Friday, December 26, 2014

Dear Hannah

Dear Hannah,

I've been reading your story in 1 Samuel over and over for several weeks. 

What a legacy.  

You prayed repeatedly to the Lord to give you the desire of your heart for He had closed your womb. You were so deep in your emotion that the priest even thought you were drunk as you prayed on the temple steps. You were probably drained from asking God for a child. You possibly wondered why He had done this to you and I’m sure you asked Him “Why? Why me, God? Why have you closed my womb? Please give me a child. Please. Everyone else around me has a child. I know you see how Peninnah treats me, I know you do. Please God, have mercy and open my womb.” I know you probably wondered day after day what in the world God was waiting on. Why this horrible, long, wait?

The wait. The wait is what is so vital in this story. See, God wanted a godly man to carry Israel through a lifetime of guidance. He wanted to use someone, but He wanted their whole life. Would just any mother be willing to give up their child? No. Would just any mother be willing to drop off her only son after finally receiving what she prayed for? No. The Lord brought you through a long, exhausting wait, a silent wait where you wondered every day what He was doing. His silence might have seemed in vain at the time, but see Hannah, He wasn’t waiting... He was working. He was working to mold you through each exhausting prayer and every frustrated question you had. He was molding you, guiding you, drawing you into His presence. It was in your wait that desperation came to you and God brought you to a place where you looked at Him and said, “Okay, God. I’m here again and I am on my last thread…” It was at this point, because of the wait, when you made your solemn oath, that earnest promise. Did you have any idea what that vow would do for Israel? Did you know that the whole country of Israel would benefit from your vow? That vow allowed guidance for Israel for decades. Because of your vow, and your obedience to that vow, Israel had communication with God, something that had been rare in your days. You might not have seen it then, but God brought you to a place of such sadness, a place He had to bring you, a long place of silent waiting, so that you would vow to give your son back to Him, and indeed you did. You promised to give your son to the Lord and you followed through on your promise. You brought sweet Samuel back to those same steps, the very steps that you made your vow to the Lord and you left him there.

How did you do that? How did you not backtrack your vow? How did you not change your mind? Did you have any sort of fear? There had to have been thoughts in your mind… “What if some sick person takes my son and abuses him? What if he thinks I’ve abandoned him? What if Eli doesn’t love him the way I would? What if someone hurts him?” You didn’t have a phone or a pager or even the postal mail. Samuel couldn’t even let you know if someone had hurt him. He couldn’t call you or text you or write you. You had no idea what was going on with him. You lived completely in the unknown. The unknown is worse than knowing the bad. The unknown can drive you mad, it can make you crazy. But not you, Hannah, you trusted God anyway. He must have molded that into you also during your wait. You were waiting, He was working. Because of that, Israel came back into communication with God Almighty. 

I think about all of these things and I think about the fears or worries or anxieties you must have felt when leaving him at those steps. Then I read your prayer. I have in my hand, the prayer that you prayed to the Lord. You do not mention a single fear or any worries or any anxieties of dropping off your first-born. Instead, your prayer is that of rejoicing to the Lord. You praise Him for who He is, you mention some of His attributes, as founder, creator, judge and about His sovereignty. Instead of dropping Him off in fear, you leave him in trust. On those temple steps you pray a prayer of complete praise to the Lord, and total trust in who God all – powerful ruler. I’m not sure I will ever understand that kind of strength in a woman. I hope I do and I pray I do, but that, Hannah, is strength, true strength. 

Your son lived a blameless life. He followed the Lord when no one else did. He encouraged Israel to continue to follow the Lord. He listened to God all the days of His life. At the end of his life, he asked the people to testify to anything that he had done wrong and they had nothing. They. Had. Nothing. He was blameless. His farewell speech still passionately tells the people to seek the Lord, obey the Lord, fear the Lord. Your son, Hannah, from the moment you dropped him off on those steps, until the day he was buried in Ramah…he followed God. He obeyed God. He feared God. He loved God. 

May we all learn from Hannah how to wait while God works, and how to leave our children on the steps of the temple in complete dedication to the Lord. For when she obeyed, a whole nation of God’s people were able to commune with God. It is remarkable what a mother’s trust in the Lord can contribute to. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Godliness with contentment is great gain!

