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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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

Fireside Tribe

In a dark lodge with wood paneling like chocolate/vanilla swirled ice cream, and cool stone walls, seven women sat facing a fire. The fire was burning inside a stone nook, slightly below floor level, naked. The grate had been moved aside. Big logs whose bark was cut into black and white square patterns by ash periodically shifted, popped, and crackled.The women were gathered before the fire like chocolate chips that have fallen to the bottom of a muffin. Four sat in a row on the brown leather couch, puppies lined up in the cradle of their mother’s shape. Two sat perched on chairs, staring into the dancing flames, enshrouded in fleece blankets of blue and white.

In the corner next to the fire, as if at the helm of a six-man ship, sat the eldest. A rustic woman with silky hair pulled back to the top of her head, held there by one band of rubber, durable and tight like faith after a long hospital stay. The firelight illuminated her perfect hairline, reflected off her earlobes. Athletic pants were tucked into the top of duck boots, and she sat leaning forward. Her eyes were wide, horrified by the weights still balancing on the backs of her young crew members. Suddenly she stood.

“Alright,” she said. She threw three small packages of Kleenex at the women on the couch. She flicked off the overhead light. “This is what we’re gonna do.”

The girls stared up at her, lips ajar. Firelight now reflected off the moisture in their eyes. One fingered the package of tissues, sealing and unsealing the round sticker at the lip of the envelope. The standing woman continued:

“Get a piece of paper and write down your sins. All that junk you have been hangin’ on to. Your parents sins, your sins. Write it all down and we’re gonna burn it. You owe it to the world to accept healin’. God has forgotten those sins you keep bringin’ up. He is ready for you to move on.” She stomped out of the front door, letting in a chilly fall draft.

In a moment, pens were down, flying across torn pages held close to dimly lit faces. Two of the girls looked up, peeking (with marked hesitation), towards the woman who wrestled large chunks of wood outside.

She returned, bold captain for the day, and placed wood on the fire. The only energy emitted besides the Joules eking from flames were in the music notes gently playing:

Boldly I approach your throne, blameless now I’m runnin’ home…

The indention in the stone floor became an altar. The blaze a throne. The wood their unburning God, ready to speak through flames of his creation and control.

One by one each woman folded her piece of college ruled paper corner to corner and knelt before the flames. The orange tendrils kissed their bundled knees, heated the concrete under their feet. Each one offered silent pleas: “Let me live free from the burden of these sins,” “Let me be done with this yoke.” And before each piece of paper curled up and disintegrated into dark ash, bright light shone from the brittle kindling of penned sin. The brilliant glow shot up the wall above the temporary altar, then disappeared. Each woman sat where she had been before, sniffling, grabbing hand of co-heir wedged on couch beside her.


May that be our sin: placed without hesitation into the fire of God’s love. Then may we watch delighted as that burning bush turns it into a bright light warding off the world’s deep darkness.

Jordan River Poem

The Jordan River

stretches out wide
and yet the far bank
so close I may reach
arm out, try
and slip pink
fingers into Mamaw’s
bony hand, blue vein beelines.

The closeness a mirage,
tossing waves driven
to death dance
upon small dark boulders
dotting shore.
People necromance,

they call God unfair
for He took her away.
I hear His gentle whisper,
Jordan River breeze rustles
ribbons of hair against my chin,

It is not yet
your place or time:
wait. Attend to your soul,
attend to the still-living.

You shall not fear them for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.~Deuteronomy 3:22

O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or earth who can do such works & mighty acts as yours?~Deuteronomy 3:24

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.

Audacity to Ask

54 days ago:

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

The last journal started in struggle and ended in burn out. A lot was accomplished in between. But no amount of productivity is worth the forfeit of my soul’s health. I want this journal to be full of all the joy and health that comes from living Coram Deo [in the presence of God]. I hope it is peppered with instances in which I put down what I am doing at the slightest urging, and readily join God in whatever He is up to. I want to follow Him in all things, everyday submitting myself to His great self. Every day an expedition into grace and He is my Captain. Where will we go, Lord? What will happen? Only You know, and that is what is best. I hope to be renewed by deeper connection to the Fount of Living Water. You can make these dreams come true in my life, Lord, and I pray that You will, knowing that even as I pray You have already answered. 

