Posts tagged #Spiritual Journey

Go in Love: Thoughts on Hosea 3

Go In Love

I have a love hate relationship with the book of Hosea. Don’t get me wrong, when Redeeming Love came out during my high school days, I wept and devoured that book in one setting. But as my faith and life experiences have matured, the story strikes a different chord. And one of the things I dislike about Hosea is that I always get the story wrong… and I’m embarrassed to admit it happened again this past weekend at church. 

“Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” Hosea 3

As I heard pastor Bryan Loritts plead with us to “Go again in LOVE,” I'm ashamed to confess that my heart puffed up as I thought of all the ways I had LOVED big over the years. I went through my spiritual resume and accounts of friends forgiven, good deeds done, and love given and not returned. My heart swelled with pride as I checked off my spiritual list of accomplishments until I reread the passage mid-sermon. 

"The Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins." Hosea 3

Wait… If I’m anyone in this story (which I'm not and in general it's a pretty bad practice to look for yourself in the story)... I sure as heck am not Hosea. It’s pretty obvious that the Lord is Hosea… and if He’s Hosea, I'm Gomer. 

You see my “cake of raisins” was believing that I’m more like Hosea than Gomer. My love of self pointed my eyes to the good that I have done rather than the best Good that was done for me. My biggest “other god” this weekend was making much of myself instead of making much of Him. And the thing I hate the most is that I didn’t even realize I was doing it, until Scripture smacked me in the face and reminded me that THESE stories in Scripture, the story I’m currently living out… NONE OF IT is about me. These stories, our daily stories, all of them point to a greater redemptive story. 

(Side note: Isn't He so good to "go in love" after me AGAIN by opening my eyes to MY sin, rather than letting me relish in my own self-praise?)

Our fuel for going again in love shouldn’t be based in keeping score or even being more like Hosea; rather the reality that we have a better Hosea, the Christ who came down and gave the ultimate sacrifice so all wrongs would one day be righted. THIS changes us so that we can love freely, without condition or self-pride. 

It’s the understanding that God has gone again in love for His people since the beginning of time that softens our hearts to see others like Christ does. And boy does Christ look at others differently than we do. 

When Christ saw the woman at the well, He didn’t care that it wasn’t “proper” for him to approach her. Because of LOVE, all He saw was a sheep in need of the Good Shepherd, a thirsty life in need of a loving well.  He didn’t care what the Pharisees said when He healed the sick on days of rest… because LOVE isn’t restricted to a work week or some self-imposed moral code. And while religious leaders built teams with the morally upright and popular, Jesus surrounded himself with fisherman, tax collectors, and prostitutes… because LOVE knows no societal bounds or labels. 

And while God the Father has every right to look on me and say, “She’s not worthy,” Jesus steps in and says, “I have loved her with an everlasting love and I’ve paid her debt with the fiercest LOVE the world has ever known.” And Abba Father smiles and sees a forgiven, redeemed child, just as He planned from the beginning of time. 

That is our story! And THIS is what pushes us to forsake theological loopholes and throw “wisdom” to the wind and choose to LOVE BIG, even at risk of being hurt again. There is no good in any of us apart from Christ, and when we read Hosea and push ourselves to “Go Again in Love,” let us also remember our role in this story. We are the hands and feet of LOVE, but only because we have been fiercely loved and gone after… time and time again.

If you have time, I highly recommend to listening to Pastor Loritts message on Hosea.  So so good. And ALL that I've written here is based off of musings from his sermon. 

Much Love,

Suffering & the Church

 

Our society talks a lot about suffering these days. It seems like my generation grew up with bright eyes and dreams to be a generation that helped with all the hurts, only to grow up and realize that none of us are exempt from suffering. At some point, it comes knocking at all of our doors and maybe you’ve not hit that season yet, but the truth is, we live in a broken world and all of us will feel the effects of that brokenness at some point in our lives.

