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Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons? (1 Samuel 1-MSG)

 

He didn’t understand. A loving husband, he reassured her of his devotion and cast aside the expectations of the day. But thoughts of the other woman intruded—unwelcome—and the cruel sting of her words embedded themselves in the tender places of Hannah’s soul.

At times, Hannah’s heart felt as hollow as her womb and, despite Elkanah’s gentle encouragement and generous love-gifts, nothing relieved the emptiness of her arms.

How she longed to hold a baby—feel its precious weight against her, inhale the fresh-from-heaven-scent, experience the ebb and flow of mother-life pouring sweet and abundant from her body to nourish a child.

Yet the years passed—one, two, ten or more–and the journey to the Lord’s tabernacle became Hannah’s personal trail of tears—the path from sorrow to depression and depression to despair.

Maybe He was her last resort. Perhaps it was the nudging of the Spirit. But, on one particular return visit to the tabernacle, Hannah made a decision that changed her life and impacted the spiritual direction of an entire nation.

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She prayed.

Crushed in soul (1 Sam. 1-MSG) and weeping with abandon, Hannah poured out every bit of her brokenness before God—the hurt, the loneliness, the desperation. Her fervent praying even caught the attention of Eli, the tabernacle’s priest. Mistaking Hannah’s silent muttering for drunkenness, God’s man even reprimanded her.

You’re drunk. How long do you plan to keep this up?

 Upon hearing Hannah’s story, though, he pronounced a blessing—a salve to an aching woman’s wounds.

Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.

 A few years later, Hannah returned to the place of her prayers—a young boy trailing by her side. Greeting the old priest, the woman who had bowed humbly before God explained that this child—her child—belonged to the Lord.

And they worshiped Him together.

What an incredible picture of God’s faithfulness and mercy! The God Who Sees All never lost sight of His daughter. He listened to her cries, captured each tear, and answered her prayers.

And this same unchanging, all-knowing, wonder-working God? He is there for us in the same way He was for Hannah—patiently waiting for us to come to Him with our needs…our burdens…our hurts.

And, one day? Maybe the same will be said of you or me.

She prayed.

 

Scripture for Reflection

  1.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that each time Hannah was preparing to worship, the enemy came against her?
  2. What causes you to struggle in worship?
  3.  How has God redeemed your past hurts?  Or, is there a heart-wound you are laying before Him now?
  4.  In what way does His faithfulness encourage you in your walk?

 

1 Samuel 1

1-2 There once was a man who lived in Ramathaim. He was descended from the old Zuph family in the Ephraim hills. His name was Elkanah. (He was connected with the Zuphs from Ephraim through his father Jeroham, his grandfather Elihu, and his great-grandfather Tohu.) He had two wives. The first was Hannah; the second was Peninnah. Peninnah had children; Hannah did not.

3-7 Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.

Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?”

9-11 So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:

Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.

12-14 It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!”

15-16 Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.”

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

18 “Think well of me—and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.

19 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.

 

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Greeting me with a smile, my friend announced with conviction, “I think I should focus on the positive things. I need to be more grateful for the good that is happening.”

Considering the discussion, I began imagining what it might be like if we—God’s women—consistently chose gratitude. How might hearts overflowing with thanks transform our lives? Could the life of a Christ-follower unburdened by the weight of thanklessness more powerfully impact others?

As prone to grumbling as anyone else, I often catch myself murmuring about the inconsequential…noticing the small stuff…losing sight of the eternal because I’m running hard into the right now of life. And, honestly, much of my thanklessness centers on me–focuses on the inconveniences common to the first-world problems of Self.

Can’t anyone remember to wash the toothpaste out of the sink?

Won’t someone please pick up the socks?

I don’t understand why nobody rinses the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

 During these complaint-filled times, my children avoid me—gesturing wildly at one another to escape upstairs. Dave, the love of my life and skilled interpreter of both my tone and actions, suddenly realizes he needs to send an email. Even the dog wanders to a quiet corner—protected from the words of an ungrateful woman.

But walking in gratitude? Humility expressed in thanks? Gratefulness rightly directed toward God? These are the marks of a right attitude…the differentiation between those things that are important and those that are temporal…the willingness to bend a knee in recognition of the One who deserves all thanks and praise.

