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

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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

Poem, II

Much of my time is joy, is light
I won’t deny: there too is despair, there is night.
Though rare, there are times
When-a vine-angst climbs.

I am worried about going,
I am worried about throwing
All I have down a funnel,
Down a labyrinth tunnel.

Suddenly cigarettes and sex
Ashes blowing in my face, legs braced
Shine their neon lights, croon a hex
Put in reverse, the Highway to Hell now trace.

The road to Heaven: paved with negative emotions
Then they wash away: holy oceans.
By His breath, now I see
Often I choose death, though for life I am free.

Despite my natural tilt, He
Takes the wickedness away;
He soothes empty guilt, it won’t
Come into play.

He may not stop me
But he lets me decide:
Who will I be?
Which way will I ride?

I am not a romantic, but
Tears of my eyes against Him I can’t hide,
In the midst of my frantic He
Is there by my side.

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.

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

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

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

Camp Summer

The sweat
The thin layer of dirt
Gym shorts
T-shirts
Songs
Clapping.
Kids, kneeling, growing, learning.
Camp.
Not a cross-cultural mission trip,
(More like a visit to the neighbour’s)
But just as challenging.
Probably more effective.
Changing lives because that’s the business here.
Making life possible for the youthful oppressed.
Letting the Truth breathe.
Dunking kids & young adults
Into clear Holy Spirit water,
Comin’ to the fountain of life,
Believing thanks to the work God has begun in their hearts.
Feeding
Playing
Encouraging
Teaching
Encouraging,
Teaching.
For days this is our mission.
Ministry nothing-this is life,
Day in, day out.
Fighting to minimize thoughts of self,
To display the Gospel by love.
Kids. Young people. Next. Tomorrow. The lost. The unreached.
Now reached.
Darkness now penetrated by merciful light
Here
They can understand it.
This is the opportunity & God’s workers are making it happen
Year after year.
Livin’ right;
Great sacrifice for great purpose.

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

Obedience Story

(written May 27,2013 by someone too lazy to post it….)

It all seems quite pointless
Everything seems complete and handled
(Except me)
And I’m just floating along, head barely above water,
Staying afloat because it’s the thing to do.
Then chaos happens
And as I respond with immediate action,
Care,
A picture forms in my mind.
A tale of obedience; A path that I am walking,
Start to finish.
All that I do is a process,
An uphill battle, a struggle towards Glory.
What’s going on now is a part of that.
A girl walks along,
Messing up,
Doing good,
Messing up,
(Repeat.)
It’s her life story:
Always doing wrong
Always coming back.
Wandering-returning,
Walking in the dark, uncertain, bolstered by faith.
It is difficult as people get hurt due to her weaknesses.
By good grace she moves constantly forward,
Upward.
Like a monkey swinging from jungle vine to vine,
She takes the ups and downs in stride.
She flies on,
Living in sunshine brokenness
Overflowing with joy
Terrified of what’s to come
Hopeful for a good ending
At last.