It’s Your Breath in our Lungs, So We Pour Out

These bones are My daughter, Karina. She says, “My bones are dried up and my hope is gone; I am cut off.” This is what God says: “My daughter, I am going to open your grave and bring you up from it; I will bring you back to your home. Then you, My daughter, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your grave and bring you up from it. I will put My Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own place. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it.”

I wrote these words in my journal during a particularly rough day. Ezekiel 37 happened to be in my reading for that day and I wondered what it would be like to put my name in the passage, to put myself in the valley of dry bones. It seemed appropriate, really. For quite awhile I felt like I was in the depths of a grave. I was dying spiritually. I often referred to it as darkness or a pit. Months ago, I started meditating on Psalm 86, particularly verses 11-13, “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.” It would take another post entirely to explain why I need this whole passage but for now you just need to know that somehow in the depths of my pit, I started to believe that God would do this for me. I believed that delivering me from the depths of my grave was how He planned to restore me.

Back to the dry bones. Believing that God would restore me from the darkness has not been easy. Some days the light seems very dim. I wrote my name into the valley of dry bones on a day when nothing seemed to be going right. Then I decided to read back through my journal. I thought that reading about what God had been doing in my life would help me feel better. It’s not a coincidence that when I got to March 4, my birthday, my jaw dropped at what I saw.

On March 1, I wrote out Song of Songs 8:6-7, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” I remember being struck by the phrase “love is as strong as death” and a tiny spark of belief lit that God would use His love to deliver me from my spiritual death. That day, I eeked out a prayer that He would seal me onto His heart and that He would seal Himself onto my heart. I thanked Him for His jealous love that has so relentlessly pursued me even in the darkness, my grave. My prayer that day was one of desperation, wanting to believe that God would do this for me but doubting it could be possible. And the next day my journal entry was perhaps my most hopeless to date. I had prayed deliverance from the grave over myself on the previous day but I spoke hopelessness and death on the next. I poured out my angry heart to God and I commented that it seemed useless to even bother writing because it wouldn’t matter and my faith was wasted anyway.

So you can imagine my astonishment when my next entry was sermon notes from March 4 and the first note said, “Why this waste?” The sermon was about Mary pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair (John 12). At the time of this sermon, I was completely unaware of the connection to my life it would have. I had just basically written that same question about my life as I poured out my heart at Jesus’ feet. Why this wasted life? And on the anniversary of the day God gave me this life, He planted another seed, the growth from which I would only see more than a month later, the day I let God breathe life over my dry bones. I continued to read the next note in the sermon and it said, “At a moment of life and death, the pouring out is not extravagant.” Whoa. I had just been at a moment of life and death two days prior and had expressed that I didn’t know why I bothered pouring out. And the next note, “Follow Jesus because of what you get out of it or because you love Him? Love is never wasted.” I had just written about my love of Jesus being wasted. But I probably only said that because I didn’t get what I wanted from Him. He reminded me that love is never wasted, even if I was unwilling to believe it at the time.

Months after I barely started believing God would deliver me from my grave, three days after I prayed God’s love stronger than death over myself, and two days after I lamented the hopelessness of my grave, God planted a seed of life. It would be more than a month before I would go back through my journal and see the growth, the tiny shoot of life sprouting from the seed planted in my darkness. It would be more than a month after I asked God to seal His love onto my heart and deliver me from death that I would let Him speak life over my dry bones. He promised me so many months ago that He would bring me up from my grave and on the day I wrote my name into the valley of dry bones, He showed me how He breathes life into me and lets me live. I’ve been picturing myself like Mary, on my face pouring out at Jesus’ feet, clinging to Him with all my might. I cling to His feet, extravagantly pouring myself out while I wait to see the fruit. Because love is never wasted. The pouring out is never wasted.

"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." - Isaiah 11:1

I want to start looking at my dead places and expect that God has already planted a seed. I want to look at my dry bones and expect that God will breathe His life into them. I want to look at all the suffering and seemingly hopeless circumstances and expect to see a sprout of growth, a shoot of life. I can’t wait to see the fruit that God will grow. I wonder what seeds God has already planted in our darkness, or even from the day of our birth, the growth of which remains to be seen. Let us cling to the feet of Jesus while we wait expectantly to see the growth and to enjoy the fruit. Maybe this is what it means to hope.

And just now this moment I noticed another shoot springing from the seed. Isn’t watching things grow exciting? When I finished this post and was trying to come up with a title, the words “It’s Your breath in our lungs so we pour out” from the song, “Great Are You, Lord”, came to mind. In my darkness it is often this song and only this song that I can sing, because it helps me remember that it’s God’s breath in my lungs, God’s song helping me sing. I went back to look at all the words and gasped at the way it captures everything I just wrote. God is so, so good to me! Take a look for yourself:
“You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only
And all the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord.”
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He Will Rejoice Over You With Singing

I recently stumbled upon a playlist of a cappella songs from all stages of my life. I had no idea that God was actually going to use this playlist to bring healing to my heart and I owe the creator and the Creator a big “thank you.” These songs are helping me remember the precious things I have heartbreakingly forgotten. With these songs, I feel like I am worshiping with every era of myself and it is helping to heal me.

