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Archive for March, 2017

From crowded rooms to solitary hide-a-ways, loneliness exists outside the boundaries of place or circumstance. It invades the space of married couples…singles…young and old. And, loneliness? It has the power to drive us toward relationship or introduce lies into the vulnerable places of our hearts.

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If we aren’t intentional our in loneliness, we can be taken captive–seduced into believing that we are utterly alone. Have you been there, Friend? Has this lie lodged itself into the corners of your heart?

Perhaps it was birthed in the ruins of a fractured relationship or marriage. Maybe the pain of untruth took root when your prayers seemed to go unanswered. Is it possible you even feel you deserve loneliness—that your internal ache for something more stems from just being you?

Daughter of Christ, if you are hard-worn by loneliness right now, remember–there is Someone who is always with you. He knew you from your beginning. He knows the day of your last breath. And, He walks with you each step between now and forever.

This is the truth in which we can intentionally rest.

And, for those who know the lonely one? We can pray…love…and–with intentionality–remind her of Christ’s steadfast commitment to His children.

Won’t you join me today by reaching out to someone burdened by loneliness? Share your story with us.

Scripture for Reflection

I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you! I will not leave you orphaned. (John 14:16-18 MSG)

 

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When my pastor shared a statistic in a recent sermon, I allowed my gaze to settle on the faces of those around the room. How many felt a painful stab of recognition when he mentioned the hidden epidemic?

It might have been the young mama who attends church each week while her husband serves the country in a dusty land halfway around the world. Or, perhaps one of its victims was the teen girl who shifted uneasily at its mention. She’s the one with the dare-you-to-say-anything expression—physically distanced from her family; arms crossed in an attempt to fend off well-meaning attempts to approach her. Maybe the words penetrated the heart of the smartly dressed elderly woman—the woman whose smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes. When I greeted her, she mentioned that her husband refuses to venture beyond the confines of their home. Could she be the face of the statistic?

Who, I wondered, are the lonely ones?                back-1822702_1920

 The statistics are alarming. The General Social Survey reveals that the number of people without one close friend has tripled since 1985 and more people than ever report feelings of chronic loneliness.

In our LinkedIn, Facebook-friendly world, why are more people battling with the pain of loneliness than ever before?

I believe loneliness stems from our deep soul-need to know and be known—intimatelypersonally…unreservedly—and to be loved and accepted despite the knowing.

I invite you to join me this month as we explore 16 Days–Breaking the Chains of Loneliness. Our families, churches, and communities need women willing to reach out—women called to pray, serve, and encourage. Let’s be lover’s of the lonely!

And, Friend, if you are a lonely one? I’m praying for you! God knows your need–your heart. He whispers your name and promises to “never forsake or leave you”.

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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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