Rebuilding With Nehemiah, Chapter 9, Day 6

Saturday: Never Abandoned

Text: 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God. (Neh. 9:31)

Neh 9 hebrews 13-5

Teach: Occasionally, I will ask a gathering of believers to share a Bible promise. Inevitably, someone will mention Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” This is what God told Jacob. It’s also what Jesus told his followers: “be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the end” (Matthew 28:20).

Neh 9 hound of heaven

Take: Psalm 139 is one of my favorites. I remember when I discovered it. I was in high school and our teacher had us read the poem, “The Hound of Heaven.” The author, Francis Thompson, is described as a tortured soul, one who battled addictions. But he, like David, and the rest of us, realized that God is a relentless pursuer. But he is also gracious and merciful. No matter what we’ve done, how arrogant or disobedient we are, he will never abandon us.

Task: Make time to read Psalm 139, or the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) and thank God for his gracious mercy. He will never leave you. Ever.

Advent 18: Aromas of Christmas

When you think of the aromas of Christmas, what comes to mind?

Pine. Peppermint. Fresh baked bread. Snickerdoodles. Honey baked ham. Mulled cider. A warm and cozy fire.

All pleasant. Cozy. Enveloping.

What about poop? What about cow, donkey, and the ever odoriferous pig?

Once upon a lifetime ago, I worked at a Shell Gas Station, ringing up customers in the convenience store. We were a farm community. The local large animal vet would work with students from a nearby college. Everyday they would come through the store for snacks and sodas–and their odor always proceeded them.

And lingered long after they left…way too long.

As I listened to a customer complaining about the pungent smell one day I found myself thinking about the stable where Jesus was born. I don’t imagine it smelled of pine and cinnamon. No it smelled like a barn, with animals…and manure.

About the closest most folks get to that is once a year when they traipse off to the county or state fair.

Why would God choose to be born in that manner, in that kind of place?

He’s not afraid of or put off by any mess in our lives.

Psalm 139 paints the clear picture that there is no height or depth that God will not go in pursuing us. He loves us that much.

He is not repulsed by the stink of our lives, the rottenness of our sins. His love is relentless as it it lavish.

There’s a funny thing about poop. We try and mask the smell with pretty smells. But all we end up with is cinnamon poop.

Perhaps God sent his son into the world, to a stable, to lay in a manger so that we would realize his amazing love for us and so that we would find him and quit trying to cover our messes.

For God so loved…

Book Review: Relentless Pursuit


Relentless Pursuit
God’s Love of Outsiders Including the Outsider in All of Us
Ken Gire
Bethany House Publishers, 2012
171 pages

Let me begin by telling on myself. I’m the kid that cried whenever Rudolph got to the Island of Misfit Toys. I have always felt like I was on the outside looking in. So to read a book addressed to outsiders was both validating and encouraging.

Way back when I was in high school creative writing, I was introduced to Thompson’s poem, The Hound of Heaven. I was a relatively new believer at the time, but I remember writing a piece that compared the poem to Psalm 139. I was impactful then, and Gire’s handling of the topic and material not only brought back the old thoughts, but gave me even greater insight to consider.

I was interested in reading and reviewing this book from the perspective of what it had to say to those outside faith. What ended up surprising me was how much it had to say to those on the inside with pieces and parts of themselves still outside God’s care and forgiveness.

I appreciated the Gire includes the stories of Thompson, C. S. Lewis, Eugene O’Neil and Dorothy Day, and Annie Lamott along with his own. I felt as I was reading and going briefly through the study questions at the end of each chapter that I was being invited to add my story to theirs. Another thing that he does very well is draw from scripture, both the Old and New Testaments. He is quite learned regarding so many topics, but he doesn’t come across in a expert way that would be offish to the reader, either as an insider or an outsider.

Two things that Gire mentions, somewhat in passing, really stood out to me. The first is a quote that Gire uses by Brene Brown from The Hustle for Worthiness stopped me completely. In it she says, “we stand outside of our story.” The entire quote seems to explain Gire’s understanding of what it means to be an outsider. The other is his reference to the Runaway Bunny. I could pay off most of my credit card debt if I had a dollar for every time I read that children’s classic. But I never made the connection with running away from God. It works though and I will remember it for a long time.

For me, the highpoint of the book was Gire’s handling of the topic of shame. I have read many books on this topic, from Bradshaw to Wilson, but there was something in Gire’s presentation that makes it less overwhelming. For example, he describes coming to terms with his ADD—yet another issue I could relate to. The way he presents his journey reminded me of another book read long ago, Making Friends With Your Shadow.

This is not a long book, but it is deep. It is inviting, but not simplistic. It is personal, but also relatable. I recommend it. It is set up with study questions, but I think it would take a very close and trusting group to deal honestly with this material—or hopefully they would be by the time they were done.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Bethany House Publishers blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

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