A Humble Prayer

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In the deep recesses of our hearts there is something we all want.  That thing that we want, that we yearn for, that we are fixated on shows who we really are.  When we are by ourselves and our minds and our hearts have a minute to dream or wish for “something,” our true character is revealed.  That dream for a new car, a new house, or a whole new wardrobe shows our materialistic side. Is that what we dream about in those solitary moments of thought?  Maybe it is a better relationship with our kids, our husband, or a friend?  It could be a more influential position at work or in the church that we fixate on that will bring about a level of happiness we cannot seem to find in the current position we hold. It seems no matter the walk of life we are in, we always want what we do not have.  What happens when we get “it?”  The promotion, the new house, or that dream vacation…what happens?  We are not satisfied and we want something else.

 

Hannah (I Samuel 1) wanted a child.  She was the favorite wife of Elkanah, and he lavished her with gifts “and he loved her.” (I Samuel 1:5).  Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, had children and she made sure she reminded Hannah of this fact. Peninnah would “provoke Hannah grievously to irritate her” (I Samuel 1:6).  This situation would not have made for a very peaceful domesticate life.  Scripture does not indicate that Hannah retaliated back to Peninnah by telling her that Elkanah loved her more.  Hannah could have done this.

 

Rather than complain or mock Peninnah in retaliation, Hannah prayed.  She went to the only One who could remedy the situation.  Hannah’s prayer to the Lord is a testament of her character, her wisdom, and her relationship with God.  “And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.’” (I Samuel 1:11).  Hannah was willing to give back to God what He gave to her.   She realized she was completely dependent on God for this answer to her prayer.

 

God blessed Hannah with a son, Samuel.  Hannah, true to her word gave Samuel back to God and the Lord blessed Hannah with more children.  There is a contrast in character between Hannah and Peninnah.  Peninnah mocked Hannah, and Hannah offered up no retaliation.  Hannah realized her dependence on God and went to Him humbly.  Her interaction with Eli also showed her humility despite the fact that he falsely accused her of being drunk.  She did not retaliate, but out of her humility she responded to Eli.

 

What do we see in Hannah’s character?  She was humble.  She took her request to God.  She was willing to use that answer to prayer as a testament to God.  She willingly gave back to God what He had given to her. When we pray, what is our motivation?  Is the answer to the prayer selfish or can we use the answer to the prayer as a testament to what God has done?  When we pray and God gives us what we asked, do we glorify Him and tell others what He has done? Or do we selfishly hold onto the answer not willing to be a spokesman for God?

 

We must be like Hannah and bring our requests to God, and be willing to give the answer back to God.  We must do this with an attitude of humility.

What If…

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It was a beauty pageant like no other.  King Xerxes ruled Persia between 486-465 B.C.  Sometime during his reign he divorced his first wife and held a beauty pageant to find himself a new queen.  “Each young woman spent 12 months under the regulations for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women.” (Esther 2:12).  After this twelve month beautification process, the young women were presented to the King.  They were given whatever their hearts desired in order to capture the affections of the King. Each woman had one night with the King.

 

Hegai, a eunuch, was put in charge of this harem of women.  Can you imagine being in charge of a group of beautiful women all vying to be queen? Hegai had to manage the cat fights, the pride, the strutting, the put downs, the flying gowns, the smell of all kinds of beautification processes, etc.  I imagine there was even hair pulling and name calling.

 

But when Esther entered the scene, she “pleased Hegai and won his favor…” (Esther 2:9).  When it came time for Esther to be presented to the king, unlike all the other women she “asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, advised.  Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her.” (Esther 2:15).

 

Esther won the heart of the king and became queen.  “She won grace and favor in his sight…” (Esther 2:17).  What was different about her?  Scripture tells us she had a “beautiful figure and was lovely to look at…” (Esther 2:7).  Even though she was beautiful and lovely, these are not the qualities that won her favor with all that were around her.  These women that were competing to be queen were the most beautiful women of the land.

 

What made her stand out?  Her character!  We can see some clues to her character as we see her interact with Hegai.  She asked for his advice.  How many beautiful women asked for the advice of the servants?  She probably addressed him by his name and with respect.  She did not walk into the room with the demeanor of arrogance, but with a demeanor of humility and grace.  She did not act like everyone owed her.

