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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One Thousand Lifetimes

I wish I had one thousand lifetimes

so I could be a painter

a banker, a fisherman,

a seamstress, a whore.

I wish I could be a preacher

and a preacher’s wife

so I could tell stories

of rotten e-mails

and poisonous words thrown

like darts in the face

of imperfect sincerity.

I wish I could be reborn with brown

skin, kinky hair, and again

as the only woman left in China.

 

I wish I had a thousand lives

so I could hunt treasure,

reenact history, understand the tribes

of Oaxaca, Mexico, speak Hindi,

and be a roadie for U2, questioning

the emotional poverty of financial necessity.

I wish I had one thousand lives

so I could be friends with patients

in oncology, victims in juvy,

and carpenters in Appalachia.

I wish I had the time to fall

in love with every Spring time boy

and all the Autumn ones too,

to kiss every shape, size, shade

of lip existent, and somersault

over sand dunes in Northern Indiana.

 

I wish I had time to be a social worker

placing refugees in the land of dreams,

to write a book from soldier’s perspective:

Israeli and Palestinian both.

I wish I had one thousand lives

so that I could be mother to autistic

boy and understand the cellular

exhaustion of women who lay their lives

on altars, like widows in ancient India.

 

I wish I had time to be trafficked

across state lines and receive beatings

to mar permanent my white face

so I could testify with tears to

brothels in back yards, and highways

hiding hell.

I wish I had one thousand lives

to fight tooth and nail, pen and page,

for justice, for fair share, for an end

to the worldwide deficit of grace.

I wish I had time to hug shoulders,

time to look in ugly faces

and say sincere to all:

You’re valuable, I care.

Yet He cares more.

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.

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.

We.

In this generation (I call my own) there’s a minority who refer to themselves as “believers.” A small band, capable of much, yet so easily distracted. For many of the number lack clear sense of the right and wrong. The message around them, snuck into their textbooks, blaring through their car speakers, is TOLERANCE, more than that: ASSIMILATION INTO IMMORALITY. It’s such a blinding darkness that these young people, even those planted firmly, cannot help but be sorely shaken, clear to their roots. Though they stepped out, well meaning, these “believers” now toe the line opposite of all that sets them apart. It’s difficult to see for their enjoyment and peer approval fogs holy vision. They need to be free. Immorality, preached by some boy on some girl, as you hear her bed thump-thump against the wall. TOLERANCE, shouted by the group of homosexuals around whom you can actually relax. It all seems suitable, you’re trying! St. Paul speaks of taking on the chameleon’s ability to adapt and fit in, right? That’s what I’m doing, correct? Looking like them so you can witness, or witnessing their message by forfeiting your own?
There’s a Spirit out there seeking to give you clarity.
Stop shutting it up.
Relentlessly pursue Truth, gently turning from that which puts distance between you and the One in whom you believe.

Highlights

A menagerie of memories from the 365 days that we labeled, “2012:”

Teaching kids to read.

“God created us because He wanted to love us.”

Finishing the Radical Experiement!

Seeing my favorite band (Page CXVI) in concert.

Highschool graduation!

MEXICO!

“I wonder what homeless people talk about….”

“He does not try to pass the time but sits down and lives.”-Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen

“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”-Dumbledore

Anything this side of Hell is pure grace.

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”-Lamentations 3:27

“We could get into trouble,” Isabel.  “That’s how you know it’s an adventure!” Hugo (Hugo, the movie.)

“Quiet your mind, hear what the land has to say,”-Zac Brown

Don’t cry “peace” in the good times only to yell for war when something doesn’t suit you.

It’s not that I am crying,  it’s just that hot tears are falling from my eyes because it hurts so bad.

“…an aesthetic voyager struggling to destroy the beast within,” Chris MccCandless.

NOMADS.

“The compassion we feel when we see the bad things going on in the world is not humanism, it is God’s spirit,” Jamie Zumwalt.

A glowing jellyfish-larva fight on the beach late in the evening.

Bloodshed follows bloodshed.

