Posted in Christianity, Life

Great Books I’ve Read in 2022 – Part 2

He Who Fights with Monsters by Shirtaloon
I mentioned this in a post about books a couple months ago. My brother recommended the series to me. So far I’ve listened to three of them. I’m still behind; the seventh comes out next week. But I’m enjoying them and I’m not in a hurry.
The main character is Jason, an ordinary human who wakes up in a world full of magic and monsters with his own personal video game interface. He learns things and accumulates lots of friends. They all have personality and great interactions. I love the group that has formed around him. Few of them would have become friends of their own initiative, but Jason has brought them together and they’ve become a great team who all care about each other deeply. Their interactions regularly make me chuckle, and there are plenty of deeper emotions along the way, too.
It’s also a rare case where I think I enjoy the audiobooks more than I would reading them. They’re very long, and I think I would find the length overwhelming, but the reader is excellent, and I’m happy to listen to just a little at a time.

Crochet One-Skein Wonders: 101 Projects from Crocheters around the World edited by Judith Durant
After many years of only knitting, I have been learning to crochet over the past several months. I’ve also been trying to use up my yarn stash, and this book was the perfect combination of those two things. The projects are sorted by yarn weight, and there’s so much variety. If you like things made out of yarn, you can most likely find some options in here. I checked this out from the library and made several projects. They came out well. I will probably borrow it again, or perhaps acquire a copy to keep.

Peanut Butter Dogs by Greg Murray
Exactly what it sounds like: photographs of dogs eating peanut butter.
I found this on display at a library and immediately took it home and looked through the whole thing.
Their FACES. It’s SO CUTE AND FUNNY.
Unless you’re afraid of dogs, you need to see this book.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien selected and edited by Humphrey Carpenter
I had a moment last year when I went, “Wait, why haven’t I read this book yet???” and I bought myself a copy. Then, of course, it sat on my shelf untouched for a while. But I picked it up this spring when I was sick and ran out of library books. I ended up reading it in bits and pieces between other books, because it was very slow reading. But excellent. I learned many interesting things and found the sources of quotes I’ve seen often. I also came out of it very sad that Tolkien wasn’t able to get The Silmarillion published before he died.
If you’re interested in The Lord of the Rings, this is well worth the time.

You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News by Kelly M. Kapic
In You’re Only Human, Kelly Kapic challenges the notion that we should always be doing more, reminding Christians that God made humans with limitations and those limitations aren’t sinful as we often think or imply, and properly honoring our limits also honors God. He discusses the theology of this concept, then considers what living it out might look like in different areas of life.
I think this is so needed and important, and I’m very glad I read it. I recommend it highly.

For more book recommendations, click here.

Posted in Christianity, Thoughts

Does God Like You?

When I ask [“Does God like you?”], I try to keep eye contact, but it is amazing how quickly people drop their eyes to the ground. It is painfully clear this is an uncomfortable question. Rather than interrupting the uneasy silence that often follows such a question, I sometimes notice eyes starting to moisten. Why? What is behind this visceral reaction to a simple question? – You’re Only Human by Kelly M. Kapic

I have a writing problem: villains.

The worst villains in my stories have little depth and tend to come across as doing evil things For the Evulz. This is because I know – I know – from experience – that as soon as I give them personality and motivations, I will go, “But look at all the good things about them. Look how hurt they are. Look how good they could be,” and I will want to give them a redemption arc. And sometimes, storywise, one needs a villain without a redemption arc.

I think there’s a picture here of how God feels about sinful human beings. The God who “loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” The God who “wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth.” I love my characters. I like my characters. As soon as I get to know them, I want the worst of them to be better, not just so they stop doing bad things, but because I like who they are and I want it to shine.

As finite humans, I’m not sure we’re capable of liking every other finite human in the world. Interests and temperaments and personalities differ, not always in compatible ways. We don’t have the capacity or time to deeply know every single person. This means that for us, treating others with love sometimes has to be a choice we make in spite of not liking them much. Although we can instead make sinful choices out of our limitations, the limitations themselves are not inherently sinful. God made finite humans and thought it very good.

Good news: God is not finite.

God made you very good. He knows you. He sees all the reflections of himself in you, and he wants you to shine. And he has the capacity to do this with everyone, all at once.

