Friday, December 31, 2010

A drop of Red

Perhaps someday I will explain to you about the Colors. But it's unlikely, truth to tell. I've spent snippets and hours explaining to friends and family my off-handed comments like "That's your red coming out" or "I need more yellow in my day" or "Sherlock Holmes and Moriarti are both green, like me, like my dad, like my brother." I've seen the Colors in Proverb 10, intricately woven through the movie Mary Poppins, in the isles of Home Depot, and, in fact, everywhere I look. God designed it, it's all there, He knew what He was doing. And it is so beautiful. But it's just too much to explain. For me anyway.

Leonardo Da Vinci wrote in his journal of his grand ambition to reveal the ultimate symmetry of Being - Man as microcosm of Earth as microcosm of Universe as microcosm of God. To prove it through science and mathematics. But I can't honestly say he accomplished that. What he did accomplish was a life, as a man that God made, a life like no other. What matters now about Da Vinci was not what he explained or even what he did but who he was. And I realize that that is exactly what matters about the man Jesus Christ, and what matters about every one of us human beings, His beloved people.

The fact that fleeting glimpses of DaVinci's vision can be apprehended through the various records and products of his life (the same could be said about Jesus I suppose) comfort me as I come to grips with a most difficult word and its truer expression. I'm hesitant even to write the word for fear of the accusations and incredulity that inevitably follow any individual's associating themselves with it. Perhaps I won't write the word. In fact I think that's the way it's supposed to work.

Why am I writing tonight? It started with a book. Well, more probably, it started with a forgotten dose of medicine - the normalizing potion that has kept me tethered to the world most humans spend their entire lives traversing. The world I left, for a time, a time of utter abandonment to Unknown, Unthought, Not Yet, im/Possible, and, in the most ultimate sense, to God. I've never been very tightly tied to this particular world but I'm coming to terms with it at last. It is necessary, after all, since it is where so many people live. As my love for God grows with it grows the love for those people - the bulk of humanity - thus the necessity of staying connected to them by means of the solid contact of feet on earth. Not to mention God's apparent desire to keep me alive. To please Him I must learn to traverse this particular world with measured confident steps - thus insuring my own physical, emotional, mental, financial and every other measure of well being, as much as it is under my own control. But it seems my loving Master has allowed me still to leap, here and there, to skip, to bound, to dance. In my dreams I still soar. And that is enough.

It is such a leap, a small one, just a drop of Red, that moves me now. Even as my new dose of medicine begins to anchor me back to the ground. I have to share something with you. I'm not quite sure what it will entail until I've written it. But it involves this book that I've been reading, a book that seems to change my life anew with each chapter. It's called "The Classics We've Read, the Difference They've Made". I wish I could buy it for every believer who, in being given the gift (*cough*) of the image of the Creator, struggles under the tumult of the two great forces in their life: the Faith, and Art. To say I can't recommend it highly enough would be a pathetic understatement. In reading these Christian writers' accounts of the writers whom God used to shape their paths, their unique callings, I can almost feel the hands of the great Physician gently rejoining the rent halves of my soul into a new and stronger whole.

I realize only a very few people will have any idea what I'm talking about. I can live with that. It's sort of characterized my life thus far and I fear it will only get worse. But the reason I can live with it now, as opposed to before, is because as I realize it is my life that is my art, not my words, whether or not people "get what I'm saying" shrinks to near insignificance.

I want to share with you a quote about a monk and a poet. I wasn't familiar with him but apparently he's well enough known: Thomas Merton. Now I will have to read his stuff. (Thanks to this book I have at least 10 other writers whose work presses upon me to be read. Good thing I got a NOOKcolor for Christmas.) Anyway, Thomas Merton thought he was giving up the writer's life to pursue a life of contemplation. His experience, and in fact the experiences of so many of this book, have helped me understand my own thoughts, feelings, and actions, especially of the past two years, and even offered insight into what God seems to be doing with me of late.

