The Cloth [We’re] Cut From (Part 3)

If I plan to spend time with someone cut from the same cloth as I, I prepare. Mentally, I rid myself of distractions in order to be able to engage with the waterfall of dialogue that is coming. Emotionally, I check in to be sure that my boundaries are stable. Physically, I get my workout in early because when these folks are in social mode, exercise isn’t the priority.

Connection is.

What we have loved, others will love, and we will show them how. ~ Wordsworth

I had the privilege of traveling with a friend from college named Dolly to her homeland of Puerto Rico in 2016. It was an intimate trip as her three young adult children were there, and we visited her (Puerto Rican) parents more than once. Her kids slept in & were glued to their phones nearly every morning. Dolly & I, however, being Cut From the same Cloth, woke early, excited for the day.

One day, she & I get in her rental & drive to a beach. On the way we attempt conversations in Spanish (my Spanish at the time was very broken), & then I ask questions to lead the conversation somewhere deeper. Once started, she sermonizes about her Capstone paper about Spanish literature. Her long, twisty hair is tinted with blonde highlights, & her voice melodic. The conversation–like most of our conversations– veers toward the spiritual. The passion rises in Dolly’s voice as she speaks of the Divine, of God, & of the relationship she has with “him”. Her perfect fingernails & the thin bands on her fingers reflect the light that sneaks through the trees along the Puerto Rican backroads. She is an intensely beautiful person & I revel in this time together.

That night, we are in the car again, & she talks about motherhood. Yet rather than cookie-cutter, her attitude is comical. Her words are along the lines of: “My son tells me everything about his sex life. I’m like, honey, I don’t want to know this. And then he says he doesn’t have a good relationship with his dad so who else is he gonna talk to.”

She says she doesn’t want to know, yet I see that she is holding space for that information from him. People like me don’t shut others down, especially not those who look up to us. Dolly didn’t want to know about her adult son’s sex life, but she never responded to the information by shaming him, or becoming angry. That’s not how we roll. I love us for it.

While in Puerto Rico I didn’t worry about using her space, her car, her food budget. I knew she wasn’t keeping score–because of who I am, & who I knew her to be. That’s a rare relief to experience: having your needs met in a foreign place without concern of racking up debts or resentment in the hostess.

That ability to be no-strings-attached generous, passionate about spiritual conversations, & a safe sounding board for young people to talk about issues that are often responded to with shame, show a commitment to preserving connection no matter the personal price. It is a skill common in people Cut From the same Cloth as I. 

We live to love & be loved. 

We are sensitive.

We are present (on good days).

We are unique.

We are undercover leaders.  

“…I keep dying because I love to live.” ~Maya Angelou

 

 

Where is Love in My Life?

This Valentine’s Day mornin’ I awoke with a headache and sore throat–the very reason I was still in bed at 9:45 AM, rather than at work. I felt this settled longing in me to talk about LOVE. About Gabriel, the Chilean boy who captured my heart in Coyhaique. About 3 girls whose elementary school uniforms hung over bony shoulders while we fell in Love, at the park, at McDonald’s, at the library, in my car. About a small black kitten who crawled into my little brother John’s arms the morning after my friend Meghan gave me a medallion that read “Harmony”. About the story of Black Liberation in my country, the leaders who have lived and fought, inspiring me to love more fervently every season of life. About the four strange white people with whom I spent the first 20 years of my life; my redeemed ones, my family that will never give up on itself. About my Spirit, the mysterious animating force that keeps saying “no” to what stifles me, regardless of the cost, and leads me toward growth, more every day.

Since I felt that inclination to write about Love, I decided to do it. One Insta photo just wouldn’t be enough, so I decided to write a love letter here, a grocery list of all that I love. These are the parts of life that give me yummy sensations, that tell my heart, “it is well,” despite the anxiety and depression that plagues my days, and haunts my nights.

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3 beams of light. 1 soft-hearted little boy. 1 ridiculously happy white girl.

