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

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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.

Sojourner (Un)selfish

Bear with me as I indulge in a Big Bang Theory analogy. It’s not long, I promise.

In this story (life) we are more like Leonard than Sheldon. Everything Leonard does contributes to Sheldon’s joke. It’s not about Leonard. No one wants it to be about Leonard. Sheldon is funnier, so he gets the grand punch line and credit for the joke.

I try and take credit for the exceptional things the Lord does in my life. He gives me strength, and fills my life with blessings. In return, I pat myself on the back and start to think the Christian life is not so challenging after all. To put it simply: I am foolish. Nobody wants this to be about me. That would be one miserable, twisted story!

Praise Him; it is not about me! None of this is thanks to me. Were I to start believing it is so and act accordingly, God would no doubt remove His hand from under me. I would free-fall into despair.

Ever since I rededicated myself to Christ (February 23, 2010,) my life has been characterized by searching. I have looked and sought the ministry God would have me sink my hands into. For so long, everyone around me seemed fine and taken care of: not in need of help (keep in mind, I live among the wealthiest 2% of people in the world!) I felt unnecessary without work to do, listless. As I transitioned out of childhood and into the company of people who did not have such privilege, I felt my life begin to fall into place.

I am finding my place in the company of the marginalized. Children with dyslexia and ADHD and bad behavior need a servant of God to come alongside them and teach them about responsibility and walking with Jesus Christ. Their parents often need a friend. People who are barely making it financially (if your children go to a private school and/or you have never been on food stamps, do not even consider putting yourself in this category) need friends who have access to a network of human resources. I had the access, now I have the friends with tangible needs. Every relationship is a work in progress. Generally I am in the background working, thankful to be among diverse people. (By diverse I mean to hit all the bases: fiscally, ethnically, geographically, religiously, and generationally.)

It is not our fault that people are poor, but it is our responsibility to do something about it. ~Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel

Now that I have been here, on the front line of the battle for souls in America, I am appreciative, at peace, and tired. This journey on earth is a long, hard one. I say that like I am old. I am young (in age and in Christ), but I have gotten a glimpse into the Christian life as a mission, and it has given me a deep perspective. I cannot say that my response to this perspective has been righteous or mature (“I’m just going to stop right here and do my own thing, OK, God? This is too much for me.” “No, Lydia, follow me.” Something along those lines.) but I am learning.

There are multitudes of needy souls here (as everywhere.) The work is plentiful; the fields are white (ready) for harvest.

It is not at all perfect and joyful working with poor, Bible-illiterate people. Unrestrained bad attitudes and grudges are rampant. Sexual preoccupations are entertained and discussed, making it difficult to keep my own mind and body pure. Finances are tight because I am constantly driving across town (Don’t get me wrong, I love knowing both sides of my city, there is just that whole gasoline nonsense to be dealt with.) Children distract me during church. I don’t get a moment to sing or lift my hands or listen to the voice of the local body, or look up verses in my Bible.

This is service and love: sacrifice.

Missing out on all those things is fine because–guess what–it’s not about me! This is a story about a great God who is filling up Eternity with souls. My ministry is not only how I obey God’s commandments, it is how I declare that there is a divine purpose. I work hard for others to no personal gain because there is a greater cause. Doing ministry is how I make my unsteady faith known. The best part is that He does not ask me to overcome these struggles by my own strength. God invites me to rely on Him totally (how radical!) He lets me know that I am not in this alone. He is my Comforter, King, Savior, Buddy, and Accomplice in this transcendent scheme of love. It is His show, His stage, and I am delighted to play my part (trips on stairs, poorly recited lines, smudged makeup, and all!)

Jesus says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If the yoke you are carrying is heavy, then it is not His yoke you are carrying, but the yoke of someone else. ~Jen Hatmaker

It’s not about me=friendship with people who have nothing to offer you.
It’s not about me=long-term evangelism.
It’s not about me=working for literacy.
It’s not about me=recycling.
It’s not about me=donating to end poverty.
It’s not about me=spending more of your excess resources on others than you spend on yourself.
It’s not about me=donate your time to someone who needs a friend.
It’s not about me=participating in activities you do not necessarily enjoy in an attempt to bless other people.

