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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Filled to the Brim

Today was one of those days. Topped by one of those days. Mixed in with one of those days. It’s almost over now. Finally. Nothing really awful happened. Nobody died. Still, it was a rough day to make it through.

I wasn’t as nice as I ought to have been to a few people. Some of them live with me. Some of them are complete strangers. But  I wasn’t looking at any of them as people God made, people He loves just as much as me.

God,

I’m sorry for my attitude today. I chose to focus on the negative aspects of the situation, rather than looking at the hearts of Your children and mine. I lost my temper when I felt like I was being treated poorly, yet I turned right around and treated others poorly.

Thank You, Father, for loving me anyway. Thank You that I don’t have to earn Your love, that there is nothing I can do to earn it. And nothing I can do to lose it. You are amazing. When I take an honest look at myself on days like today, it’s so easy to recognize that You are so much greater than I.

We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (Romans 5:3b-5, MSG)

Thank You for working in me, God, even when I’ve neglected to let You work through me. You fill us with blessings no matter what our circumstances. Even when it’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Even in Australia.

Punished?

I belong to an e-mail group of friends around the globe. It started as a place for missionary kids to connect, but has grown beyond that into a virtual extended family, even including some non-MKs, like me. The past couple of years have been rough for a number of people in the group: divorces, deaths, unwarranted legal charges, medical problems, and more.

A couple of days ago, one of the members was posting about the extreme physical pain he was having. After several days of suffering, he ended up in surgery to remove a kidney stone too large to pass on its own. For him, this is one more in a long line of difficult trials over the past few years. Another member who has also been dealing with some incredibly painful circumstances asked, “Does it ever feel like punishment?”

How often I have wondered the same thing. Are my circumstances simply a cursed situation in a broken world, or am I being singled out for being such a bad person? Or, in the same vein, since I’m such a bad person, what is God going to do to me … what future punishment is in store?

The thing is, I (should) know better. God is not looking to punish me. If He wanted to do that, He wouldn’t have bothered to send Christ in my place. I was reading through Romans 8 this morning–what incredible promises! This one particularly stood out to me.

You didn’t receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear once again. Instead you received the Holy Spirit, who makes you God’s child. By the Spirit’s power we call God “Abba.” Abba means Father. (Romans 8:15, NIrV)

God, Father,

Much like me, my dad didn’t have a real great understanding of grace during my growing up years. Like him, I understand justice much more easily than mercy. Even after all these years, it’s hard for me to picture You paying the price for all my sins. I get annoyed when my kids’ misbehavior costs me little things like money and time. I don’t want to show them grace. My misbehavior cost You so much more than a little time or money. Yet You aren’t looking to mete out punishment, but blessing. You allow discipline and trials and offer the same freedom to everyone–so in their freedom, others have to ability to impinge on mine–but You aren’t doing it to punish me for being bad. You have allowed suffering in this world for Your greater glory. I don’t quite get that, but I’m choosing to believe anyway. Like Paul, I want to consider whatever my current suffering may be, whatever I may experience in the future, it is all unworthy to even be compared with the glory that You have in store for me (Romans 8:18). Help me to hold on to that hope and not be disappointed.