On the last page of the same journal I wrote:

My God overwhelms the giants. He slays dragons. He gives us what it takes to lift trembling sword in the fact of monsters unimaginable. He puts the war cry for justice deep in our throats. He sets fire in our belly so we can stand appalled and indignant in the way of abuse and terror. It’s His breath in our lungs anyway. Let’s praise Him with it.

Amazing that He answered my prayers even before the journal was spent.

Receiving God’s gifts is a gentle, simple movement of stooping lower.~Ann Voskamp

Unforced Grace

You, Lord, are enthroned forever.

In my little life, You have already done so much.
You raised me up in Your word via loving parents.
You ignited that knowledge of the Scriptures by Your Holy Spirit.
You took me to Jamaica to break my heart for the nations.
You led me to a Native American Reservation in Washington state to set me face to face with the choice of who I will worship. In a fierce competition between me and You, You won.
Blessed be Your name.
You broke my body and wholly took control, though I fought it tooth and nail.
You shattered my pride and claimed my heart for Your own.
You led me to Mexico to discover grace and peace.
You drew me to North Little Rock to glimpse Your heart for the marginalized.
You allowed tragedy to strike as close to my heart as possible outside of my nuclear family.
I don’t know Your plan but I can see Your hand
Moving, shaping, preparing, making.

Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly~George MacDonald

When I take a moment to reflect on the road I am walking,
I quickly become overwhelmed by what an eloquently written story my life is.
This God–His way is perfect. (Psalm 18:30)

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythm of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.~Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

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.

Wildsmolder

There is a taste of what is coming in the diet of my week.

A foreshadowing lurks between
the moments when I am admiring how high the women hold their heads and eyebrows
and the moments spent wondering why hot funjuns for breakfast?

The small sacrifice of spare moments and 10% has turned into a portion of my earnings and the precious commodity of the American Sunday Afternoon. I wish I could be with my family. I wish on a grey day that I could be in PJs watching Drake & Josh with my sister. Where is the pleasure in exiting my parent’s warm house to traverse a dreary, thirsty city?
Could he ask of me any smaller task? Is there anything so precious that requires less effort?
That which I lay on the altar now is like a goat compared to Isaac under his father Abraham’s blade. (Genesis 22)
I give up hours;
He has called me to give up a lifetime.

My thoughts are cast forward to when my call will be demonstrated:
I’ll move overseas,
I’ll follow God farther than I’ve followed before.
Farther than Yakama, Washington
Much farther than Jamaica
Or Mexico.

I’ll say goodbye to home and heartland until my visa is due to expire.
I will doubt and question my decision and He will remain faithful
Amidst a myriad of scenarios beyond my most wild imaginings.

I can no more imagine the barrier of a sea between my family and I
Than I can fathom the barrier of a language between my heart and my neighbor’s.

My faith is small.
It’s a rock balancing on the tip of a formation lost in the desert. In the sun and wind it is strong and balanced. But the slightest rain, a little drizzle, and the rock falls down down, breaking into pieces of red slate.
That’s me.

Perched happily (precariously) atop my savings, my network, my job, my school,
Until the rain comes. The slightest trickle:
A hydroplaning incident (including my reaction to said incident) that may cost me my dream vehicle, a portion of my college savings, and a precious relationship.
How many of those things matter?
I would venture to say only the third.
Which of those things do I have control over?
In this scenario, only the third.
Sin is the destroyer. Not rain on the road or a swerving semi-truck, or insurance fraud or an unjust system. Sin makes the things that matter topple. My sin causes real issues. Yelling because my trust is gone. Crying because I am tired of trying (we call that a pity party). These are the problems.

Money is secondary.
Higher education is tertiary at best.
The Father’s love is primary. The Father’s glory is on level with his love.

My faith is smaller than a mustard seed, and not nearly as powerful.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the hearts of the contrite.”~Isaiah 57:15-16