Pursued

The Hound of Heavenpoem ) has been hot on my tail here of late.  God pursues relentlessly yet mercifully.  Why do I feel the need to run?  When will I get the truth that His pursuit is nothing to run from?  

So many times I’m like the bad witch Mombi in the Land of Oz.  I change shapes hoping to escape detection by the good witch Glinda.  But like Mombi when I realize that I’ve been found out I change into a Griffin and run top speed away.  Just as Mombi failed to think through the fact that the SawHorse carrying Glinda would never tire due to his wooden make-up, so I too fail to grasp the fact that this finite body of mine will tire of running far before the infinite God will tire of pursuing me.
(and yes I have been reading through the Complete Wizard of Oz…it’s called indulging the inner child) In my defense I will say this – there are many parallels to human nature and the Christian’s life battle between good and bad to be found in these stories.

On a more serious note (and mature level)…I was also reading from the book of Hosea this weekend.    There’s so much of me in this sad, sordid love tale of God and His people.  On my best day, in and of myself, I am a prostitute.  I leave God’s presence for things that won’t satisfy.  Without God redeeming me daily, I would still be an estranged harlot.  I sell my soul for instant gratification; I worship at the altar of earthly things, of worry, of doubt, of desire, of shame, of pride, of acceptance, of others’ approval…and the list could go on.  Whatever calls to me louder than God’s wooing, whatever pulls my focus away from my Lover, my Father, my Pursuer – this becomes my unfaithfulness, my betrayal to my Redeemer’s everlasting compassion.  For each of us, it is something different.  I believe we each have our specific areas in which we struggle to not give our souls away at the price of being unfaithful to God, our Husband.
Here are some excerpts from Hosea that stood out to me:
Chapter 2:13-15  “I will punish her for all the times she deserted me, when she burned incense to her images of Baal, put on her earrings and jewels, and went out looking for her lovers,” says the Lord.  “But then I will win her back once again.  I will lead her out into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.  I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a Gateway of Hope.  She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from the captivity of Egypt.
What impresses me here is that God makes it clear that there are consequences for our indiscretions, our betrayals of His compassion.  He metes out punishment but then He wins us back.  He leads us into the desert – a place of destitution, a place of barrenness, a place of testing where He is our only resource, our only Source to turn to for help and hope.  It is there in that desert, that He speaks tenderly to us.  And as we allow Him to speak tenderly to us, it is then that He can transform our Valley of Trouble into a Gateway of Hope and restore our “vineyards” to us.  Vineyards – a place of fruition and beautiful, lush landscape.  A place of beauty that brings honor to our Restorer.  
Chapter 2:19  I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion.  I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as Lord.
God will show us righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion forever.  And he will be faithful to us and make us His and we will finally know Him as Lord.  Wow!  To think that we can experience that right now with the promise of it being even more fully known in eternity.
Chapter 2:23  “I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’  And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’  Then they will reply, ‘You are our God.'”
If you are in a season right now where you think that God is calling you not loved and not His.  There’s hope!  In the day that you allow Him to lead you to the desert or perhaps I should say when you allow Him to speak tenderly to you.  It’s then that you realize that He is showing you love and is calling you “my people”.  Our only response then is to say, “You are our God!”
Chapter 4:11  Alcohol and prostitution have robbed my people of their brains.
Chapter 4:18b Their love for shame is greater than their love for honor.
I wonder how many times God feels this way about me, about you.  Got your hackles up a bit?  Are you protesting that you’re not an alcoholic or into prostitution?  Remember at our best days in and of ourselves we’re no better than the most wretched sinner.  All sin is sin.  So with that in consideration — I wonder if He says, Gossip and selfishness, lust and deceit, pride and self-righteousness, love of money and concern for appearances have robbed My people of their brains.  I wonder how many times He shakes His head at us
because we cling to our shame rather than accept His honor.  We find our shame to be too comfortable, to good of a smokescreen to let it go under God’s redemption.  To let it go and embrace instead His honor, His forgiveness, His unfailing compassion.
Here’s a good video that I highly recommend you watch. It, along with the other works I referenced, helped spark this whole line of thought.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZJWnyT7oTI&feature=share
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Bittersweet

I wanted to be bitter.  I let myself feel resentment as I sat in church yesterday.  Yesterday was painful.  I didn’t want to face yesterday.  Father’s Day – a day of celebrating your dad.  Sure I could celebrate the memories I have but today that just didn’t cut it.

I wanted Dad to be here in person.  I wished he were here filling the void, chasing away the empty ache.  I thought about the fun I used to have picking out a perfect Father’s day card for him and how he loved the cards he got from his children.  I thought about how we always got together as a family Father’s Day weekend to celebrate Father’s day and Dad’s birthday.

And I thought about the injustice of it all that some of the grandchildren will have no personal recollection of their grandpa.  I resented the fact that I was cheated out of years of advice for life that my others siblings got from him.

I sat in church and heard everyone refer to Father’s day and I wondered if the youth around me knew just how privileged they were to still have their dads.  I wondered if they appreciated their dads’ stability and protection and wisdom or if they, like me at their age, totally took their dad for granted and didn’t realize how special their dads are.

But then I also thought of all the children who don’t know who their dads are.  And I thought of those who wish they didn’t know their dads because of what awful abuse they’ve received from their dads. And then I knew that I had to allow gratitude to flood my heart instead of bitterness and resentment.  Gratitude that God had given me the kind of dad who I would sorely miss when he was gone.  And that’s when the day become not just bitter but also sweet.  I had memories of a dad who loved me, who took time for me, who showed me what it means to live entirely for Jesus.

I remembered the times he took me fishing and patiently pulled the fishing line out of the trees numerous times when as a little tyke, I was learning to cast.  I thought of the times he took me along on the truck and how he always stopped for ice cream or an iced tea.  I thought of when he helped me learn to ride bike.  And then of the time he brought home my first brand new bike at the ripe old age of 4.  And how when I wrecked it on my first trial run, he didn’t yell at me for the forever bent wheel but instead straightened it the best he could and comforted my distress.  I remembered how I was bursting with pride when he taught me how to drive his two cylinder John Deeres and then how to operate the wheel loaders.  I remembered the many landscaping projects he helped me do and took time to explain the principles instead of just doing it himself.

I had lots of good memories flooding my pain-filled heart, but I also had remorse for the too many times that I bumped heads with Dad and let my temper rule the relationship.  I can rest in the fact though that yes we had our heated disagreements but we always reconciled after duking it out.

Even with all the good memories my day was still painful and I still longed to have Dad in person, to hear his voice, his whistle, and to see his smile once again.  To hear his wit and revel in his laughter, to hash things out with him and soak in his wisdom and insight.   I knew that my pain would only abate after I’d give my heavenly Father the bitter anger and resentment for my loss and allow Him to comfort my grief and catch my tears in His outstretched hands.  And when I allowed my grief-ravaged heart to rest in His presence, He was faithful in coming alongside of me and strengthening me in the midst of my pain and loss.

I don’t know what it is that you may be grieving right now or what pain you may be facing but I urge you to go to your Father with it all.  He promises that He is there for us:
“The Lord who created you says: ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.  For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….You are honored and I love you.'” (Isa 43:1-3,4b NLT)
Neither is He untouched by your grief.
“You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”  (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

A song for my dad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7IbQyG9PL4