderful.

…How blessed it is as years roll round, and the leaves begin again to fall, to enjoy such an unfading promise as this, ‘The Lord will give me grace.’~Charles Spurgeon

Glory to the Lamb.

Highlights

A menagerie of memories from the 365 days that we labeled, “2012:”

Teaching kids to read.

“God created us because He wanted to love us.”

Finishing the Radical Experiement!

Seeing my favorite band (Page CXVI) in concert.

Highschool graduation!

MEXICO!

“I wonder what homeless people talk about….”

“He does not try to pass the time but sits down and lives.”-Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen

“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”-Dumbledore

Anything this side of Hell is pure grace.

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”-Lamentations 3:27

“We could get into trouble,” Isabel.  “That’s how you know it’s an adventure!” Hugo (Hugo, the movie.)

“Quiet your mind, hear what the land has to say,”-Zac Brown

Don’t cry “peace” in the good times only to yell for war when something doesn’t suit you.

It’s not that I am crying,  it’s just that hot tears are falling from my eyes because it hurts so bad.

“…an aesthetic voyager struggling to destroy the beast within,” Chris MccCandless.

NOMADS.

“The compassion we feel when we see the bad things going on in the world is not humanism, it is God’s spirit,” Jamie Zumwalt.

A glowing jellyfish-larva fight on the beach late in the evening.

Bloodshed follows bloodshed.

We cannot take back the way we treat others.

“You are waiting. I am smoking.”-Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows.

I feel the sun. It soaks into my bones. My toes curl with gravel between them. The thoughts in my head are as transparent as the cloudless sky. Wind whips hair sharply around my face. Literal truth: I am on the floor in my bedroom. Soul truth: I am on a great red peak in the midst of a canyon wonderland. Ah, imagination power.

We cannot apply the distraction of politics to our faith.

Watching old friends struggle through ancient issues, and holding them while they cry.

“Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other too…”-George Atkins, “Brethren We Have Met to Worship.”

“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”-J.D. Salinger

“You’ve got such an old soul to you.”

My prayer is for the people who have decided that death is preferable to life.

“The Christian, when he dies, catches hold of Christ’s garment, and Christ bears him into Heaven,” Charles Spurgeon.

“Sad parting promises fresh adventure.”

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller.

“No Heaven will be so sweet as a Heaven preceded by torments and pains,” Charles Spurgeon.

“All the little man on the witness stand had that made him any better than his nearest neighbours was, that if scrubbed with lye soap, in very hot water, his skin was white,” To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

She who loves life can do anything.

I care about you more than I coud ever care about me.

“…that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” 2 Kings 19:19b

“They don’t recognize you asl the adult that you are, but you probably just need to submit right now,” KimT.

“This too shall pass,” the Sadler.

The nearly-tangible blanket of peace that God wrapped around me as I left the children whom I loved with my entire heart to the care of their Jamaican school-teachers and caretakers.

Buying my truck.

“And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” John 6:51b

That’s my life; my year. Thanks for reading all the way down! I am being shaped for something big. Odds are you too are being shaped!

spoopsandyoyo@gmail.com

Do I Care?

Would I really?….

My grandmother has back pain. Terrible, crippling back pain. She literally must sit all day; sometimes she lays down if it gets intolerable. So my grandma, after a lifetime of working hard, and constantly being in motion, sits on the couch and watches TV. Unable to work full time as she always has. Unable to be comfortable. Now, her only joy in life is her family. The 5 minute phone calls that come once or twice a day; the Christmas visit. A once-independent woman now relies completely on others to take time from their busy schedules to stop by and make her smile. That’s her life.

I am young. I have much hope for my future: college, a career, kids, adventures. I have great friends, a handful of good jobs. I have a church community as well as my own truck and the ability to come and go wherever I please, whenever I please.

Would I, given the chance, trade with my Grandma? Would I turn away all the hope of my future for the sake of relieving her pain? Do I care that much?

Is she more important to me than…me?

I like to think so, but I know that I could not take on her burdens without sinning against her, and God, in the midst.

That’s the difference between me and Jesus. He did what I am incapable of doing. He looked down from perfection, saw pain and swirling torture. From my shoulders He willingly lifted the weight of Hell, and for 33 years He lived far from the perfection He deserved.

All for me.

All to free.