Our human necessity of loving in spite of not liking can taint our picture of God. It can make us feel God loves us only because he has to, with no sense that he actually likes us. Which is not a recipe for a healthy relationship, is it? Do you want to take all your problems and sins and praises to someone who just puts up with you because they’re supposed to? What about, instead, someone who really thinks you’re great? Who likes your smile and they way you get excited about your favorite kind of weather, who likes to hear about your thoughts and ideas, who likes to see you happy because, well, it means you’re happy, who just likes you?

Sin, of course, also taints things. God hates sin. Ignoring that does no one any favors. But if all we ever tell people is that they’re a sinner and God hates sin, the logical conclusion is, “God must not like me. He just loves me because he has to.” And we’ve come right back around to the problem.

(For more on this topic without me inundating you with excessively long quotes, I highly recommend chapter 2 of You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News by Kelly M. Kapic. Here are a couple relevant paragraphs:
“Have you ever felt that your parents, or spouse, or your God loved you, and yet wondered if they actually liked you?…”
“While I understand where they come from, claims that God can’t stand to be in the presence of sin are fundamentally opposed to the gospel and the nature of God….”)

Recently, I sat uncomfortably while a full church auditorium laughed at a preacher joking about how sometimes he doesn’t like his child even though he loves them. As an adult, I understand that he meant sometimes his child is frustrating and disobedient and he doesn’t like those things. As a child, if I’d heard one of my parents tell a roomful of strangers they didn’t like me sometimes, I’d have been devastated and horribly embarrassed, and I might not be over it to this day. Disliking the problematic things someone does and disliking them personally are not the same, and it takes maturity to separate the concepts.

How on earth do we expect our children to grow up with a secure relationship with God if we think it’s funny to inject insecurity into what’s supposed to be the safest, securest relationship in their earthly life right now? If I’d had children of my own in that auditorium, we would be having a conversation about how sometimes Mommy doesn’t like their actions and choices, but they never ever need to worry that Mommy doesn’t like them. Mommy doesn’t just love them because she has to, she likes them very much.

For the record, I talked to that preacher, and he graciously agreed to think about what I said. I can’t do that with every single person who laughed. But what I can do is tell you, you, whoever you are, reading this right now:

God doesn’t just love you because he has to. He likes you very much.

(Quoted or referenced: John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; Genesis 1:31)

Posted in Christianity, Writings

Crosses

Clouds lie low over a field, thick and dark and rolling. Though they leech all color from the grass, rain never falls.

Spread across that grass: crosses. They lie flat, in ever-widening circles, every direction I turn, ready for victims.

An impossible task. But I try again.

The condemned squirm. They howl. They reason. I kneel on skin, try to pin them down, but they twist away or the hammer slips or they fight me off or I slide to the grass in defeat and let them go. I’ve never gotten one to stay.

But this time surer hands encircle mine. Another more solid than I adds his weight. The nails drive true, and when I glance back at our work, they remain on their crosses.

At last we stop. Sweat coats my hair, slides down my back. My hands ache. As I catch my breath, the crosses around me begin to lift, dropping into waiting holes in the ground, a jarring thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk.

The ground quivers, stills.

I spin slowly.

They hang there, bare and exposed, and I know them so well. I recognize their jealousies and greeds and longings and idols and a hundred other impurities.

They look like me.

And still they squirm and howl and reason and it’s awful and tears drip down my face but he is merciful. He breaks legs, sparing me the hours this could take. Slowly they fall limp, lifeless limbs hanging from nails as his once did.

And I am new. I stand taller. I smile as he takes my hand to lead me away. His clothes shine as they always have, and I reflect his light, dressed now in blood-cleansed white.

I don’t look back.

Sunlight breaks through heavy clouds.

 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:24

Posted in Christianity, Life

Life in Bible Times Projects

This summer at church, we have put all the kids together to learn some things about life in Bible times. I was put in charge of writing and language related topics and used this as an excuse to get around to some projects I’ve wanted to do for a while.


First, the failed project. Deep in a box in the shed was buried a kit for making papyrus I received as a gift probably more than a decade ago. How cool is that? Why did I wait so long to make use of it?

You soak the papyrus, and roll it flat, and soak the papyrus, and roll it flat, several times. Then layer the pieces and stack heavy things on them and let them dry.

