Wonderprints

It is truly no wonder that the God of the universe’s Isaiah 45 mantra is:
…none besides me; I am the Lord and there is no other…
What a God. Mid my (“training wheel fast”) restricted diet, I pant desperately for Him, & He subtly lets me know He is near. Gracious & merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast LOVE, my Lord leaves fingerprints: a bread-crumb trail for me to follow (into His arms).
Thank you, God, for the pre-class conversation when my friend of 2 years asks if I party, asks about my faith. (God hears my prayers, He wants to give me opportunities to share Him; to point up there! up there!)
Thank you, God, for the moon hanging, like an egg yolk against deep navy felt, low behind me that I barely caught a glimpse of in the rear-view. It said to me, He is here.
Thank you, God, for the dimple your fingerprints left on this sin-crashed world in the shape of that North star, once leading brothers & sisters towards the hope of free lives. (Let us never stop hoping in free lives!)
Thank you, God, that when Your Spirit prompts me to pray over one Pei Wei employee, & I OBEY, we are blessed & hugs are exchanged.
Thank you, God, for the breath-taking stillness of moonlight against an ice manna carpet, muffled snow sounds, and crisp air that paints my exhales stark before my face.

Thank you, God, for your sublime ((Southern)) seasons that remind us how imminent winter-death is, and how utterly essential it is that we find spring-LIFE by seeking You now.

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

More Than a Brouhaha

All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him.

Ever felt yourself spiraling away? You’re sad and disappointed even over the smallest thing and you start to hear yourself say negative things, and then lash out at your loved ones. Even if you don’t saying anything, know that you are answering the Devils onslaught with your silence. If you don’t speak back he has control. The lashing out is your heart’s plea for help. You have to acknowledge the daily unseen battle before you can don the full armor of God. The wily devil convinces many that there is no battle, and to those that do fight, he whispers: there is no hope for you. But God has told his children how to ask for help in the fight, and though it is often a painful process, his faithfulness abides.

I do not ask that you take them [my people] out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. ~Jesus, John 17 (emphasis mine)

Think of young people who run away from home, knapsack all packed. It’s a cry for someone to come get them. They need to know that they are worth fighting for, worth running after. They aren’t running towards anything, they’re just asking via their steady footsteps away from home: does anyone care?

What if Jesus had been silent before Satan and ignored the battle at hand? Instead of using Scripture, he could have just stood, counting the hours until he could eat again, and pretending that Satan wasn’t there in his presence.

Satan: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory [of the kingdoms of the earth]…If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” (Matt. 4:6-8)

Don’t marinate in your misery. Fight to hear the still, small voice that says: I will lead you back, You are my darling child…my heart yearns for you (Jeremiah 31:9, 20). It requires simply a tuned-in soul and the scriptures, from tip of Genesis to tail of Revelation. Those ancient words are our only weapon. All we can do is knock on the door of Heaven and demand our birthright now, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

He did not die only to be your savior. He died to be your Lord: the Lord of your waking up and lying down, the Lord of your hope and help. He is the Beloved who wants to shepherd you in green pastures and be your anchor in the oceanic conflicts of your soul.

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.~1 Thess. 5:24

We make him small when we ignore the battle. He fought for us, are we not willing to rouse our spirits for him? Are we unwilling to fight to know the Love that shed himself on the cross many dark nights ago?

He came for us when we wandered away like restless children, begging the starry sky for deliverance.

Do we desire Jesus? Do we know his voice?

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. ~Jesus, John 10:14

Have you agreed with the Devil? Has he whispered that the bed is more comfortable? That you don’t have a problem? That even though you’re not hungry it’s OKAY to return to the pantry over and over? That it is OKAY to relax in front of the TV…hour after hour? That since your future is secure you’re just along for the ride from here until death?

The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.~John 10:10a

We must fight as though our lives depended on, we must endure the upheavals of battle and with blind trust follow the  Officer higher-up. Ignoring the spiritual combat is submitting again to the devil’s rule, which is death. Standing up, fighting to hear the voice of the Lord, waiting on him to deliver, those are all reflections of a heart seeking submission to the Spirit’s rule, which is life.

Like children, accept the hand that reaches out to help you, and believe him when he says…

I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.~John 10:10b (emphasis mine)

Oh the joy that is in store when over the hills of idolatry and petty disbelief his love ushers me!

Voiceover

Thursdays are not typically exciting days in my life. The usual order of events goes like 1) class, 2) study, 3) work. That’s it (what a trip, I know). Today class happened and after beating my head against a Physical Science textbook for a good 30 minutes I scuttled into my creative writing instructor’s office for a visit. Ms. Sandy is a Northerner (from the upper half, give/ take a state or two, of the U.S.A.). I have had mixed experiences with Northerners due to cultural differences but one thing I will say: they call it like it is. Cut and dry. Black and white. “You stink.” “You’re extraordinary.” “What exactly are you referring to?”