Gabriel Rebolledo Castro is pictured above with that sheepish smile I’m not sure I have ever seen on him before. I fell in Love with him when I heard him speak of, long for, and tell stories of his faithful love for a place called, Coyhaique. I thought I was the only one who loved like that. Nope, he is my match, mi luna, my home, the telegram from Heaven telling me: YOU BELONG HERE. Happy Valentine’s Day, mi amor. I know you are reading this, because you check my blog even when I haven’t posted in months. (TE AMO!)

(From Left) Kiyah, Aaliyah, Demetria….I always say their names in a row as if they could ever be put into one category. The differences between them: personalities, preferences, perspectives, are broad, yet they share this aura, this divine essence, that I inhale every time I smooth back the hair from their foreheads. I am in love with their laughter and their insecurities, their jokes, and the way they perceive the world. Sometimes I get caught up in my hopes for them that I forget to breath them in. May the next 7 years of our lives together be as beautiful as the last 7. I love you with every breathe I breath. On days when I feel inadequate and out of motivation, I think of you three, and stay on my well-trod path of creating a better world.

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The kitty named Harmony.

For the first time, this Lydia Nomad has a home. A house I rent, a back yard where I am building a compost pile in hopes of having a successful garden this Spring. I bought furniture (yay used furniture!), hung art pieces, conjured up a nest for myself. In a way, I am settling down for a season, and my tired, tired heart, is ‘CITED ‘BOUT IT. I sleep in the same place every night and IMO, that place needs a cuddle buddy. BOOM. Just as I was considering pet adoption, a flea-infested little black kitty-boy came to the front stoop and I knew he would never leave me. Harmony. I am in Love with the way he curls up by my neck when I am resting. I am in Love with his stubby nose and how his hair feels when I rub it the wrong way. I am in Love with his presence in my life, always prioritizing comfort and connection. Thanks for helping me evolve, baby boy.

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Life’s difficulty is its’ richness.

I am in Love anew with reading. Books. Books. Books. I love the way they feel in my hands. I love the rustling of pages and what happens in my mind as I fly through chapter after chapter of adventure and wisdom. I love imagining these authors, melted into a blanket with a warm cup of tea while they write, just like me, while I read their words. I adore sharing ideas. It delights me to make connections between philosophies, regions, people groups. The world in my mind is more alive right now than the world around me, and I hope it stays that way for a long time. I am in Love with the materials I am consuming as a part of my Sage Yoga School training. Crafting a class unique to my experience reminds me continually of the constellation-shape this life really takes, despite the way Western intellect seeks to slice it up, to neatly categorize each decade. Thank you, lovers of literature, who dared to write without knowing if anyone would read. Thank you for saying what my heart did not have words to express. I am enamored with you all.

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NyNy, our patron saint of Hope & New Life.

Finally, I love this tiny lady. She is our ray of Hope and Light. When I had nothing to give to my girls, she showed up, and crying, tottering, smiling, laughing, she provided what they needed. She reminds me of how brief & sacred the times we have together are. One day I will tell her about her childhood. I will tell her about what she gave us, about how utterly good she is, about her laughter, and about how she inspired me to live whole-heartedly, though it cost me much suffering. You remind me how very worth-living this life is. NyNy, I am here to tell you of your belovedness.

 

I am here to discover Love.

Amen.

Happy Valentine’s Day, beautiful world. I love you.

Lydia Nomad Bush

 

Glory & Guts

I’m singing out: YOUR LOVE LEAD ME!

