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Dec 8 18

In praise of the glory of his grace

by davesandel

In praise of the glory of his grace

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. He chose us in him before the foundation of the world. So we praise the glory of his grace, which he granted us in the beloved. We exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ. – From Ephesians 1

Three times now in our lifetimes we have been approached by our children, held in silence by a kind of a hush, their wide eyes sparkling, hints of smile, dimples wide. There’s something they can’t wait to say.

“We’re going to have a baby!”

The mom and dad thing is no longer our monopoly. Our kids have turned away from paths of less resistance and chosen the way of parenthood, diapers, nighttime fears, busting laughter from the gut, smiles of plenty, comfort, casualty and pain. Hold on tight, the baby’s comin’! Stand up and face the music. No … play the music … sing for joy!

Blessings get no better. We get to feel like God a bit; we have chosen these people before the foundation of the world. Our kinship is unquestioned. And so we praise the glory of God’s grace, which he grants us in our beloved. We exist as one being, one family tree, one whole part for the praise of his glory. We, who first hoped in Christ.

On this day, this “Solemnity,” Mary learned that she was pregnant. Jesus is coming! This is the day we remind each other of what she heard from the angel. All the fall-aways of our past turned aside and forgotten. The enmity and curses pronounced in the garden no longer hold. Eve, the mother of all the living, has been succeeded by Mary, the mother of the one who gives all life.

“Behold,” the angel said to Mother Mary. “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. Of his kingdom there will be no end. The child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

On Sunday evening we visited the first church planted in Champaign County. These First Church Urbana Methodists hosted a performance of Handel’s Messiah. The famous music, alive in voice and horns and strings, stunned me with its beauty. It was as if I heard the words for the first time.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, unto us … And the government shall be upon is shoulders. His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Hold on now. Breathe … the baby’s coming! Rejoice together. Always and forever, we are the family of God.

Put the trumpet to our lips, Lord, and let us blow the song of joy. Together we make the music of the spheres, of the family, of the quiet night on a hill, surprised by the crowning moment of history, all now forever.

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Dec 7 18

But a very little while

by davesandel

But a very little while

Friday, December 7, 2018

On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. – From Isaiah 29

Because we turn away from God, in our world it is always the blind leading the blind. I look back on journals from weeks of hitchhiking and I marvel that I’m still alive. I was careless with everything, except perhaps the words I used to describe my carelessness. And most of the folks around me seemed to be just like me. Who’s driving this car, anyway?

Isaiah goes on to say, “When his children see the work of my hands in his midst, they shall keep my name holy. And those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding. Those who find fault shall receive instruction.”

A few mystics see God more often through the mist, but for most of us it’s a once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime experience. The intimacy I crave with God goes the way of all flesh, and I mostly choose to eat, drink and be merry. Not that God is a stick-in-the-mud who disdains celebration, because he isn’t. Jesus loved his parties. Jesus loved to surprise people and announce he was coming for dinner, coming for the party!

But something seems different for me. Looking back or looking forward, I wonder why I am so careless with my worship. “When you see the work of my hands in your midst, you will keep my name holy.” YES! I have seen the work of his hands. “When you err in spirit, you will acquire understanding.”

OK. Thank you. I am growing. Day by day, I love thee more dearly. For that I fall down and thank you.

But I fall short. Follow thee more nearly? I am continually tempted to eat from the haunting, omnipresent Eden tree, so sure I know the difference between good and evil on my own. I’m careless with what you show me, and then I extrapolate, until I think I’m just so much smarter than I am. Soon I am judging others, and almost as soon I realize that I have judged myself (Romans 2:1-2).

Despair calls me to its side. Come and taste the bitter stony soup. No!

“When you find fault, you shall receive instruction.” Hope rises. Teach me your way, O Lord. Lead me in a straight path. Let me dwell in your house all the days of my life.

I remain confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I will wait for you, Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for you.

