Hosea

“For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold– which they prepared for Baal.” (Hosea 2:8)

This portion of Scripture is talking about a harlot, a wife who is unfaithful. It is an analogy that represents God’s people, Israel, though. Even now, Christians are called the Bride of Christ. We belong to Him.

In chapters 2 and 3 of Hosea, the man’s wife only comes back to him when she can’t receive sustanainse from her lovers. It wasn’t clear to her that her husband was providing quite well for her, but rather she thought her lovers were. She used the bountiful gifts given to her by her husband to serve other men, foreign god’s, and her own self.

The analogy is pointing to God’s people serving other gods with what He has given them. Specifically, Baal was named here, but in our American culture, our gods could be success, busyness, or influence.

Because the woman did not recognize the gifts as from her husband and used them to serve the purposes of worshipping false gods, they were taken from her. (Hosea 2:9-11) All that she had received from her gods and her lovers will be taken from her. (Hosea 2:12-13) Then, when she has been brought low, her husband brings her out to the wilderness and comforts her, gives her gifts, and restores the love relationship. (Hosea 2:14-16)

I love this story! As God’s people, how often do we forget that everything we have is from Him and for Him?  Yet, in our forgetfulness and rebellion and focus on other things, God’s goal is to bring us back into a restored relationship with Him. That restoration involves spending time in the wilderness. Who really wants to go to a desolate place? But if it is a place where God comforts us and draws us back to Himself, maybe we shouldn’t be so scared of it.

What You Can Know When You Want to Say, “No!”

I was scrolling through Facebook and found a quote that cut right to the heart of what I have been learning lately:

“Only if your God can outrage you and make you struggle will you know that you worship the real God and not a figment of your imagination.” – Timothy Keller

It’s just like any other relationship, only more because God’s thinking is so much higher than ours. There will be conflict between what we believe or want and what God says or asks of us. When this happens, we will struggle with our heart.

In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus makes it clear that following Him will be hard.

 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The one that sticks out to me is having nowhere to call home. I hate that. A couple summers ago, I volunteered at a summer camp. The dorm-style rooms we stayed in were not very welcoming and overall did not feel like home. I looked forward to the weekends, when I could spend at least a few hours in a real home. A kitchen, a couch, a bedroom, a normal bathroom, decoration- it’s all so beautiful. Being home allows me to relax. But Jesus makes the point that sometimes we won’t have simple luxuries like home. Sometimes saying “yes” to Him means giving up something very valuable to you. Other times, it means jumping in right now without having everything squared away.

God’s plan is not our plan. To follow Him, we often have to let go of dreams and sometimes go against what makes logical sense. And that is okay because we serve a God who can turn water to wine (or blood), calm a ravenous storm, make the blind see and the seeing blind, and so much more! He knows what He’s doing and we can trust Him, even when it hurts, even when it doesn’t make sense. More so, we can know we serve and worship the real God when what He asks of us goes against our will and heart.

Detoxing Life

What if quitting could be the best decision of your life? I read an article a while back by Bob Goff on how to live and love well. There were many radical, but brilliant, ideas presented. One of them was a little too radical for me though, and it’s been rolling around in my head ever since.

Mr. Goff said that every week, he cuts something from his life. Quits. Not just bad things either. He quits good things. (Like giving to a humanities organization..) Maybe he’s on to something. It is a great example of the important role detox plays in life, though.

We humans tend to let responsibilities, thoughts, and habits build up. This is a problem because even the “best quality” buildup still adds weight and makes life tough. It can also make it almost impossible to say yes to new opportunities. To say yes to one thing, you must say no to another thing.

The same goes for the mental, activities, and even the physical world. Since the Fall, this earth we call home is increasingly full of toxins. Our bodies absorb these toxins and they build up. Left un-dealt with, they will bring about sickness.

To live life to the full, some things must be removed, and other things must die. We humans are not invincible or all powerful, so we can only handle so much stuff in our lives. We will enjoy life and be able to give more freely when we have been keeping it lives “clean.”

So what is it that needs to be removed for you? What needs to die so that you can continue moving forward? What buildup of emotion do you need to work through?

Glory

A poignant question posed

A beautiful message sent

Amid a tender world

Ringing, ringing ethereal

Delicate light not of this world

Gaseous, invisible, barely detectable

Shining, shining iridescent

Its quiet eloquence rides the wind

Its brilliance paints the sky before twilight

Look about and find sprinkled glory

Find a lingering question hauntingly beautiful

Forever, forever answer unabashedly.