It’s not about me is a concept that everyone would be better for putting into practice. Hindu, Muslim, Atheist, Consumerist, Catholic; the earth will become a more friendly place if we live for something–or someone–greater than ourselves. There is no formula for living this way, just a profound God who calls you to sojourn with Him. Enjoy today, soak in the beauty of today, but question yourself; hurt is brought about by what we don’t do as much as by what we do. Riddled with doubts, let us press on towards something higher and brighter than ourselves.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. ~Colossians 1:9-10

Father be with:

Rickaundia
Ricky Lewis
Malik
Aaliyah
DeeDee
Kiyah

…all of these kids whose lives You have given me a brief window into. Allow me to give them just a taste, just a hint, just a nudge towards You. Please, God, use me that they may know and worship the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

I do not know where I am headed
I do not know what countries I will live in
I do not know what languages I will learn to speak
I do not know exactly how much I will be called to give up (Luke 12:15)
I do know that He desires all of me.

It is a joy and privilege to give Him my everything.

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. ~Luke 14:33

Slowly, shakily, I follow You.

Glory Bound and Growing

Right now is the best moment, the blessed moment.
*corny, but I kind of like it*
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine here, in a place called “Dark Hollow.” In mid-America? Yep.
I swing on a swing-set with my two best friends (both under the age of 11). I love knowing that if not for me, they would not be at the park. And if they did not love me (even when I’m late and my truck is so messy there is barely room for them!), I would not have these sweet relationships. (Who would I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe too?!) They show me Jesus every week. The body of Christ is interconnected in a dazzling way. Praise to the Lamb!

Men sit on the park benches, dirty, next to their glitzy new cars. The skin on my legs that is exposed tingles unpleasantly as I walk by, not because of anything they have done or said, but because society has branded the word “rapist” on their foreheads. My preliminary judgment rests not on the content of their character but on their location and the way they wear their clothes. What if we look past their brands, Martin Luther King Jr. style, and invite them in to the Kingdom to worship beside us? What could people do if they were empowered by a friend who has everything (the Gospel) to offer?

I close my eyes. No guilt in life, no fear in death.

I know I’m spending my life in the right place. I am selling myself for the cause of righteousness, investing in a market with eternal dividends. Her smile, set off by the gap between her over-sized front teeth reminds me that darkness cannot hold back the light. Even when it seems we have the time and resources to undo only a fraction of the evil that exists, we know that there is hope. No soul is beyond redemption. Maybe if we take them gently by the hands, if we bid every other broken person come and worship Jesus with us, the lightness can push away the darkness. The church will grow, because we will grow. We’ll dance and sing and eagerly await the happy day when the Jesus who bids us be children comes to redeem this unimaginative world.

Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, agents of a dimension incompatible with society,~Jacques Elliot

I ask the good Lord to cure me of my dry skin and my disobedience.

Let my actions speak loud enough to drown out my faulty words.

He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.~Isaiah 30:19b-21

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.

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

Fish Bowl

In two cultures I find myself a day to day observer. There is “A” where I make my money, there is “B” where I spend my money (and free time.) I am a fish out of water in both: uncomfortable, tortured by the screaming discrepancy.

A) West side. Big brick houses, private Utopias bursting with full-bellied babies. Laughing and playing on Ipads, eating fruits and vegetables. The mommys and daddys do their work and keep their lives pristine. They buy their kids a car at 16, a college experience at 18. Lawns are well-manicured, separating one family’s space from the neighbor’s. They are healthy; one generation looks no different from the last. Ray Bans. Religion. Restaurants. The ideal world in which to raise children.

B) Pockets of people in “project” housing. Hundreds of apartments with paper thin walls. A concrete maze winds through the community yard, littered with trash. Kids fly in and out of doors, living with Grandma and Great-Grandma and an uncle or two, never safe from gunshots, rape, or coarse language. There are no daddys. Mama is the rock but she was only a child when she got pregnant; she never had a chance to learn life for herself. They are surviving, one generation looks no different from the last. Potato chips. Pickles. Perverts. No place at all to raise a child.

If the traffic is light it will take twenty minutes to get from A to B. Yet no one ever does. To each, the reality of the other is unreal. People don’t actually live like that, they both say.
I bang my head against a glass wall, a fish seeking to break the barrier betwixt water and air, trying to alert one to the other. We have so much to learn from each other! I’m met with blank stares, emotionally detached well-wishes, sometimes disbelief, apparent apathy.
Quick to denounce what the government is doing, slow to confront the oppression.
The difference between my morning world and my afternoon world, separated only by a quarter tank of gas, is startling. Sometimes I forget it is real. I see how easily ignored that which we abhor can be.
How will we change this? How do I wrap up a blog post about issues I don’t know how to solve?
Today I am a learner. Tomorrow I hope to see things change. One has to come before the other so absorb all that you see, drive a little farther South than you normally do, spare some care, enact the change.