But before I share more about Thomas Merton, I have to recall to you something I wrote over a year ago, after summer camp, Austin, and my short-term visit to the Full-Time Training. Here is the post. I was talking about two vastly different places: Austin's Sunday Circus - a wild and weird land of color, costume, characters, uninhibition - and Anaheim's Full-Time Training: a sanctified, simplified school of the pursuit of God, structured to the max. The striking point was how utterly comfortable I felt in both worlds. That observation was a small arrow pointing toward what would become a vast dichotomy in my life, which, with the aid of Prednizone and overseen by God's providence, would help earn me a nine day stay at the hospital.

What God did, ripping me so violently from the Full-Time Training, and what He is going on to do now, feels so parallel to what happened to Thomas Merton that I had to stop reading right there and speak the passage aloud to my dad. I still haven't even finished the essay. It's that profound. To preface, Merton has renounced the way of the writer to enter the monastery. Then he gets a visit from an old college friend who somehow wrings from him a manuscript of poetry that he goes and gets published. He comes back to Merton begging for more. In Merton's own words:
I did not argue about it. But in my own heart I did not think it was God's will. and Dom Vital, my confessor, did not think so either. Then one day - the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, 1945 - I went to Father Abbot for direction, and without my ever thinking of the subject or mentioning it, he suddenly said to me. "I want you to go on writing poems."
Now, the essay's author, John Leax, continues:
To adequately comprehend the force of this direction, which struck Merton almost like a blow, one must understand that he was then committed to what the early church called the via negativa or the Way of Rejection. This way, in Charles Williams' words, "consists in the renunciation of all images except the final one of God Himself...The order to continue writing poems meant to Merton the postponement of his deepest desire, which he described as "the voiding and emptying of the soul, cleansing it of all images, all likenesses that it may be clean and pure to receive the obscure light of God's own Presence.
This is why I chose the Training. Why I had to go. Again I would refer you to that post from August, 2009,  where after I describe the course of the summer I articulate my longing for the purity, the focus, of the Training, a place wherein to satisfy my deepest craving: God Himself, distilled, unmixed. It was not an ascetic experience or in any way self-flagellating, however I can testify - with no hard feelings mind you - that it is a place of deprivation of soul. Art, literature, movies, secular music, self-expression and more: gone. Removed. In the absence of that city haze, the true Light shines all the brighter. The being opens all the wider and receives all the more of the divine content. That was what I expected, that's what I was experiencing, and all was well, or so I thought.

Then what can account for what happened? On the one hand it was, and forever will remain, a mystery, yet this book, in an earlier essay, again helps account for my experience in the aftermath. This gem is found in Stephen Lawhead's discussion of the art of J.R.R. Tolkien:
There is a paradox of sorts at work here. How to explain it? Perhaps it is like a painter who sets out to paint a portrait of God. "After all," says he, "what could be more inspiring and winning than God's beautific image? It will move entire nations to worship and adoration. What more godly purpose for my work could I ask?" So he begins to paint with great religious fervor and zeal. But he doesn't get very far before he discovers that since no-one alive has ever seen the face of the Almighty there are no suitable references - no photographs, no sketches, no graven images of any kind. How then does he paint a subject that refuses to do a studio sitting? That is the question: How does one illustrate the invisible? It cannot be done. At least, it cannot be done explicitly. But an artist can achieve a satisfactory, even extraordinary result with an implicit approach. That is, he does not paint God directly. Instead, the artist paints the Creator's reflected glory - paints the objects God has touched, the visible trail of His passing, the footprints He leaves behind.
How does this help me? It tells me that as an artist (for that is what I am, not the whole of me - for no such word can sum up the whole of a creature as awesome as a human being - but largely), I depict the glory of God. Staring deeply into His eyes, metaphorically, has its merits, as does the study of His great letter to man, especially in its original languages, and the teachings of the Church to help grasp His dimensions - all of this can fit into the artist's comprehending of her subject matter. But when it comes to the rendering, what does she need? Tools, materials - paint and paintbrush, or guitar and mic, or computer keyboard, whatever the case may be - and the most surprising part: reference imagery. Where do I see God? Everywhere. Now, anyway. The very things - the material stuff and artifice of man that I used to shove impatiently aside, or run away from, to try to catch a glimpse of His face, now offer up clues into His being, dusky mirrors reflecting Him like tiny, imperfect windows into His soul.