Indulge me, or reminisce with me, as I recount the memories. Close harmony itself always makes me remember singing in Concert Choir at Milligan. I have very fond memories of that time in my life. But isn’t it amazing how certain songs are linked with certain memories? When I hear them, I am transported back to those memories and I can feel what I was feeling at the time. “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord”, “Glorify Thy Name”, “Only By Grace”, and “Great Are You Lord” take me back to First Christian Church, my home. “How Deep the Father’s Love” takes me back to roommate sing-alongs with Jessica in the dorm at Milligan. I would play my guitar and we would sing together. When I hear “Shout to the Lord”, I remember the day I auditioned for Heritage. I didn’t make it but that didn’t matter to me. It was so much fun singing harmony with dear people. I think I’ve realized that is my ideal day – sitting around singing harmony with people who believe what I believe. It feels like heaven to me. “Rock of Ages” takes me back to playing piano for the early service at my home church while I was in high school and grad school. “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” takes me back to the DIVe band, my youth group band, while Lauren, Mallory, Cassie, and I tried to hold microphones and do the motions at the same time. We were the singing-est youth group. No one could shut us up in the van on trips or anytime we were together. God knew what He was doing when He formed us and I am so grateful for those precious memories. “Blessed Be Your Name” takes me back to singing at Abby’s Ordination. “More” transports me to the time Ashley, Allison, Lauren and I convinced our first youth minister to play his guitar for us while we sang all the songs we had just learned at camp. “Refiner’s fire” takes me back to piano lessons with Mrs. B., who would schedule my lessons last so she could play her flute as I played piano until we got tired. “A Shield About Me” reminds me of the peaceful sounds of Adoration every Tuesday night at Hopwood during college as well as the night my roommie’s precious grandpa died and I slept on her floor while we periodically sang these words to our Comforter into the darkness. “Ancient Words” instantly returns me to Central with Rocky as the worship minister. I remember “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” on the day Shelly spontaneously asked me to sing with her for the service at Central. “Lamb of God” reminds me of my constant need to play the piano and worship even when, and sometimes especially, when I was by myself. My friends Gail and Julie would often find me doing this while I waited for them to get to my house so we could car pool to grad school. “10,000 Reasons” reminds me of when I first started attending Crossroads. “I Will Call Upon the Lord” takes me back to camp and all kinds of crazy kid motions. “Before the Throne of God Above” returns me to middle-of-the night prayers on the floor of our guest room. “I Stand In Awe” takes me back to FCC when everyone would stand during the chorus but more recently to my mountain, where God put this song in my heart to sing to Him on one of my last trips to that sacred place. He reminded me then as He reminds me now that He will provide. And I was floored when “Humble Yourself” started playing because that is my secret song to sing while walking on the beach in awe of the majesty. I can remember singing this into the wind and roaring waves even as a young girl on the shores of Lake Erie and New Smyrna Beach because no one but God could hear me. These moments feel so holy to me and I treasure each one in my heart.

These memories may not mean anything to you, but I needed to write them down for me. I needed to be reminded of the beautiful way in which God is healing my heart. This playlist is carrying me back through every stage of my life’s journey thus far. I am hearing and I am remembering. And I am healing. I have believed so many heart-pummeling lies as of late, and I have contributed to Satan’s field day in my heart while completely buying into His schemes. I have allowed the lies and my circumstances in the last few years to make me believe that I was never actually a true believer. I have believed the lie that I never meant what I said and my life was wasted. I have believed that I am a worthless fake. The tears that have flowed while listening to these songs are healing my blinded eyes, gifting me with the realization that I actually was sincere in my worship. I did mean it. I did love God. I did wholeheartedly praise Him. It was not all a lie. I am passionately in love with Jesus but somehow I was convinced that I never really knew Him. How could this have happened? Beaten-down by so many lies. Thank You, God, for using music to fight for me when words fail!

Another thing I have believed is that I can’t do anything, as mentioned in my last post, Invalid. These songs are reminding me of times when I was less afraid and more excited to experience new things for God. Through the memories, God is teaching me that I am allowed to live life. I forgot that I loved doing new things and being involved.  What I have to contribute now may look different, but I am not just a waste of space. God can use me in some way if I let Him. And amazingly, I am allowed to have fun! I have believed that life is the opposite of fun. It has been so difficult to see beyond the darkness of suffering but this music is helping me remember times that were not so dark, reminding me that life is not all struggle.