 

There’s nothing that I have need of

There’s nothing you haven’t done

You make my soul alive

You put your life inside

There’s nothing that I have need of

There’s nothing you haven’t done

 

You make my soul alive

You put your life inside

 

You put your love inside

 

I’m giving you everything

 

~United Pursuit, Simple Gospel album

 

March toward freedom. Run when you’re unable to even stand. Use what could be your last breath (maybe feels like it IS the last breath of your soul) to hurl yourself toward light. Set your heels deeper in the mud and when they sink, keep pushing. You’re slaves but you don’t have to be. Stomp your foot in the face of that slavery. Sing out: there is a BEYOND for me. There is much to move towards. Restoration is a prize worth struggling unto death for. You may not know if anything good is true, but hope is essential. You have to believe it until it is true. You have to grind your teeth together and clench your fists until your fingernails draw blood. You have to wrestle the selfishness & despair within until you stand with your foot on its’ neck. There is more to be, more to believe, more life & abundance for the taking than you could ever imagine. You have access to all the strength that you need. The One who made you wants you back. Do you hear the song of love that the trees and waves and woodpeckers and thunder claps sing for you? The cry of Love’s broken heart: come back. Come back to the One from whom you came. You exist. You are. As surely as you are, you are loved. Newness is around the corner for you, powerful one. Nothing can limit your potential, your love, your light, your purpose. You were made to change & to change this planet. Whatever broken down places there are in you, they are redeemable. Whatever has been done to you can be undone. Whatever has been undone in you can be remade. There is no such thing as irreparable. There is no such thing as hopeless or helpless.

 

There is no such thing as a gift without price. This battle costs everything. It asks surrender of you. It asks devotion of you. But first, all it asks is belief. One movement (and a hundred more every day to follow) in the direction of “yes” to power beyond you will hurtle you into an extraordinary journey. An extraordinarily difficult journey. Every step requires a loss, and the losses will set you free. They’ll feel like betrayal. You will lose the only you you thought there was. You will find innumerable lies lodged in the foundation of your being and you will have to decide to let it crumble. In darkness the Enemy will whisper that you don’t love your family. In darkness the Enemy will accuse you of pride, of indulgence, of selfishness, of irresponsibility. In victorious moments all you will feel is struggle and doubt. Then you will look back & make an idol of the victory instead of the One from whom it came. In the hardest moments you will wonder why and how and your brow will be so tight that you get a headache. You will forget how hellish the slavery is and you will follow your flesh back to rock bottom. You will progress and you will regress. You will doubt and question and experience greater pain than you knew you had the capacity for. People won’t understand. People will throw darts. People will mock and people will wonder. They will worship you and that will hurt worse than anything else.

 

You won’t fit the mold anymore.

 

Your love changes everything.~United Pursuit

 

You will slowly lose your linear eyes. You will regain a poetic perspective and you will see beauty where no one else can. You will grow up and you will become a child again. The strong hands of your cravings won’t steer the boat anymore. You won’t be controlled by nerves, fear, or timidity. You won’t be running ragged and unsatisfied. You won’t hate the words coming out of your mouth; raw joy will take their place. You will run with hell at your heels towards one Being only & find that every other relationship can be fueled by the overflow from moment-by-moment encounters with Jesus. You will discover what you were made to do. Your skin will crawl and you won’t be able to live with that being the way it is anymore. You will see miracles & you will pedal and walk and run and jump and limp and crawl until the skin on your hands is calloused, your knees are knotty, and the cavern of your heart swollen. You will learn not to trust in life stages or relationship status but in an unchanging force whose tide is steady. You will eat less and sleep harder and dream bigger.

You will lose the ability to hate and have enemies. You will ache for someone besides yourself and you will offer that ache back to the One. Your soul will swell with joy & your time alone will be precious, full of laughter and dancing. Your fears will fall off your face in silver tears and the moon will replace them with determination and a fierce desire for home. Your need for admiration or adoration from your friends will turn into gratitude for the “amens” they speak over your life. People won’t make your decisions for you. People won’t disappoint and limit you. People won’t have the last word. People will speak curses and blessings over your head and what isn’t true just won’t matter. 

I saw your soul without the skin attached
You’ve got the guts of a coyote pack
We’ve been kissed, we’ve been cut
But we do what needs the doing
We’re just rainbows dreaming we’re human
~Cloud Cult

You will discover true glory. That hidden glory, familiar and sweet, will chase away the memories of every violation you have perpetrated against your soul and the souls of your neighbors. The glory will erase your shame and you will be baptized into forgiveness so often you lose count of the times you’ve come back up.