A wise brother once advised a roomful of young people to put on our "Jesus glasses" and learn to see every positive thing in the universe as a shadow of the Reality which is Christ. He was basing his speaking out of Colossians chapter 2. I feel so privileged to have been in that room. The first part of that seeing involves seeing, really seeing, the objects themselves. Not impatiently swatting them away as distractions. Appreciating their beauty, their merit. Then going on to appreciate, through them, the vastly superior beauty, merit, of their Architect (or meta-Architect in many cases). God can and has spoken to me through the radio, through the TV, through colors and shapes and plays of light and shadow, through music and dance. I'm not talking about some creepy voice or secret code or image imprinted on the wall. I'm talking about the God-given power of the human imagination to connect the dots. The soul, joined with spirit, nourished by Word, strengthened by prayer and steadied by fellowship, and open to experience every beautiful thing, seeing and somehow conveying God in ways the world has perhaps never before encountered. This is the turn I see my life taking. This is a purpose which I fully embrace, in its season.

What I am beginning to see is beautiful beyond words. I'm so relieved that words are not necessary. God has not called me to reveal it all or to do some mighty work. He's simply calling me to live, so I will live, live in awe of the most glorious, genius Artist that was and is and ever will be. The fruit of such a life remains to be seen. Perhaps it won't be seen until long past the life's end. And I have little clue what shape the fruit will take. But it doesn't matter to me. I am happy, I am free. I am basking in the glory of my King. I am abiding in the Vine, and where there is abiding, there is fruit bearing. Oh blessed life.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Life Post-Hospital

I hardly know what to say, except that God's workings are profound and inexplicable. One day I was in the Full-Time Training, enjoying the changes, challenges, and mercies of my second term, then there was a blur of sleepless nights, days running into each other, feeling and acting stranger and stranger and leaning more and more on my Savior. Then I was in the hospital for nine days, then I was sent home to my family in Spartanburg to "rest and recover." The full story includes a bronchitis medication, a reaction, a string of doctors each with their own opinion and impact on my life, and many, many adventures....but it is all much too close to write about, and, largely, even to talk about. I was a person who wanted to explain and describe everything. For the first time I find myself a woman with secrets, learning not to tell.

So here I am in Spartanburg, resting. It has been difficult to accept what I am doing here, and even more difficult learning to live it day to day. It's exceedingly hard to admit that all appearances of a sturdy, healthy, promising young woman to the contrary, I am actually a bird with a broken wing that must be bound, caged, and nourished by hand.

But it is, more than anything, a blessed time. I had relinquished my belongings, my own room, my clothes, my music, my cat, my family, my friends, the privilege of spending Thanksgiving with those I love, and Christmas....and suddenly everything is given back to me. Words like plan and work are carefully guarded from me, allowed in small doses as I'm deemed able to bear them. In the absence of such worries, I am free to offer small labors of love, pursue what is good and healthy for body, soul and spirit, and chase every dream.

Money and independence, I find as they gently ebb and flow around me in tiny quantities, are not nearly as valuable as time, which is the gift now given to me in abundance.

My Benefactor is an endless source of surprises. He rocks out with me on the guitar, listens to Eliot Smith with me, reads with me about quiet lives in midcentury England and cross-cultural encounters in the Ivory Coast, and every so often whispers His mind - "that's enough for tonight" or "How about this, now." To learn grace is to learn that I have a Father and a Love who are already pleased with me. Instead of trying to figure out what to do to bring Him joy, I learn to simply share my joy, my thoughts, my life with Him, listening with rapt attention for that voice I have grown so much to love. And then, when I hear it, each earthly pleasure that has so delighted me fades to the dustiest gray, and I am happier still.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

