Breath of Heaven

For many months, our church has been struggling. The hows and the wheres and the whys are not relevant to this story; suffice it to say the church has been slowly dying and those of us who remain have been grieving our once-vibrant Spiritual community. I was ready to jump ship at the end of last year. But as DH and I talked and prayed, we realized God was telling us to stay put.

I didn’t want to hear that. I cried. I would have argued long and hard with Him, but I knew even before I began that it wasn’t worth the breath or time to go on; God would win. God always wins. I felt He was asking us to be a part of His plan for new life, health, and growth. So I went back to church, and a tiny part of me deep inside started to feel a whisper of excitement in anticipation of God doing one of His God-things.

Since that night, I have seen His plan just begin to unfold. Change is slow and painful. More friends have left the church. The lessons God has for us are hard. And yet, He is with us. God has the power of life and Life is stronger than death. Even when hope seems to be dying, we can put our hope in the One who conquered death and lives forever.

These are the words of God to the dry bones, “My Spirit will bring you back to life. I will connect you with muscles and tendons; I will regrow organs and blood vessels and cover you with skin. I will breathe My own breath into you and you will live. Being alive, you will know Me as the Lord your God.” (Ezekiel 37:5-6, paraphrase)

No matter how dead, how beyond repair, how hopeless it seems, God can breathe His life into us, and doing so, He brings us back to life (John 11:21-27). Even when we have walked away from Him, He desires us; He pursues us (Romans 5:6). He calls us His own family (1 John 4:7-10). He offers life more abundant than anything we can picture (Ephesians 3:14-20) and promises to be with us always (Deuteronomy 31:8).

God,

I find it so easy to see hopelessness and desperation as the end. When I can’t imagine a way through, I don’t believe there can be a way. Yet You are beyond all I can imagine. You work beyond my wildest dreams. You are so much greater than I can even begin to understand. Let me rest in the Mystery, Lord. Let me be at peace knowing You ARE.

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A Dream Within a Dream

Several months ago I signed up as an independent consultant with a direct sales company. While I didn’t have any expectations that I would earn the incentive trip to Europe this summer or win any sales awards, I figured I could make a steady income and help balance the household budget. After a few weeks with the company, I discovered that the larger team I was a part of had been named “Dare to Dream” and the leader’s focus was on realizing your financial and family goals by building a successful business.

My business has not been very successful. In fact, I’ve spent the last couple of months teetering on the edge of deciding to quit, but arguing myself out of it because I was afraid I hadn’t yet tried hard enough. Just this morning, I realized that daring to dream is not something I often allow myself to do. Dreaming is scary. I am afraid to get my hopes up lest they be dashed against the rocks by a cold wave of reality.

I don’t want to dream because I don’t want to be disappointed. The god I imagine is much too small and far too concerned with tallying all my rights and wrongs to love me with the extravagance God does. In my fears, my imaginary god will give me what I deserve; he will abandon me because I have failed him.

May you have power together with all the Lord’s holy people to understand Christ’s love. May you know how wide and long and high and deep it is. And may you know His love, even though it can’t be known completely. Then you will be filled with everything God has for you.

God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. He does everything by His power that is working in us. (Ephesians 3:18-20, NIrV)

Lord Jesus,

I have set up an idol of my own image in Your place. The god I have been looking to is not You. In fearing to fail, I have failed once again. Forgive my sin of believing that You are small enough to fit in my imagination. Forgive my unwillingness to ask for what I need, fearing You won’t give it to me.

Thank You that even when I wander off, You stay right with me. Thank You for loving me so much that You are willing to follow me until I learn how to follow You. Open my eyes to the dreams You have for me. Let me know that what You have in store is bigger and more amazing than anything I could dream up. Let me fear no failure, but trust in Your love that never fails.

Where Credit Is Due

My daughter is at an age where she demands a certain exactness from everyone around her. It is not acceptable to tell her it’s 3:00, when it’s actually 2:57. She also feels she deserves credit for any part of a project she’s helped complete, no matter how small. If DH thanks me for making dinner, for instance, DD will make sure everyone knows that she participated in cooking, even if all she did was shred a carrot. To my chagrin, I’ve noticed I share in this latter tendency.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)

I don’t think of myself as a boastful person. In fact, I usually focus more on the negative things about me than the positive. But, that doesn’t keep me from craving accolades for my efforts, no matter how insignificant they are in the scheme of things. When the people around me don’t step up and acknowledge what I’ve done, I get cranky. And when time passes and still no one remarks on my contribution, I start getting angry. The silly thing is, often, my family and friends appreciate whatever I did, they just didn’t make the big deal out of it I was hoping for.

God,

You saw this coming from miles away and stopped it all in its tracks. You shower Your grace on us when we have done nothing to deserve it. Not only that, but You provide the faith we need to believe Your promises and receive Your blessings. You made sure there was no doubt, no possible way I could imagine that I’m doing this on my own.