We cannot take back the way we treat others.

“You are waiting. I am smoking.”-Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows.

I feel the sun. It soaks into my bones. My toes curl with gravel between them. The thoughts in my head are as transparent as the cloudless sky. Wind whips hair sharply around my face. Literal truth: I am on the floor in my bedroom. Soul truth: I am on a great red peak in the midst of a canyon wonderland. Ah, imagination power.

We cannot apply the distraction of politics to our faith.

Watching old friends struggle through ancient issues, and holding them while they cry.

“Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other too…”-George Atkins, “Brethren We Have Met to Worship.”

“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”-J.D. Salinger

“You’ve got such an old soul to you.”

My prayer is for the people who have decided that death is preferable to life.

“The Christian, when he dies, catches hold of Christ’s garment, and Christ bears him into Heaven,” Charles Spurgeon.

“Sad parting promises fresh adventure.”

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller.

“No Heaven will be so sweet as a Heaven preceded by torments and pains,” Charles Spurgeon.

“All the little man on the witness stand had that made him any better than his nearest neighbours was, that if scrubbed with lye soap, in very hot water, his skin was white,” To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

She who loves life can do anything.

I care about you more than I coud ever care about me.

“…that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” 2 Kings 19:19b

“They don’t recognize you asl the adult that you are, but you probably just need to submit right now,” KimT.

“This too shall pass,” the Sadler.

The nearly-tangible blanket of peace that God wrapped around me as I left the children whom I loved with my entire heart to the care of their Jamaican school-teachers and caretakers.

Buying my truck.

“And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” John 6:51b

That’s my life; my year. Thanks for reading all the way down! I am being shaped for something big. Odds are you too are being shaped!

spoopsandyoyo@gmail.com

Empow’r

The odd thing about right-now-in-my-life is that it is a time of definitions. People are watching me, my friends, all the other just-out-of-high-school-ers, to see what we do. Now is when we decide who to be.

I never thought that there was a choice: my beliefs are set; the person I want to be is in my mind’s eye, now I’ll step into that personhood. My belief system is not going to change drastically, so of course I will be a good worker, friend, student, citizen. Things will pan out….Wrong wrong wrong. One does not simply step into anything. Everyday decisions reveal to me that the girl I want to be is years away, separated from me by piles of lessons to be learned.  Contemporary choices can seem so insignificant: an unwashed shirt, a unanswered email, a gift withheld, but it is obvious now that they shape the bigger decisions. An unwashed shirt becomes habitual dirtiness, an unanswered email is a loss of opportunity, a gift withheld snowballs into chronic greed.

We will die in this wilderness but death will not separate us from the love of God.~Dr. Mark E. Ross

Not only do I want to be an upstanding citizen; I have chosen to live by a radical moral code. Wealth? Never. Clean, boxed-up, air-conditioned religion is no reality of mine. Scraping a living, thriving purely by the Spirit pow’r, it’s the plan. Yet suddenly I see, none of this is going to come easy. The idealistic world that I foresaw in my high school naivety is being disrobed. Knowing what I believe does not make me special. Convictions do not say “yes” or “no” for us. Deciding to live by these convictions is what shows true color.

Listen…has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom?~St. Paul

traveler. cigarette smoker? not-pothead. hostel stayer. hard worker. too hard? No frequenting clubs. Bars will be OK. Who decides these things? Since when am I in charge? How come I choose what is right and wrong? That is not how it works. That is what my daddy does. But I never wanted him to. Now he’s not. Good. Deep breath. Smile. Sway to the music.

Only one desire that’s left in me, let the whole damn world come dance with me.~Edward Sharpe

You never wanted to be worried. You never wanted to bring lines to your cheeks. So don’t. This is the relax-if-ever-you-will time. Now, as actions shape and form to reflect my worldview, the time for no-worry is here. No such time as the present to be smiling. To be loose, to be fit and funny. To take responsibility for  mistakes and to laugh at them.

The Water is free but I should warn you, it costs everything. ~Kendall Payne