After I graduated from college with my education degree, I moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area where I taught school for 6 years. I prayed specifically God would place me in a school exactly where He wanted me to be and He did. I absolutely loved my kids and their families. I felt, unequivocally, that this was my calling.
I must admit though, a part of me felt sorry for one of my students, living in the home he did. I visited him at home frequently, just to get to know his family and their friends…This particular story is about a precious little boy and his faithful mom. One day after school, I went to James's home to visit with him and his mom, Karina. As soon as I walked into their run-down apartment, I immediately felt grimy.  You know that feeling when you walk down a dirty alley and you haven't touched a thing but you still feel like you should wash your hands when you finally get out of there? I am ashamed to say that is how I felt in this apartment. The walls were covered in dingy gunk, the floors were stained, all of the grout in the tile was black from old food and muck and the faded lights were so dim that it was even hard to see my friend's faces clearly. I admit it. I felt really sorry for this poor family who had to live this way. 
To give you a short background, I knew this family a bit. They were from Africa and I was already aware that they were believers. I really did love them, I just didn't love their home. I sat down on their discolored, second hand couch, and as I looked around the broken down room, Karina and I began to talk. After about 10 minutes of small talk, she opened up to me about living in Africa. She said she couldn’t even begin to characterize how dreadful the living conditions were in Africa. She talked to me about tiny huts with thatched grass roofs, no electricity, dirt floors and when it would rain, everything would leak. There weren't any sturdy walls to hang pictures and no way and no reason to keep anything of any value. Then she paused, kept silent for a while and slowly looked around that icky, small, low income apartment... and then looked back at me, spread her arms out in pride, and with tears in her eyes, she said, “But look at us now, Lauren. Look at us now.” 

She, my friends, was living in a palace. What a perspective. She saw God's goodness in everything. She is the purest form of "Godliness with contentment is great gain." I then looked around her apartment again, but this time with a different perspective. I could see her home through her eyes and indeed it was a royal residence. This home meant stability, it meant air conditioning and heating, it meant a floor that might get dirty, but would be easily cleaned, it meant a dishwasher, a refrigerator and many nights to sit around with her family in safety.  This home was a gift from the Lord and she was ever praising Him for it. I shut my eyes and prayed that the Lord would forgive my judgmental view and would give me a "Karina-like" perspective in my own life. For I too desired great gain through godly contentment. 

May the Lord take all of the blinders off our eyes so that we can see through His eyes and with His life changing perspective. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Let's just go out and get your mind off of it!"

Psalm 19:7

We live in a country where entertainment is endless. We can instantly go somewhere where something or someone can entertain us. Last year Americans spent more than $600,000,000 in entertainment alone. There are sporting events, movies, arcades, lazer tag, bowling, comedy clubs, symphony halls, etc. Anything you enjoy, you can find a place to go see it or go do it. One would think that this would make us one of the happiest countries in the world, YET… one particular sickness runs rampant among Americans…depression. At least 1 in every 10 Americans is on medication for depression, not to mention all of the people who are depressed and just don’t medicate through a doctor. How is it that we live in a place where virtually you can choose any type of entertainment for your pleasure and yet we are still an unhappy population? There is really only one answer…America has bought into the lie that entertainment can revive your soul. People think, “If I can just go have some fun or if I can go and be entertained somewhere, I'll forget about my hurt.” We are looking at entertainment to revive our inner being, so we spend billions as a nation trying to make ourselves feel better.
We, the women not of this world, must choose to believe truth…And this is truth: Absolutely nothing can de-stress you or revive your soul like the Word of God. It is, in its very nature, calming, soothing, peace-giving revival to the deepest parts of your being.

Nothing de-stresses us like God’s word, not the gym, not friends, not family, not church, not being busy, nothing.  Nothing will de-stress your life and revive your soul like Jesus’s words. This might sound like an easy concept or something that we all assume we do, but many of us don’t. People, including Christians, tend to “self medicate” their hurt/upset in various ways. We might not be on anti-depressants, but we self medicate with things other than God’s word. What do you do when something has hurt you? Do your friends say, “Hey, let’s go out!” or “Hey let’s go shopping.” or “Want to catch a movie to get your mind off of this?”. Other people self medicate by eating, socializing, distracting, getting busy, becoming workaholics, or drinking etc. When these self-medicating behaviors are not addressed and they continue for long periods of time, this is when you become susceptible to addiction. Drinking can turn into alcoholism, busy at work can turn into workaholic, eating can turn into gluttony, etc. Self-medicating your soul is very, very dangerous. It is an easy foothold for satan to grab. There are tons of ways that satan has used “self medication” to replace God’s word in our lives. For a little bit, these self-medications do the job. If you’re upset and your friend calls you and the two of you decide to go shopping to “get your mind off of things” and it works for those 2 hours, but it's a false sense of medication. When you get home and put your shopping bags up, your hurt/upset is still there. We are merely taking “sugar pills” when we do this and sugar pills will never, ever cure us.