 

Her character brought her the title of queen, and God used her to save His people from Haman’s wicked plot.  God could have worked in any number of ways, but he chose a Jewish orphan girl to humbly carry out His plans.  I often wonder how many opportunities we miss because we are not the right people.  How many times do we miss an opportunity to minister for God, because we are too wrapped in ourselves?  We may not be pulling hair, name calling, or busy applying myrrh and spices.  Rather, we are so involved in our woes that we forget to look up and see all that God has done for us.  Esther could have wallowed in her misfortune.  She was an orphan.  What if she didn’t win the beauty contest?  We all have our what if’s…what if we change those negative what if’s into positive ones.  What if our love for God radiates through us and draws others to Himself.  Esther saved the lives of her entire nation!  What could we do?

Bitter vs. Sweet

fall 035The opposite of bitter is sweet, kind, genial, or pleasant.  We have all met a bitter woman or man.  We do not even need to have a conversation with them; we can just look at their countenance and see bitterness written all over their faces.  There is no smile, no joy, and no happiness; and when we begin a conversation with them our suspicions are confirmed-they certainly ate their lemons this morning.

 

We all have circumstances in our lives that can cause bitterness, yet that bitterness regarding our circumstances is like a cancer that eats away at what is good in life.  When viewing life, a bitter person looks at every event or situation through the glasses of the bad event or events that caused the weed of bitterness to take root.  The yellow rose only has thorns, the affectionate dog is a slobber monster, or that special friend forgot our birthday.  Satan likes to help the seeds of bitterness to grow by continually reminding us about the difficult situations in our lives. He waters those seeds with constant torments of the injustices in life.

 

As a child of God, these things ought not to be.

 

Have you ever compared the life of Ruth with that of Naomi in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament?  Naomi and her husband Elimalech along with their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion left Bethlehem because of the famine in search of a place to find provisions.  They settled down in Moab, a pagan city.  After some time the two sons took wives from the Moabites-this was strictly forbidden by God in the laws of the Jews.  They were only to marry women of their nationality.  After some time, all three mend died and Naomi was left with her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah.  After some urging Orpah returned to her family but Ruth vowed “where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge, your people my people, and your God my God, where you die I will die…” (Ruth 1:16, 17).

 

Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem.  Upon their return, Naomi made this declaration: “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty.  Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (Ruth 1:20, 21).  I must admit if I was Ruth I would have said, “What about me?  I lost my husband too, and I left my home and my family to come with you and this is the thanks I get.  It’s all about you and your loss.”  However, this was not Ruth’s response.

 

Despite living with a bitter woman in a foreign land, Ruth chose to walk the higher road.  She was pleasant.  She proved to be a hard worker.  She was respectful and humble.  Ruth 3:11 says she was a worthy woman.  She was a woman that was “far above rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10).

 

In the book of Ruth, the contrast between a bitter woman and a noble woman is very obvious.  Not only is it obvious, it was rewarded.  Ruth was so noble, God chose her to be in the lineage of King David and our Savior, Jesus.  There could be no greater honor for Ruth than this, all because she chose to be a woman of godly character, a woman that was “far above rubies.”

content

Content

A state of peaceful happiness and satisfaction

 

This the fourteenth and final “word on the wall in our kitchen.”  There are many thoughts and emotions wrapped up in this word for me this morning as I sit here and write this.  Last Friday, I had to take all the words off the wall.  We are moving to Grand Rapids this summer and the realtor told me I needed to remove the words before putting our house up for sale.  We had our first showing last week, even though our house is not officially on the market, so I took the words down.

 

Everyone in our home has a range of emotions when we talk about the move.  Our youngest daughter is having the most trouble with it because it will affect her life more than her sister’s.  They both leave for college in August, but she stays home and has to find a new church, make new friends, adapt to a new skating coach, and the list could go on.  My husband is elated since he will not have to drive to Grand Rapids a few times every week.  The best label for my emotions is “content.”  I have a peace about this move, though I too will have to make new friends and find a new church to serve in.