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Dec 6 18

They will sing this song

by davesandel

They will sing this song

Thursday, December 6, 2018

On that day they will sing this song. “Trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal Rock.” – From Isaiah 26

There was a lot of walking involved, in from the road. But at last I found a deep cleft in the rock, put down my pack, and made a fire from nearby deadwood. A circle of stones. The sun setting. I ate the second half of my turkey sandwich.

I suppose there was a beautiful moon over Beaver Lake that night, but I was dead to the world. Cozy in my sleeping bag, a rock for my pillow. Felt the June air slowly cool, closed my eyes, enveloped by a prayer. I was in Gospel country, the Bible belt, snake handlers just around the corner and I rested easy … come, Lord Jesus.

Those rocks have not moved since 1976. I don’t expect they’ll move much in the next fifty years, either.

In the morning the dreams break and I crack my eyes open. The fire’s out, but the sun is just so beautiful, rising in the blue sky above the blue lake. What else is there to do but jump in, dive in, get clean?

So yes, I do. And that’s the best part of all. Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean.

I had to walk out too, of course, the same way I came in. But that’s the kind of thing you can do when you’re hitchhiking, when you have no car and no obligations. It really didn’t matter when I got to Fayetteville. No one was holding dinner. I was glad to be on the road, and I would be glad to get off the road. Just for a week or so.

If we could just hear them, the rocks would tell their stories. Of Jesus and his guys, and all the miracles they’ve seen. Of my quick and quiet night beneath the stars. A different kind of miracle, but wonderful to me.

Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand. I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm and through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, and lead me home.

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Dec 5 18

At that time

by davesandel

At that time

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

At that time Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet. And he cured them. – From Matthew 15

Last week Sarah Young heard this from Jesus: “Problems are part of life. They are inescapable: woven into the very fabric of this fallen world. You tend to go into problem-solving mode all too readily, acting as if you have the capacity to fix everything. This is a habitual response, so automatic that it bypasses your conscious thinking. Not only does this habit frustrate you, it also distances you from me.”

What made Jesus’ problem-solving different? What did he do beforehand? What did he do in these moments with one-after-another-person-with-a-problem? Jesus seems to have excelled at both giving these problems to his Father, and receiving back the power to solve them. “They placed them at his feet. And he cured them.”

The sweet Japanese word “ma” stands for the silence between sounds. What goes on in those mystical instants, those infinite moments between Jesus and his Father? What song is Jesus listening to? To turn a phrase in T.S. Eliot’s masterpiece “The Hollow Men,”

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the (Spirit)

Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the (Spirit)

For Thine is the Kingdom

No wonder the theologians of the early Christian centuries settled on a “Trinity” to describe the one God. Their dance lifts our spirits, their song heals us. We destroy, they repair. We despair, they rejoice. We are God’s children, they love us forever.

Lord, I curl up like a baby in your lap and hold on tight. But do not be afraid, you say, even if you let go, I’ll keep you close and keep you safe and warm your soul. Just place yourself at my feet, and I will cure you. You are my sweet baby-child, and I love you.

From Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, entry for November 30. 2004-201

T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men,” 1925

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Dec 4 18

On that day

by davesandel

On that day

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain. And the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as waters cover the sea. – From Isaiah 11

Settled in his chair on a December morning much like this one, New Englander Robert Frost thought … and wrote, “Whose woods these are, I think I know.”

Whose woods, indeed.

In “The Bear,” William Faulkner claims the wilderness back from human interlopes: the wilderness “whose edges were being constantly and punily gnawed at by men with axes and plows, the old wild life at which the puny humans swarmed and hacked in a fury of abhorrence and fear, like pygmies about the ankles of a drowsing elephant.”

What happens when a shoot sprouts, as Isaiah describes? It breaks the ground, and then it grows roots that break the ground all around. And then it rises up in blossom, makes fruit, provides shelter. It becomes what Shel Silverstein called a “giving tree.” It sacrifices itself for those who need it, or think they do.