 

You were born as a spark.

Re-gain the spark that’s been pinched between the index finger and thumb of your life.

Give your spark space to breath.

Show it to no one but the warm wind of spring.

Protect it with your everything and beg the God of hope to let it grow.

Kneel in the wild and trust the small fire you have become to the flame of origin.

Accept no limitations.

Fight harder, win bigger.

Hunger for the Holy One more than for food.

Let Him/Her take you beyond.

The goodness is unending.

Dare to believe it.

Bet your vaporous life on it.

Everything changes.

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!

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

10 Lessons of Hope

I have accumulated some great nuggets of knowledge over the past year and I want to share them! Not because I know it all, or even half of it all, but because I know different things than you do, and sharing our lessons is a good way to practice loving each other and living wise.

Here we go…

  • Wherever you are, be there. Community is built by people who invest in the lives of those around them rather than spend time searching for the group to be in. I realized this last summer when I noticed that the “favorites” list on my phone was over a page long, and full of people I did not talk to on a weekly basis. I had accumulated a list of the people I thought I needed to be with, and that had only served to damage the community God had placed me in. I trimmed the list down to seven people: it is far more user-friendly now, and I do not so often feel stretched out and stressed by the demands myriads of friends used to place on me.

“There isn’t anything on earth like relationships to make you holy.” ~Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself, 146

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” ~Acts 9:11, ESV

  • Be refreshed by the things you like to do. If you tend to overwork yourself (like me), you may find no space in your life for activities you enjoy. Change that. You need to do frequent, inexpensive things that you find refreshing. God gives us these pleasures as blessings; they help us through the ache of everyday life. For me it is yoga, and writing in my journal. Other people go on walks, cook, or build bonfires outdoors. (**Beware of idolatry: don’t turn these blessings into curses by giving them the heart that only belongs to God.**)

“But a heart alive is a heart that is awake and curious and pressing in to more.” ~ Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself, 115

  • Be (extra) kind to minorities. Not because they are any more desperate or less important than the ethnic majority, but because, odds are, things in their family tree haven’t gone so smoothly. Why else would they be far from their biological roots? Just subtly offer to pay for dinner when you’re out with a friend who is a minority member, or get plugged in to a mentoring program for at-risk youth. America has a situation on her hands. What are you gonna do about it?

“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 7:12, ESV

  • Own what you’re good at. I’ve wasted too many compliments, shrugging them away, saying, “Oh, it’s nothing, I’m not that good.” Take the compliment! Don’t be puffed up with unrighteous pride, but don’t apologize for being good at something either. I struggle with math and science but I’ve wowed some college instructors with essays and short stories. God has made me this way so I can serve HIS amazing purposes!

“God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.”  ~Ephesians 2:10, CEV

  • Learn to say “no” to demands people place on you. Practice it if you have to; I did. This is especially difficult and of key importance if you have an enabling personality. Ask God, not men, what he would have you do with your time.

“Made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what is our job and what isn’t. Workers who continually take on duties that aren’t theirs will eventually burn out.” ~Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, 27

  • Be OKAY with not knowing. No one knows it all. Don’t drive yourself mad searching for the answer to every question that flies through your head in a day. *You don’t have to win the arguments.* Doing research, learning, and seeking council is good, but no amount of historical data or advice or analysis can set your heart to rest. Only God offers real rest. Trust him as you spend a lifetime learning the truth.

God, show me the truth and show me the lies.