My first response, honestly, is annoyance. God, I want to do it! Why don’t You let me? Why is it always all about You? And yet, when I stop to consider, I realize: this is not Your way to thwart my abilities and talent, but to provide for me what I could never manage on my own.

Your desire is to give me these gifts that I could never earn for myself, not if I spent my whole life trying. You have better dreams for me than to spend my days trying to curry favor. You have already given it to me, more than I would ever have dared ask.

Thank You for this incredible generosity, for Your grace and faith and favor. Thank You for not letting anything, even me, get in the way of Your incredible plans. Help me to remember that even though You don’t need me, You want me. You invite me to participate in Your adventure.

And thanks for giving me all I need to complete the work You call me to do. Even when I forget to acknowledge You.

Fester, Fester, Fester … Rot, Rot, Rot.

People who know me in real life–but don’t know me well–might be surprised to learn that I really dislike confrontation. The thing is, when it’s something that doesn’t matter much to me, I’ll fight about it all day long. I can argue until I’m blue in the face about music or syntax or the movie we watched last night. And I’ll probably win–even if just because my opponent gives up. But the things that really matter to me, the things that stir my soul, these are the things I have trouble fighting for. I don’t like to fight when I might lose. So I get scared to make the effort when it really matters.

I have a little, but important fight in my life right now. I don’t want to do it. It makes me angry. If I lose, my life may have to change in some pretty significant ways. Because of that, I’m very tempted just not to fight. To “let it go” and sweep it under the rug. Only that’s not really letting go; that’s holding on and letting it build up and continue to fester until my anger eventually explodes out, hurting me and everyone else involved.

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:17 & 29, NIV)

God,

You know I am not Your most gracious and tactful servant. I choose my words poorly–or don’t choose them at all–when something important needs to be said. I’m scared to stand up for what is right today. I want to just go hide and say nothing is wrong. I want to pretend that’s being at peace with everyone, but I’d be lying. I don’t have the courage to do this on my own. Please, fill me with Your Spirit. Let the words that come out of my mouth be full of Your love and grace. Let me say things that are good and useful.

I don’t want to be afraid that I’ll do something wrong, God. I don’t want to be afraid, period. I want to be strong because You are with me. Thank You that You will give me everything I need today. Thank You that, even when I’m not feeling prepared, You are preparing the way. I believe these truths, Lord, please help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:24).

Glorious Riches

I found myself getting really frustrated with my kids today. It started snowing yesterday, and by morning we had about six inches on the ground. The kids were wanting to go out and play, but I told them they had to clean up the mess they’d made first. As an adult, I know that’s not unreasonable. For a kid, I recognize it’s akin to life without parole. I tried to encourage them to just get to cleaning and we could go out. Unfortunately, they resisted. Instead of doing what they were supposed to, they decided to play inside amidst the mess. That in itself wasn’t too bad, but then my daughter (DD) snuck out to make a snow angel. I caught her just outside the door, covered from hair to boots in fluffy, leaf-cluttered snow.

What harmony had been in the house disintegrated. She huffed off to feed her snit and I sat in front of the computer fuming through mine. After a few minutes apart, we were able to talk through a bit. I realize now, I should have told her why I got so angry. It wasn’t just the disobedience. It’s because I was afraid for her. I don’t want her off playing somewhere on her own without my even knowing she’s gone. I don’t want her to get hurt or worse. She’s starting to get to the age where I want to let her have a little more freedom to be supervising herself. At the same time, I need to be able to trust that she’ll be where she says she will, doing what she needs to do.

Parenting is exhausting. It’s not so much the chasing after them, at least once the toddler years are done, but trying to help them learn to think things through for themselves, to take into consideration risks they may not have thought about, to recognize that parental authority is a good idea because I actually do know more than she does.

God,

I seem to have that same problem with Your authority. I like to think that I know almost as much as You do. I understand the ways of the world, so I can make my own decisions. I step out in great confidence only to fall flat on my face, or worse yet, feel admonished for disobeying when I don’t really understand why what I did was a bad idea in the first place. You seem unfair to me, like You’re keeping me from having fun, punishing me, even.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people. (Ephesians 1:18, NIV)

The thing is, I miss the hope. I miss the glory. I miss the big picture of what is better than I could ever imagine. You want to give me so much more than I can even understand, but because I can’t understand, Your gifts don’t always look better.

Lately, I’ve been reminded of a lyric from an old Amy Grant song, “A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way. Near misses all around me, accidents unknown, though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home.” I want so many things in my life to be just the way I want them. I neglect to consider that Your plans are greater than mine–and sometimes it’s my car that runs out of gas while I’m driving into the path of the reckless one. Thank You, God, for taking care of me, even when it means I don’t get what I want.