On being a Christian

May 1, 2010

Hello world. I am a Christian. Do you know what this means? You may think you do. You may say, a Christian is a person who follows the teachings of the man Jesus, whom they call Christ. Or you might say, a Christian is a person who has been "born again" - redeemed by the blood of the Son of God, Jesus, who died on a cross for our sins and was resurrected. I would not say you were wrong, if you were to say that, but neither would I say you had nailed it. See, being a Christian is fundamentally about Christ making His home in a person's heart (Eph 3:17). This happens by loving the Lord (John 14:23). When we love Jesus and spend time in His presence, He and the Father take up residence within us - They move in, get comfortable, make a nest, so to speak.

The purpose of being a Christian actually lines up with the purpose of the universe. You may have, at some time in your life, asked yourself "why?" Why all this motion and commotion and matter and transactions and noise? It is actually a very simple reason. God wanted a home. To quote a small weevil who, according to my dad, sings a famous song, "Everybody needs a hooome..." Even God. But what kind of home is fit for an all-powerful, omnipresent, omniscient divine Being? The answer may be surprising. It is your spirit. And mine, and everybody's, who will agree to it. God is Spirit (John 4:24), and he created man in His image and likeness(Genesis 1:26). Thus, man has a spirit (Zechariah 12:1). In fact (and this may also be a surprising fact), all of those galaxies out there, the solar system, etc., were created for the earth, and the earth was created for man. This is because man was created for God. Specifically, man's spirit was created to contain God. Thus, the spirit of man actually ranks with the heavens and the earth, maybe even outranks them.

But we're actually not done here. Yes, I am a Christian, I have God in my spirit, and yay, God gets a home. But Pamela also has God in her spirit, and Bob, and Jane, and many other people. These are like many abodes (John 14:2) which, in one sense, is fine, but in another sense, God wants A home. Not millions of them. We are all finite people, and He is an infinite God. Sure, being Spirit, He could kind of split Himself into that many pieces and abide separately in all of us, but that just doesn't sound very comfortable, does it? I wouldn't want to live like that. This is where the church comes in. You may also have heard of this thing called the church. Maybe your first thought is a building with a steeple and pretty stained glass windows. Or, perhaps, you'd say the Church is an organization which is headed up by the pope, or, depending on who you ask, the archbishop of Canterbury, or the presbytery, or some other hierarchy. You may even say that the church is not a building or an organization at all, but rather a collection of God's redeemed people, drawn from every nation, tribe and tongue. This last one hits closer to home, but it is still lacking. See, the church is the corporate home of God. The word corporate here does not have anything to do with a corporation. It is meant in two senses. One is in the sense of plurality - that is, made of many people. The other is in the sense of the word corporeal, that is, pertaining to a body. What body is this? It is the Body of Christ (Romans 8:10, 1 Cor. 12:12). Christ Jesus is the embodiment of God, and the church is the embodiment of Christ. Now, just like with your house, you would not want your body in millions of pieces, would you? You wouldn't even want it in a couple hundred pieces (how many denominations are out there today?) So, with God, he wants one Body, one House, in one piece.

You might now want to know how this can be accomplished. You can't exactly melt a bunch of human beings into one big glob. Besides the physical, practical conundrum this presents (sounds kind of messy), human beings are notoriously individualistic. We are highly opinionated and value our freedom above all else. Fortunately for us, we have a very wise God who is quite determined to get His (one) home. Thus, beyond our physical parts, and the opinions, emotions and psychology, we have another part, that part that contains God - the spirit (1 Thess. 5:23, 2 Tim 4:22). The spirit has a wonderful quality. When imbued with the Spirit of God, it has the ability to be entirely one with other human spirits. Thus, this ragtag collection of people called Christians can actually become truly one Body, one Home. As they are built together, fitted together, they grow into a holy temple, a dwelling place of God, in the Lord, in spirit (Ephesians 2:21-22). I particularly love this passage of Ephesians because it points to a practical reality of the church. All the building (the Christians throughout space and time) grows into a holy temple, and "you also" (in this particular case, the Ephesian Christians, but in principle any little group of us thrust together in the constraints of space and time) are being built together into a dwelling place of God, in spirit. So here in Anaheim, where I find myself, I am being built together with the saints around me, and as that happens, we're all growing into God's holy temple. This is God's hope, His joy. It's actually our joy, too. I'm pretty happy knowing that I'm participating in the meaning of the universe. I am God's home.

