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!

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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.

Doubt Flees

Sidling in each ear

via shouted words

from missionary kid mouth

now tall, angry activist.

 

Doubt creeps in.

 

Slits on wrists scream, “no God,”

truth tossed aside.

like too hot Pop Tart. However,

the no-shoes God man is here.

 

Request for sick mother placed

in paper draped box, signed

The Atheist, subpoena

to the Holy One unheard.

Surrender Poem

Tears fall

my chest with a knife lodged

my abdomen tied like rope

my shoulder scalpel-ed by every inhale

my feet with naked bone touching ground

all remind me it was born to die,

this natural map, from toe to pony-tailed tendril.

I laugh white teeth with gap in between

because I’m closer to Heaven than ever before.

No spiritual song, no kiss in moonlight,

no day on the lake nor mountaintop moment

offers this free fall forward so explicitly.

In front of my face, inches away,

is a God who says,

“I’ve put your soul into a broken jar.”

All I can do is flatten my feeble frame

against the floor and say, “Thank you.”

This is where I get my faith:

debate between Emergency room or living room.

He waves white flag for me,

ushering me into the abundant existence.

This broken jar is brimming,

to breathe is to be blessed.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.~Romans 8:23

I’m laying down my sickness and pain for the glory of the Lord~Darrell Evans

All Praises Be

I greet my God in the morning as though I woke up beside Him.
Praises be to the One who chooses to be near me,
Praises to the One who is patient with me, and tender.
He is always doing something but it seems like I see that more tangibly when I travel, even just one hour away for 5 days. This gives me time to look at and comprehend just a string or two of the tapestry He is weaving
Here.
On this planet
With these children
And each other,
All disciples,
Of the living God,
Of our Savior Jesus.
We are claimed as His beloved
And we’re fighting for these children whose lives appear to be hanging in the balance.
I don’t know how many heads I’ve kissed.
I do not know how many weeping girls I have lifted from their beds and brought down to my bunk so that they could sleep their troubled sleep, clinging tightly to my arm.
I don’t know how much ice I have put on wounds
Or how many kids have heard me say, “You’re important.”
But I meant every single one.
All this may suffice to say,
God is here among us.
He is working.
His plan is being fulfilled in hearts and lives.
Little nuggets of knowledge we have laid in hearts we ask our Father to nurture, to protect.

I will continue it all until He points my compass elsewhere.
I need God to keep me humble,
I need Him to make me strong.
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.~Psalm 138:2-3

Be persistent in your efforts for good.

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the example in your speech, in your conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.~1 Timothy 4:12

My hope is set on the living God.
Can I shout it out?
May I cry aloud, “He is MY God! He has claimed me!”
My hands work hard to make Him known.
I ask no other portion
Than to know the One whose race I run.

Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of every value, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.~1 Timothy 4:7b-8

I still have so far to go, but my Lover is answering my prayers.
He is teaching me (in all my stubbornness) to have grace and love, and to build others up.

More grace.
More love.
More healing.
We all live in His sight.
Let us be ready and willing to take hold of that which is truly life.

Get up at 6 A.M. four days in a row this week and spend 35 minutes with God. I dare you to see what He will do in and around you.

What the Tornado Took

He bolstered me for a trial of which there was no foreshadowing.
God was so near. In the blue lights, His Spirit took hold and spoke through me, when my shock was great.
Those are moments that I ask for the strength and memory to hold in my head and heart as pillars of faith in a living God.
Selfishness, frustration, and lack of faith bares its ugly teeth,
All while I seek to enter the pain again and again, to be rid of it.
It hurts now to laugh as family and friends seek to cheer me up;
Their support is invaluable.
May Jesus’ people be mobilized to support those with no (loving or living) family.
I had forgotten how physical the pain of a broken heart is.
There is a a heavy rawness in my chest
That wells to the forefront of my emotions when I see the wreckage, see the swathe of destruction.
My mind takes me to the place where the curtain was torn in two;
How much worse was Christ’s pain?
I could have washed my friend’s feet many times over with the tears that I have shed for her.
Let me live in such a way as to be washing the feet of those I love
(everyone)
Daily by my actions and sincerity of heart.

He takes our transgressions away, as far as the East is to the West.
He loves us to the sky and back.
(Psalm 103)

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord
more than the watchmen for the morning
more than the watchmen for the morning.~Psalm 130:3-6

Hot Cheetos

Upon entering the supermarket in North Little Rock, you will see shiny bags of chips. These salty snacks boast vibrant colors and grab-able cellophane packaging. They rustle loudly as shoppers rush by, turning the heads of men, women, and children. All alike are motivated by the color, and by their bellies.

