Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Have Faith!

Ever notice whenever you step onto the path God has for you – or even point in its direction – how discouragement tends to hit? Yep, it’s a great weapon of the enemy, isn’t it? Keeps you stuck right where you are, afraid to take another step and not even sure if you want to.

Here’s the thing though, we have a weapon to fight against it. We just need to pick it up. It’s our faith.

See, we won’t always catch a glimpse of what God is doing, but that doesn’t mean He’s not at work. Let’s take one last look at Hannah. Remember when Eli told her God was going to grant her request? What did she do? She went away radiant, glowing, her face cast up towards Heaven. And she stayed that way…but was her answer immediate? No, look again at what happened. She praised God, went home and waited as GOD began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked. (I Sam.1:19)

Now Hannah didn’t have eyes that reached Heaven, but she had a faith that reached her Lord. She believed, even in the absence of a physical answer, that God was at work. Remember, we do not see her face downcast or hear her weep again in the chapter. Even though she went home. Even though Peninnah was surely there to torment her, “Oh, poor Hannah, still not pregnant?” Even though it took time for God to open her womb, Hannah believed. She had faith. The kind of faith we hear about in Hebrews 11. Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Oh! To have that faith. It takes down discouragement every time! Believe. Take your step of faith. Yes, one day you’ll be able to look back and see how God ordered all of your steps – that’s hindsight. But, beloved, faith is having foresight. It’s believing that the steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD (Psalm 37:23)…then walking along in them even when we can’t see what He’s doing.

So do not be discouraged! Cling to your faith. God is working, gently laying each stone along your path. Place your eyes upon Him, trust He's there, and take your step of faith.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Remember Him

So Hannah’s story stuck with me this week. Not just as a reminder that El Roi sees me, but also as an example of how I want to be. So let’s just camp out in 1 Samuel for a bit longer.

Hannah was an amazing person. She poured her heart out to God year after year, hoping for him to answer. She desired a child. Even more so, she desired for God to remember her. And her story didn’t just stop when she realized he had. That’s where it really starts to amaze.

Eli answered her, "Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him."

Her response? She glows. No longer was she downcast and depressed. "Think well of me—and pray for me!" she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.

And she worships God – even before she physically sees God’s answer. She praises as she waits. Up before dawn, they worshiped GOD and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and GOD began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked.

Do you catch that? Her answer, though coming, is not immediate. It takes time for her to receive God’s response because he was busy making arrangements - something we don’t have eyes to see and rarely have patience for. But Hannah did. We do not hear her weep or observe her downcast again. What we do see is her recognize God’s answer by the name she gives her son. Before the year was out, Hannah had conceived and given birth to a son. She named him Samuel, explaining, "I asked GOD for him."

Then the most amazing thing happens. After crying out for him to remember her, Hannah remembers God. When Elkanah next took his family on their annual trip to Shiloh to worship GOD, offering sacrifices and keeping his vow, Hannah didn't go. She told her husband, "After the child is weaned, I'll bring him myself and present him before GOD—and that's where he'll stay, for good."

Oh! How can she bear it? This child she asked for, wept for, cried out for. This child she nursed and rocked. This child she loved. And yet, she still gives him to the Lord. And her heart is still able to praise and worship God. They first butchered the bull, then brought the child to Eli. Hannah said, "Excuse me, sir. Would you believe that I'm the very woman who was standing before you at this very spot, praying to GOD? I prayed for this child, and GOD gave me what I asked for. And now I have dedicated him to GOD. He's dedicated to GOD for life."

Then and there, they worshiped GOD.

Don’t you see? All along, Hannah desired God more than anything in her life. Deeper than even her mother’s love. Samuel was her firstborn, the child she cried for. But Hannah knew he was God’s, not hers. She knew she had promised him to God, and she must be obedient. What trust she had in her Lord. What an amazing love she held for him. And God never forgot her, her obedience, or the sacrifice she made.

Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the LORD give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the LORD.” Then they would go home. And the LORD was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters.

Wow. God didn’t have to bless her with more children, but he did. He’s her Father and his love is even deeper than Hannah’s love for Samuel. Just as she never forgot her son, God never forgot Hannah.

So, what’s your Samuel? What have you cried for that God finally answered? And in that answer, how have you remembered him? It may not always be something tangible, it could simply be your thanksgiving and praise. Or maybe it’s recognizing it was by his strength and not your own that your answer came. Possibly there is something he’s called you to give - even the very thing he's given you. Whatever it is, let it go, and just like Hannah, remember him.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Not Forgotten

The Lord remembers us and will bless us. Psalm 115:12

I recently read Hannah’s story out of 1 Samuel. She was a barren woman, and I cannot even begin to imagine her pain. In that day and age not bearing children made her an outcast, and though her husband loved her dearly, it was a burden she could not escape. It didn’t help that his other wife, Peninnah, taunted her. Hannah could not escape the sadness of her empty womb, and she made herself sick over it.

Hannah had to wonder where God was. She prayed for a child, and yet year after year she remained childless. Year after year Peninnah reminded her that she had children and Hannah did not. Year after year there remained silence from God.