Lumberjacks and robber barons don’t need trees, but people do. Little boys do. The children need trees. Even God’s cobra has enough sense to leave alone the children, or did. Things seem to have changed during the centuries arranged according to the “knowledge of good and evil.” We ate too soon from a tree created for us, and then we took wrong road after wrong road.

We took too many trees.

Faulkner’s hero is Isaac. Isaac refuses to accept his inheritance, convinced that neither he nor any man has a right to own the ground God gave, or own the men God made. He knows his ancestors owned and abused African slaves. He wants no part of that. He tries to make amends where he can.

But mostly he cannot help but return to the land where he became a man, to honor his memory of a wildly courageous dog who spoke clearer than his humans: “I can’t be dangerous because there’s nothing much smaller than I am. I can’t be humble, because I’m already too close to the ground to genuflect. I don’t even know that I’m not going to heaven, because they already decided that I don’t possess an immortal soul. So all I can be is brave.”

This is the earth filled with the knowledge of the Lord. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Lord, my little horse must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near, between the woods and frozen lake on the darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake to ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound’s the sweep of easy wind and downy flake … The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.

(Thank you, Robert Frost)                                                         

from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, published in New Hampshire, 1923

from Go Down, Moses, “The Bear” by William Faulkner, 1942

 

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Dec 3 18

In days to come

by davesandel

In days to come

Monday, December 3, 2018

In days to come, many peoples shall say, “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” – From Isaiah 2

Margaret called to me, “I’m out of your way.”

“Should I start cooking?”

“Any time.” I’m making liver and onions, with bacon, peas and boiled potatoes. Margaret doesn’t want to handle liver on the same day she eats it. So that slimy task falls to me. I don’t mind. I like being needed.

Who doesn’t?

In his new book Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How We Heal, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse quotes Arthur Brooks, “Work is where we create value with our lives. Properly understood, work is the sacred practice of offering up our talents for the service of others.”

In other words, as an enthusiastic bedbug exterminator exclaimed to Brooks, “I am needed. I have a purpose. I’ve become a go-to guy for the company. These people need me. I’ve never had that.”

I’m getting better at the liver gig. Even before opening the white butcher paper-wrapped package, I cut it into thirds. And then as the manageably small, thin pieces of liver are fried in the bacon grease, I put them on top of the fried onions, and then small pieces of bacon on top of that. I keep layering until all the liver is soft, tantalizing, and piled high. Wonderful flavors, smells, textures. And at the table, alongside the potatoes and peas, it is still hot.

Being German on both sides, I’m “blessed” with the Protestant work ethic. If I make the right kind of list, I usually get the work done and am ready to start fresh the next day. But what I do not do enough is “climb the Lord’s mountain.”

That’s a different kind of work. Mostly, it requires that I sit rather than move, and quiet my mind rather than engage it to solve problems. In this work I feel rich and satisfied. I know the value of my life. I am appreciated by God and by those I can more easily pray for. I breathe more deeply. I wait, while the rebirth of wonder that I crave rides up alongside me. “Come on!” God cries. “Follow me.”

This mountain-climbing is the foundation of everything. When I walk in God’s path, instructed in his ways, I do not get lost. I am less compulsive. I feel my kinship with all God’s family, and I consider more carefully the work of my hands.

Maya Angelou wrote:

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet,

Whose hands can strike with such abandon

That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living

Those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness

That the haughty neck is glad to bend.

Out of such chaos, of such contradiction

We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it, we, this people …

*      *         *

There it is, Lord. This is how you make us to live, day by day. Seeing thee more clearly, loving thee more dearly, following thee more nearly, while you establish the work of our hands, O Lord.

 Ben Sasse, Them: Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal, p. 65, 2018

Maya Angelou, “A Brave and Startling Truth,” 1995, from The Complete Poetry, 2015

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Dec 2 18

The days are coming

by davesandel

The days are coming

First Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2018

In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: “The Lord our justice!”– from Jeremiah 33

Today the frozen steel Illinois winter is covered over with sunshine. Back yard birds fill their mouths with seeds, the chickens catch up all that falls below. Urbana, the sea of trees, hosts thousands of birds. They have been here far longer than us. Today they sing and sing in the sun.