It was really interesting to see it change texture during the process, but by the time it completely dried…

Yeah.

I can see how it would work. It’s very thin now, and in places the pieces do stick together. But obviously this is not right. Perhaps it was too old to work properly. Perhaps I did something wrong. Who knows. But I’m glad I finally tried it anyway.


Also while learning about writing, I smashed up some pottery to let the kids write on potsherds. It was more fun than you might expect.


And the project I’m very pleased with:

Is this completely historically accurate? Absolutely not. Do I still love it? Yes.

I made the prayer shawl, which was pretty simple, the main part is one big rectangle. Then embroidered the letters on the blue part. This was a little harder; I can’t write Hebrew. So I printed it out and pinned the paper to my fabric then embroidered right through it. The tedious part was getting the paper off. I recommend wetting it and letting it dry, then tearing it away gently. And having something with a small point like a seam ripper nearby to pull at the pieces that get stuck.

I purchased the tassels for the corners, as well as a leather strap and 3D printed tefillin/phylacteries. Watched some Youtube videos to figure out how to tie the straps and put them on. And then became a VERY HAPPY NERD.

We certainly could have looked at pictures of these things. But as I said, I’ve been wanting to do this for quite a while anyway, so the class gave me motivation to make it happen. I loved putting this on and getting an idea of how Jesus might have felt doing so.

For the kids, I gave them small foldable boxes and let them decorate them, then we put in slips of paper with one of the verses that go in tefillin printed on it (I used Deuteronomy 6:4-9). At Walmart I found a roll of two-sided velcro for organizing cables, and it worked great to cut a piece sized to each person’s arm, and cutting small slits for the velcro at the bottom of the boxes let everyone wear their phylacteries.

Resources I used:
Printable Hebrew phrase for the prayer shawl: https://www.judaiquilt.com/How_To_Make_A_Tallit.html?fbclid=IwAR3WKo7KcRCwHex0BYG342fIY4vZg79jhSmYuH0t4ksmOPzkP89p623uWbE
Tassels: https://www.etsy.com/listing/1121250170/tzitzits-4pc-thin-wool-threads-choose?ref=yr_purchases
Long leather strip: https://www.etsy.com/listing/643735514/cow-leather-lace-super-soft-and-supple-3?ref=yr_purchases
The 3D printed tefillin were also from Etsy, but unfortunately they are no longer available and neither is the shop. I guess I got them just in time.
Videos for tying tefillin knots: https://www.youtube.com/user/danrabbi/videos
Putting on tefillin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvmRQimCtn4

Posted in Christianity

“You Have Permission to Not be Anxious”

I wish I could remember where I read this, but that knowledge is long gone. But though the source has not, the idea has stuck with me.

I think our world contains a lot of pressure to be stressed. There seems to be the implicit message that if you’re not upset about every single bad thing in the world and constantly worried about all the worst outcomes, you’re probably stupid, or you don’t care about anyone else. Or maybe both!

But that’s not what God says.

God says, over and over and over and over and over and over and over (and over), “Be anxious for nothing.” We can take this as an order we should never break, becoming extra anxious with guilt every time we get anxious, but I think there’s plenty of evidence in the Bible that grief and stress are reasonable in our broken world, and God wants to comfort and encourage when they get to us, not chalk it up to, “Well, that’s one more sin I’m forgiving.”

But he doesn’t ask you to feel that way.

It doesn’t always help. But sometimes remembering to look at things this way is exactly what I need to feel better.

Doesn’t it kind of sound too good to be true? It’s not! You are allowed to go about your day calm and content while everyone around you worries about everything. You really, really are.

Posted in Christianity, Life

Great Books I’ve Read in 2022 – Part 1

50209323. sx318 sy475 After Prayer: New Sonnets and Other Poems by Malcolm Guite
My friend Glen recently made the observation, “I like poetry, which means I hate most of it,” and if that’s not relatable I don’t know what is. But I have found a modern, currently-living poet whose work I consistently really like.
I’ve been slowly tracking down his books to read. He’s from Brittan, so I can’t always find them in my American libraries, but I’m happy to acquire copies to keep anyway. I actually listened to this one as an audiobook, read by the author. He reads his poetry well. One of my favorites was “The Christian Plummet”, which you can read (and hear) on his blog.
Also. I emailed him to ask if I could use his poems in my church bulletin. I’m constantly on the lookout for good material, and I’ve gotten braver about asking, since most people writing really good things aren’t necessarily putting it out there with blanket reprinting permission, but I’ve found they’re usually happy to allow this use. I expected a reply from a secretary or the like, BUT I GOT A REPLY FROM THE MAN HIMSELF.
I might have fangirled. A lot.

