12 September 2014

Thoughts on Hosea

The last four months have been a whirlwind. I have gone from the darkest valley to the highest peak and I stand amazed at the beauty of it, a beauty only God could orchestrate. I admit I mostly bought the Hosea study pack because it was pretty. That and because of one single verse I discovered a few months ago that piqued my curiosity about this strange and difficult book. Did God arrange for the artist chosen for this particular study to be "just my style"? Maybe. I believe in a God who delights in that sort of thing. God's timing is perfect and in falling love with the book of Hosea, I have learned a bit more of what it means to fall in love with Christ.

My life has been a constant ebb and flow of the cycles of depression and anxiety, loneliness and insecurity. I've loved Jesus since I was a child but I didn't realize I had no idea what it meant to be "in love" with him. And I had no concept of the depth of his love for me.

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her."
Hosea 2:14

Last winter into spring found me wandering far into the wilderness, lost and confused but never alone. Even as I ran from God, I couldn't escape him. He was always there beside me speaking words of comfort and love, protecting me from myself. Little did I know, as the waves of pain and heartache thrashed and battered me, that God was drawing me back to him.

I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
Hosea 14:4

I don't recall how I even found this verse, only that God spoke powerfully to me that spring day as I read those beautiful words. Life-giving, freeing, healing words. When I finally stopped running and turned to face my God, I was stunned with his presence and glory at work in me.  I tasted his love and forgiveness in those sweet words and discovered within me a hunger to know him more. Cue She Reads Truth and the Hosea study.

I found She Reads Truth through a blog you might be familiar with - Jones Design Company. In true Holy Spirit fashion, I was prompted to make an impromptu purchase that, little did I know, would change my view of God. I met God years ago but now, oh but now...

"And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me husband...
And I will betroth you to me forever.
I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice,
in steadfast love and in mercy.
I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.
And you shall know the Lord.
And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord."
Hosea 2:16,19-21 (highlights mine)

This study on the beautiful, perplexing book of Hosea introduced me to God as I've never known him. It has taken head knowledge and placed it into the deepest recesses of my heart, where I will ponder and cherish it forever. God brought me to She Reads Truth just as this study was getting ready to begin in perfect God-time, as only he can. He had things he wanted to say to me through his Word and he used the writers of this study to help me understand. 

And in another step of perfect God-time, I could not be more excited about the next study entitled "Open Your Bible". You see, the Women's Ministry at our small country church is about to begin studying the new book Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. The same theme popping up in my life at the same time. God is leading and speaking and guiding me, and I am finally ready to listen and to learn. I am hungry for as much of God as my earthly-self can take and I look forward to seeing what God wants to teach me next.

Just one final treasure from this painfully beautiful book...

"How can I give you up...?
How can I hand you over...?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender."
Hosea 11:8

31 May 2014

Crashing Waves and New Life

“Sometimes the crashing waves don’t wash you away, but wash you alive.” - Ann Voskamp

These last months the waves have left me battered and beaten against the rocks of heartache and sin and self-hatred, threatening to drown me again and again. And drown me they very nearly did. But I am typing these words as I stand safely on the sandy shore watching the sun rise on my life.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
-Psalm 18:16
The waves threatened to engulf me. But as I sputtered and wailed through the crashing pain he reached down and held me tight. When I could not get the air to breath, he filled me with the breath of his Holy Spirit. The crashing, battering waves broke me. Broke me and washed me all clean of the lies that have clung to me for as long as I have memories, living water washing away the sticky mud of my doubting sin nature.

Watching the sun rise is a beautiful thing, a gift from God to be savored. Before this winter storm of my life much of me was dead. I had no hope. But like the gardener who trims the seemingly dead vine down to the ground in order to bring about new growth, God has pruned me back and the new shoots of hope are pushing upward toward the sun. Fresh excitement bubbles like a spring deep within me and I see the buds of my dreams beginning to form as I am bathed in the warm sun and nourishing, gentle spring rain of God's love. I have been washed alive.

28 January 2014

Conditional Healing

I go through the same scenario again and again in my life.  In the midst of the mud of the depression part of my bipolar cycles I cry out to God in desperation and throw myself at his feet. He hears me. Of course he always hears me and he always loves me. He pulls me close and pulls me up to stand again in joy and gratitude and avalanche of certainty that I will keep close to his side so I don't ever have to go through this again. I'm sure you know where this is going.

This particular episode was the perfect storm. I stopped my estrogen therapy three months before and all seemed mostly well as I began to navigate menopause (I had a complete hysterectomy five years ago). Then we got a puppy. Not just any puppy, but a Goldendoodle. Her name is Misha and she is a curly little sweetheart. A sweetheart who can jump over baby gates and reach things on the counter (at four months old) and has energy to go and go and go (and occasionally she goes on the carpet). And have you seen the weather lately? Loads of fun trying to channel her energy in our cozy house when it's -2 degrees out.

None of that is the problem though. The problem is that I just stopped. Stopped reading my Bible. Stopped (mostly) praying. Stopped leaning into my God, my Healer, my Strength. Satan is never one to waste a good opportunity, but what about me? I believe the lies. I always believe the lies.

I'm not good enough for...whatever. I am a failure at this and that and everything. Without layers of makeup and five different hair products I would not be fit to be seen in public. I've let (fill-in-the-blank) down. Again.

I always believe the lies.

I fell hard this time. I don't remember when I felt so broken and empty. All I wanted to do was run. Run as fast and as far from his love as I could because I don't deserve it. I don't deserve Him. But something was different this time. Even at the lowest point I could distinctly feel his hand on me, the way a parent grabs hold of a child about to run into the street, holding me in his firm grip. Keeping me safe. I felt him, Him, clear as could be and He was not letting me go. I wanted to run but he wasn't going to let me.

In November 2012 God told me to stop praying for help to endure and instead pray for healing. Six months later I was able to go off my bipolar meds and I was completely released from treatment soon after. He healed me. So how could I fall so far so fast if I was healed? I realized today that my healing is conditional. Conditional on my staying close to the Healer. As long as I keep close to Him I am healed, but when I allow myself to wander away from his love, his protection...well, that's a different story. I brought this on myself by being careless with my soul. I let down my guard and listened to the lies.

I'd like to think I've learned my lesson, and maybe I finally have. I'm sure I will continue to make mistakes but he who promised is faithful even when I am not, and he will finish what he started in me. That is the hope I am clinging to tonight as I rest in Him.

Some of my favorite Bible verses are found in the book of Isaiah. As I hid in my pain in recent weeks these words were my greatest comfort.

"Fear not for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze;
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
Isaiah 43:1b-3a NIV (bold mine)

I am His. There is nothing more to say.