Thursday, December 15, 2016

Don't Give Up, Stand Up!

•             When Hannah felt like giving up, she stood up.
•             When we feel like giving up, choose to stand up!
•             When you want to give up, stand up!

These thoughts flooded my mind after reading 1 Samuel 1:1-20.  It’s a true account of a woman named Hannah, her husband Elkahana, and Elkahana’s other wife Peninnah.  Peninnah was jealous of Hannah because Elkahana always blessed Hannah with twice as much when it came time to journey to make the annual sacrifice for the covering and cleansing of sins.  Hannah received twice as much because she had no children.  I find it strange that Peninnah acted this way towards Hannah due to the fact that Peninnah was the one who was able to bear children, while Hannah had none.  Peninnah was blessed but it wasn’t enough.  Hannah was afflicted by two hardships; she was bullied by a jealous woman and she wasn’t able to have children.

I’ve been in Hannah’s shoes many times in my life from elementary school and onward and I’m sure you have as well.  Girlfriends jealous of what you have, who you’re friends with, and intellect on a subject that somehow they feel inferior in.  When women act out these emotions of jealousy it looks a lot like lying, gossip, bullying, verbal and physical abuse.  Hannah was experiencing some of these reactions from her rival Peninnah.  Peninnah had purposed to irritate Hannah to the point that Hannah would cry and not eat.  Year after year this scenario would play out and Hannah would be bullied by Peninnah while the ever-present reminder that she was barren was on the forefront of her mind.

Then one year, one day, Hannah changed everything.  Hannah was at the Temple and when she had finished eating and drinking, Hannah stood upShe did something different than in years’ past.  Hannah not only wept, same as before, but she prayed to the Lord and made a vow to dedicate her son to the Lord in service for his whole life; that is if the Lord was to give her a son.  She was extremely distraught as she prayed in her heart and the priest Eli sees her lips moving but no sound is coming out and therefore accuses her of being drunk. 

Not only is her rival beating her down verbally and now the priest too?  He had no idea what was really going on in the background of her life.  This is exactly what happens today.  People making assumptions about you without knowing what you’re going through.  Here Eli assumed that Hannah was drunk out of her mind in the Temple.  Instead, as she explains, she is “deeply troubled” and that she was “pouring out my soul to the Lord” and also that “I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief”.

 Has there ever been a time, a situation, and a relationship that has been of great anguish to your soul; a time where your heart aches inside of your flesh that it almost feels like you just can’t take it anymore?  Hannah got to that point and she made a choice.  She made the choice to not to give up, but stand up and do something different.  She decided to break the cycle, take a risk and in her desperation for breakthrough, risking her self-image before the priest in the Temple she laid her soul bare before God.

Hannah could have looked at the priest in all her hurt and pain and could have walked away feeling like the world was against her, but again, she pressed through.  She stood up for herself by explaining her demeanor.  After hearing Hannah’s explanation, Eli blessed her with words of encouragement.  Many times all we need is someone to just listen and encourage us.

This is our chance to view this situation from two different sides.  1) We can be the “Eli” in someone else’s life by listening and bringing an encouraging word at just the right moment or 2) We can be the “Hannah” who is in desperate need of an encouraging word, take that word and use it to pull us out of our despair. Hannah didn’t give up, she stood upAt any given moment we are either one or the other.

The story of Hannah’s struggle ends with a son whom she names Samuel which was “because I asked the Lord for him.”  It ended because she asked the Lord for his intervention in her life.  Possibly this heartache could have been resolved sooner if she had chosen to stand up and pour her heart out to the Lord in any of the given years prior.  Don’t wait any longer, choose to be like Hannah; stand upDon’t shut God out when you are deeply troubled, choose to invite Him into your situation. Don’t give up, stand up.

I’m choosing to not give up on finishing a weekly devotional I had started years ago and as of this week I’ve stood up against feelings of frustration and failure.  I tried something I had never tried before, a new women’s group who prayed words of encouragement over me.  Just like Hannah, I believe my breakthrough is on its way. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Transcending Earth to Heaven's Transforming Light

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is –his good pleasing and perfect will.

Our thoughts, words and actions can take us places we’ve never been.  We can think, talk, and act our way into a dark place and allow our souls to dwell there or we can choose to think, talk, and act our way into the light where everything is fresh and new.  Only on mountain tops can you see the furthest vistas, the sun rise and set and what once looked like the largest obstacle now seems minute.  I want my mind to live there, on the mountaintops. But what if there was a better view?  Heaven, yes, from Heaven’s perspective, that must be the best view where even Earth finds its place amongst the stars and the planets dance in perfect harmony. 

From Heaven’s view all of the worries of Earth seem but a speck on the massive scale of time of which is eternity.  

From Heaven’s view, you might ask the question, what is worth holding onto and what is just sand slipping through our fingers?  The dark places still exist on earth but the light, that light that illuminates those dark places, that everlasting light from Heaven’s throne, surely there is no better vista.  I want my thoughts, words, and actions to not only live there but be propelled from there bathed in the light of my Creator, who’s transforming me from the dark places and into his glorious light. 

My thoughts, words, and actions need transformation to keep me from the dark paths and places.  God’s word has the answer.  Colossians 3:1-2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

It begins with setting our hearts and minds on things above.  

Focusing on what is lasting and eternal verses the temporal.  To put this another way, what are we going to take with us when we die?  Those things that we can’t take are the temporal things, the sand that will continually slip through our fingers.  No matter how hard we try to grasp, those things will always evade eternity.

Once we shift our focus to the lasting and eternal, then we as believers are to choose to put on our new self which is in the process of renewal by the knowledge of God.  God’s knowledge is found in every word throughout the Bible.  Next we are to daily put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  We are also to forgive each other and to put on love as a part of this daily renewal.  Colossians 3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Transformation by renewing my mind is a process and it’s a journey worth taking.  This journey will take me to new places I’ve never been.  I’ve challenged myself to focus on the transformative knowledge of God that I wrote about in this blog above.  I’m focusing on one virtue a week, meditating on that virtue and letting it sink deep into my soul and allowing it to transform my thoughts, words and actions. I’m choosing to do this until I can put on these virtues daily whilst keeping them in mind throughout my day. Will you join me?

Week 1: compassion
Week 2: kindness
Week 3: humility
Week 4: gentleness
Week 5: patience
Week 6: forgiveness
Week 7: love

What other ways, through the knowledge of God, do you renew your mind?  What are other ways you focus on things above verses the things of earth?

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