But I must answer the front doorbell. The morning sun just begins to cross our drive. Yesterday’s ice melts. Standing a step below me, my sweet carefully made-up friend waits to give me her Awake magazine. This month’s topic is grief. She wonders if I know anyone in the California Camp Fire. No. Not this time. I know others. Grief rests, waits, in the corner. I think of my favorite book of the year, Cry, Heart, But Never Break.

Her breath steams in the cold. In the backyard two cardinals join our flock of sparrows, and a red headed woodpecker, and a blue jay. The blue jay is bigger than our baby chicks when they were two weeks old. It scares me sometimes with its blue jay glare.

My friend doesn’t want the open front door to let in all that cold air. She asks me to read, for myself, 2 Corinthians 1:3. She shows it to me on her phone, highlighted, and she bids me farewell. Till next time. Au revoir. Her silent companion smiles up at us. They are doing their work. They are doing what needs to be done. Soon they can have some coffee.

Paul tells me to praise my Father, the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” Their morning reminder softens my heart. And now, back watching the birds, I notice that even Jeremiah, so persecuted and full of pain, so unwilling to do what God insisted that he alone could do, comforts me today.

For Jeremiah to use words like “safe” and “secure” required him to look beyond his own sores and sadness. To claim the fiery God who seduced him (Jeremiah 20) as “the Lord our justice,” Jeremiah chose to look through the smoke and ruins and see reconstruction. He chose. He chose to see glory. He chose joy. And implicit in his choice is the request that I do the same.

How precious are your thoughts, O Lord. How wonderful your breath on my cold heart, my hungry heart, my willing child’s heart. Soften me like the bread dough on our counter, and raise me up to praise your name.

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Nov 28 18

test

by davesandel

wake up. sing. smile and show your teeth. Breathe steam into the cold air. You are loved. Advent is near. God is here.

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Aug 27 18

The Love Story of Hosea

by davesandel

This is an excerpt from Love Life for Every Married Couple, pp. 228-236, by Ed Wheat, I980. It concludes an optimistically titled chapter, “How to Save Your Marriage Alone.”

The Love Story of Hosea

(A first person narrative expository dramatic sermon by Dr. John W. Reed, As­sociate Professor of Practical Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.)

I have been called the prophet of the broken heart, but I would rather be remembered as the prophet of love and hope. I am Hosea, prophet of God to Israel, my homeland. Come with me to my home on the outskirts of Samaria. There beneath the oak tree is Gomer, my wife. I love her as I love my own life. You will learn to love her too. Sitting beside her is our son, Jezreel. He is eighteen now, handsome and strong—a young man with a heart for God. At Gomer’s feet and looking up at her is Ruhamah, our daughter. Do you see how her raven hair glistens? She is the image of her mother. She was sixteen just half a year ago. And then Ammi, her brother—fifteen and as warm and bubbling as the flowing brook that you hear in the background.

We are happy and at peace. It has not always been so.

I began my ministry as a prophet almost thirty years ago during the reign of Jeroboam II. Those were years of prosperity. The caravans that passed between Assyria and Egypt paid taxes into Jeroboam’s treasury and sold their goods in our midst. But they also left their sons and daughters and their gods. These gods and the gods of the ancient Canaanites and of Jezebel have wooed the hearts of my people. Altars built for sin offerings have become places for sinning.

If you were to walk through my land today, you would see images and altars in ail the green groves. My people have many sheep and cattle. Some think that Baal, the so-called fertility god, is the giver of lambs, of calves, and the fruit of the field. Every city has its high place where Baal is worshiped. There is a high place not far from here—you are never far from a high place in Israel in these days! Sometimes at night we hear the beat of the priest’s music and the laughter of the sacred prostitutes. Last week a man and woman who live three houses from us sacrificed their infant son to Baal.

