Lessons Learned From the Life of Hannah

Have you ever felt like you’ve just stumbled on a passage of Scripture, later to discover that was actually divinely orchestrated? That just happened to me. Recently coming out of a season of prayer and fasting, it was like the Lord opened my Bible to 1 Samuel and guided my reading.

For more context to the thoughts scribed below, read 1 Samuel, chapter one here.

As I first read through Hannah’s story, I felt like my insides were gasping. Her story seemed to jump off the pages and became my story. I felt great empathy towards her. It was like I could feel her anguish and her heartache. Her hopelessness felt real. I asked God to speak and then I read it again.

Hannah was childless. Not only was she childless, but her husband’s other wife (let’s not get into that…) who had children of her own provoked her to tears. That sounds awful. The interesting thing about this passage is that it clearly states that the Lord closed Hannah’s womb. And, He kept it closed when Hannah brought her petition(s) before the Him.

Children: a sign of blessing, more children signified a bigger blessing. Children carried on your family name, they learned your trade, they were your insurance policy and cared for you when you grew older.

Zooming out on the story, there are several things that I love about what the author’s penned about Hannah.

Hannah prayed… earnestly. The text uses the verbiage whenever Hannah went to the temple. This implies that this wasn’t a one-time pleading. She continually brought her requests before the Lord, regardless of the unchanging nature of her circumstance, regardless of the time lapsed and her emotions felt.

Hannah was real about her needs, her heartache and where she was at. Hannah wept. She pleaded for the Lord to look upon her misery. The Bible describes her as praying so hard that she caught the priest’s attention, in fact, she prayed so hard that he thought she was drunk.

Hannah recognized who God was and that He was able to do anything. In her inability to produce, she ran to the source of life. She didn’t let her faith cripple her.

Hannah believed the word of the Lord. Eli must have seen her faith. He spoke to her inability—to the hopes and dreams she was unable to produce on her own—to the dead place in her life and promised new life. He spoke to her of things that seemed impossible, what probably felt impossible to hope for, let alone believe in. Yet, Hannah believed. In fact, I think she believed with her whole heart. As she left, her countenance changed. She knew that God was going to grant her request as the prophet promised. After all, God’s Word never returns void.

The last thing I that stands out to me about this passage is actually the part I love the most. Hannah brought honor where honor was due. Hannah conceived and bore a son. And get this, she named her babe Samuel. Why is that significant? Because Samuel means the Lord provides.

Her blessing, her namesake, her insurance policy. The Lord provides.

How great is that? Literally every time Samuel’s name was spoken, Hannah’s story, Samuel’s story…God’s story was retold.

Sometimes, the Lord closes or pauses something so He can open or un-pause it later. The things God did in Hannah—the heart that grew in her during the asking—was one that wouldn’t have grown if she would’ve have been granted on her first ask. Or, if it’d been given without her having to ask at all.

What if Hannah would have kept the baby? He may not have grown up to be God’s mouthpiece. He wouldn’t wouldn’t have anointed King David; the lineage of Christ, the throne God promised to last forever. God knows what’s best. He sees the whole big, beautiful picture. Giving us what we ask for the first time we ask for it isn’t always best.

The question I’ve found myself asking over the past week is this: What am I pleading God for? And what should I be asking for? Have I given up on things God’s promised, simply because they don’t fit into the timeline I think they should?

My challenge today for me, and maybe for you too is to ask. Then expect and believe and give God the credit.

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The Gift of Christmas

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I LOVE this time of year. The crisp air (everywhere besides South Florida, that is…), the brightly-lit houses, the sound of family gathered around, the fragrance of pine, the festive food, the tinsel and bows and the beautifully wrapped gifts.

But, lets be real. The gifts are my favorite. I love beautifully-wrapped, color coordinated presents with hand-tied bows. I love the look of delight and anticipation on the faces of the receiver and the giver. But more than the gift itself, I love the intentionality, thought and effort that goes into gift-giving. Gifts are so personal.

For me, when I take a minute to think about it, as cliché as it sounds, my favorite gift is one that really can’t be wrapped. The ultimate, most beautiful gift is Christ himself.

The Bible calls Jesus Immanuel, which means God with us. Jesus is literally God, with skin on (that’s crazy, right?). He came into the earth as we did—a helpless babe, completely dependent on the care of others. Jesus came and lived an ordinary life. He came and lived among us, choosing to identify with us.

The Bible says that the Word who spoke the world into existence chose to dwell among us. That’s pretty powerful.

While Jesus was “God with us” during His time on earth, He is “God with us” now too. He’s in the big things, but He’s also in the microscopic details. He understands your hardships and your joys. He see the things that make you uniquely you. And He loves you. He wants to walk with you, through both the good stuff and the bad stuff.

Christmas celebrates that.

This season, I encourage you to look for Jesus. So as you enjoy the eggnog and the brightly-lit houses, take some time and slow down to reflect on the gift of Jesus. While getting and giving are both fun, He is the only gift really worth getting.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. –John 1:14

 

Here I Am {to Worship}

Questions can feel heavy. Sometimes, they seem to bring us anxiety, nervousness or frustration. It’s hard to face them when the answers feel far off or unsure. I’ve been a part of some pretty weighty discussions lately. It seems like most people, sometime or another are wrestling with something.

