So breathe, oh breath of God, Now breathe.

In children’s church, we’re doing The Gospel Project. Today we finished our Prophets and Kings books. In the last four weeks, our big picture question has been: “Why should we obey God? We obey God because He loves us.” The last few weeks got so deep in my soul. I can’t even begin to explain it.

In the leader bible study, the book shares a quote from Ravi Zacharias which says: “Jesus did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came into this world to make dead people alive.” Ohhhhh, how I got the chills.

The last story in the book is in Ezekiel 37. The story said: “In one vision, God led Ezekiel through a valley filled with old, dry bones. God asked Ezekiel, ‘Can these bones come to life?’ Ezekiel replied, ‘Lord God, only You know the answer to that question.'” Ohhhhh, Lord. Ezekiel’s response got me good. I got a never ending list of questions that end with that response. Lord, I do not understand this world or anything in it, as a matter of fact. Lord, sometimes I’m so lost, I can’t even find myself. But ohhhhh how You’ve got me. You know exactly where I am and exactly where I’ve been hiding. You see that deep valley. You see my old, dry bones. You told Ezekiel to tell those bones that You said to breathe and come to life. Those bones came together: “bones to bones, tendons to bones, flesh over bones, skin over flesh.” Then breath entered the bones. Lord, You take our sin filled lives and our dry bones and literally breathe life into us.

We asked some questions at the end of the story and one kid was answering. He said something along the lines of belief didn’t matter because we still go home sinnin, that we ain’t going to Heaven still sinnin. This right here is where a lot of people get confused. I stood up out my chair and walked right to the middle of the room and said no, no, no, no, hang on, wait a minute. Then I pointed at that Bible verse we’ve been working on the last four weeks: Ezekiel 11:19-20, which says: And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so they may follow My statutes, keep My ordinances, and practice them. Then they will be My people, and I will be their God. I explained that we don’t get to Heaven because of the good we do because we would never be able to do enough to earn Heaven and pay for all our selfishness and greed and sin. He get Heaven because we believe and because we believe we get that new heart. We no longer have those hearts of stone, we are dry bones no more. We obey because You love us. We have a new spirit within us. We have been changed. We do good because of that belief. We ain’t livin for us anymore, we’re living for You.

Lauren Daigle has a song about this very story. She and Michael Farren explained in a interview she wanted the song to be about those prodigals that went away for whatever reason and specifically for the people praying for You to bring them back home. Michael pointed out the next verse after Ezekiel’s response of “only You know.” Verse 4 says: He said to me, “Prophesy concerning these bones and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Michael said that invites us in and there is an action required. Lord, we are Your hands and feet. We not only have to leave behind our old lives and our dry bones. We have to use that new heart and we have to get moving, That army of dry bones rises when we speak Your words.

So, here is my prayer today. Lord, breathe in my dry bones. Lord, I know that I don’t have to clean myself up to come to you and I know that you love me too much to leave me that way. Lord, sometimes, I’m so far into my mess that I don’t even realize I’m in the valley. Lord, help me to look for those ways out that you provide. Lord, I pray that I keep moving. I pray that I remember I do have your breath in my dry bones. I pray I remember I have a new heart and a new spirit. I do not have to live that way anymore. I do not have to stay lost and defeated in that valley. Father, I pray that I take that new heart and put it to work. I pray that I get moving. I pray that I take that invitation and pick up my cross. I pray that I go tell that army about your words. I pray that I stop living for me and start living for you. 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.

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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.