Child there is freedom from all of it.

Wednesday night, we did a lesson on Hosea through The Gospel Project with the kids. The new big picture question was: what is God like? For the opener, we asked the kids what they thought. Their answers were: holy, alive, faithful, peaceful, the savior, powerful, wonderful, awesome, slow to anger, amazing, mighty, and the creator. Literally floored at the list they came up with. The more they get to know You, Lord, and the deeper they go, literally leaves me shouting for joy sometimes. You do not call the qualified, You qualify the called. Lord, if You called the qualified I wouldn’t be anywhere near leading a group of kids. I would be that back row Baptist they sing country songs about or I would probs not even be allowed in the building. Thank You, God, for placing me here and allowing me to plant seeds because seeing You through their eyes and getting to know You more with them is one of my greatest joys.

The book’s answer was: “slow to anger, merciful, and loving.” My sister pointed out that as Christians, we are supposed to strive to be like You so we should try to do these things as well. First off, being slow to anger, doesn’t mean we don’t get angry. It just means we try to be more purposeful with that anger. We’re gonna get mad, but as Christians, we need to practice what we preach. We teach kids to count to five when they’re mad, and we should do that as adults too. Taking a minute to pause, clears our head and we can think more rationally. We’re going to get mad, but we have to learn to think first, and react second. We have to think, through the madness.

The main point of the story was that You love us when we do not deserve it. You told Hosea to find an unfaithful wife and love her. Hosea’s life was to be an example of how You love us even when we do not deserve it. Hosea’s wife left him many times and he went after her every time. Being slow to anger, merciful, and loving is a building process. One leads to another. Being slow to anger is the first step, then comes the mercy. With mercy comes forgiveness and grace. Then comes the love, the compassion, the kindness. I never said any of this was easy. I told those kids, it was gonna be hard. Love is easy when it’s alone. When we put the other two in front, it gets hard, but true unfailing love like You give us, puts things in order for us. Being slow to anger and merciful are not products of love, they are the stepping stones to love. They are how we show love. They come first, not after.

The verse of the day that demonstrated the answer to the big picture question was Joel 2:13 which said: Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. That word grief gets me every time, because I know what it means now, because I’ve felt it. My first response in grief was to ask why. That question came so naturally, it’s scary. The first time I experienced grief, it came all at once and hit hard. I lost one person, then two, then three, all right there in a matter of months. When it rains, it pours. I wanted to know why they were taken, why they left the way they did, why they couldn’t stay just a little longer, why they all left at once. I know that everything happens for a reason and I wanted to know what that reason was. I didn’t want to see with my limited human perspective. There were a lot of why’s, but I learned to spell why differently. In taking away that y and adding You where I’m AT, I changed my why to what. I had to put You back on the seat of throne and remember that I am not You. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do with what I’ve been given? What am I gonna do now? What is gonna change? What is moving forward and what is staying behind? There were a lot of what questions when I added You where I’m AT. Changing my why to what, gave me someplace to go.

I read 13 Reasons Why in high school and watched the Netflix series a couple of weeks ago. There has been a whole bunch of debate over whether it’s more helpful or harmful. When my friend and I talked about it, we both noticed there was a lack of Christians. Maybe we had it wrong though, maybe there were believers, maybe they just stayed silent. When I read and watched, the most basic lesson I got was to do better. Now while I believe that I am not responsible for anyone else and I cannot chose life for someone else, I can do better. There was plenty of blame to go around from the kids to adults and everyone in-between. I believe we can be better teachers, friends, acquaintances, administrators, parents, peers, co-workers, family, authority figures, human beings, Christians. I don’t want to stay silent. They can go ahead and label me a Jesus freak. If I have unshakable joy, isn’t it my job to share that? The whole reason I started praying more was because I wanted answers to my why’s. Instead I got new questions. Lord, You don’t always always answer the way we think You will, but You always answer.

Tonight, I heard that You don’t always calm the storm, sometimes You calm us in the storm. Lord, I heard Crowder on the radio again singing: “I’m the one who held the nail. It was cold between my fingertips. I’ve hidden in the garden. I’ve denied You with my very lips. God, I fall down to my knees with a hammer in my hand. You look at me, arms open.” Ohhhhhh, Lord have mercy. Got me right there in the feels.

So, here is my prayer. Lord, I pray that I do not stay silent. I pray that I shout your name with every breath I have. Lord, even when I’m the one with the hammer and the nails, putting you on that cross, your arms are stretched open for me. Lord, I pray that I do better, that I do more. I pray that I share your love with everyone I come in contact with. I pray that your love radiates out of my soul like sunshine. Thank you for changing my why to what. Thank you for knocking on my heart. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for qualifying the called. Thank you for showing me how to love. Thank you for loving me when I do not deserve it. Thank you for showing us unfailing love. Thank you for showing me what kind of God you are. Thank you for calming me in the storm. I could’ve been lost forever. Yeah I should be in that fire. But now there’s fire inside of me. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

And I’m loved by You, it’s who I am.

And is a three letter word but in my house it was a way of life. My daddy taught us not to do anything half way, ever. Whether it’s work, school, community service, sports, anything and everything. If we’re doing something we’re doing it as if it were for You, God. With everything we have AND all that we are.

My daddy lives in the AND. When my siblings played sports, he drove them to every single game, practice, tournament AND made sure they had everything they needed. He cheered AND coached. He always told us that when the Bible says it is the father’s responsibility to provide for his family, that it means spiritually. He said that when he gets to Heaven, You’re gonna ask about his wife AND his kids AND his own faith. He took that and ran with it. He made sure we each had our own personal relationships with You, Lord, our Heavenly Father AND that we lived our lives for You. AND. AND. AND.


So for Easter when my sister said we were having an egg hunt AND tye-dying eggs for the kids at Church it didn’t shock me. Just like it didn’t shock her when I said I was making cupcakes AND fruit kabobs. It did shock me when my daddy got put into the hospital on Thursday AND still made it to church on Sunday. Hospital stays are never fun and cue Francesca Battistelli lyrics: “in the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I’m blessed.” This weekend had all of us sleep deprived, our gas tanks emptied, banks drained, and house a wreck. Everything was running on fumes: cars, hearts, piggy banks, my hair… AND I still had joy. Because I was knew we do everything with an AND. Because we believe in You AND know You, Lord. You died for us AND You rose again. AND. AND. AND.
So this is my prayer today. Ohhhh Lord, thank you for all the AND’s in my life and thank you for giving us the ultimate AND. Thank you for sending your son. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you for saving me when I give you every reason not to. Thank you for the most beautiful Easter this year. Thank you for light in the darkness. Thank you unending love and unshakable joy. Thank you for rolling the stone away. Thank you for the empty tomb and full hearts. Thank you for forgiveness and healing. Lord, Thank you for making your love my identity, my purpose, my freedom, my home. Thank you for letting your love wash over us and completely change us. And Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for calling us deeper still. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.