 

I have found in this process that contentment is not something I can strive for, rather it is something that comes from my heart.  It is a steadfastness that God is orchestrating the details of my life and in the midst of change, I can trust that he will take care of the unknown.  Please know that I am going to miss my church family here in Rochester.  Since we have no family close by, they have become our family.  I am going to miss the familiarity of being in a place for 16 years, but I have moved in the past and know that the familiarity will return.  Since God is orchestrating this move, I know He has a church home for us with a new church family and a new ministry to be a part of.

 

Whenever details seem to bring worry into our home, I am quick to remember that this is God’s plan and He has the details figured out better than I.  When we moved here we looked at over 50 houses.  My poor realtor.  I was pregnant, so maybe that explains it.  With the advent of technology, we looked at many more than 50 houses online.  We only looked at five houses this time, but kept coming back to the same one in our minds.  The one that we bought has been on the market since September of 2014.  We feel like God was saving it for us.

 

When we first talked about moving 2 years ago, I held very tightly to the AWANA ministry I am a part of.  I am the director of the 3-6 grade girls and I love the interaction I have with them and the lessons I teach them each week.  I love this ministry and I love the young girls that are a part of it.  Slowly over time, God has given me a peace about leaving this ministry knowing He would have something else and someone else to minister to. One day I realized that the tight grip with which I had held onto this ministry had relaxed and I was now content with surrendering something so precious to my God.

 

There are verses of contentment in the Bible, but in my experience contentment is a by-product of faith.  The more I trust my God, the greater my contentment is.  Life is much more enjoyable when we trust God’s plan for our lives rather than try to orchestrate it ourselves.  “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

 

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KINDNESS

The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate

 

 

Kindness comes in different packages.  Kindness is an unexpected note in the mail that encourages our hearts.  Kindness is a thoughtful gesture to an undeserved soul.  Kindness is a thoughtful gesture at an unexpected time.  Kindness is a knowing look from across the room.  Kindness is a tenderness during a difficult time.  Kindness is bearing another’s burden with them.  Kindness is empathy.  Kindness is looking for the needs in others and meeting those needs.  Kindness is love put into action.

 

In the midst of a difficult time, nothing is more meaningful than a kind word or thoughtful gesture that brings encouragement to the soul.  The Proverbs 31 woman is known for her kindness.  “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:20).  This woman is looking for ways to help people.  Not only is it seen in her actions, it is also seen in her words.  “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26).  She is wise and uses this wisdom to teach others and encourage others with kindness.  Because of her wisdom, she knows what another needs to hear to be encouraged or what another needs to receive to be encouraged.  She is intuitive.  “Her husband is known in the gates…” (Proverbs 31:23).  If this Proverbs 31 lady was unkind with her actions and  harsh words came from her mouth, it would stain the reputation of her husband and he would not hold a position of honor among those at the gate.

 

The final compliment to the Proverbs 31 woman’s character is verse 28. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”  How we are at home is a true indicator of who we really are.  Most of us are good at putting our masks on outside the four walls of our homes, but what goes on within is a test of true character.  The fact that her children and her husband blessed and praised her is a true indication that her kindness in word and deeds was not for show but was her genuine character.  Our true character shines through when no one is watching.

 

One of my favorite stories of kindness happened a few years ago.  A friend of mine lost her husband.  The loss of a loved one is always difficult during those first holidays.  Christmas was fast approaching and the loneliness of a Christmas without her spouse was going to be difficult.  One evening about 12 days before Christmas, some young men whom she did not know knocked on her door carrying gifts.  They came in and set down the gifts in her living and handed her an envelope and left.  The letter told her to open one gift each day for the next twelve days.  The gifts were not extravagant, but they were such an encouragement to her to know someone cared so much about her and her loneliness to provide a little light each day during the Christmas season.  She never did find out who gave the gifts, but that first Christmas without her husband was so much brighter because of someone’s kindness.

 

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7).  What is in our hearts comes out through our mouths and our lives.  We have a choice every day.  Will you be known for “the teaching of kindness on your tongue?” (Proverbs 31:26).