Make Way

Walking out of the gym I hear a man ask, “you did not get a snack?” I stop him as he tries to walk back in the door. I peer into the rainy, street-light-orange night. Round heads on stick necks, all dark silhouettes with white eye balls, turn towards me. I address the first pair of eyes I see:
“Did you just straight up lie or did I not give you a snack?” I ask in a slightly too loud & accusatory tone. He shakes his head. He can’t help it, his eyes dart to the boy beside him whose head is hung. I had noticed this boy trying to get a snack from someone else earlier in the night, though I know I gave him one. I approach the little boy, full of disappointment and fear that he does not get enough to eat.
I bend over, wanting to read his eyes to discover the truth. I address him by name, “are you hungry or do you just want another snack?” He does not answer or look up. I try to raise his face to mine but his chin is glued to his chest. His mouth is set in a deep frown, certainly his eyes are full of tears. I’m afraid of squeezing his cheeks too hard. When I see that he is adamant in his resistance to my efforts, and horribly ashamed, I kiss him on the head and walk away.
Seconds after turning my back I regret not trying harder or praying for him or reminding him to ask us for food if he is ever truly hungry. I re-hash my actions all the way to my truck but I know that what I did was right. He knows that lying is wrong. I showed him a tiny glimpse of redeeming love in the face of sin (in the tangible form of a kiss on the head.) I wish nothing so deeply as for him to see that as a reflection of Christ’s loving, atoning sacrifice. Now I ask and plead that the Holy Spirit move in his little boy’s heart. That his guilt be turned into a quest for forgiveness, instead of to apathy and selfishness. I long to know that he stays up, even now, considering the futility of his sin, and recalling the Bible verses we have led him to so carefully store away in his heart.
I have done my part. I have fought against barriers and made room for revival.
There is nothing I can do to ensure a desire for forgiveness in his heart.
No card I can send,
No money I can raise,
No verse I can quote.
This is the part where I submit his oppressed soul to God,
And intercede on His behalf
The way I am sure someone interceded for me on the night I was saved.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom~Psalm 90:12

Righteousness will go before Him (the Lord) and make his footsteps a way.~Psalm 85:13

God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”~Galations 4:6

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Joyous Juncture

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.

Fall has come. In less than 32 hours my entire world has changed, has flipped.

Dad once told me that fall reminded him of Papaw’s death and the slow, steady cycle of time. The fall I experience is much more young and merciful.
I breath the steely, unclouded air. The light is yellow but in a less harsh way than it has been. This sky is feeling, growing, expanding. It’s a yellow that gently turns corners and peeks through dirty fiberglass doggy doors.
A thought, a déjà vu, lurks in the corners of my mind: love. But I’ve never fallen in love in the fall. In another life I must have loved someone for an autumn. It seems right. More right, at least, than dismissing the thought entirely.
The mystery in the cold air seems to whisper the word adventure. It bids no thought be spent on yesterday. It says, “This moment! This moment is now!”
Even my fatigued body perks up, willing exploits to take place, and daring me to knock on Danger’s ingress.
Don your flannel and let us be off. Up trees, near rivers, Tolkien-fashion, let us create a world in which to feast and bivouac.
You see, it’s not just a drop in temperature. More than that has happened to be sure. The whole world has changed. It readies itself for the gray death of winter.
I look forward to spring and its sunny charm, but the joy I enter into now is perfectly scheduled. A shadowy, breathy thoughtfulness reshapes my reflections. Liturgy seems more appropriate now, as the bold sun retreats for greater rest. Christmas lights are to come, leading to the turn of a 12-month era. I soak in Halloween and Harvest festivities but dare not peek around the bend to thoughts of holly and carols. We war with the urge to bury ourselves in blankets and contemplation, wishing all the best to those outside our threshold.

All of this is self-confessed by a whisp of air that blissfully tugs my bangs from their place against my skin. Magically the earth communicates with us more clearly than it has since last fall.

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 9: Imagine

You are hungry but there is not a dime left to your name. You have 21 days to pay rent but you don’t have a job. There is no money anywhere. All the wrong choices have been made. All the bad luck has run its course.
Hold up, rewind. You are hungry. What do you do when you’re hungry? Go to the fridge. What do you do when there is nothing in the fridge you want to eat? Go to the pantry. Nothing good there? Restaurants, vending machines, take your pick. Pay with ease, and be done with it.
You’re hungry but there is no fridge. You’re hungry but there are only cockroaches in your pantry. If there isn’t food then there certainly is no money and therefore no restaurants. So you’re hungry, you stay that way.
Imagine the child you brought in to the world staring at you with big, hungry eyes.
And there is no food.

Imagine feeling 100% paralyzed by your bad choices. Imagine that there is no one to help.

You received without paying, now give without being paid.~Jesus, Matthew 10:10

Now imagine being the one to help. Imagine trying to reach out to the working class poor. Imagine yourself stepping out in the knowledge that but for God’s mercy you too would be trapped.

This month I have spent $0.50 on ice water at school (can’t we agree that this is a necessity when it is 99 degrees outside?!) and not a penny more. Just the thought of all the people out there who have reached the end of their rope and truly have nowhere to go…overwhelms me. There is poor, and there is spiritually poor. Hundreds, thousands of people are both. How blessed am I to have everything! I, a spiritual beggar, have richness that all Heaven cannot contain. I, a selfish sinner, have never known hunger. It is hard to even thinking about sinking our hands in with people who are in debt, but the debt I owe to Jesus is more real than any amount of dollars and cents. That’s real, crazy love.

Forgive my apathy, Lord. I spend more time delighting in my material wealth than in my spiritual blessedness.

