Hungry for nothing but prayer, you’ve called me here.
Peace in the storm.
The weight on me is imagined;
A distraction from Your strength,
From Your rule, Your power, Your might.
I live in a different kingdom.
I am ruled by Your will, Your grace, Your freedom, not the tasks, demands and pleasures of this world.
Please heal my hardened heart from putting my priorities out of order. Please soften my soul so that I can love strongly and generously. Please focus my mind so I can seek Your face. Please strengthen my body so I can work towards Your purpose. Please give me courage to change. Bring me out of the boat, help me have faith to walk with You. Help me deny myself, take up my cross and follow You. I love You. All in Your will. Amen.
Father. My King, my Savior, my Comforter. The heavens declare Your glory and the sky proclaims the work of Your hands. Help my life be like the sky. Help Your church be like the heavens. Help me get unwound from my uptight brain that can’t let go of things. Help Your church live by the expectations of Your kingdom instead of our own. Help me heal. Please be with others who need healing. Please remind me of Your presence when I am unable to remember it on my own. I love You, Father. Please provide us strength for tomorrow. All in Your Will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Father, You always find me when I am lost. I weep in the presence of Your graciousness. I come up short, I miss the mark, I get my priorities out of order… over and over. I leave You, in a slow wandering off, and then I turn back to You when I come up empty. I turn back to You hoping that I won’t leave again, but unable to promise it. I want to promise it though. I want to tell You that I will never abandon You or forsake You, but I am not strong enough. I need You. Who am I that You care for me, that You abide in me? How could I possibly forget that You are in me and all around me? How could I possibly forget the world is so much bigger than my version of it? And that in the end, this world is not what’s important. Cleanse me, purify me, create in me a clean heart. Against You and You only have I sinned. Please, Lord, have mercy on me. Please heal my hardened heart, my undisciplined mind, my weary body. Please heal our world. Please heal Your church. Help us join You in Your healing mission. I love You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
In this chapter, God explains His justice to Ezekiel in powerful words. “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (See also 36:33-36 for another glimpse of the compassion in God’s judgement). The Creator of the Universe is distressed about the future of a nation that has repeatedly abandoned Him. I look at the compassion in His pleading and am humbled and in awe because I know He says the same to me.
Another clear theme in this chapter is that each person is judged according to his/her deeds (vs. 1-20). We are not judged by any measure that society uses- our social status, our background or our success. We are not judged by something that is hard for us to understand or out of our control. We are judged by our actions, by the outward expressions of our internal selves which have consequences (for better or worse) on those around us. This is the most fair measure for us to be judged by. We are judged by our Creator who is desperately urging us to make our choices wisely. Our judge is on our side. So much so that He gives us the option to have a perfectly clean slate through His mercy, grace and sacrifice of His Son. Why would we choose anything else?
While thinking about God’s judgement, one question always crosses my mind– Why were we given choice in the first place? It doesn’t take long to reason that love is not love without a choice. Recently I’ve realized this answer has even further implications. I believe that since God gave us choice from the beginning, it is a sacred right that we must offer and preserve for every human. One of the most frustrating things we can experience is trying to force someone to do something. If our Creator does not force us into anything, why then do we feel the need to force others?
As we see in the analogy of the watchman in chapter 33, the shepherds in chapter 34 and in the promises God gives to Israel in chapter 36, one individual’s or group’s actions has far reaching effects because we are all connected to each other. In chapter 33, the hearers of the watchman reserve the right to make their own choice and will be judged accordingly, as does the watchman himself. Chapter 34 reveals the importance of our choices by showing how the shepherds had an opportunity to build up the flock but instead chose to only look out for themselves to the detriment of others. Chapter 36 shows the opposite effect; God cleanses the people and “then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes” (vs. 23). Our choices matter because they affect other people. Our choices matter because they can either speak for truth (which is glorifying God and His grace) or contribute to further destruction and hurt. Nearly every story in the Bible shows how God is constantly reaching out to humans to encourage them to make the choice that is in their best interest. He is always near, we just have to turn and look.
I’m in that weird mid-twenties stage where I look and act like an adult, but on the inside I’m still trying to figure out what that means. Watching my friends encounter new experiences in their twenties really hits home. A friend being diagnosed with cancer, a friend starting a family, a friend surviving an armed robbery, a friend surviving a divorce…. The list continues with experiences that make all of the “life” things that I’ve heard about suddenly seem very real. With every life experience I have, story I read and opinion I encounter, I’m constantly trying to form a framework for my perception, beliefs and actions. As a kid, my framework was “good” and “bad”, but it didn’t take long to realize that doesn’t work in the adult world. After much deliberation, my new framework is “healing” and “destructive”. “Healing” is different from “good” because it implies a continuous process, not a one-time declaration of value. “Healing” also makes room for inescapable things like “sadness” and “suffering” that are outside the simple definitions of “good” and “bad”. The idea of healing acknowledges that the world is made of relationships and that people and situations are capable of change.
As I seek to understand this framework for myself, I think about what I would want to convey and teach to the kids I interact with every day. I consider this audience first because kids are the most malleable and are especially sensitive to what adults teach through their actions. I wanted to make a list, a list that can grow through the contributions of others; a list that I can use to set goals for the activities I plan for the kids I work with; a list that I can read often and use to reflect on my own behavior. Here’s the list. Please add to it!
Things that are healing
- Seeking to understand
- Encouraging words
- Meaningful words, actions, purpose
- Treating others like you want to be treated
Things that are destructive
- Judging others
- Attitudes of “us” and “them”
- Thinking of yourself or others as anything more or less than human
- Letting fear cloud your decision making
What would you add to these two lists?
Sometime ago, I prayed for God to show me what it meant to take up my cross daily and follow Him. The best I could gather from how I was reading scripture is that it would involve suffering, but there’s just not that much suffering in my life, not compared to others. I don’t live in a place or time where I suffer because of my faith. I have all of my needs met and an abundance of support and blessing in every area. More than that I couldn’t make sense of it because suffering alone isn’t really productive. I didn’t see what action I would need to take on my part to pick up my cross.
I think God answered my prayer on Friday. For a brief moment, I became closely involved in a situation that contained so much of the brokenness of our world, but also a miracle. A real miracle. Two lives surviving against all odds. As I reflected on everything afterwards, I realized that Christ picked up His cross to bring healing to the world. To pick up my cross means to work towards healing in all the ways that I can. It’s a conscious decision to be aware of the brokenness and allowing God’s strength and compassion to flow through me to take part in healing it. Not fixing it, healing. Fixing involves trying to change something from the outside. Healing involves providing the resources and support for something or someone to grow from the inside.
Father, help me not ignore the brokenness around me. Help me not avoid it. Help me go into it with your strength and compassion. Help me not seek to fix it on my own but to have faith and trust in your power to heal. Use my hands, my feet, my words to bring the message that healing is here right now. And not only healing, but fullness. Complete fulfillment in love, joy, peace, relationships, life. Thank you for hearing me. Thank you for answering me. Thank you for healing me.
Some parts of this psalm seem to be a prophetic description of Jesus (especially vs. 12-14), but the whole psalm is actually a prayer for the king of God’s people. It is amazing to me that a human, when endowed with God’s justice and in a right relationship with God (see vs. 1), will be able to “deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” and “take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death” and “rescue them from oppression and violence” (see vs. 12-14). This seems to me to be a prayer for a king, a prophesy and a picture of what God can do through us when we seek to know God and be right with Him.