That's about all. Maybe, if you were wondering about the meaning of the universe, you know now. Maybe you might even want to join in and decide to become a Christian. Maybe if you were a Christian already, you know something you didn't know before. Regardless, you now at least know that I am a Christian, what exactly that means, and that I'm pretty happy about it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Where in the world is Lydia?

I am in my fourth week at the Full-Time Training. I’m afraid you’ll have to get used to not hearing from me very often - I only get a chance to be online once a week. I am so very busy here!  But I am enjoying it very much.
Pictures are worth more than words so…
Grace Gardens, where I live
Me in uniform (Hey, remember the Amish – if they can do it, I can too!)
House breakfast (There are twelve of us!)
My room ( I have two great roommates!)
One of the more beautiful spots in Grace Gardens. It is truly like paradise here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hub City Co-op Ownership Meeting

Tonight was the first ownership meeting of the Hub-City Co-op, and as a proud member of the vanguard of co-op owners, I can hardly wait to tell you all about it. But before I launch into the details of the meeting, I'll offer a brief background on co-ops in general, and this one in particular. For those of you that haven't been following along in the Spark, or my earlier blog posts about it. Food co-ops can take many different forms. One of the more well-known involves members fronting the costs for local farmers in exchange for regular shares of the harvest. Another is more of a "shopping collective" where members send a representative to buy produce from difficult-to-access local sources and then divvy it out to the rest of the group. The Hub City Co-op will operate with a grocery store model. First of all, anyone can shop there, and buy whatever they want. Hours will reflect those of a normal grocery store. The products will be locally-produced and regional foods and dry goods, with an emphasis on ethical production.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I've been sleeping 8 hours and now it's time for dinner (breakfast?). This week has been strange. My whole family is sick but me, and being determined not to get sick has meant the same thing it always does for me: sleeping as much as possible, taking lots of Vitamin C and E. But coming home at 5:30, going straight to bed and staying dead asleep til 1:30? That's strange even for me. The plan was to sleep for an hour or two, then wake up for dinner and to spend a little time with my family. They feel like they never get to see me any more and I feel guilty for sleeping through prime family time. I remember hearing my mother come home from work at about 6:30, but I didn't even open my eyes. She shouldn't have gone back to work so soon, the doctor told her she had bronchitis on Monday. But she had a homeschool class coming in and so she forced herself. I hope it doesn't turn into pnuemonia. I'll have to say hi to her when she wakes up.

I'm eating Cuban leftovers, and Cajun crab dip and crackers. If and when I do get back to sleep, I'm probably going to regret that choice.

Since last week life has been a blur of work, darkness, and sleep. I stayed home all weekend and cleaned and slept and did laundry and sewed. I didn't even do Augustine tutoring because it was Martin Luther King day. Well I did go out for Cuban food with my Converse little sister Carrie on Tuesday night - that was a wonderful, colorful two-hour respite from...I don't know what this is. Maybe it's seasonal affective disorder. Maybe it's real life, hitting me at last. But no, I think it's just that if I wasn't sleeping so much, I would already be sick. And I'm trying to conserve every bit of strength and health for the weekend - Pam and I are going to Atlanta on Saturday and staying through Sunday.

Strange dreams. Among them, I was hanging out at Converse's new senior apartment housing (circa 2011) where there was some cutting-technology and a kick-butt party. As I began to consume a little more alcohol than I ought, I made the connection in my mind between the consumption of alcohol and a really good party. The reason, I thought, that I had never drunk much at Converse before is because the parties/dances were all pretty lame and I didn't feel like it. Nothing to do with the fact that I am morally opposed to drunkeness or that I was underage and most of the time they wouldn't have served it to me if I'd tried. Good thing I was out of school now or I might have turned into a party animal.