You may wonder how Jehovah’s people could sink to such unholy ways. It is because the priests of God have departed from Him. They delight in the sins of the people; they lap it up and lick their lips for more. And thus it is “Like priests, like people.” Because the priests are wicked, the people are too. Surely God will judge. My beautiful land is just a few short years from being crushed under the iron heel of the Assyrian military might.

Yes, thirty years ago God appointed me a prophet in Israel. My father, Beeri, and my honored mother had taught me early to fear Jehovah, the One true God of Israel. They taught me to hate the calf deity of the first Jeroboam. Daily we prayed. Daily we longed to return to the Temple in Jerusalem, Daily we sang the songs of David and hungered for the coming of Messiah.

My ministry has always been hard. The first ten years were the hot-blooded days of my twenties. My sermons were sermons of fire. My heart bled for my people. I was little heeded and generally scorned. When I was thirty-two, God stirred me and I spent many days in prayer and meditation. I felt lonely and in need of a companion.

The first frosts of fall had tinted the leaves when I went with my parents to visit the home of Diblaim. In the busy activity of my ministry I had not seen the fam­ily for several years. We were engaged in lively conver­sation when through the door swept a young woman, Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. I remembered her as a pretty and somewhat spoiled child. But now she was a hauntingly beautiful woman. Her ivory face was framed in a wealth of raven black hair. I found myself fascinated by her striking beauty and had great diffi­culty in turning my eyes from her.

As we returned to our home that day, my father and I talked of many things. Yet, in my mind hung the image of a raven-haired Israelite. My father’s friendship with Diblaim flourished and often I journeyed with him to visit. I was strangely drawn to Gomer. Diblaim and my father talked incessantly. Then one day my father astounded me with the proposal, “Hosea, it is my de­sire that you should marry Gomer.” I did not question that! I loved Gomer. But something about her troubled me. As most young women of her time, she had a love for expensive clothing, jewelry and cosmetics. That I accepted as part of her womanhood. But she seemed somehow to be experienced beyond her years in the ways of the world.

Yet, I loved her. It was my father’s will that I should marry her. I knew that my burning love for Jehovah would win her from any wanton ways. God confirmed to me that indeed Gomer was His choice as well.

I wooed her with the passion of a prophet. God had given me the gift of poetry and I flooded Gomer with words of love.

She responded to my love. We stood together be­neath the lower-strewn canopy of the Hebrew mar­riage altar and pledged eternal love to God and to each other. We listened together to the reading of God’s laws of marriage. We heard the reminder that our mar­riage was a symbol of the marriage between Jehovah and Israel, His wife.

I took Gomer to my home. We read together the Song of Songs which is Solomon’s. We ate the sweet fruit of its garden of love. She was as refreshing to me as the first fig of the season. Gomer seemed content in the love of God and of Hosea. I looked forward to the future with hope.

Shortly after the anniversary of our first year of mar­riage Gomer presented me with a son. I sought God’s face and learned that his name was to be Jezreel—a name that would constantly remind Israel that God’s judgment was surely coming. It was a stark reminder to me of the times in which we lived. With the birth of Jezreel, Gomer seemed to change. She became distant and a sensual look flashed in her eye. I thought it a reaction to the responsibility of caring for our son. Those were busy days. The message of God inflamed me and I cried out throughout the land.

Gomer was soon with child again. This time a daughter was born. I learned from God that she was to be named Lo-Ruhamah. It ws a strange name and troubled me deeply for it meant, “Not loved.” For God said, “I will no longer show my love to the nation of Israel, that I should forgive her.”

Gomer began to drift from me after that. Often she would leave after putting the children to bed and not return until dawn. She grew worn, haggard, and rebellious. I sought every way possible to restore her to me, but to no avail. About eighteen months later a third child was born, a boy. God told me to call him Lo-Ammi – meaning, “Not my people.” God said to Israel, “You are not my people, and I am not your God.” In my heart a thorn was driven. I knew that he was not my son and that his sister was not the fruit of my love. Those were days of deep despair. I could not sing the songs of David. My heart broke within me.