What’s my purpose? Where do I go from here? How do I know if what’s from God and what’s me? Am I pleasing Him? How do I respond when life seems too difficult? How do I impact a world, a culture that is seemingly falling apart all around me?

Lately, I have been working to be more intentional about bringing my questions to the Lord. Realizing that the answer, or solution, is often far out of my reach, I am beginning to learn that these types of questions are best answered through prayer and a posture of worship.

Looking back to the Garden, we meet a God who created humans in His image. He fashioned man to know Him freely and to commune with Him in the coolness of the day. When we chose to disobey God, we broke our perfect communion with Him.

Throughout the story of the Bible, we see a God who beautifully pursues His people, culminating on the cross and beating death. Scripture and history illustrate a perfect God who deeply desires for us to both know Him and to be known by Him. He created you and me, beautifully unique, each with purpose and value found only fully in Him.

Last week, in the middle of a situation that seemed bigger than I could handle, I was reminded of a friend of mine who travels fairly extensively. I was drowning in the details, feeling completely overwhelmed when a song (you know, one of those “oldies but goodies”) popped into my head:

Here I am to worship

Here I am to bow down

Here I am to say that You’re my God

You’re all together lovely

All together worthy

All together wonderful to me

My friend once told me that he often sings this song when he travels, dedicating his trip and actions to the Lord as worship. It’s his way of outwardly acknowledging what’s most important–Jesus. The details seemed less overwhelming as I began to realign my heart, positioning it towards Jesus.

How powerful would it be if I approached my circumstances with the intent to bring praise? What if I chose to acknowledge the worth of my Creator in all areas of my life? How would that change me? How would that change my world around me? How would that allow God to work around me?

I dare to say it’d be a game changer.

The crazy thing about choosing to worship the Lord in every area of our lives is that the questions listed above start to seem less daunting. We begin to realize that it’s okay to not have the answers or to see the entire picture, because we’re choosing to run towards the One who does.

My challenge to myself (and to you, if you’d like it to be) is just that: to wake up each morning with this song as a prayer. To see each portion of my day as it is, a chance to acknowledge the beauty, power and perfection of Jesus; giving Him permission to move and work amidst the moments of my day.

{Repost} In Defense of a Soulmate – This Road is Meant for Two

This is a {repost} from a blog entitled hello my old heart.  I thought Rachel did a great job expressing what it’s like to live as a non christian single in our world today and thought I might share it with you, my trusty followers… Thanks Rachel for sharing your worldview!

Our culture has an obsession with soulmates. Whether you believe in them or not they are incredibly polarizing. There seem to be an abundance of posts and articles written from one side or the other. Singles or Marrieds. Pros and Cons. I’m not going to list several of the ones I’ve read but I am going to contribute to this conversation in a different way.

I gave up on the idea of a Disney Prince soulmate a long time ago. And I’m truly fine with it. I don’t believe another human being has the responsibility or the ability to fulfill me. I don’t expect a man to come riding in on a white horse to rescue me. I have no unrealistic expectations of the sacrifice and time and tears that go into making a marriage work. What else would you expect when two incredibly broken people attempt to lay down their lives for each other?

But here’s where I think we’ve made these lines a little too harsh.

Desiring a spouse isn’t wrong. Praying for a man or woman to be in your life and be the person you share your moments with is not living in a fairy tale. Hoping to meet someone special who makes you laugh and challenges you and points you towards the heart of Christ is not holding an unmeetable standard for another human. And to be honest I’m a little tired of the shaming that happens with all of these “my husband isn’t my soulmate” articles.

Because while I don’t believe there is one specific person created to complete me, I do believe there are people out there who have a great match of strengths for my weaknesses and vice versa. For example, I know I am not very good at staying organized, remembering when to pay bills, and meal planning. So someone who does these things well will complement my lack. But where I am strong is remembering names and faces, birthdays and conversations, and inviting people into a story. I love to love. But I’m also terrible at confrontation so I need someone in my life to help me learn that in a healthy way.

We were created to represent different aspects of God the Father. We do this in community, friendships, family, and relationships. So I’m just going to go ahead and say it – it’s okay to seek someone who is strong where you are weak and who makes you better for the Kingdom with them than apart from them.

Is this in someway completion? Sure. Is it an expectation that I’m somehow made whole? Not at all. I don’t want to bring half a person into a relationship. I want to bring an entire person into a relationship.

Here’s the thing – the older I get and the longer I stay single, the less starry-eyed I am walking into a relationship. I’m more secure in who I am and the things I desire in a spouse. I know who I am and where to find my identity. I’m not looking for completion. I’m looking for a partner. A companion.

Maybe we haven’t communicated this very clearly. I’m sorry if we (as single people) have failed to use the right words to describe our desire to be married and our longing. A longing not for a soulmate but for someone who does life with you. Who you know is always in your corner, who will be at weddings and funerals, who will disappoint you but also surprise you in the most unexpected ways. Someone you share small insignificant moments with. Sunrises and sunsets. Spilled milk and leaky faucets. Midnight diaper changes and burnt toast. The person you get to look over at, smile, and deeply know there is someone to help shoulder the load of this journey.