Psalm 19:7 explains that His Word has enough power to revive the soul! This should be our medication. This should be our addiction. Let’s train ourselves to read and meditate on His Word when sadness hits or when disappointment comes or hurt arises. Let go of the worlds medications and let the Lord’s Word revive you.

Lord, let us all let go of the ways we self medicate and let us run towards you when we need revival. Amen. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Psalm 19:2-4

"Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world."

Nature. That is what this verse is talking about. Being out in nature.

I recently read an article in The Guardian,that said, “…Ask anyone over 40 to recount their most treasured memories of childhood play, and few will be indoors. Fewer still will involve an adult. Independent play, outdoors and far from grown-up eyes, is what we remember. As things stand, today's children will be unlikely to treasure memories like that: 21% of today's kids regularly play outside, compared with 71% of their parents.” Studies have shown that children who spend time outside have:
  • increased academic achievement (mind)
  • enhanced problem solving skills (mind)
  • decrease attention deficit difficulties (mind)
  • decrease in childhood obesity (body)
  • improves vision and vitamin D intake (body)
  • protects the psychological well being of children (spirit)
  • less stress (spirit)
  • increases positive mental/emotional health (spirit)
  • decrease of depression (spirit)
  • enhances social/relationship interactions (spirit)

 As I read that,  I thought back to my own childhood and my mind was flooded with memories of being down at the creek behind our house catching minnows, playing baseball with friends down the street, riding my bike with my brother around the block, and running all alone through the woods near our house. I even remember my mom telling me about one of her favorite memories…She said she had great memories of when she would climb trees and sing out from the tree top, “The hiiiils are aliiiiive with the sound of muuuuuusic.. Aaaaaaaaaa.” Most of us tend to feel something invigorating when we are out in nature… I think these verses explains why we feel that way.

The verbs in these verses keep popping off the page at me: “pour” and “reveal”. The definition of “pour” is to flow rapidly in a steady stream. (  I began to think about rain or a waterfall. Those are both natural examples of water pouring out. It would be extremely difficult to stop a natural waterfall from running and it is completely impossible to stop the pouring of rain. As I meditated on this scripture, I began to think about God’s speech pouring out from creation. It is impossible for anyone to stop God’s voice from shouting out of creation. His handiwork naturally shouts His name. His creation is pouring out speech to us. And much like the downpour of rain, it is impossible to stop His voice from saying through His earth, “Here I am! Here I am! Look at me. I am POURING myself out to you.”

The online Webster dictionary defines the word reveal as 1. to make known through divine inspiration or 2. to make something that is secret or hidden, publicly or generally known.

The night sky, through divine inspiration, makes publicly known to us the “mystery of God”. The night sky reveals knowledge. Night after night, God provides anticipation and excitement of what is to come by what He has placed in the heavens for us to see. The stars, their order, their vast numbers, their changing positions, and their abilities, all reveal the knowledge of our God.

Creation is a universal language. There is no one in the world, no place in the world and no language spoken in any tribe or land that can misunderstand the language of creation. God created a world that allows all people of every nation and tribe to understand that there is a creator and he is called God Almighty. His name is clearly written all over the earth. We can choose to stay out of church, we can stop listening to our pastors, we can quit listening to Christian music and choose to stop hanging out with our godly friends, but still we cannot escape God’s sweet voice.  The voice of creation sings sweetly to the ends of the earth. His voice reaches every mountain, every valley, every piece of sand, every desert, to the bottom of the sea, to every piece of land or water ever created, God’s beautiful voice is heard. We are never able to get away from the general revelation of our God. Hallelujah!

No wonder we feel rejuvenated and refreshed when we are outside!!! We are experiencing the pouring out of God’s speech and the revealing of His knowledge. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported recently that on average, 8 year olds to 18 year olds in America spend more than 53 hours a week “using entertainment media”. This should not be so! Our children are losing the opportunity to hear Gods creation pour out speech to them and they are losing the ability to sense the knowledge of Him night after night. We must allow our children time outside to experience what God’s hands have made, for this is good for their whole being; mind, body and spirit! 

Lord, let us all spend more time in Your handiwork with our spouses, with our grandparents and with our children, so that you can pour your speech over us and reveal your knowledge to us. Amen! 


"Wes chose to draw instead of finishing his work. He had to stay in at recess."  #itwasahardfirstdayback #EthanandLaylaweresti...