After Lo-Ammi was weaned, Gomer drifted beyond my reach – and did not return. I became both father and mother to the three children.

I felt a blight upon my soul. My ministry seemed paralyzed by the waywardness of my wife. My prayers seemed to sink downward. But then Jehovah stirred me. I came to know that God was going to use my experience as an illustration of His love for Israel.

Love flamed again for Gomer and I knew that I could not give her up. I sought her throughout Samaria. I found her in the ramshackle house of a lustful, dissolute Israelite who lacked the means to support her. I begged her to return. She spurned all my pleadings. Heavy-hearted, I returned to the children and mourned and prayed. My mind warmed with a plan. I went to the market, bought food and clothes for Gomer. I bought the jewelry and the cosmetics she loved so dearly. Then I sought out her lover in private. He was suspicious, thinking I had come to do him harm. When I told him my plan, a sly smile crept over his face. If I could not take Gomer home, my love would not let me see her wanting. I would provide all her needs and she could think that they came from him. We struck hands on the bargain. He struggled home under his load of provisions. I followed in the shadows.

She met him with joy and showered him with love. She told him to wait outside the house while she replaced her dirty, worn apparel with the new. After what seemed hours, she reappeared dressed in radiant splendor, like the Gomer I saw that first day at the home of her father. Her lover approached to embrace her, but she held him off. I heard her say, “No, surely the clothes and food and cosmetics are not from your hand but from the hand of Baal who gives all such things. I am resolved to express my gratitude to Baal by serving as a priestess at the high place.”

It was as if I were suddenly encased in stone. I could not move. I saw her walk away. She seemed like the rebellious heifer I had seen as a youth in my father’s herd. She could not be helped but would go astray. The more I tried to restore her the further she went from me. Feeble with inner pain, I stumbled home to sleepless nights and days of confusion and grief.

Gomer gave herself with reckless abandon to the requirements of her role of priestess of Baal. She eagerly prostituted her body to the wanton will of the worshipers of the sordid deity.

My ministry became a pilgrimage of pain. I became an object of derision. It seemed that the penalty for the sin of Gomer—and of all my people—had settled upon me.

I fell back upon Jehovah. My father and mother helped me in the care and instruction of the three chil­dren. They responded in love and obedience. They be­came the Balm of Gilead for my wounded heart. The years passed as I sounded the burden of God through­out the land. Daily I prayed for Gomer and as I prayed, love sang in my soul.

She was my nightly dream and so real that upon waking I often felt as if she had just left me again. The years flowed on but the priests of Baal held her in their deadly clutch.

It was just over a year ago that it happened. The blush of spring was beginning to touch our land. In the midst of my morning hour of meditation, God seemed to move me to go among the people of Samaria. I was stirred with a sense of deep anticipation. I wandered through the streets.

Soon I was standing in the slave market. It was a place I loathed. Then I saw a priest of Baal lead a woman to the slave block. My heart stood still. It was Gomer. A terrible sight she was to be sure, but it was Gomer. Stark naked she stood on the block. But no man stared in lust. She was broken, haggard, and thin as a wisp of smoke. Her ribs stood out beneath the skin. Her hair was matted and touched with streaks of gray and in her eye was the flash of madness. I wept.

Then softly the voice of God’s love whispered to my heart. I paused, confused. The bidding reached thirteen shekels of silver before I fully understood God’s pur­poses. I bid fifteen shekels of silver. There was a pause. A voice on the edge of the crowd said, “Fifteen shekels and a homer of barley.

“Fifteen shekels, an homer and half of barley,” I cried. The bidding was done.

As I mounted the slave block, a murmur of disbelief surged through the crowd. They knew me and they knew Gomer. They leaned forward in anticipation. Surely I would strike her dead on the spot for her way­wardness. But my heart flowed with love.

I stood in front of Gomer and cried out to the people. “God says to you, ‘Unless Israel remove her adulteries from her, I will strip her as naked as the day that she was born, I will make her like a desert and leave her like a parched land to die of thirst.’ ”

I cried to a merchant at a nearby booth, “Bring that white robe on the end of the rack.”