This month, let’s choose to live intentionally grateful. Will you join me? Let’s exchange criticism for thanks, ungrateful hearts for spirits abounding in gratitude, and negativity for right attitudes shaped by humility in our position as followers and servants of Jesus.

 

Scripture for Reflection

 Psalm 136 The Message (MSG)

1-3 Thank God! He deserves your thanks.
His love never quits.
Thank the God of all gods,
His love never quits.
Thank the Lord of all lords.
His love never quits.

4-22 Thank the miracle-working God,
His love never quits.
The God whose skill formed the cosmos,
His love never quits.
The God who laid out earth on ocean foundations,
His love never quits.
The God who filled the skies with light,
His love never quits.
The sun to watch over the day,
His love never quits.
Moon and stars as guardians of the night,
His love never quits.
The God who struck down the Egyptian firstborn,
His love never quits.
And rescued Israel from Egypt’s oppression,
His love never quits.
Took Israel in hand with his powerful hand,
His love never quits.
Split the Red Sea right in half,
His love never quits.
Led Israel right through the middle,
His love never quits.
Dumped Pharaoh and his army in the sea,
His love never quits.
The God who marched his people through the desert,
His love never quits.
Smashed huge kingdoms right and left,
His love never quits.
Struck down the famous kings,
His love never quits.
Struck Sihon the Amorite king,
His love never quits.
Struck Og the Bashanite king,
His love never quits.
Then distributed their land as booty,
His love never quits.
Handed the land over to Israel.
His love never quits.

23-26 God remembered us when we were down,
His love never quits.
Rescued us from the trampling boot,
His love never quits.
Takes care of everyone in time of need.
His love never quits.
Thank God, who did it all!
His love never quits!

 LIVEFREETHURSDAY

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I don’t have a bucket list and I never make New Year’s resolutions. While my intrepid husband conquers mountains, launches himself from the safe confines of an airplane, or explores the waters in which bull sharks thrive; I curl up contentedly on the sofa with the dog at my feet and a book in my hand–Jane Austen…Mary Higgins Clark…Jodi Picoult. Do you know how much adventure exists between the pages of Jane Eyre?

 I’m a middle-class mom shuttling middle-school kids in an SUV with French fries wedged between the console and the passenger seat. One child sits in the far reaches of the vehicle and the other perches next me—constantly switching the channel on the radio. The boy yells in response to something the girl said, “Knock it off, drama queen! My day was worse than yours!” Angrily, my daughter cranks the volume and the thrum, thrum, thrum of Lady Gaga’s voice fills the space. I sigh, fondly recalling the days when my children were non-verbal and easily soothed with a blankie or thumb.

There are dishes in the sink and our house is well lived-in. Scuffs along the baseboards bear the marks of superhero figures engaged in battle and the baskets on top of the refrigerator—meant to be a statement piece—hold a collection of stuffed animals the retriever borrows from my sweet girl’s room. With a scouring pad foaming in my hand, I take out my frustration on the glob of green toothpaste smeared on the counter and question whether I will ever be able to keep up with the demands of being a wife and mother.

Then one evening David the Intrepid asks, “How was your day?”

“Mediocre,” I respond. “I worked all day, helped the kids with homework, threw dinner together, tossed in a load of whites…nothing special. It was just—ordinary.”

“Sorry to hear that,” he says.

After a good night’s sleep and time spent in prayer, I looked my husband in the eye to tell him the truth.

“I wouldn’t change it.”

“Change what?”

“I wouldn’t change anything. I always wanted to be a wife and mother and if that means there are times of monotony, I don’t mind. Not everything is sunshine and romance, but I want to be the one packing ham and cheese sandwiches and searching the Internet for answers to 7th grade science questions. (By the way, does anyone remember what the endoplasmic reticulum does?) If that were missing? I would have missed out on the fullness of living a life for the people I love most.”

I don’t spearhead a huge ministry, inspire thousands with words of wisdom, or impress others with my flashy career. I just do my best to love people…to share an encouraging smile…offer a prayer for a hurting friend—and fully live as beautifully ordinary.

