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?

Cost Uncountable

(A Five Minute Friday Post)

Everything.

It cost everything.

Stepping into obedience the first time cost little in comparison. Yes I gave up time. A LOT of time. And I gave up freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted to but I gained so much in that same space. I gained a knowledge of the Holy Spirit. Of how he moves and works and gifts. I gained insight into missional work and what it means to give thing up in order to serve someone else. Even when that someone else is unknown to me. Unknown to many. Unseen and unloved.

It cost me innocence but gained wisdom and a deeper connection to Jesus. More time in prayer. More time in praise. More time just being.

The second step into obedience was not the same. The second stepping in was a stepping out. Stepping out of the life that had been built. Stepping out of the community I’d come to love. Stepping out of the routine our family had come to know.

Stepping into obedience the first time was joy, light, excitement and nervousness at moving beyond anything I’d done before but knowing Jesus was asking it, that he would equip me regardless the challenge.

Stepping into obedience the second time was pain, sorrow, mourning and reluctance at moving out of familiarity, joy and community. It was like my heart was forcibly ripped from my chest. Yet Jesus was asking this too, same as he had the first.

In my darkest times, I lament the cost. In the brighter moments, I know his cost was much, much higher. And I rejoice through the sorrow.

Lean Into It

There it is again. That ache. The pain. The reminder of loss, of things left behind. Of people, lives, relationships, goals, passions and dreams altered. Separated. Not because of physical loss but spiritual, emotional. One act of obedience that changes the path and leaves a portion of your heart on the side of the road.

It’s a pain that eventually fades. Changes. Mutates. Moves from grief to sorrow. The stabbing lessens to a dull ache, fades to a tender spot. The tender spot the enemy loves to poke with impeccable timing. Those moments when joy starts to shine through, when purpose is forming like an ethereal dream, that’s when he jabs his boney finger right into the most delicate space. That tender spot that awakens the sorrow, stirs the tears and squeezes the heart.

The poke, the pressure, that ache that rises and casts a grey pallor over everything, creating doubt shadows where each decision, each moment, comes with a backpack full of questions, doubts and second guesses.

Don’t Box Me In

Me when it feels like someone is expecting an older version of me

For just over three years, I had the luxury of working in a local ministry environment. The final year of this journey had me step into a new church environment while my family remained with our home congregation. I would hear rumours of people asking where I was, why wasn’t I present at Church A and so on. Hubby would politely answer that I was doing well, thanks for asking with a gentle reminder that I was serving at Church-Ministry B,

Now that the ministry role has come to a close, I have been attending Church A with Hubby and fam. Some have smiled and said hello. Others share a hug and “it’s nice to see you.”

A few though ask the question.

“Are you coming back to Church A?”
“I see you here a lot now. Does that mean you’re coming back?”

It took some time for me to determine why these particular questions set my hackles up. After all, they were trying to communicate that I had been missed and that they appreciated having me present. What my spirit felt was my new self being pushed into an old box.

The old box of who they thought I was before I went into the mission field. The old box of Robyn fitting in. I can’t say for certain what that Robyn looked like, only that this version is different. This version sees the world differently, is not willing to compromise on who she is to ‘fit in’. This Robyn is more willing to speak up, to speak truth – in love and with gentleness but truth openly instead of hiding in case it make someone not like her. This Robyn has more ink, more attitude and more courage.

And she wants to stay that way.

Some will read all this and say it’s over-reacting. “Just take the welcome and the encouragement.”

How about we change the question. Instead of “are you coming back?” ask “Will you be joining us this summer?” or “Will we see you more? We’ve missed you.” Even better though, a statement then a question: “It is so nice to see you! How was your time in ministry? Did God do amazing things you can share?”

I’ll own it. Over-reaction and all. The word “back” sinks my gut and rips apart my heart. Ask me about my time in ministry. Get to know me as I am now.

Or don’t.

Just don’t box me in.

Grief is not linear

There is no straight line from loss to what we’ll call recovery. I’d like to say “all my life I thought…” but truth is, I never even thought about grief, about loss, about what it means for everyday, what that loss does to the light, to time, to joy, to the very act of breathing, getting up in the morning, going to bed at night, how things look, feel, sound, taste.

While I have lost family members, it never occurred to me that grief as a journey isn’t a straight line. The direct loss wasn’t mine. My heart ached for the spouses left behind. Still aches for them. But it wasn’t until an entirely different circumstance introduced me to grief directly that I began to see it for what it is.

Grief stripped me of all that I thought I knew. It ripped me to the core of my being. It flipped upside down everything I thought I knew about life and loss, living and dying.

In my current journey of loss, the most recent lesson is that it is not linear. One doesn’t simply and gradually “get over it” like walking up a gradual incline. There are days when getting out of bed is an achievement. When emptying the dishwasher counts as a productive day. And while I can look back on the months between impact and today and see how things have gotten less painful, how things have changed and, for lack of better words, gotten better, I then had an experience that put me so far back on the path to healed that I’m not sure the end exists. The proverbial “two steps forward three steps back”.

In this particular case, words spoken in support and hope created turmoil. They were intended to heal, to soften a moment of history yet had the unintended result of ripping open a carefully stitched wound. To be clear, I do not hold the source responsible for the outcome. My reaction is on me alone and I hold no malice, anger or disappointment.

The results though tell the state of my heart and stage of my journey. The imagery that comes to mind is that I had just climbed out of a deep chasm. Rocky walls, damp, rough, the only way out going up, through the pain. And, standing on the edge, finally out of the depths and face turned to the light and warmth, to then have words blindside me back over the edge back into the hole like a wrecking ball into the side of a building.

My choice, once again, to remain in the pit or work, inch by inch, memory by memory, hurt by hurt back up the edge. Jesus on belay, me searching for toe holds through the threat of tears.

Grief doesn’t travel a straight line. It weaves and ducks, it leads then follows, strangles then caresses. It sneaks up like a storm on a sunny day. The tiniest scent, a flash of memory, a habitual motion, phrase or task brings a sweeping wave wiping out all forward progress, sets back days, weeks, miles, back to the bottom of the pit.