I paid him the price he asked. Then I tenderly drew the robe around Gomer’s emaciated body and said to her, “Gomer, you are mine by the natural right of a husband. Now you are also mine because I have bought you for a price. You will no longer wander from me or play the harlot. You must be confined for a time and then I will restore you to the full joys of woman­hood.”

She sighed and fainting fell into my arms. I held her and spoke to my people, “Israel will remain many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or ephod. Af­terward Israel will return and seek the Lord her God and David her king. She will come trembling to the Lord and to his benefits in the last days. And where it was said of Israel, ‘Lo-Ru-hamah—you are not loved,’ it will be said ‘Ruhamah—you are loved.’ For the love of God will not give you up, but pursue you down your days. And where Israel was called, ‘Lo-Ammi, you are not my people,’ it will be said, ‘Ammi, you are the people of the living God,’ for I will forgive you and restore you.”

I returned home with my frail burden. I nursed Gomer back to health. Daily I read to her the writings of God. I taught her to sing the penitential song of David and then together we sang the songs of David’s joyful praise to God. In the midst of song I restored her to God, to our home, to our children.

Do you not see how beautiful she is? I have loved her always, even in the depth of her waywardness be­cause my God loved her. Gomer responded to God’s love and to mine. She does not call me “my master” but “my husband.” And the name of Baal has never again been on her lips.

Now my people listen to my message with new re­sponsiveness for I am a prophet that has been thrilled with a great truth. I have come to know in the depth of my being how desperately God loves sinners. How de­liberately He seeks them! How devotedly He woos them to Himself!

 

 

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May 20 18

Chariots of fire

by davesandel

This is the last of this year’s Lent and Easter devotions. Thank you for sharing them with me. God bless the coming weeks of what many churches call “ordinary time.” I hope to begin sharing devotions again with you on the first Sunday of Advent, which falls on December 2, 2018.

Chariots of fire

Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house. Then there appeared to them tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.

– From Acts 2

Episcopal Primate and Bishop Michael Curry brought home the fires of love to Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding yesterday. His sparkling eyes and bright smile edged his words with joy and confidence. He recalled the power of fire: “There was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, no Industrial Revolution without fire.”

And he referenced the words of Teilhard de Chardin: “The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

Fifty days after Easter, what wonderful words.

Rev. Curry said, “We were made by a power of love, and our lives are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.”

Andi tells us that our grandson Miles has been practicing saying, “No.” He seems to be enjoying the sound of the word. When she responded with the word “Yes,” he began to cry.

Andi and Aki have a wonderful sense of humor. Miles is developing his. Their family culture, which is grounded in mutual respect, welcomes the daily fires of love to purify and shape their words, their touch, their One-Another-Life.There is no hurry. There is never any hurry.

Raising a child need not be particularly efficient, but it must be loving. And that love, as Gerald May writes in The Awakened Heart, “cannot be a means to an end. Love is the lightning-spirit energy of the universe; it is something we join, not something we utilize” (p. 235).

In the royal wedding ten children held each other’s hands, lifted Meghan’s train, carried flowers, stared in wonder at everything around them. Their energy, best called love, brought me to my knees. They were spending their day with wide-open eyes, mostly unencumbered by thoughts of judgment, efficiency, or decorum. They were not tempted, as Dr. May says, “to overrun real love with frantic attempts to be helpful.”

And then, on this day after, tongues of fire fill the air, the Holy Spirit descends upon us, and once again we are called to choose life. It is the Feast of Pentecost! “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire,” Paul cautioned his Thessalonian friends. “DO NOT!”

We are God’s kids. And we can live this moment, tinged by flame, for all it’s worth.

Lord, you made the universe from the inside out. And you made US that way too. Our ways of doing what we do always come back to that we’re loved. We love God, we love each other, and I love myself just the way you love me, and have always loved me, and will always love me. Your way of love establishes the work of my hands.

 http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2018/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1713

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