And blessedly, I am allowed sing without fear and shame. I thought I had to be silent because I have been unfaithful. I did not feel worthy of bringing a song to God while simultaneously filling with doubt and fear. I have not been able to believe the words so I have avoided the music. But God gave me the gift of music and harmony to awaken something in me that cannot be put into words and unfortunately, I have been avoiding that gift. As a result of believing all of these lies, my soul has been slowly dying. It has been a torturously dark time. But I am learning that it’s okay for me to pour out to God all that is within me that can and cannot be put into words. A song sung with a tiny faith is still sung in faith and will usually, miraculously increase that faith.

Most importantly, these songs are teaching me that God never moved. I did. I have believed the lie that God abandoned me. But I know that God has been my constant through every stage of life. He will not leave me and, as much as I try, He will not let me leave Him. He will let me try but He will always pursue. For an inexplicable, wonderful, heart-melting reason, He has made me His. Always and forever, I am His. And the way He gifted these songs to me at the perfect time, a time when I was finally ready to hear and heal, is another one of the many ways He has relentlessly pursued me. They are His love songs to me and my heart bursts with the knowledge that God pursues me like this. “The Lord your God is with you, the mighty warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). God is singing over me! How can I not be moved? Praise the God of my past, present, and future! I stand in awe of You!

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Invalid

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." - Ephesians 2:10

Sometimes I refer to myself as an invalid, usually when I’m trying to cover the ache with a little extra biting humor. It’s probably obvious to anyone who hears that it’s just blatant cynicism. But I guess an invalid is what I am, right? “A person made weak or disabled by illness or injury.” But the connotation of that word, when I use it to describe myself, is that I’m not just an invalid. I am invalid. “Null and void”, “faulty”, “weak”, “wrong”, “having no force or effect”, “inconsequential.” Mostly… insignificant.

I used to be involved in so many things, every type of service I could get my hands on and I loved it. My drive was what made me involved in so many things, also a workaholic, and my heart for service is what made me a social worker and a frequent volunteer. I felt like I was doing something important, something that mattered. Part of it was my addiction to striving and proving myself but most of it was because I felt I had a heart that was created for service. There were people in need and I had something to offer so I did. I poured myself out; my abilities, my determination, and my heart. And then…

Then I got weak and faulty. I kept going because I thought I had to and people were counting on me. And, truth be told, I was addicted to my life. But then I realized I couldn’t be counted on anymore and I became null and void, having no force or effect. Just… wrong. At least that’s what it felt like anyway. And as much as I grieved losing it all, I never expected my period of invalidity to still have no end in sight over two years later.

I feel so insignificant. Useless. I sit here at home, day in and day out, rarely touching another life. Sure, people tell me I brighten their day online but somehow the intangible just doesn’t feel like enough. To my grieving heart, it’s not enough. In fact, it doesn’t feel much like anything. Useless. Insignificant. Having no effect. These are the voices in my head. My constant companions.

But you know who else is my constant companion? God. And His voice is supreme. He is significant. He is significant in me. I am not invalid because He is not invalid. I may be weak and faulty but He is strong so I’m allowed to be weak.

And tonight just as the voices got extra loud, drowning out my joy for longer than I would like to admit, I asked God for the truth. When I ask and really listen, He is so faithful with His truth. He reminded me how easy it is to see Him in the big acts of service, in the lives of the missionaries, in the gatherings of His community. There’s never a question that He is in those things. But you know where else God is? He is right here with me too. He is with me exactly as much as He is with the community gatherings and service projects. The same amount of His presence that is so clearly felt and seen in the big things is here with me too. I am breathless with the glory of this. How can this be? How can He love me that much?

I read stories and hear about God’s people doing big things and find my heart lonely, longing for that kind of life, a life saturated with God, a life lived and loved well. And then it hits me. I have the perfect opportunity to be saturated with God. We are one-on-one many hours of every day. And my fire burns. I know I loved Him well during my years of bigger service. But I want to love Him well now too. God was tangibly close to me for years when I could reach out and touch His people, but now I can reach out and touch HIM.

He has invited me to this Holy place and I am overcome. He invites me to sit at His feet and I pray that I eagerly do so, anticipating communion with Jesus Himself. I can feel Him here and I am deeply moved, humbled, and honored to be invited to sit with Him. I know He is in this. He is in the wrestling and the tearing down and the rebuilding and the growing. He is loving me now in such an extraordinary way and in this moment there is nothing more beautiful. I don’t want to miss another second of it by feeling invalid. If God thinks I am significant enough to meet me, just me, here day in and day out, who am I to believe that I am not? What could be more heart-melting than this intimate communion with God?

"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!'
'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'" - Luke 10:38-42

This is my time to sit at the feet of Jesus, giving Him my undivided attention. This is the good that God prepared in advance for me to do, the better choice that will not be taken away from me. I pray that while I have the body of an invalid, God will shape my Martha heart into a Mary heart. I pray that I no longer see this as invalid and insignificant, but the holy, sacred privilege God has given me in His perfect time. I pray that I love Him well here, and that I never stop being awed by the way He extravagantly loves me here too.

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