Rumor has said that these chips are made out of potatoes, sometimes corn. But emphasis is not put on the content of these products. Focus is on the instant gratification that comes to the eye when shoppers see that bag and on the tongue when it tastes those savory treats.That temptation is strong and giving into it…tasty.

Human devices and inventions echo these well-dressed bags of chips. Both look so appealing. Both leave emptiness behind. Potato chips leave snackers greasy and unsatisfied. Purely human ideals—thoughts with no intentional hints toward God—leave the world threadbare and unfulfilled.

I find myself consistently drawn to the things of the world. It all charms me cruelly: addictions that spring from abused relationships, goals, foods, and lifestyles.

Imagine spending the night with a guy just once, and feeling no guilt over refusing his calls the next day.

Consider how good it would feel to free my mind, just once…

Imagine living all for me, carrying no burden for the poor, and harboring no guilt over the apathy of my heart.

Imagine guiltlessly chasing my own dreams.

 

But a human without guilt has yet to be found.

And I want no part in a dream that isn’t Christ’s. 

A shiny bags of potato chips,

The world rustles as I walk by.

 

People reach out and

I do not know if they are propelled by darkness or drawn to Light within me.

That confusion makes it difficult, this engagement with the people around me.

I love every one (imperfectly),

And it is alright for my grammar to disintegrate,

But it is a grave issue to see my morals weakened by the pressures of this fluid society.

 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…~Philippians 3:18-20

Tarnished grammar might matter.

Really, communicatively and professionally, it might.

Like that missed payment on my credit account might matter.

Like that broken mirror on my truck might matter.

Like that check list I never get to might matter.

The genuinely important thing to do is to

Start seeing “problems” as opportunities (like Jesus did, when he spontaneously fed 5, 000+ people).

The urgent question is, does what I say coincide with what I do?

 

Mother Teresa, tell me you had doubts while you walked the straight and narrow.

Martin Luthers (both of you), tell me you were not completely certain in the actions you took.

 

I have found happiness and I seek no other way.

My body is weak that I may learn to rely on Him.

His strength is sublime in my shortcomings.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.~1 John 4:15

Perfect weather

People to love

Prince who saved me

Great God who raised me

Sisters I would die for

Grandmother who I cry for

Children I have hope for

 

Delicious potato chips that (eaten in moderation) probably won’t split my soul.

Put Together the Moments

I rang in the new year below the border. My 2014 was greeted with pops of confetti, 12 grapes, and music all in Spanish.
January 2nd: I’m grateful to the point of tears for this moment. For Your peace. I look out of the window and I see rolling hills, arid ground clothed in dusty shrubs. Baja, Mexico. I look inside myself and I see darkness being rolled away, even as old habits fight to stay. I see You making Your home in me. My story is such a great one. Lord, I am unworthy to have you near me.

We will this year gather celestial fruits on earthly ground, where faith and hope have made the desert like the garden of the Lord~Charles Spurgeon

January 3rd:
Thank You for challenging me
Hold my feet to the fire
Put the right heart in me
Search the depths of my soul and know me
As no man ever could
Reveal my sin-the immensity of my depraved nature-
And comfort me with knowledge of Yourself
When I search the Scriptures
Seeking to find You
Let my heart be open and raw
Give me sight to see and understand the whole message
Answer me out of Your loving kindness
Or my whole life will be in vain.

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you~Hosea 12:6

(Still January 3rd:) The weight of what God is calling me to do starts to sink in…My understanding of the cross-cultural life starts to be fleshed out. How immense the bridges to be crossed are. How alone I shall feel in a culture 100% different from my own. I ask God to strengthen me for the coming challenges and support me as my heart is heavy for the unreached, and for what I have to do. I ask Him not to let me turn tail and run, as is my first instinct.

The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down~Psalm 145:14

January 4th: The world is too big. People are too blind, corrupt, selfish. And I am one of them.

January 6th: I want to move into another culture. I want to make my (small, concrete, dirt) home there. I want to marry the culture and have its children. I want to surmount the difficulties of living in another culture by time and trial. I want to die there. None of this because that culture is better, or because I grew tired of the U.S. I will be there because that is where God wants me. I will sew seeds of the Gospel where none have sown before. It will be the most difficult initiative of my life but God will guide me through all the tears, discouragement, and frustration. I will love people as my own family, and they will become my own.

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!

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