Monday, February 22, 2010

The Breath of Life

God formed the man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The man came alive – a living soul. Genesis 2:7

Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:22

Breathing has my attention these days because I spent every night, for approximately 10 years, fighting for my life as I ceased breathing 400-500 times a night. A few weeks ago I wrote to you about my diagnosis of sleep apnea. The CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Machine) has become my friend at night. As I begin to fall asleep each night, I feel the continuous air gently forcing me to breathe. In the first week I began to see it as God’s kiss on my mouth, breathing life into me, just as He did with Adam in the Garden long ago.

The physical became spiritual. I realize how true it is that I am dependent on God for my very next breath. It is a gift, not a right. I had taken that for granted until my diagnosis. I smile as I fall asleep knowing God is giving me the loving gift of His breath. Night turns to day and I awake. As I do, I have begun to realize I am breathing differently through the day. The CPAP machine is training me to breathe right. The result is a decrease in anxiety, which I have fought for years. It turns out it is one of the symptoms of sleep apnea. Another gift is God’s grace setting me free from years of guilt and self-condemnation. During the day as in the night, I recognize every breath as the loving kiss of God.

If we don’t breathe, we die. We breathe and we live. And God provides the breath. After the resurrection, Jesus commissioned His disciples for ministry. He took a deep breath and breathed on them. That breath was the Holy Spirit. No Holy Spirit, no ministry. With the Holy Spirit, you have ministry! It is that simple.

Does your ministry ever feel like it is on life support? Do you feel you have been running so hard that you can’t catch your breath? You are out of breath. You and I need to stop and be still and let God kiss us with the gift of His breath, the Holy Spirit. Just as we can’t breathe on our own, we cannot do ministry on our own. We can make strategic plans, we can craft great clubs, and we can work hard and use our gifts and talents. We can do all of this and our ministry can still be on life support and die. Only the kiss of God bringing His breath of the Holy Spirit can give our ministries life and us.

My friendly CPAP machine is God’s nightly devotional to remind me of His breath on my physical life, my spiritual life, and my ministry. Holy Spirit, breath of God, we receive you. Kiss me lover of my soul, breathe life into my tired body. Breathe life into my marriage, my family, my friendships, my leaders, my finances, my committee, my club and my campaigners. Breathe on our kids, your kids. Yes God, breath on YL Capernaum and give it abundant fruit filled life.

Breathing with you,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

One on One (Part II)

I had an amazing experience in club a couple of weeks ago. A former club kid Adan gave his testimony. It really took me back. Adan is one of the two kids who have influenced and impacted my life the most and that is a huge piece of what contact work is. It is “withness” as well as a witness. It is the vulnerability of Christ who chose the twelve to “be with Him” as it says in Mark 3:14. The Son of God came and allowed Himself to be influenced and ministered to. He opened His heart and allowed them to experience their companionship and comfort.

I met Adan when he was 10 and in Middle School. He is now 29. For 19 years he has been one of my best friends. He is the wildest kid I have ever met, and at first the most obnoxious. A fact I was humbled by when Jane Thomsen, my YL leader, reminded me of how often she wanted to smack me in club. God really has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

We spent thousands of hours and experiences together over the years. We have fought, cried, laughed so hard we could not breathe, and we have encouraged one another. We have been in each other’s lives through thick and thin. I was with him at Woodleaf when the Holy Spirit gave birth to him in the kingdom of the family of God. Today he loves Jesus, and he is one of the two most passionate people I know. His speed is always at 100% and the accelerator is always pressed to the floor of his life.

We read Philippians together last week and he said that is a great letter because Paul has confidence no matter what his circumstances. We talked and prayed together to live with this type of confidence. Adan has moved from a kid who basically told me to “drop dead” in our first conversation, to a young man encouraging me to have confidence in Jesus.

As I watched Adan give a club talk, I could see the face of a young 17-year-old girl named Carmella listen to every word that Adan said. Carmella is the female equivalent of Adan when he was in high school. She is wild, broken, combative and angry, yet Adan was able to reach her.

Contact work once begun, never stops. It is an action for life. Adan is one of my best friends. We are challenging each other, praying together and anticipating God’s adventure for us in the future. Do you have an Adan? Just keep walking together.