Dry Bones

Last fall I attended a leadership conference in Edmonton. As we wrapped up our final evening a prophet invitation was issued calling us to the spiritual front line. Today this came to mind – this need for those that are equipped and able, to step into the fray on behalf of those who cannot. That there is a spiritual battle looming, if not yet already engaged, for which a vast army is needed. The church has – WE HAVE – been sleeping, lulled into complacency by comfort, pride and idolatry. Not obvious idolatry in the old school golden calf kind of way but in the subtle, distraction, addiction, soul numbing kind of way – those things that we pursue because they feel good and, even if only temporarily, fill a void. That in our apathy and complacency we are like dry bones in Ezekiel’s desert:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. “And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:1-3, ESV)

Those of us then called to armour up and enter into the fray are those listening to Jesus, through the Holy Spirit as He instructs us:

“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” (Ezekiel 37: 3-10, ESV)

Ezekiel did the work as asked by God. He spoke the words and called the dry bones to life. It must have seemed absurd. The bones were old – “behold, they were very dry”. How could speaking words be sufficient? And yet he did, and they were and breath came into them and they were an exceedingly great army.

Which are you? Are you part of the bones in the middle of the valley or are you, like Ezekiel, being given “words to speak”, a task to do? Are you waiting to receive breath, to be brought to life? Are you waiting to speak, to move, to act on His command?

How can we – individually and corporately – bring life to our community, our city, our country, internationally and globally?
What does this look like for our churches
What does this look like for us as individuals?
What is Jesus asking you to do?

Again: What is Jesus asking YOU to do?

Witness

“A zen koan echoed through my mind: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? And then I realized that observing the tree and how being a writer or an artist means being a witness. We witness beauty, joy, sadness, beginnings, endings—moments large and small, in worlds real and imagined. We are the witnesses that make sure the tree is heard.”Lisa Papademetriou, Bookflow

Lisa’s words in my email inbox shook me. With pandemic life, I had shelved writing. Parenting, teaching our isolation bound kids, business managing, working, ministry zoom meetings, have taken over. Even that one solitary joy of a virtual FitFam membership is now shared with mini-me. Not a complaint but a statement. While some have too little to fill their time and binge on Netflix and cupcakes, others of us are seeing the joys of life smothered by responsibilities.

As more of my time is absorbed into other tasks, the easier it is to believe that writing  really doesn’t matter. The inner critic argues that no one reads it anyways so who will notice when I no longer contribute to newsletters, to email communications, to Facebook, to that draft that is started but stagnant.

Even conversations I might have in person with someone are shelved, just like my writing, because they are not effective outside the human connection, serve little end purpose, make no ripples in the pond-world around me. And thus, documenting the things going on around me has been set aside — the choices being made, people begin lifted up, smashed down, risks taken, risks avoided. 

Thus Lisa’s words struck something within. Those things I had avoided writing, those messages I had omitted, words unsaid, need to be written, need to be communicated. The situations need to be witnessed. Even if only by me to me. In the case of poor choices, to not say anything is to imply consent, that the behaviour is somehow acceptable. In spaces were someone has been wounded or there has been loss, be it a life, a job, or a dream, to remain silent leaves them burdened alone. 

If no one says, writes or records anything, there is no witness and the moment is lost, or, worse — the moment drags on deeper and more potent to the one it impacts.

In this, not every moment wants to be remembered but every moment should be witnessed. To let them go is a disservice to someone even if it that someone is only me. 

The Bookflow email ends with these words from Lisa, “… When we say that one person can’t change the world, remember that each person is a world—a whole universe—unto him or herself. Whenever you have an impact on someone, you are changing a world. So please keep working on discovering and telling it. Even if the person you impact is yourself.”

Spilling Out

There was an article on Facebook a week ago, written by a nurse who watched parents bring their children into the PICU (Pediatric ICU). There was a pattern to the process of a beginning, during and after phase which paralleled what we’re going through currently under COVID restrictions. The start of the process, the beginning phase we are looking the situation head on, dealing with the immediate, the panic, the crisis reaction of radical change to life patterns, processes and realities. A shift of thinking about priorities and, well, everything.

The “During” phase is where we are now. During is full of unknowns. The end is unknown. What will happen “during” is unknown. Who will make it through to the end is unknown. Will I catch this? Will someone I care about? What do you mean now my pet could catch this? My neighbour? How will I shop safely? Can I just go for a walk?…

The underlying stress and anxiety of the during phase colours everything like an abstract sort of  baseline onto which everything else piles. The Everything else includes general life – groceries, work, school for the kids, music lessons, pet care, putting in the garden, running a business, [insert usual activity here]. Each of these things has a coating, a wrapper of added time, considerations and sanitizing called “COVID-19” increasing the time each things takes and increasing the level of stress each thing induces.

It’s this during phase where who we are starts to show more clearly. How anxiety and stress play out in our behaviour becomes quicker to surface. 

As Jesus often does, this coincidentally came in my feed:

For some, this is tears, others, sharp tones, others try to take control of anything and everything, some turn daily living into check lists, others hide in video games or literature, others lash out at everyone around them. Yet others still smile, still show grace. There is love and lightness in their words, their eyes and their activities. What is inside of us is what splashes out when we are bumped.

Jesus, I bring my heart and my mind to you. I offer you my self, this vessel that you have built. Holy Spirit, will you show me, in a picture, a word, a memory, or in scripture, what is in me that is spilling out? Lord show me the good things as well as those I need to change. I especially ask you to show me where my sins, where my habits or thought processes are discouraging or hurtful to those around me. Now, please show me the things that are godly, the gifts of the Spirit that you are growing in me. 

Lord Jesus you are my example. Show me how to grow these blessings that they are the things that splash out in this time. The things that are jostled out onto others that bring joy, peace, love and hope.