Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Heart Like Hannah’s

I recently read the story of Hannah in the Bible. 1 Samuel 1:1-28.

It really is a beautiful story and I have been thinking about what it would be like to have a heart like Hannah’s.

In 1 Samuel we read about Elkanah who has 2 wives. One, Peninnah, “who had given him sons and daughters” and Hannah who was childless.

Can you imagine Hannah’s hurt? It would be difficult enough “sharing” a husband, but then being unable to get pregnant while the other wife seems to be an endless supplier of children.

I have shared before that we had struggles with infertility and there were times that we were trying month after month with no “result”. I had some women in my life at that time that got pregnant either by accident or literally on their “first try”.  It was something I shouldn’t have taken personally, but honestly at the time I felt like they got pregnant “at” me. (I never said I didn’t have issues!) 🙂

So I can empathize with how Hannah must have felt here and understand that her feelings were probably magnified even more seeing the success that wife #2 was having.

Elkanah was a faithful man and every year he would go and offer sacrifices at Shiloh. And he loved Hannah offering her a double portion of the sacrificial meat over his other wife. (May I just say that I love that about this man….how he loves Hannah so much,even in spite of her inability to bear him a child)

Maybe Peninnah is jealous about this….we don’t really know, but what we do know is that she tormented Hannah. Verse 6 says “Peninnah used to infuriate Hannah until Hannah trembled with irritation because the Eternal had not given Hannah children.”

Talk about adding salt to the wound. Hannah doesn’t need anyone to point out the obvious here and yet Peninnah pushes that button, year after year. So much so that Hannah won’t eat.

One day Hannah goes and “presented herself before the Lord”. In Verse 11 we hear Hannah’s prayer. “Eternal One, Commander of heavenly armies, if only You will look down at the misery of Your servant and remember me—oh, don’t forget me!—and give Your servant a son, then I promise I will devote the boy to Your service as a Nazirite all the days of his life. [He will never touch wine or other strong drink,][a] and no razor will ever cut his hair.”

Haven’t we all been there? Desperate and crying out to God, maybe even making promises in return for what we are asking??

The priest Eli hears Hannah and thinks she is drunk because he sees her lips moving but doesn’t hear anything. (Does this strike you just the tiniest bit funny too??) and he goes to her and tells her to basically stop making a fool of herself!

But Hannah has such a humble response…. Verse 15: “My lord, I am not drunk on wine or any strong drink; I am just a woman with a wounded spirit. I have been pouring out the pain in my soul before the Eternal One. 16 Please don’t consider your servant some worthless woman just because I have been speaking for so long out of worry and exasperation.”

A woman with a wounded spirit, pouring out her soul and pain to the Eternal One.

Have you ever found yourself here friend? I have.

Eli tells her to stop worrying and may God fulfill her request and Hannah’s spirits are lifted.

Here’s where the story gets even better!!

Verse 19: “The next morning, they rose early to worship the Eternal One. Then they went back to their home at Ramah, and Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife. The Eternal remembered her petition; and in the new year, Hannah became pregnant. When her son was born, she named him Samuel, which means “His name is El (God),” because she said, I asked the Eternal One for him.”

God heard her request and she is pregnant. I can imagine the joy in her heart!! So my first thought when I had gotten this far in the story was did she follow through with her promise?

The year goes by and it is time to go again to Shiloh to offer sacrifices but Hannah stays behind with Samuel. She tells her husband “When the child can eat solid food, I will bring him so that he can appear in the presence of the Eternal One and remain there continually.”

Did you catch that? Remain there continually!! Here is a woman tormented because she was unable to bear children and for years remained barren. God answers her prayers and she is faithful…but her faith will cost her something won’t it?

Can you imagine giving up your finally, firstborn son to a priest to be raised in the presence of God? An honor yes…but her mother’s heart must have hurt a little having to let him go.

And it says that once Samuel was weaned she brought him to the priest Eli and says “My lord, I swear I am the woman who was praying to the Eternal One in front of you. 27 It was this child I prayed for, and the Eternal has indeed granted me the petition I made.28 So, as I vowed, I will lend him back to the Eternal. For as long as he lives, let him serve our Eternal One. And she left Samuel there with Eli to serve the Eternal One.”

And she left Samuel there….

I am just amazed at Hannah’s faith and her choice to honor God, because He honored her request. Even if it hurt her to let her son go…she made the choice to “give back” the gift that was God’s in the first place.

Oh how I want to have a heart like Hannah’s. To have faith in spite of many difficult seasons. To believe that God can and will honor a faithful request and then to continue to honor Him by letting go of what is most important for a bigger purpose.