That being said, nearly the first thing out of Sandy’s mouth to me was: “You have what it takes to go as far as a writer as you want. If you want to get your master’s [degree], write [professionally], you can do it.” 

Compliments happen. Warm fuzzy feelings, gushed gratitude. Blah blah.

But when Ms. Sandy said those words my heart sang. I laughed until I cried in my truck on the way home because the words Ms. Sandy said are true.

Truth is the driving force behind joy.

At a dear friend’s request I met with 4 other women this afternoon to form a panel that was consulted on issues faced by young people today. We contributed our voices hoping that the curriculum our interviewers create will offer insight and guidance to a generation in tumult. Sitting in the dim light I noticed something about the 4 of us. Two of us, myself and one other, have lived the most utterlysplendidprivilegedlives for which any girl could ask. Have they been hard lives? Yes. But they have been lives filled with love and Truth and opportunity. We are extraordinary blessed. The other two–girls dear to my heart–have not been granted the same gifts. Neither have Godly father figures to turn to for help or support and both carry deep scars not yet fully healed. Of the four of us, myself and the second “privileged one” were the quickest to speak, the most eager to voice our opinions. Though their stories and opinions are arguably more gritty and riveting, the other two had to be coaxed, and still did not speak as much.

When I have something to say a fire burns in my belly until it is said. I know that it is my human right to be heard. I know that my words are important. Knowing this leads me to treat the words of others with equal importance. It’s respect, the right thing to do.

But when you’ve been ignored your whole life? When a man has never asked you what you think about…anything? When no one has taken the time to get to know you? When you’ve been yelled at and treated like an unwanted pest?

Inevitably, you start to doubt the value of your own voice. You begin to question the importance of what you have to say. You decide it is better to keep quiet because no one wants to hear it.

So there they sat, the girls with the most to say keeping quiet. I blame the powers of darkness for the loss of anything on their hearts that went unsaid. I praise the One who gave them the courage to utter the few words they did into floating microphones. And further, I recognize my small role in the puzzle God is masterfully putting together.

He has nurtured and grown me via parents and community, literature, travel, and music, to speak eloquently and boldly on behalf of the Truth. Not just the blessed Truth of the Gospel, but also the Truth of individual experiences all around me. Harsh realities, tragic memoirs, unique celebrations, epics of the downtrodden: the stories of timid ones need to be told. Minorities are cast aside, virginity is cruelly stolen, words are misunderstood, drugs drive knives through families. And those people keep quiet because they have been told that their words carry no weight.

Their words do carry weight, and they are burdens God created me to bear.  He sent a blunt Northern woman to reiterate the truth of my gifts: I am a writer. Not every word I pen is perfect (HA!), but writing creatively is one thing on this earth that will come naturally for me. Oh, the freedom of knowing that is true! By His guidance and mercy I speak, I write, and in so doing I will flesh out a small corner of His plan.

One woman with a host of hushed people trailing a humble King. It’s a weird story, but it’s mine.

When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty.

~Rend Collective Experiment

All the other Thursdays have (and will) serve an equally great purpose, but today was a big mile marker in the journey of arriving for my purpose here on earth.

Your story is valuable, as is your voice.

Speak.

DecaGratitude

There are days when I just need a minute to breathe. These are usually the days when a list of thanks is in order. Emotional fatigue is a sure sign of discontentment. It is too much for one girl to desire what the world says she should have AND the Lord’s will for her days. I am that girl and I cannot do it. I either have to stop and re calibrate, or I will wander exhausted for weeks, months, years.

My history instructor firmly declared last January that human beings are good at 2 things: complaining, and reproducing. Now I can’t say much about the latter, but as for the former, I am human through and through. This is me offering an Ann-Voskamp answer to my own trouble.

1) Nutella covered fingers, dancing to worship music alone in my room with You.

2) Legs that kick strong through water, bubbles that come up from my nose.

3) Hair that does somersaults on blustery days.

4) Neon Steeple Radio (Spotify), words that remind me of the only One who is promised to be present at my dying breath.

5) Scripture: I am hungry, thirsty, deranged in pursuit of Truth. I want to gobble it, consuming even the long organized lists of Leviticus and Numbers. Thank you Jesus for this flawless piece of yourself.

6) Laughs shared with co-workers, hymns to sing when medicine will not let me rest.

7) White tangerine flesh cracking as I bite from pit.

8) Parents bent over to create fronds like shields, halting fiery darts hurled my way.

9) Tears locked behind my eyes, denying death her bounty.

10) Friends who text to tell me I am loved, turning grief tears into sunshine drops.