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.~Romans 7:22-23

I’m going to end with a prayer excerpt from my journal dated 8/27/13:

I rejoice in You, Lord God, for who You are and for the blessings that you pepper my life with in the form of unique and special people.
I’m thankful for the travelers whose paths You have led across mine here in Little Rock &; North Little Rock. I thank You for bringing the world to me here.
Thank You for feeding me today.
I desire You now more than ever. Good day or bad day…You are all my hope and peace. All the joy that I feel, I know it is from Your Spirit connection within me.
Sweet God, creative God. The God of fulfillment and earthly poverty that leads to Heavenly joy. The God of unexpected mini road trips to Roland, dirt, and Diet Coke.
He blesses me and I rejoice!
When these blessings are withheld, I am going to be happy.

Whoever has the Son of life has life, whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.~1 John 5:12

Peace Playing Hard to Get

Don’t be a runner,
I constantly tell myself
For runners break down & destroy.
Nomads move towards while runners move away.
Away from people, places, experiences, the earth, God: everything we were meant to embrace.
Be a lover and a leader,
A never-giver-up-er.

Through the hardness,
Through the wandering,
Through the hate and ignorance and hurt feelings,
Through dark and light;
God lifts His children up.
He offers immense hope.
His peace is an elusive, yet everlasting one.
His love is home,
His world a declaration of glory!

Remember me, O God, for my good~Nehemiah

Amazing Amazing

Always I’ve thought that happiness comes from circumstances, and joy-of course-from God. Joy is awesome to think about but not a reality, happiness is what we really want (shh.)
Not true!
Never have I felt such joy until now.
Little did I know that happiness follows joy that has found its’ root in Christ.

I would close my eyes to take it in but I’m driving.
It’s not the music that my stereo is retching out, it’s not the sun-striped hair on my head. It’s not the 2000 Nissan Frontier that is mine per use of hard earned cash, nor the lovely day that I’ve had.
Nope; it’s Jesus. Him, all Him.
This is what all that light burden and easy yoke stuff is about.
This is the joy that will either implode or explode. It will be shared with others or from me it will be withheld.
Say to the weary one, “Your God will surely come.”

What keeps the fear at bay?
Certainly not the pain in my neck and feet, the challenges that I face. Not friends or church or work or family.
It’s that Spirit settling down in me, like I’m being baptized all over again.
Amazing, amazing grace.
My arm finds its way out of the window, into the pressure of the wind rushing by. I wave at the trees, the clouds, and the people of my little city, just for the sensation of it.
A plea for joy that led to loving. Love that told me about grace. Grace that paves the way for peace. Peace that manifests itself in happiness.
Blessed am I!
Oh that my attempts to show people His love were half as poor & selfish. I wish to see my joy manifest itself righteously, as Jesus’ did.
By the power of the Spirit, it is possible. By the power of Jesus, love wins the war. By the power of the Father, everyday can be better than the last.

He did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but humbled Himself by becoming a man

Giant Leap

The sun filets the blurred green countryside. I’m driving too fast. Sun-bleached hair whips my cheeks, coarse.
Pumping gas I realize that everyone sees the same me that they saw last summer; a kid lifeguard in that not-quite-full-fledged-adult stage. $32.98. I get a little discouraged as I hang up the nozzle. Have I gone nowhere since last year? Is the only difference between me now and me then the few thousand dollars in my bank account and the restored air conditioning unit in my truck? Is that all I have to show after the most challenging year of my (short) life?
I recall the thoughts of this morning: how heavy my wrongdoings now weigh on me, some more than others. I see how destructive my foolishness has been more clearly than ever before. I feel God’s displeasure when I make sinful mistakes. Ouch, for I slip so often.
Decide what to be and go be it.
That’s just it. You have to know Right to know wrong. The weight that I feel, the tears running down the window panes of my heart, those are of God, not the Devil. Recognizing those blunders is a step in the right direction. Maybe even a leap. I care; I care more than ever that what I do be glorifying to God. I believe I know a little better what pleases Him now than I did last summer.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him! 1 Corinthians 2:9
The chasm is wide between me and eternity. Happiness is far away, but it is closer. Closer than ever before!
The ache, the roughness of shame feels like a noose tightening on my neck, threatening me now. The good news? It only gets better as the noose gets tighter. God’s redemption becomes more dramatic, His love more radical. Messiah Jesus draws closer, I am made new.
Sometimes I wish that I was under the sun in Africa instead of Arkansas, or at a pool in Chicago instead of Chenal, but I would not change this story for that of another. It’s so exciting, it’s so amazing.
I don’t know about you but I am definitely staying tuned to see what happens.

“Go, and sin no more!”~Jesus

Religious Drivel

He turned my mourning into dancing;
My sorrow into joy.

I asked for God to show me Himself and He did.
Darkness and distress was in my heart and mind and after 3 hard days of holding onto His promises like a lifeline,
He lifted the veil from my heart, revealing another taste of His glory to me. JOY exploded within me and I smiled, sang, and would have danced if not for the pain in my feet.
God is real. He seeks me out. I am the lost coin, the silly wandering sheep. Yet He LOVES me. He loves that my request was to enter His presence. I could feel Him rejoice as He shared his magnificence with me.
Why does He love me so? Why would He choose to call me out and water me when thousands would rather die of thirst?
I don’t know the answer to these questions that make my head spin. The one thing I do know: His love is infinite. I’ve “used up” a lot of it, but He won’t run out. Come to the river and drink life. His love is not human; it is otherworldly and grand. All the things that bring you joy in this life (yes, you)…all the people who make you smile…add that up and multiply it by 1,000. His love leaves it all behind.
Bask in the light of His love with me.
Taste and see that my Jesus-our Jesus-is good.