Without getting into all of it, here is a foreshadowing of Samuel’s future….1 Samuel 4:1 “And all of Israel was influenced by Samuel’s words.” Oh and Hannah?? God continued to be faithful to her as well and she gave birth to 3 sons and 2 daughters!

Imagine how things might have been different for Hannah, for the nation of Israel had Hannah not been faithful? These passages are encouragement to me to stay the course and to faithfully follow what God is asking of me….even if it is hard, because there may be a greater purpose or plan that isn’t revealed to me yet.

I don’t know what “season” you find yourself in tonight – but my prayer is that you too will seek to have Hannah’s servant heart, to continue to bring your requests to God and to be willing to stay the course. I am praying this for each of you!!

Run to Him

I have been slowly reading through the book of John with my Hello Mornings group this summer. I have loved this and have been learning so much about Jesus, His walk on earth and about His character.

I will be honest that I have struggled in the past reading the Bible on my own. I just find myself overwhelmed by it all and so as an excuse, stay away from really diving in and trying to understand it. This challenge has “forced” me (in a good way) to really study the verses and do my best to understand them.  Then we share our thoughts as a group and my understanding and insight grows.

It has been just what I needed in this season of my life.

The past few days we have looked at the death and resurrection of Lazarus. (John 11:1-44)  I have heard teachings on these verses before. One specifically was in the book “I Will Carry You” by Angie Smith. I don’t have the book with me so can’t quote her words verbatim, but the imagery stuck with me…and I am going to share it with you, so keep reading! 🙂

As we read in John, Lazarus is sick – John 1-3 “A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Master, the one you love so very much is sick.”

This is a close friend of Jesus…and what is His response??

When Jesus got the message, he said, John 11: 4-7 “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”

His close friend is dying, and He waits.

As someone who has lost a best friend, I know the anguish of hearing the end was near and wanting to get on the first plane possible to be there….and yet He waits.

He waits, not because He doesn’t care, but because He can see a bigger outcome – one where God will be glorified.

By the time Jesus arrives to the home of Lazarus he has been dead and buried for four days. Martha gets word that Jesus is finally coming and “Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him.”

Here is where the imagery comes in….as I remember Angie writing she said that Martha ran to Jesus. Can you see her? A woman in her long robes, picking up her skirts and running to Jesus.

Is she hurting? Absolutely, her brother has just died and her Savior didn’t show up in time to save him.

Is she angry? My guess would be yes! I would be!!

But what is her response?

She runs TO Jesus.

She does question Him – John 11:21-22 “Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

but see Jesus’ response….so beautiful.

John: 25-26 “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”

Is she upset and hurt, maybe angry and confused – YES!!

But she believes…all along she has believed.

Then Martha goes to get Mary, see her response  – John 11: 28 After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”

29-32 The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Is she angry, upset, hurt? YES

But what is her response?

She runs TO Jesus.

As we all know this familiar story, we know the final outcome. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. God gets the glory.

But my takeaway from this study is the reactions of these beautiful women.

Of anyone, these are some of Jesus’ closest followers, they expected their brother would be saved because they had seen Jesus perform miracles. If for a stranger – of course for a close friend right?

And when things don’t go as they had planned they have a choice (don’t we all??!) and regardless of how they are feeling, they still choose to run to Jesus.

I wish I could say that my response was the same.

Unfortunately at times of great stress, I too get angry, I too question God – but instead of running TO Him – I run away. Convinced His love wasn’t available to me too. Choosing to remain in my bitterness and resentment of how things turned out, I shut out God in my life.

It isn’t pretty and it isn’t a place I ever want to remain long…if ever!

What I see from this example in John is how we can choose to respond.

Those situations of trials, death and loss and frustration WILL come. It is promised to us. John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Instead of running away, let’s follow the examples of Mary and Martha…. and when those troubles come……RUN Run to Him. Don’t shut God out but press into Him, rely on Him for strength and trust in the promise that He has overcome the world.

Angry Harmonica

Anyone who has or has come in contact with a two year old has likely seen a tantrum. My sweet princess of a girl is no exception. She can sass me in a way I was unprepared for as a mother. 🙂

On a daily basis she spits, screams, stomps and cries. On the other hand she can also be so so sweet with her smiles and her hugs and her strings of incomprehensible words. She is a joy.

But a week or so ago she discovered a harmonica in our toy room. And she started making some music.

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Looks innocent enough right?? But the truth behind this picture is that she was mad at me about something and so she started playing what I called the “angry harmonica”

Every time I would ask her a question she would grimace at me and play the harmonica. Did you even know it could be played angry?!