Goodbye Shame, Goodbye Guilt

It hit me the other day just how much our society likes to measure us up. It starts with school. Each assignment is measured according to a number and letter system. The higher the number, or lower the letter, the better. It seems like a lot of life includes some sort of grading system like this. It becomes part of our mindset to try to perform well and wonder how we measure up. When we start viewing God as though He’s grading us, though, things go awry.

A big part of why we see God like this is because we focus so little on the relationship, and instead, end up focusing on the action part of faith. We do all the right things because we’re supposed. But living as though God were waiting for us to mess up so He could be mad at us is not good motivation for living a moral life.

In any healthy relationship, the people involved feel free to be themselves. The same thing applies to a relationship with God. He won’t hate you if you mess up, but He will convict and encourage you toward real holy change. Patience is an incredible attribute of God we can easily forget about.

We will mess up; we will sin. This is a fact, not something any one of us can defy with the most meticulous work. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8b) If that isn’t encouraging- that we are loved even when we’re at our worst- than I don’t know what is.

You and me will never be “too far gone” to approach the throne of grace. Any moment is a good moment to talk to God. And maybe by realizing His forgiveness and love for us, we can begin to let that define how we see ourselves.

It is the enemy who wants to destroy us with guilt and shame and fear; God brings peace and joy and love. That is the kind of relationship and life we are offered.

Waves That Crash

Over three weeks of the semester have passed. In this time, I’ve made friends and learned some fascinating things, but most of all I’ve been drained. A roller coaster of emotions and stress has drained my energy. Maybe you noticed that I haven’t been posting as often. This is the reason why.

This place of feeling tired isn’t new, and I find that my reaction each time it visits is to carefully control my activities and to dread the coming day or week. To an extent, I think stuarding the energy we’ve been given, along with every gift, is wise, yet always holding back and dreading is no way to live. (Especially in God’s upside-down kingdom.)

A couple summers ago I worked at a summer camp for two months and was beyond exhausted all the time. God came through for me in a way I had never experienced, though. Looking back, I know His strength is the only reason I made it. Each day I made it through and the days added up to two months.

By the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to ask for daily bread. In other words, the sustanence for today. Another beautiful truth we are reminded of is that His mercies are new every morning. God doesn’t give us the mercies we’ll need for the whole week at the beginning. Each morning we can look forward with eager anticipation to seeing how God will provide.

I’m learning a lot through this trial, especially about relying on Jesus each day, but that does not negate the dilemma of having less energy. Therefore, for this semester, I will post when I can but that probably won’t be every week.

Hope this post finds you well,

Sarah

Who’s Visiting the Mental Realm

What would Jesus do? A decade or so ago this catch phrase was popular, but now it’s considered cliche. Often we subconsciously ask, “What would mom do in this situation?” or “What would dad do?” or “What would my friend do?” or even, “What would a certain celebrity or leader do?” Sometimes this can be a good thing, especially if they are seeking after Jesus or living in a healthy manor. As a daily habit, though, it can take us off track. I think it’s important to ask who or what inhabits our mind. Because who and what we think about will shape who we become.

So who do you want to become like? Aspiring to have certain qualities we see in another person can be a good thing. We must be careful not to place a person on a pedastool and expect them to be perfect, though. In the end, that only leads to hurt.

I have to remind myself that Jesus is my main example. I’ve begun reading ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ which documents the thoughts and discoveries of Brother Lawrence. As you can probably guess by the title, he was very good at inviting God into his brain-space.

“When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of God, a fresh remembrance coming from God invested his soul, and so inflamed and transported him that it was difficult for him to contain himself.” (‘The Practice of the Presence of God’)

In a letter he wrote, Brother Lawrence freely admitted that the first few years of striving to think of God often was extremely difficult and disheartening. Yet, it had become such a valuable part of his relationship with God and he recommended the habit to all he came into contact with. I think it’s encouraging to know that the mental realm doesn’t have to be won by tomorrow, nor does failure after failure have to make us quit. There is hope for the kind of closeness with God that Brother Lawrence experienced. There is hope that our minds will be filled with good, positive things. There is always hope. So strive towards that hope set before you!

Paul talked about “dying” in suffering like Christ so, “by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11) The road to freedom is marked by this dying; a relationship with God will inevitably come with suffering. Yet, we are not to run from hardship. The battle of the mind is pivotal and we can’t run from the struggle.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12)