Hoping for Happiness: Turning Life’s Most Elusive Feeling into Lasting Reality by Barnabas Piper
Somehow Christianity as a whole has ended up either teaching that happiness doesn’t matter but JOY does, because it’s something you can have even while being miserable all the time, (honestly, I’ve always found explanations of how joy doesn’t have to mean you’re happy unconvincing), or that God wanting you to be happy means you should get to do whatever you want. Barnabas Piper gets into the theology of why happiness does matter, how to base your happiness on foundations that can support it, and why Christians should not feel guilty for enjoying things. I think this is an important discussion that many people need to hear, clearing up confusing and inaccurate messages that have been around for a long time.

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The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard
I stayed up wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too late finishing this book. Because I needed to.
A security guard picks up the latest best seller at the store where he works. It’s a true-crime memoir written by a woman who, as a child, was the only survivor when a man killed her family, and now she is trying to track down who did it.
The security guard knows who did it. It was him.
This book alternates between sections of that memoir and sections of the killer reading it and freaking out. It makes for something very different from your typical thriller, because obviously you know who done it the whole time. But it’s still gripping and fascinating. I couldn’t put it down.
Fair warning: not for the faint of heart. I’m not easily disturbed by books, but I did find this somewhat disturbing. XD Also, periodic strong language throughout.

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There is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell
The authors and I have different worldviews, and I didn’t agree with everything they said. But this book is full of excellent practical advice on how to be supportive when others are hurting. It’s an easy, unintimidating read that goes by quickly, and I think a lot of people could find it beneficial.

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The History of Ancient Egypt by Bob Brier
This is a series of lectures that I listened to as an audiobook, and I enjoyed it a lot. I’ve always found ancient Egyptian art and history interesting. This made for a good overview of the subject. It was mostly chronological, with occasional detours into specific topics like mummification or hieroglyphics. It is somewhat older (produced in 1999), and even I am aware of some things that have changed in what scholars know since then, and I’m sure there’s more. An up-to-date version would be interesting to have.
There’s so much (ancient Egypt lasted so long there were ancient Egyptian archeologists studying ancienter Egypt), and even this 24-hour-long audiobook can only scratch the surface. But that still provides plenty of opportunity to learn things.
Bob Brier clearly loves his subject, and I enjoyed listening to him. I also admired his treatment of the Bible stories of Joseph and the Exodus. He went through both and discussed things in the stories that ring true to Egyptian culture. I expected he would insist they’re just nonsense, so this was refreshing and I learned things.
My favorite tidbit out of it all: during the time of the Library of Alexandria, the only library that could really rival it was in Pergamum. Egypt didn’t want the competition, so they stopped exporting papyrus so the Pergamum library couldn’t keep making books. The Pergamum library had to find another way, and they started writing on vellum. Since vellum doesn’t roll nicely into scrolls like papyrus, they arranged it in folded stacks. Thus, the modern form of books.

For more book recommendations, click here.

Posted in Christianity, Thoughts

Redeeming the Time

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16

A few weeks ago, while Googling activity ideas for the Bible class I teach, I found a chart of days of the weeks divided into hours, telling the teacher to instruct children to fill in their activities to evaluate how much time they spend with God and ask themselves if it’s enough.

Children.

For one thing, children often have very little control over their schedules. Even as a young teenager, when I decided to start reading the Bible every day, though I am not a morning person, I chose to do so first thing in the morning… because I still had a bedtime. (This did not last long once I went to college and was in charge of how I spent my time.)

So first of all, please don’t do this to children.

But I hear the same thing directed at adults, too, and it’s based on such a fundamental misconstrual of Christianity.

Committing your life to God is supposed to involve your whole life. Living righteously should involve your whole life. Serving God is not limited to times you actively set apart for God things.