Unfortunately, this longing for a companion often gets mistaken as a quest for someone to make all of our dreams come true. Our lives are meant to be lived with another. Unless you’ve walked it, you don’t know what it is like to come home to an empty house after an awful week and be alone. To walk through death and loss and financial hardship and unfulfilled longings and big decisions and crappy weeks by yourself.

So to long for that companion and to wrestle with the ache and to desire a spouse, I would argue, actually turns our hearts more into Papa’s intention for us.

And that, my friends, is why I believe soulmates exist.

steady is the hand that’s come to terms
with the lessons it has had to learn
I’ve seen the things that I must do
but Lord, this road is meant for two
so I am waiting here for you 

Original post can be found at hello my old heart

I Saw What I Saw

At the end of every Convoy Internship debriefing, intern director, Matt sits the team down and they watch Sara Grove’s music video, I Saw What I Saw.

Tonight, as I hum along with Sara, I re-walk my blessings.  It’s a beautifully melodic reminder of the things Christ has given me, the places He’s allowed me to tread, and the people He’s allowed me to meet.

Your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what I’m afraid of
(what I am made of)
and what I know of love

Poverty Alleviation

Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation…

…Because every one of us is suffering from brokenness in our foundational relationships, all of us need ‘poverty alleviation,’  just in different ways. Our relationship to the materially poor should be one in which we recognize that both of us are broken and that both of us need the blessing of reconciliation.  Our perspective should be less about how we are going to fix the materially poor and more about how we can walk together, asking God to fix both of us.

-Excerpt from “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself”

Sex Trafficking in the US and Around the World

 
 
I just spent the last hour listening to a webinar hosted by FREE International, an organization who works to rescues victims of modern day slavery.  
 
Many of us think of slavery as an issue of the past.  This is untrue.  There is actually more people in slavery today than any other time in history, including the 300 years of Trans-Atlantic slave trading from Africa.  Last year, the slave industry made more than Google, Starbucks, and Nike, combined.  The US is the second highest destination point for women slaves, with an estimated 200,000 slaves in the United States alone.  These statistics disgust me.  Take a look at the facts. The issue is real.

 
Sex Trafficking in the United States
 
 
(Prepared by International Crisis Aid 1‐888‐740‐7779 www.crisisaid.org)

• St. Louis Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Sex Trafficking Charge (St. Louis FBI,April 13, 2009)
• In June 2008, the FBI arrested 345 Americans—including 290 adult prostitutes—in one sting operation. (FBI)
• Since 2003, 308 pimps and hookers have been convicted in (US) state and federal courts of forcing youngsters into prostitution and 433 child victims have been rescued, according to FBI Director Robert Mueller. (FBI)
• In 2007, the FBI launched a total of 119 human trafficking investigations, made 155 arrests, and filed 63 complaints. Ninety‐one information/indictments were filed in our human trafficking cases, and our investigative efforts resulted in 57 convictions. (FBI)
• A University of Pennsylvania study estimates nearly 300,000 children in the United States are at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses ‐ “most of them runaways or thrown‐aways,” said Ernie Allen, president of the NCMEC.(National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
• 200,000 American kids are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry (youthnoise.com)
• Teen girls’ stories of sex trafficking in U.S. International sex trafficking is a well‐known problem, but it happens here as well (ABC Primetime, February 9, 2006)
• Federal agents and local police in Johnson County, Missouri raided 12 businesses and four homes on 10 May 2007, rescuing 15 women from ‘massage parlors’. (Humantrafficking.org)
• Between 14,500 and 17,500 victims are trafficked into the USA each year (NCSOnline); The CIA estimates 40,000—50,000 victims);
• There have been reports of trafficking instances in at least 20 different US states, with most cases occurring in New York, California and Florida (Center for the Study of Intelligence)
• Three Plead Guilty to Sex Trafficking of Children (San Diego FBI, January 20, 2009)
• Halting Human Trafficking, 31 Arrests in Major Prostitution Ring (FBI, August 16, 2006)
• 797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing in a one‐year period of time studied resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day. (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
• For every 1,000 children in Missouri, 5‐10 are in some state of maltreatment.(Department of Justice)
• One in 12 (82 of 1000) youth experienced sexual victimization, including sexual assault (32 per 1000) and attempted or completed rape (22 per 1000). (Crimes Against Children Research Center)

Sex Trafficking Around the World

• 1.2 million children are being trafficked every year; this is in addition to the millions already held captive by trafficking (UNICEF)
• Every 2 minutes a child is being prepared for sexual exploitation (The A21 Campaign)
• The average victim is forced to have sex up to 40 times a day (The A21 Campaign)
• The average age of a trafficked victim is 14 years old (The A21 Campaign)
• Approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood through sexual exploitation over the past 30 years (USAID)
• Sex trafficking is an engine of the global AIDS epidemic (US Department of State)
• People are trafficked from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries(UNODC)
• The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of$32 billion (UN)
• By 2010 human trafficking will be the number one crime worldwide (The A21 Campaign)