Scripture for Reflection—Living Life Fully

 I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (John 10:10 MSG)

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4 NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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His pockets were hanging heavy–pulling at the waistband of the aqua swim shorts. Shells nearly burst through the white netting as his small legs carried him along the water’s edge—taking him first in one direction and then another like the miniature sanderlings sharing the beach.

“Look, mama!” Ben’s tiny hand wrapped itself around another sandy treasure—shells of all shapes and sizes now shining iridescent from the washing of water. Scampering toward the place we’d located bags, towels, and sunscreen Benjamin carefully unloaded the contents of his sagging trunks into a plastic orange bucket.

“Ohhh…aren’t they beautiful?” my little boy whispered. And gently, he added each shell to the growing collection—precious, cared for treasures.

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In recalling this moment, I begin to wonder…what do I treasure? Where do I find joy? Does the beauty of God’s creation thrill my heart?

I have to admit that I’m often so consumed with the day-to-day of managing life that I forget to live. I don’t always notice the small things—that day’s gifts. The sunrise. The smell of rain on a chilly day. My child’s smile.  I overlook some of the things I should notice. A friend’s kind remark. An encouraging comment on Facebook. My husband’s warm embrace.

So today? My prayer is that I will delight in the little things—that I’ll start each day with the intent of gathering and collecting those things that matter eternally. My own precious treasures.

What about you, Friend? Do you need to stop managing and start living? What sort of heart collection will you focus on this moment…this day…this week?

 

Scripture for Reflection

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

 

 

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I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
                                                    I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me.                                                          Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.  (Lamentations 3:19-23)

Image result for images broadview montana

Image result for images broadview montana

It sits on the edge of the wind-blown prairie and the Montana sky–an unknown town to most.  A strip of slender asphalt bisects the small rows of homes where Highway 3 snakes through the rock and golden grass.  A stranger passing through probably wouldn’t bother to wonder about the people living there or notice the two quaint churches pointing their steeples toward heaven.  A casual passerby wouldn’t care that the bar–a gathering place for regulars most nights- becomes a family hangout when the basketball team scores a victory.  And few will thank the farmer–the one pulling his hat down low on his tanned brow as he gazes across miles of burnished wheat–for getting dirt beneath his nails so that others can enjoy bread on the table.

But to me?  Well…Broadview is much more.  Broadview–and her people–are a significant part of my story.  It is a place of family…of pain…of remembrance–and of promise.

I left home when I was eighteen–certain I could evade memories…redefine myself…become.  What I didn’t realize was that God allowed me to have memories–both good and bad–in order that I would also have hope.

Through the eyes of hope I can look back and thank God for his mercies to me.

My family was broken, but the Father gifted me with 200 other people who cared–from the youth pastor and his wife to the school janitor.  My English teacher…the basketball coach…my 4-H leader.

Image result for images broadview montana

My grandfather lay in a hospital–his chest stitched from stem to stern while the fields were ripe for the harvest. A line of red and green combines dotted the landscape–each trolling the field and spitting shaft in the air.  The Life Giver sent his workers so that a farmer and his grandchildren would know the feeling of satisfied stomachs in the winter.

My childhood home lay smoldering–a heap of ashes.  Yet the Provider gave more than needed when donations from a lone Pancake Breakfast were stacked in front of us.

Broadview.

Insignificant?

Not at all–those 200 people made a difference.

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I’m awakened by the sound of my daughter’s voice, “I want French Toast, mama.”

Through sleep-dimmed eyes, I notice she stands next to the bed–a peace-offering in her hands and a wide grin on her freckled face.  “I’ve brought your coffee.” Reluctantly, I leave the warmth of the bed.

Less than gracious, I stumble down the stairs and assemble the ingredients.  Milk…eggs…bread…cinnamon.  I wish I were still sleeping. “Is someone grumpy?” she asks. “Yes,” I respond honestly.  But, I smile as she wraps tiny arms around my waist and I’m reminded of how different life would be without her.

This one small act may be more important than so many others.

Work?  Someone else could fill my shoes.

Sleep?  It’s guaranteed twelve hours from now.

This moment?  Fleeting.

My family?  An eternal investment.

I feel my attitude change and I ask, “Three or four pieces?”

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