Here’s the thing though, we talk a lot about suffering as victims. We talk about how bad things happen to us that we can’t control: ie. Car accidents, cancer, tragedy, someone hurts us, etc.  And Christians and non-Christians alike have immense amount of sympathy for that type of suffering. Yet one thing we don’t talk about well is suffering that is self-induced (suffering as a consequence for bad decisions or sin), suffering that we are pre-disposed to (mental illness, depression, addiction, gender confusion, etc.), or a combination of the two.  

There are a variety of reasons why this is the case. But overall I believe that our culture has very limited sympathy because we don't classify these things as suffering and we're extremely judgmental towards those who have self-induced or pre-disposed trials. Our pull up our bootstraps mentality and our "You did this to yourself" judgmental spirits have permeated our news cycles, education systems, and is just a way of life. 

These approaches can be more harmful than helpful as they dehumanize our struggles and create a false storyline that some people are broken and others whole. This is a critical realization, especially in the church where our message is ALL are broken and in need of a great Savior. It’s hard to claim that message when we are sympathetic to some struggles and judgmental towards others. Yet I've seen churches CHANGE lives by not only acknowledging ALL of our brokenness, but by removing the stigma from suffering by being conduits of grace and healing to those with self-induced or pre-disposed trials. 

This is where the gospel comes in and changes lives. This is where our churches have the opportunity to be counter-cultural and proclaim a GREAT Savior!

When society says, “You messed up BIG” or “You ARE so messed up,” the Gospel says, “There is good news, Jesus redeems broken things!”

When society says, “You’re too weak! Try harder!” the Gospel says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When society says, “There’s no hope for you!” the Gospel says, “We have this hope as anchor for the soul, firm and secure, a hope that doesn’t fail.”

When society says, “You’ll never change!” the Gospel proclaims that JESUS is in the business of changing hearts.

When society says, “You’re beyond all help,” the Gospel says, “Jesus is close to the brokenhearted and HE is a very present help in time of trouble.”

When society says, “You’re not good enough,” the Gospel says, “None of us are.”

When society abandons you and leaves you alone in the rubble, the Gospel says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

When society says, “What a waste?!” the Gospel says, “No suffering is wasted. All things are for your good and His glory.”

Yall, I’ve seen this done in my current church. I’ve seen it done beautifully, messily, imperfectly, but still attempted and accomplished! I’ve seen the church contradict the lies that society says amidst brokenness. Our churches have everything necessary to battle our tendency to mirror our culture’s response to brokenness, and proclaim in both word and deed that we are ALL in need of this good news! Restoration takes root when our churches and communities say, not only are you welcome here, but we admire your fight. You’re no second string line-up; we’re all in this together. You don’t have to hide anymore, rather, we openly carry this burden with you.

Church, we can do this. I know we can. We can be more gracious with each other and more careful with our words. We can put away pride and stop celebrating, idolizing, or striving for "picture perfect" lives. We can have safe homes and churches that have open doors, where nothing said or confessed will be met with disgust or disdain, but rather met with grace and the truth of redemption. We can do the hard part of showing up, not because we are awesome, but because Christ showed up for us.  

And now to the sufferer, I don’t know your story. I don’t what you’ve done, what’s been done to you, or what you’re walking through. But what I do know is that these wounds you’re carrying, will one day be beautiful scars. For He binds up wounds and He saves the crushed in spirit. And this week especially, our Holy week, we celebrate amidst suffering. For He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes WE ARE HEALED.  

My friend, He was wounded, so your wounds could heal. If you’re suffering please know that you’re not alone and you are not beyond His reach. Find a church that will walk beside you and hold up your arms when the burden is too heavy. Praying for you this week.