      “We are not uncertain about God, but uncertain of what He will do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.” ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, 120

  • Beware of people who do know. Again, no one knows it all. The president, scientists, your parents, your mentors, your pastor, your therapist, they may have pieces of truth that cultivate discernment within you but they do not know it all. Our not-knowing is what makes us human, and spurs us forward to humble reliance on God. His ways are **not** our ways. Look out for people who have the answers to all your questions. Imagine a librarian who, when asked for books about World War II, starts reciting her personal knowledge of the war. You’d probably walk away slowly and Google it later. Surround yourself with people who don’t have all the answers, but are quick to point you in the right direction.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”~1 John 4:1, ESV

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” ~Hebrews 5:14, ESV

  • Grieve. It’s OKAY to cry when you leave a job you have only had for two years. It is OKAY to spend an entire afternoon writing down memories of a loved one who passed away. If you need to weep, weep. If you need to take time thinking and wading through your emotions, set aside that time. You can experience the pain now or let it snowball for the rest of your life. God wants to bring healing to the pain in your heart, it’s part of your restoration.

“There is hope for your future, declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 30:17, ESV

“Jesus wept.” ~John 11:35, ESV

“Smooth sailing does not make a good sailor.” ~Louis Zamperini, Devil at My Heels

((for more on grief check out Prayer as a Place, by Charles Bello))

  • Ask God what his special love language is for you. Heather Nelson (http://sunshinedreams2u.blogspot.com/) told me this at a retreat a few weeks ago, and little did I know, God would reveal our special language to me less than an hour later. I stood next to a window and the sun slowly peeked around a thick tree. The white rays pierced glass and kissed my forehead. Sunlight. Sunshine. That is one of the way God speaks to me, letting me know he is near. Today I basked in that same glow, feeling alive and rejuvenated by this tangible taste of everlasting love. Perhaps he speaks to you in dreams, or via shapes or sounds. Just ask!

“And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” ~Ephesians 2:17&18, ESV, emphasis mine

  • If you are not a slave to God, you are a slave to death. In a way, slavery is our only option. But the slavery of God leads to fruit, to life! With God as our master, we find true freedom and the ability to rest in his grace and do good things. The other option is default mode: remaining in bondage to our own fickle, wounded hearts. None of our decisions are for good when we live by the flesh, but though the war rages on when we live by the Spirit, we are able to surrender to God’s excellent plan for the redemption of our souls and this planet.

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” ~Romans 6:16-18, NIV

“Give your life away in exchange for many lives, give away your blessings to multiply blessings, give away so that many might increase, and do it all for the love of God.” ~AnnVoskamp, One Thousand Gifts, page 197 (http://www.aholyexperience.com/)

Have a new year filled with hope, friends. Happy 2015!

Rope Route to Rest

Don’t clean up to come. Even in the heated sin-moment turn we can, upwards. Soul lifted high when eyes are too heavy with remorseful tears. The refuse we find ourselves wrecked in is not bigger than redemption: sanguine drops of Jesus etched into human heart history ages ago. In the hating, the lying, the cussing, the spitting, the yelling, the venting at computer or dog or self or other, look up and find the rope strong enough to lift. Don’t hesitate because of the nasty you haven’t got clean of: you can’t clean you anyway, trying only makes you more dirty. Unclean is the only way we can come, out of our soil, into his Son.

Amazing grace the sweetest thing, this I know.~Crowder

Let there be less focus on the beautiful big words we’ve bivouacked next to steps God guides us through and more preoccupation with the transcendent power of living in God’s love right this minute. This solitary moment is a speck on eternity’s sandy shore yet in it we have access to the great God our Maker. Don’t neglect to latch your soul onto this moment, let it come alive, climbing the rope to heavens peace like a muscly gymnast using only upper body power. Let us climb not by the strength of our forearms nor the gnarled stout of abdomens but by the divine rope within us tied tight by Jesus’ outstretched arms.

In trust let him tear down the tower that you stand on, built by wounded ego, trampled on child hidden behind. Put away pithy apologies to the Prince of Peace and put in their place war by God almighty strength, bowing no longer to Satanic bonds. Throw vices off your chained neck. Let wretchedness no longer rub shoulders raw. Flex spirit muscles and use prayerful pleas from the heart to overcome belittling whispers claiming that the rope God offers isn’t really there, that what you hold onto isn’t made to carry such weight, that the unreliable rope will snap (because, as the lie goes, your nasty is heavier than everyone else’s). Wrong. You know it won’t snap because you know the Vine from which it grows. You’ve tasted his power and felt his kiss on the sweaty skin of your soul.