I could chart out how much time I spend specifically reading the Bible and praying and going to church. But how does that quantify moments when I think a quick prayer for a patron at the library? Or delight in a lovely tree God created? Or a million other things that are kingdom living but aren’t easily distilled into a simple list?

Holding a child? You’re forming their picture of what God’s love and care look like.

Doing your job responsibly and patiently? Demonstrating fruit of the Spirit.

Listening to someone who needs to talk when you’d rather be doing something else? That’s love.

Preparing and eating food? God designed our bodies to need regular nutrition and he knew this would take time; we don’t honor him by pretending this time isn’t important.

Reading stories? Jesus told stories all the time.

Curled up in bed too sick to think? This world is broken, and our bodies are broken, and we are waiting for Jesus to return again and make all things new.

Your entire life can and should be permeated with prayer and with growth of the fruit of the Spirit and with knowing God and with love and service for the people around you. These things frequently can’t be measured in minutes on a chart.

In our productivity-focused world, it’s easy to take Paul’s phrase “redeeming the time” as instruction to fill our time with as many spiritual activities as possible. But he doesn’t say, “redeeming the time, because the days are short,” as our world might, but, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The whole chapter is about righteous living in a world full of sin. We don’t have to stuff our lives with activities in order to fill them with goodness and righteousness and truth and wisdom and the Spirit and singing and thanksgiving and fear of God.

We make time for things that matter to us, and if you consistently find yourself unwilling to make time for overtly spiritual things, that could very well be a problem. But by itself, the amount of time spent on a few specific activities is such a shallow measure of someone’s faith.

Posted in Christianity

Easter/National Poetry Month

I’m a couple days late for Easter, but it’s still National Poetry Month. In celebration of both, I would like to share a few poems about Jesus’ crucifixion by Malcolm Guite. These are part of a series from his book Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year (Canterbury Press 2012), and he has also shared them here, here, and here (and given permission for further sharing).


II Jesus is given his cross

He gives himself again with all his gifts
And now we give him something in return.
He gave the earth that bears, the air that lifts,
Water to cleanse and cool, fire to burn,
And from these elements he forged the iron,
From strands of life he wove the growing wood,
He made the stones that pave the roads of Zion
He saw it all and saw that it is good.
We took his iron to edge an axe’s blade,
We took the axe and laid it to the tree,
We made a cross of all that he has made,
And laid it on the one who made us free.
Now he receives again and lifts on high
The gifts he gave and we have turned awry.


XI Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross

See, as they strip the robe from off his back
And spread his arms and nail them to the cross,
The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black,
And love is firmly fastened onto loss.
But here a pure change happens. On this tree
Loss becomes gain, death opens into birth.
Here wounding heals and fastening makes free
Earth breathes in heaven, heaven roots in earth.
And here we see the length, the breadth, the height
Where love and hatred meet and love stays true
Where sin meets grace and darkness turns to light
We see what love can bear and be and do,
And here our saviour calls us to his side
His love is free, his arms are open wide.


XII Jesus dies on the cross

The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black
We watch him as he labours to draw breath
He takes our breath away to give it back,
Return it to it’s birth through his slow death.
We hear him struggle breathing through the pain
Who once breathed out his spirit on the deep,
Who formed us when he mixed the dust with rain
And drew us into consciousness from sleep.
His spirit and his life he breathes in all
Mantles his world in his one atmosphere
And now he comes to breathe beneath the pall
Of our pollutions, draw our injured air
To cleanse it and renew. His final breath
Breathes us, and bears us through the gates of death.


XIII Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross

His spirit and his life he breathes in all
Now on this cross his body breathes no more
Here at the centre everything is still
Spent, and emptied, opened to the core.
A quiet taking down, a prising loose
A cross-beam lowered like a weighing scale
Unmaking of each thing that had its use
A long withdrawing of each bloodied nail,
This is ground zero, emptiness and space
With nothing left to say or think or do
But look unflinching on the sacred face
That cannot move or change or look at you.
Yet in that prising loose and letting be
He has unfastened you and set you free.


XIV Jesus is laid in the tomb

Here at the centre everything is still
Before the stir and movement of our grief
Which bears it’s pain with rhythm, ritual,
Beautiful useless gestures of relief.
So they anoint the skin that cannot feel
Soothing his ruined flesh with tender care,
Kissing the wounds they know they cannot heal,
With incense scenting only empty air.
He blesses every love that weeps and grieves
And makes our grief the pangs of a new birth.
The love that’s poured in silence at old graves
Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth,
Is never lost. In him all love is found
And sown with him, a seed in the rich ground.


