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. 


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