Four letter words are allowed in his presence because he knows once your soul desert experiences the eternal oasis you’ll spit them out for the fire on your tongue. Fire that crackles fervent fury for injustice inflicted on family members who don’t look remotely like you.

When your boss makes you feel like a thumb tack stuck in Titan toe…

When your hair is not pretty,

Your muscles not strong…

When your career has chewed you up and spit you back out…

Or your marriage has done the same,

When you are tired and pulled on from every direction…

When no one seems to notice how much or how little you do…

Then they will know that I love you. ~Revelation 3:9

Up, up, up. Point that soul in the higher direction, ask for the good way, and walk in it, that you may find rest for your tired, tired soul (Jeremiah 6:16).

More Than a Brouhaha

All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him.

Ever felt yourself spiraling away? You’re sad and disappointed even over the smallest thing and you start to hear yourself say negative things, and then lash out at your loved ones. Even if you don’t saying anything, know that you are answering the Devils onslaught with your silence. If you don’t speak back he has control. The lashing out is your heart’s plea for help. You have to acknowledge the daily unseen battle before you can don the full armor of God. The wily devil convinces many that there is no battle, and to those that do fight, he whispers: there is no hope for you. But God has told his children how to ask for help in the fight, and though it is often a painful process, his faithfulness abides.

I do not ask that you take them [my people] out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. ~Jesus, John 17 (emphasis mine)

Think of young people who run away from home, knapsack all packed. It’s a cry for someone to come get them. They need to know that they are worth fighting for, worth running after. They aren’t running towards anything, they’re just asking via their steady footsteps away from home: does anyone care?

What if Jesus had been silent before Satan and ignored the battle at hand? Instead of using Scripture, he could have just stood, counting the hours until he could eat again, and pretending that Satan wasn’t there in his presence.

Satan: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory [of the kingdoms of the earth]…If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” (Matt. 4:6-8)

Don’t marinate in your misery. Fight to hear the still, small voice that says: I will lead you back, You are my darling child…my heart yearns for you (Jeremiah 31:9, 20). It requires simply a tuned-in soul and the scriptures, from tip of Genesis to tail of Revelation. Those ancient words are our only weapon. All we can do is knock on the door of Heaven and demand our birthright now, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

He did not die only to be your savior. He died to be your Lord: the Lord of your waking up and lying down, the Lord of your hope and help. He is the Beloved who wants to shepherd you in green pastures and be your anchor in the oceanic conflicts of your soul.

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.~1 Thess. 5:24

We make him small when we ignore the battle. He fought for us, are we not willing to rouse our spirits for him? Are we unwilling to fight to know the Love that shed himself on the cross many dark nights ago?

He came for us when we wandered away like restless children, begging the starry sky for deliverance.

Do we desire Jesus? Do we know his voice?

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. ~Jesus, John 10:14

Have you agreed with the Devil? Has he whispered that the bed is more comfortable? That you don’t have a problem? That even though you’re not hungry it’s OKAY to return to the pantry over and over? That it is OKAY to relax in front of the TV…hour after hour? That since your future is secure you’re just along for the ride from here until death?

The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.~John 10:10a

We must fight as though our lives depended on, we must endure the upheavals of battle and with blind trust follow the  Officer higher-up. Ignoring the spiritual combat is submitting again to the devil’s rule, which is death. Standing up, fighting to hear the voice of the Lord, waiting on him to deliver, those are all reflections of a heart seeking submission to the Spirit’s rule, which is life.

Like children, accept the hand that reaches out to help you, and believe him when he says…

I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.~John 10:10b (emphasis mine)

Oh the joy that is in store when over the hills of idolatry and petty disbelief his love ushers me!

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.