Then it was morning and I was flipping through this huge stash of art I had produced in school that had magically appeared in file cabinets under the kitchen counter. Then I was on a message board for knitters and crocheters where people were offering free yarn and I was going through all the messages feeling the yarn (yeah that's right) and then I unraveled one girl's ball and thought, I shouldn't do that, what if all the people on this message board did that, then we would have a big mess! Because you can totally reach into a message board on the computer and mess with people's yarn.

Oh and then there were some completed projects, one of which was actually very inspiring. It was like macrame'd fringe, made in two tones of yarn that came together in a herringbone and tapered into points. Kind of reminded me of ferns, the way the two halves always catch the light differently and look like two different colors. There were sage green and brown ones, turquoise and brown ones, and heather purple and grey ones. One of the project's admirers had commented saying "There's a girl underground that will always love you" a direct reference to the Noah and the Whale song that at that moment happened to be playing through my mind. Now that was odd. I started to feel like something was fishy and awoke shortly afterward.
I've got to stop eating this crab dip. I can feel it burn all the way down. I think I'm going to go put away laundry, pay a bill, and then go back to sleep. I've got 7 more hours before I have to be anywhere.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Escapism / Athens

Some nights you're just driven to write. I should be doing everything else. Reading the Economy of God - 32 days left and counting. Putting in that extra hour for the Converse job - considering I came in late today and left early, with a 45-minute "I CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE" break in between. Paying the final payment on my one and only credit card that is due tomorrow, doing laundry so I can go to work without looking like a blind person raided a gypsy's closet.

But I'm writing instead, just like yesterday I was asleep at 8:00pm and after work today I went to the library and lost myself in "the Big Girl's Guide to Knitting." Something transpired in the last few days which has made me feel more like an adult than just about anything that's ever happened in my life - strangely. I can't talk about it but the weight of it has affected my willpower - and pushes me to write.

It was not the weekend, though, the weekend was good. Pam and I - that is, Pam my best friend, whom I never mention enough in my blog considering how many memories we've made together and whom I am about to miss dearly - have been having what we've come to call "Sunday Adventures." I should have been writing them all, I've just been so blasted busy. Well, I suppose I can give a little summary now, since I've made up my mind not to do anything useful this evening.

We decided to make the best of my last few weekends in Spartanburg by going to church together. We used to go "church hopping" in college. No, not like searching for a church and never being satisfied, never settling down. We both are more or less comfortable in our own church traditions. We simply did it because we love the Body of Christ and were trying to get a glimpse of it in all its beautiful (and sometimes ugly) diversity - its hour-late ex-addicts, its white-robed feminist priests, its sincere Bible lovers. We went to a lot of different types of churches in Spartanburg and learned a lot of things.

But anyway, that's background. Our Sunday adventures are more about introducing Pam to my world - the churches in the Recovery, spread across the southeast. We started with the church in Charlotte - tailing a college blending conference and arriving for its climactic overflow meeting. She loved it. I could hear her saying hallelujah every time we said amen. We went to Simpsonville, and, well it was Simpsonville. She enjoyed it. We tried to go back to Simpsonville and got lost and ended up at Fountain Inn First Baptist - where the saints were friendly and sincere - it was Thanksgiving and we popped up to give our thanks when the invitation was given. We woke up late and had to stay in Spartanburg, so we visited her church, St Matthews Episcopal, where at the Sunday School our frank discussion of the Bible was appreciated by some while leaving others clearly out of their depth. We caught the last half hour of another Spartanburg church that seemed to be more interested in the victory of Christ than the Victor Himself.

And then it was the Christmas holiday, and then we were back to the blending trips. Columbia was next. I know when Pam is spiritually comfortable - she starts to close her eyes and rock in her seat and not care whether her prayers are audible or inaudible. The saints there were, in her words, "kooky" - but just as endearing to her as they've long been to me. She even followed them to an Asian restaurant - a sure sign of her love of their company - she hates Asian food.