I think sometimes, in that silence, we stop craving the one thing we desire and begin to crave God’s voice. We want to know he sees us. We want his presence even more than the one thing we are missing. That thing no longer is our idol and our eyes shift to God. Our heart becomes consumed with one thought, “Lord, have you forgotten me?”

Hannah had this moment. Where what she wanted was eclipsed by wanting to know God had not forgotten her. Listen to her prayer:

“Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life…” (v.11)

See, opening her womb became the sign that she wasn’t forgotten. It was no longer about having a child. No, she simply wanted the assurance that God remembered her. He could have the child, only look on her with favor and show her he hadn’t forgotten her. That mattered more. And God heard her and after what must have felt like an eternity to Hannah, "God remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son." (vs.19-20)

Beloved, just like Hannah, God sees you. He hears you. His silence does not mean you are forgotten. He’s at work. I cannot promise the answer will be what you want it to be or even when you want it, but I can promise this: he is the God who sees you, El Roi, and he remembers you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Caretaker

After a long, hard week and an even longer day with my children, I ran off to hide in a quiet corner. There isn’t one. I am overwhelmed and asking myself why I do this.

You see, tending this garden of my little “flowers” can be a frustrating experience. I keep getting pricked by the thorns, and the weeds I pulled yesterday I must have missed the roots because they are springing back up again. I’ve pruned back stems hoping for good growth, but I’m still waiting to see those colorful petals burst forth. I’m hot, I’m tired, and I don’t really want to keep caring for this same little plot.

Honest enough for you?

Well, after my little pity party I opened God’s word. I should have done it earlier.

He brought me back to 2 Timothy 1:5. “I remember your genuine faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)

Paul is writing this to Timothy, a grown man whose life was greatly affected by his mother and grandmother. This verse made me realize, once again, how strong a mother’s role is in her child’s life. Think about it. What our mother says and does stays with us, helps form who we are. No pressure or anything…**sigh**

It’s true though. We shape these little ones by our voice and actions. It’s part of the pruning process. I know I was shaped by my mother. Recently, I spoke with my brother about family resemblances and he noted he sees our mother when he looks in the mirror. I laughed! He sees her in the mirror, but I hear her when I open my mouth. Thirty-seven and she only comes out stronger each day!

Many of you know what I’m talking about. For some of you, this is a good thing. For others, it’s a battle. But the faith line can start with you. And it doesn’t mean you need to be perfect. Wow – what child wants to live up to a perfect parent? Our imperfections scream our need for God. His grace answers, covering them. And our faith is what connects the two.

So, Moms, live your faith. Speak it over your life, in your struggles and in your victories. Pull that weed…again, bandage that scratch from the thorn, put on gloves and go back in. Make sure your garden gets plenty of Sun and keep it watered from the Spring of Life. Drink some in yourself while you’re at it. One day, when your kids look in the mirror and see you – they’ll also see God. And when they open their mouth and swear it’s you speaking, they’ll hear God. Because you are more than “just a mom”, you are the caretaker of their faith.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Our Light

Depression. An easy place to slip into. An incredibly hard valley to climb out of.

There are so many different layers to depression. We can walk in it for a day, or find ourselves trapped in it for years. For some, there is no easy fix. Yet, God equips us to fight our depression. And, whether it's a one day battle or a daily battle, God will defeat it for us if we let Him.

Depression seeks to separate you from those around. In isolation, battles are hard to fight. Alone, there is no accountability for your thoughts and actions. Together, there is safety and strength. Matthew 18:19 reminds us that when "two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. " So get yourself a prayer partner and start praying. God wants to win this battle for you, and He doesn't want you doing it alone.

Depression whispers names God never called you. My last post talked about this. Naomi pulled her name from her depression - she called herself Bitter. Yet, remember, God never did. Elsewhere in the Bible, whenever He gave a new name, it was used over and over again in scripture. When Naomi changed her name, it wasn't used again. Scripture - which is God breathed - continued to refer to her as Naomi. Don't let your depression rename you.

Depression drains all your strength. But Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the "joy of the Lord is our strength." So start praising. Even though you don't feel like it. Start counting your blessings. Somedays it's just one tiny step forward. One word of praise you repeat over and over. That's okay. You have to start somewhere. Begin to grow that spiritual muscle, because our strength is found in the opposite of depression - it's found in JOY! Practice joy ~ until you're really good at it, then practice some more.

I think worst of all, though, is how depression can make us feel a million miles from God, as if we’re wandering around in the wilderness on a moonless night. I don't like the darkness. I never have. Maybe because we were created for light. And though depression can shroud us in a cloak of darkness for far too long, we have a light. But we need to watch for Him. Listen:

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation
My God will hear me.
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy
Though I fall I will rise;
Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. (Micah 7:6-8)

Cling to His promise. Expect Him. He hears your voice and though this moment may be dark, His light is coming. Watch for it. His stubborn love will never stop pursuing you, and His light will never dim.