XV Easter Dawn

He blesses every love which weeps and grieves
And now he blesses hers who stood and wept
And would not be consoled, or leave her love’s
Last touching place, but watched as low light crept
Up from the east. A sound behind her stirs
A scatter of bright birdsong through the air.
She turns, but cannot focus through her tears,
Or recognise the Gardener standing there.
She hardly hears his gentle question ‘Why,
Why are you weeping?’, or sees the play of light
That brightens as she chokes out her reply
‘They took my love away, my day is night’
And then she hears her name, she hears Love say
The Word that turns her night, and ours, to Day.

Posted in Christianity, Thoughts

Fruit of the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

I find it interesting that nothing in this list is a specific action. It’s not, “The fruit of the Spirit is becoming a preacher,” or, “The fruit of the Spirit is raising obedient children,” or, “The fruit of the Spirit is writing books about God,” or, “teaching a Sunday school class,” or, “taking food to a neighbor once a month,” or, “singing songs that praise God every day,” or, “reading the Bible this many minutes a day,” or, “attending this many church services a week,” or, “mailing out encouraging cards to hurting people,” or, “volunteering at a homeless shelter,” or, “[fill in any specific good thing you have ever felt pressured to do].”

This isn’t a reason for us not to do good things, but I think it’s a reason for us not to think we have to do every kind of good thing ourselves.

Lives permeated with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will bubble up into all sorts of good and righteous actions, but God is too big to be sufficiently imaged by one specific type of person. He does not ask his followers to all live identical lives, or even for one person to live the same way their entire life. His Spirit is perfectly capable of growing his wonderful fruit in all sorts of personalities and circumstances.

Sin is a problem in people’s lives; variety is not. If the person who sits next to you at church is doing life differently, it doesn’t necessarily mean either of you are doing it wrong.

Posted in Christianity

Redeeming Love

A farmer and his wife drive down the road in their wagon. The horses trudge along, hooves kicking up dust. The farmer leans over his knees, holding the reins.

His wife looks at him across the large gap between them on the seat, as they sit at either end of the bench. “You know,” she says, “when we first got married forty years ago, you used to sit right beside me.”

“I’m not the one who moved,” says the farmer, his eyes on the horses.

I’ve heard this illustration used in church many times as a warning about maintaining your relationship with God so it doesn’t disintegrate into nothing because you’re not putting in any effort.

And it’s horrible???

Does this uninvolved husband really sound like the God who loves people so much he came to earth as one of them and died to save them from the problems they brought on themselves? Who calls his followers his friends? Whose will for people is that they be joyful and at peace?

If someone who follows such a God is neglecting their end of the relationship, is he really going to sit there and let it happen? Wouldn’t he be sliding across that wagon bench, trying to get their attention back?

What if we tried something a little more like this:

When the farmer marries, the whole town talks about it. Everyone knows the woman has already been through a whole string of lovers. Everyone expects she’ll do it again. The farmer knows, too. But he marries her and he loves her with all he has. And for a while, she loves him and she’s happy.

Of course the day comes when she leaves him. While the whole town says, “We told you so,” the farmer frantically packs bags and rushes out in search of his wife. She’s nowhere to be found. It doesn’t stop him looking whenever he can, and even when he really can’t.

A rumor comes that she’s been spotted, in a town miles and miles away. He drops everything and jumps in his wagon. He finds his wife long deserted by the man she left with, and maybe several others. She’s so deep in debt she’s in jail, and without hesitation the farmer spends years and years of savings to pay it all off and set her free.

He lifts his wife into the wagon. Wraps her worn and weary body in a quilt. With the reins held loosely in one hand – they’re trusty horses, they’ll stay on the road – he puts a comforting arm tight around his wife, bending his head to murmur love and safety into her ear. Slowly tension drains out of her as she remembers why, out of all the men, this is the one she chose to marry, until she is asleep on the farmer’s solid shoulder.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love? Even in ways no more dramatic than neglect? Sure. Humans are fallible and fickle.

But God will be right behind, chasing after you.

Story loosely based on Hosea, where God shows us the kind of lover he is.