That leads us to this weekend. The past week was my first full-time at Converse. I know that a 40 hour workweek is completely normal and I am certainly blessed to have it - however I am not used to it yet. I probably won't be before I leave for the Training and have to get used to something entirely new. Anyway, I was busy, and hadn't made the preparations as I ought, but we'd decided to go to Athens for the weekend. The Lord works everything out, though. I decided on a whim to invite Pam to Simpsonville for the Wednesday night prayer meeting. There we found out my dear friend Anna L, who was on break from the training, was planning to serve in Athens and voila! Instant traveling companions.

I can't believe it had never occurred to me how famously Anna and Pam would get along. Two separate, very different aspects of my life - deep-rooted memories, deep-rooted friendships - thrust together and somehow it clicked. Like really clicked. Anna and Pam and I are, for lack of a better word, like-minded. I mean spiritually. It all goes back to the Body. We love the Body, and refuse to put it in a box, just as we refuse to put God in a box. But anyway, we picked Anna up, and immediately started fellowshipping, and fellowshipping some more and reading the Bible on the way to Athens, and all of the sudden I started to notice us coming into Atlanta, and we found ourselves 40 miles past our exit. Praise God! We turned around. He knew we needed the fellowship time. Anna bought us ice cream at McDonald's.

When we finally got to Athens, a good 5 hours when it should have taken us 2, we got lost directly in front of Sisters' House 2. I mean literally in front of it. We asked an old man walking if he knew where 110 Vista was, he didn't, we drove on not knowing it was literally the house behind where he was standing. We got to Sisters House 1 and greeted the sisters there. Pam and I brought our things inside - it was where we were staying, while Anna was staying at 2. That road in Athens is literally Acts in action. The part where it talks about living and meeting house-to-house. I mean, there are, I think someone said, over 50 saints living within a block or two, and you're always running into them - praying, praising, inviting each other for dinner, maybe Frisbee, maybe some board games.

We (Pam, Anna, Elizabeth Davis our host, and I) went to the Tello's house for a home meeting. We ended up being the only sisters, besides Gail and Katie Tello that is, the rest were college brothers. Pam got to experience male-female interactions in the churchlife firsthand - and base her less-than-positive opinions on cold, hard evidence. Most of the saints in the Recovery are practically Amish in their views on separation of the sexes. Hey, it's kept me out of trouble. The brothers were bashful, awkward, and somehow, according to Pam, oddly intriguing. It's that whole mystique thing. But anyway, all too young for her. Us, really. Dang we're old. Anyway, we played Wii with Katie's adorable son Daniel, and greatly enjoyed the fellowship, food, singing, and prayer. It's always a delight to see young brothers unashamedly adoring God.

After the meeting, we went to Hallie's house for game night. Well, we were expecting game night. What we found were a handful of college sisters drinking boiled ginger and trying to save an experiment involving cinnamon and potato bread - the feat ultimately being accomplished by a mixture of milk and chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better. The children of the house were asleep (and some of the grown-ups as well) so we realized if we wanted to actually play any games - especially boisterous ones like Taboo - we needed to relocate. After a half hour or so of debate and cinnamon-ball-eating, we ended up at Sisters' House 1 - the temporary home of Pam and myself. We played Taboo to hilarious effect, and taught half the crowd to play Spoons. Only this was a delicious chocolate variation whose "consolation prize" considerably lessened the the sting of losing. At half past midnight, we arrived at the decision that prolonging game night was not worth the cost of being zombies during the morning meeting, and the other sisters left Pam and me to get some rest.