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I can see the growl in her expression here….

And so throughout the evening she played away….and when I talked to her she blew that angry harmonica at me.

Isn’t she precious?

But in all seriousness, how much different am I really?

While I don’t play an “angry harmonica” at people literally, I certainly find others ways to share my frustrations with others.

Anger isn’t something that I have been comfortable talking about. Admitting that anger is a problem for me is even more tough. I would like you all to see me happy and put together.

But I’m not. Most of the time.

I have a hot temper, I get frustrated easily and those closest to me get to “experience” my reactions.  Dominic once said “you would never act that way in front of people outside our family”….and he is right. I take advantage of the fact that my family is “stuck” with me and often let that belief justify my harsh behavior.

Today I read this post by Lisa Jo Baker and it hit home. Especially when she shared what her friend told her – “Lisa-Jo if you struggle with temper at all you better learn how to control it before you have kids. Because you can’t parent with an out of control temper.”

Wow isn’t that the truth??

I am not an effective parent when my emotions are out of control. When I am blowing my “angry harmonica” at people I leave a trail of hurt. I don’t want that to be what my children, my husband remember most about me.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 says “Do not be quick to anger,for anger sits comfortably in the lap of fools.”

Ephesians 4:26 “When you are angry, don’t let it carry you into sin.”

Lisa Jo had several ideas for taming a temper…and I encourage you to hop over and read her full post…it is that good!

For me, this is a constant challenge and something that I need to be in daily prayer about. So that when I feel that frustration come, I can find ways, through prayer and maybe a little “time out”, calm my spirit so that my children remember me for my hugs and unconditional love and not my temper.

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Today I am playing the harmonica of peace. Want to join me? Is this an area that you struggle with?? Leave me a comment and I will pray for you too! Us mama’s have to stick together!

The Sound of Grace

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As a part of the Hello Mornings Summer Session we are studying the book of John. I am loving this because we started at the beginning of the book and are reading 15 or so verses each morning and then really taking time to think about what was happening, who Jesus was and the promises we can see about Him.

Today we read John 7:51-8:11. 

[The most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include John 7:53–8:11.]

53 Then the meeting broke up, and everybody went home.

A Woman Caught in Adultery

8 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

I shared with my group about a dramatic skit that I had seen by Nicole Johnson at a Women of Faith event several years ago. Even today it sticks with me. (I would love to someday learn and perform it, it is that moving)

She gave her perception of the woman’s view. Here she was caught in adultery, and she knew the punishment for her crime.  An angry mob of men drag her out into the street and tempt to bait Jesus. I can imagine this crowd angry and waiting for Jesus to give them the go ahead to carry out this woman’s fate.

And then there is Jesus. Kneeling in the ground and writing in the sand. We don’t know what He was writing, but I shared this morning that I like to think maybe He was writing THIS is why I came, THIS is why you all need the grace that only I can give.

The woman is crouched on the ground in anticipation of what is next, waiting for the first stone to hit. Can you even imagine the fear she must have felt?

The crowd becomes more intense and demand that Jesus answer them. He stands up and saysAll right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

Bracing herself, she waits…..

And then she hears the most amazing sound.

THUD, THUD…..THUD, THUD, THUD.

One by one the men drop their rocks and leave. Until the only one that remains is Jesus.

As she looks up at Him, this gentle Savior, he asks where her accusers are, didn’t even one condemn you?

And she replies “No”…

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

What an encounter.

A woman, sin filled, rescued by the Son of God….with the simple THUD of grace.

I am not that different from that woman.

While adultery is not my sin….I certainly have my own list of sins that I could share. Especially when it comes to my marriage, I often find myself giving Dominic the “worst” of me and not the best.  It is even harder when we work together every day.  While there are many benefits, tensions can arise and I am stubborn. (I know, hard to believe right?) 😉

I can argue my point of view and yet be completely wrong, but “justified” in my own mind about my rightness. It isn’t a quality I am proud of and something that I continue to ask God to refine in me.

But Dominic is good about offering me grace, and on an almost daily basis, I experience my own THUD’s of grace.

I am so grateful that Jesus gave us this example. It is a reminder that I should not cast the first stone because I too have sin in my life. But along with the grace is a challenge. “Then go and sin no more!”

THIS is where I need refinement and accountability. And I am grateful that I can share these messy parts of my life here to hopefully continue to move forward.

I have to wonder how that woman was changed after this encounter with Jesus. And I ask myself why I am not profoundly changed by His grace every day.

It is something to be mindful of and prayerful about. A true change of my heart, a heart that has been impacted by the sound of grace.

How have you experienced the sounds of grace?

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