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.

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Food Good

I did not know I had a problem. It was a situation that brought no attention to itself. Everyone does what I do…sometimes. It is normal and therefore healthy. Right?
Not my food addiction.
I habitually put far more hope, security, and time into food than I realize.
After my third fast ever-a sun-up to sundown purge-I see my tendencies more clearly. It’s painful. I actually sat down and watched a whole TV show without getting up. I sat down at the computer without first taking fifteen minutes to prepare a snack. The day went by faster (no thoughts of when the next meal would occur, perhaps?) though I seemed to have more time. Every time my stomach let its emptiness be known I turned my thoughts heavenward (general Christian fasting etiquette I suppose). I prayed that God would be my bread of life.
Guess what? It was not actually that hard. I am certain that the time I spent praying for the fast before I started had a lot to do with it. The reality is, though, I am not as dependent on food as I like to think I am. I eat for more than nutrition. It’s not about eating enough to survive. I eat all that I can without gaining weight (Vanity? you ask. Let’s save that conversation for another day.) because I love food. I love the way it makes me feel and I love the distraction. I like the way the taste takes me away and frees me from my human pangs.
Time out. I am still a fan of food. Food is a gift from God to us. He feeds us spiritually and physically because He is that great. I just ate ice cream for Pete’s sake. Food good.
What I am talking about is the line that I have crossed between food as a gift and food as an obsession. It has become an obsession. I think about it constantly. Most moments you can find me either eating, preparing, or dreaming about food. I revel in the time and thought that feasting takes away from my duties and shortcomings. I am guilty of using food as an escape route from the reality that God has placed me in. I have a responsibility to know Him, to spend time at His feet learning. Instead of appreciating the time I have to spend with my Lord I bury my face in the pleasure of food. The delight of food is temporary. The delight of knowing God is eternal.
I thank God for leading me to fast today for the sake of illuminating my problem. I enjoyed the freedom of today. I like not being enslaved to my mortal body. I am also scared for the lengths to which He may take me. Hunger is not for sissies. But then neither is sanctification.

In Him I will find true delight!

Everyday I worship at the altars of comfort and control. But God’s powerful and patient grace is rescuing me.~Paul Tripp

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.~Romans 12:2

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.

Day 24: Cue Confession(s)

Whose cup of tea is that? Sure looks like it’s hanging out with your algebra homework, Lydia.
Cheater.
Yeah, basically.
It’s raining! I haven’t felt my toes since eight this morning! It’s my first visit to Mugs Cafe! (http://www.mugscafe.org/)
Go ahead, throw stones. This tea is perfect. I’ll sit here trying to muster an acceptable level of guilt.
I call myself “cheap” but this month has been trickier than I expected! Even with multiple sets of “parents” across town who feed me, and a full schedule, I’ve had to shut down trips to Chick-Fil-A and the movie theater. I’ve tried to sit nonchalantly at restaurants with friends without ordering anything, but, truth be told, a gluten free pizza was bought just for me last Friday night. I haven’t had time to be as creative as I wanted to be. Oh well, I’ve learned a lot, and that’s the point anyway.

Confession: I have plans to buy some stuff (T-shirt, music, redbox, etc.) on October 1st. I hate myself.

You were dead, because you were sinful and were not God’s people. But God let Christ make you alive, when he forgave all our sins. God wiped out the charges that were against us for disobeying the Law of Moses. He took them away and nailed them to the cross.~Colossians 2:13-14

Day 17

Here in the U.S. spiritual laziness can seem inevitable. This is because we don’t need God. We have food, jobs, clothes, medicine, and our lives are so well supplied that God becomes more of a side dish than an entree. If He does not take the liberty of interrupting our lives-whether through health issues, financial troubles, or our own sin traps-most of us do not see the need to rely on Him fully. Left to our own devices we think we’re good.
A more wrong conclusion has never been reached.
We have to seek hard the God of our salvation while we live on this big, distracting planet. Otherwise we neglect the only Good there is. He offers Himself to us every moment. You want to know Him? Ask.
I did not know it when I started but this is why I am on a “fast.”If I settle into my default routine I forget about God. It’s ridiculous beyond ridiculous how ungrateful I can be.
Wow.
He saves me from eternal death, puts life and joy in me, and I have to forfeit the use of my green plastic credit card just to remember to thank Him. I’ve got an extremely long way to go.

Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercy is great.~2 Samuel 24:14b

Seek Him. He’s setting me straight through a slow process.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.~2 Corinthians 10:3-4 <<<That's why it is so hard. We can't see the enemy, we can't see God. But He is there, and there are no better offers than this:

Trust in the Lord and do good….Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him & He will act.~Psalm 37

Day 11: Wrestling My Resolve

I have gotten confirmation from God on this whole fast thing. In what way, you ask? Piercings are $13 at the Golden Lotus tattoo parlor this Friday only. That’s the way. THIRTEEN BUCKS! Such temptation. 

In my experience, when things get difficult, God is working. I sure hope He is working through this because I would not want to miss out on $13 piercings to no avail. 

The control is in Your hands where it belongs, Lord, but let me know before Friday if things change.

Just kidding!

Day 5

Leave it to me to discover that I need to spend more money while on a fast from, yep, you got it: spending money. It’s not that I’m stingy, or I never give anyone anything. No, I do OK on that I suppose. The problem is that I get so caught up in saving and calculating and earning that I forget to just…chill. And be a fun human being.

Lydia: I want food! (This born out of a twenty minute fantasy about Domino’s gluten free pizza)
Co-worker: Let’s get some when we get off.
Lydia: Dude I can’t afford to eat the food here!
Co-worker: I’ll buy. Really, it’s no big deal.

Yeah that happened tonight. I never would have made the offer that my co-worker made here. Had anyone come to me hungry or looking sick, sure, I’d buy them a meal (AND a soda!!) without hesitation. But short of a good Samaritan situation, nobody is getting overpriced food out of me.
There. My focus is on prices and quantity instead of time. How dare I forget the importance of simply breaking bread with another person. I am so busy thinking about helping people I don’t yet know that I neglect to take a minute and get to know someone whom God has placed in my life. If expensive food is what it takes to tell someone they are important then I should be all in for the pricey eats.

Lessons abound and it’s only day 5. How exciting! Brainstorming to find creative ways to meet and love on people without spending money…or being a complete mooch.

It’s All God’s Anyway

Pardon the abrupt transition from airy hypothetical posts filled with wordy generalizations to, well, me.

Three days ago I started a “fast” from buying (I know that to fast traditionally means to abstain from food. Use your imaginations, people.)
Thanks to my ingeniously frugal mother I’m not a huge spender, (OK, so I pack my lunch everyday, never order anything but water, and make it a point to avoid weekend movies because of the price) but I am a rabid control freak. I want to be in control of….it all. A few days ago I noticed a thoughtlessly consumerist tendency in myself: when I get to what I see as a comfortable place financially I start to spend. I spend on me and I buy other people stuff and then I spend more on me. Not huge amounts of money, but the green is flowing faster than it was two weeks ago when I was tight-wadded due to worry. I hate that my spending (giving included) fluctuates depending on how I feel I’m doing financially.

And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves…It is God who clothes the wild grass….~Matthew 6:28 and 30a

So I’m not going to spend. Extreme, you say?

Abject poverty is extreme. Not being ABLE to buy things to meet ones’ basic needs is extreme.
My aim with this silly little fast is not to save money; it’s about not having control. The time I would have spent in line, I will spend in prayer. The movies, book sales, dinners or sports games I would have attended will be replaced by conversation and by solitude. I’ll have to get creative. I’ll have to go without the luxuries I usually bestow upon myself with the swipe of a card. And next time I roll up to a couple of ladies sitting outside of the Salvation Army on 2nd street it will just be me. No brownies and baby shoes. I won’t be a giver or benefactor, I’ll just be a face, and hopefully, soon, a friend.

There it is then, written down. I won’t be buying anything but gas this month (not even Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s new and undoubtedly wonderful CD!) My food is well provided for-gosh, I’m not that crazy. But right down to chewing gum and loose-leaf paper, I hand my control of the money that passes through my fingers to God. Sayonara receipts and restaurants.

Distractions minimized, I hope for two things: clarity towards my own wrong perceptions of money, and a better understanding of how to close the gap between the well-meaning rich and the hungry poor.

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him? ~Martin Luther King Jr.