To our surprise, the Lord's Day meeting was at the UGA student center, not, as I had expected, at the brand new Student Station recently built by the UGA Christian Students club with a little help from the church in Athens. The reason, come to find out, is because the upper rooms had not been completed so there was not yet any place for the children. The meeting was wonderful. Pam and Anna and I enjoyed it immensely. I was particularly pleased by the way one of the elders explained what we were about to do with the prophesying, why, and how. Good info for Pam, I thought. We gathered they probably did this kind of explaining every week because of the high possibility of new student walk-ins. We broke into groups (new, for a Sunday meeting) and read outlines and pray-read verses. I was touched by Ephesians 3:16-19 so when we came back together I read it to the saints. I was actually intending to do some kind of exposition, but I gave it to the Lord and He just wanted me to read and sit down. But it was cool. He knows...everything! Isn't it awesome?

Pam would have gotten more out of the meeting if she'd been a little more awake. She is very slow to gain coherence in the morning - we should have woken up earlier. but she still liked it a lot. One sister, in particular, shared something so simple, but so...perspective-altering. She said something like "If you think you have a problem, whether it's a situation or a problem with another person, it's really just a problem in your relationship with the Lord. Take care of your relationship, and you've taken care of the problem." Wow.

We had some lovely fellowship after the meeting, got to talk with some rarely-seen friends. Had a nice little conversation with Paul Tashman, cool getting to know him a little bit. There's something about him and Ashley (his wife of 1 year) that I just think is so cool. They're just cool people you want to hang around. I can't explain it.

There was going to be a wedding reception at the Station, and Pam and I had already discussed going, but basically decided against it since we didn't know the folks. Justin and Phoebe. But I really wanted to see the Station so I was a little sad. But God works everything out. We roped Anna into going with us to Five Guys - the best burger joint...ever. I actually have an odd memory associated with that particular Five Guys in downtown Athens. It was after the first (or second?) college training and groups were going out to eat. I was walking around Athens barefoot because my high heels were killing me, and I remember standing on a short wall outside of Five Guys looking in, waiting for the people I was with to decide it was too crowded to eat there.

This time, however, it was not crowded, and I didn't have to wait on some huge group to make up its collective mind. I introduced Pam and Anna to the exquisiteness of their burgers and fries, really if Plato had known about burgers and fries he surely would have declared that they had achieved the height, the true Form, of the art. Anyway, enough about the food. Except that, wow, they put fresh jalapenos in my cheeseburger. That was a kick. We had more excellent fellowship over an excellent meal. We were supposed to drop Anna off at the Station a little early for the reception so she could help set up. She was there in Athens to serve after all. That nicely tied with my desire to see this famous Station - I had been hearing about its awesomeness as a student hang out / fellowship / Foosball / feed&read spot for some time. Anyway, it was 2:00 before we knew it, and I stopped at the restroom while they started for the car - leaving my Cherry Coke / Barq's on the table. When I got out, I saw a guy wiping the table and I was just starting to say "oh no" in a sad voice when he looked at me and said "That's her" to another worker, who promptly produced my drink from behind the counter. Now that's service.

Pam and I ended up going into the reception anyway. We couldn't resist checking the place out, and we wanted to say goodbye to the sisters. It was not what I expected. The first thing we noticed was the beautiful landscaping, and the waterfall on the small cliff facing the front door. Inside it was kind of classy, it reminded me of the lodge at camp with its quasi-chandeliers and its rock chimney. Perfect for a wedding reception. Especially with the ice in the fountain - flowing over the rock like a gorgeous natural ice sculpture. Lots of saints there, lots of food (sushi! But I was actually too full to eat a piece, can you imagine?) and we said our thank yous and goodbyes.

Then Pam and I were free to indulge in a classic Lydia/Pam adventure. This time it was an awesome vintage clothing store with a colorful, talkative owner who wants to commission some fingerless mitts from me (hey, maybe that's a way to earn a little cash as a trainee...) and a homeless man for whom Pam bought some coffee and a brownie, and with whom we chatted and prayed. Athens, interestingly enough, has old parking meters converted for donations for the homeless, with a request not to pay panhandlers. But it didn't mention coffee.

I really like Athens. Pam could see why. She liked it too. And we loved the saints. It was very good. And now my story is told. I think I will to bed now. And avoid all those grown-up tasks that are beginning to pile up, at least for one more night.
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