Much love,

Side note: I’ve mentioned this before, but I love my church. And one of the reasons why I love my church is that they recognize that the Gospel isn’t for “good” people who have all their junk together. They sing, preach, and teach that the Gospel is for broken people and where there’s broken people, there’s a lot of hurt and suffering. But where there are people of God, there will be stories of brokenness, hope, and restoration. Yesterday, our pastor gave a wonderful sermon titled Leviticus 10 & 16: There Will Be Blood that pointed those who wrestle with guilt and shame over brokenness to look to Jesus. This blogpost was influenced significantly by it. If you wanna check it out… listen or watch here

Donald Miller, Words, & My 30th

Fun fact, I don't know if you know this about me... but I love words. In a conversation, words matter to me. How they're said, which ones were chosen, etc. Bless Ben's heart, he's a verbal processor and I'm a word fanatic so you can only imagine how some of our disagreements go. Y'all pray for him. It's not his fault I'm crazy. 

All that to say, words carry a lot of meaning. 

A few months ago I was reading Donald Miller's latest book Scary Close. Now, if you know me you know I'm a huge Don Miller fan. HUGE. I've been reading his work for over a decade now and I've loved being able to read his story and simply adore how he writes so candidly about his successes, failures, relationships, spiritual health, etc. He is always a breath a fresh air and somehow, through his books, I feel like we're pals. I truly feel like I know him... REALLY WELL. Like best buds. Like let's roll out in our saturday sweats and grab some coffee and swap stories well.  Sadly the feeling isn't reciprocated and we aren't family friends, but maybe one day... Alas I get off track. 

Anyways, in Scary Close my bff Don was sharing about a low moment in his life when he felt like he was in a cycle of ruining every romantic relationship he started. He shared how after a broken engagement he started to believe that he was just horrible at relationships and that's just who he was. Don, the guy who was great with written words but bad with people.  It was during this season when his friend and mentor Bob Goff (another person I'd love to be bff with) spoke words of truth to him. He simply said and kept saying, "Don, you're good at relationships." And every time Don saw or chatted with Bob, he'd hear those words of affirmation over and over and over again. Now, I make it sounds cheesy... because I'm not Donald Miller. But he goes on to say how Bob's words were powerful to him. Those words of affirmation changed him by helping him see that he had the capacity to live a better story when it comes to relationships. And of course (spoiler alert), any Miller fan knows that He is now married, living an authentic story with a small community of friends and family now. 

Here's my point: True words carry power. 

The power to heal. The power to change. The power to inspire. The power to shape and mold. The power to encourage. The power to connect. The power to restore. The power to reveal. There's a reason the book of James deals so much with the tongue. It's not our physical tongue that gets us into trouble, but rather our words and the meaning they carry. They have the ability to give KILL or give LIFE (prov. 18:21).

Life. What a gift. 

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Yesterday, I turned 30. WHAT?! I know... shocking. I already can feel my metabolism slowing down and everything is sagging a bit more. But yesterday, in spite of my newfound sag, I was given one of the greatest gifts I've ever received. 

Words. Life giving words from friends and family members. 

I woke up yesterday morning to Ben surprising me with a trip to go zip lining. Y'all. He nailed it. There's nothing I'd rather do than fly through the trees to swing in my 30th. And that would've been a gift enough, but on the car ride there he had me open the glove compartment and inside was a book. 

A book full of words. 

From friends and family and many of you. 

Life giving words full of encouragement. Words affirming character traits you saw in me. Words capturing memories. Words that were healing and encouraging. Words that pushed me to love and see Jesus better. Words that reminded me of what God has done and is doing. 

Pages and pages of words that I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around yet, but I wanted to take a moment and say thank you to those of you who wrote letters, Facebook messages, emails, texts and took a moment out of your day to give me the gift of words on my birthday. What a kind and thoughtful blessing you gave.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you. 

Because of you, I was reminded of how powerful words can be and encouraged to practice the discipline of using my words for good more often. And I hope this post does the same for you. Take a moment today and jot out an encouraging text/email, or better yet a hand written letter. Tell a friend how much you appreciate them. Affirm a good character trait in a co-worker. Speak life into your children.

Give the gift of life today, packaged in words. 

 Because let me just tell you, after reading all those words yesterday... I am changed. 

Much love,