My Jesus has won.(( Shout it! ))The battle against my other list (the one not worth sharing: it contains the things I cannot do, the gifts I do not have) is already finished. Why should I carry the burdens of warfare already fought for me?

Rejoice; He came back alive!

I am terrified to receive the blessings my God has for me. After the manner of a solemn Muslim addressing Allah, I pray eyes wide, palms open. I flutter like a dry fall leaf.

When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.~Psalm 138:3

I go to soak in His Word for though I cannot always see His footprints or hear His voice,

I will always remain in His love.

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.~Psalm 77:19

Real Talk

Living counter-culturally is going to be harder than I thought. Because the American church  is blending in so well with the culture (and forfeiting the ideals of Jesus) it is hard to say what really should be going on in a Christian’s life. And it is oh-so difficult to live with a Heavenly mindset in a culture obsessed with being comfortable right now! Less sinning should not be the only thing that’s different between the life of any given Christian and any given Unbeliever. There’s so much more to being a Christ follower. Hear it from the lips of Jesus Himself:

…Come you who are blessed by my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer Him saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? and when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”~Matthew 25:34-40

 

It’s difficult! Living the way Jesus did is super hard. It is hard to do lots of good things (sans earthly reward) and not begin thinking to highly of yourself. Dying to self is just that…dying. It is hard to know where to start in a world as wide & wild & wrecked as this, It’s challenging, grueling, difficult.

But wait.

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

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.~Matthew 11:29

He’s got a plan. And a promise. If you believe in God and all the words of Jesus above…then why do you hesitate to let it all go? Forget temporary “comforts,” go for gold, and find rest for your soul! Ask Him to send His Good Spirit to lead you on level ground (Psalm 143.) Follow Him like a sheep, not turning away for the sake of earthly desires or security. Step into your new life.

Enjoy the wild ride.

Let Me Learn By Paradox

Pain crawls up my legs
From the balls of my feet it comes,
Slowly, achingly treading its’ way up my body.
Calves, knees they shake now, hips feel out of joint.
My back aches, arches, contracts, fights against me when I try to stand. Inhale. Keep going. On and on and on. My body is telling me that it won’t go anymore, that it just won’t work right.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day ~St. Paul

Meanwhile my heart and my head and my soul are excited for all the work there is to do.
I carry a message the way my Mama carried me. Everyday it is ready, longing to come out. I want to tell! There are more people everyday who need to hear this Truth. The Good News is eager to be shared. There is so much work to be done: look at the immense fields, ready to be labored over. Souls are ready to be won for Christ!
I long to work in the “fields” from sun-up to sun-down, and I know it is what I’m supposed to do.
Until my body slows me down

And I’m quite confused.

He’s my God and He never lets me go.
He said, sing it on the mountain.
Or fight in valley low
Every man is going to see,
And everyone will know
That peace runs deep in Him.
~Josh Garrels

True Love?

“Same Love”
Macklemore
(with Ryan Lewis)
(feat. Mary Lambert)

When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,
‘Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-k, trippin’ ”
Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she?
Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.
I remember doing the math like, “Yeah, I’m good at little league”
A preconceived idea of what it all meant
For those that liked the same sex
Had the characteristics
The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, aw nah here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago
I don’t know

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
“Man, that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we’re saying
A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ’em
Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins
It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference!
Live on and be yourself
When I was at church they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it

(I don’t know)

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

We press play, don’t press pause
Progress, march on
With the veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
Till the day that my uncles can be united by law
When kids are walking ’round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever God you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I try
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is patient
Love is kind
(not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I’m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I’m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I’m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
Love is kind

I’m so sorry for all the people who have found a god who takes away their rights.

Mine gives me the rights I never would have known without Him.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
~1 Corinthians 13

Book of Thanks

Sometimes I feel like all I ever do is learn.  I am not even at University yet!  It has literally been months since my ears have heard the word, “homework,” yet in those months I have gained knowledge in humbling abundance.  The most invaluable lesson of all has been the one about thankfulness: shutting down even the smallest of complaints.  Complaining tears the world apart, and it rips the wings off our souls.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing.  That’s it. For now. Make the most of it. Look away from the could-have-been-s and the “if-onlys,” followed by deep sighs.  Get in the habit of thinking about the good and watch as, consequently, the bad takes flight.

Thankful:

For no homework!

For gentle correction,

For time to breath, to think, to create, to meditate.

For depth,

For projects backed by deep purpose,

For old friends who remember,

For challenge and the purpose it gives me.

For people who get it,

For the challenge of being thankful for loose ends in life.

“…I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds.”~Ezekiel 13:20b

 

http://www.rabbitroom.com/2012/11/dont-you-want-to-thank-someone/