Friday, December 30, 2011

hannah

 in her deep anguish hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly...hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard..."i was pouring out my soul to the Lord"
~1 Samuel 1~

listened to a sermon today about prayer and was convicted anew of my lack of attention to this area of my life, which consider to be quite important. so time to contemplate...

when i read 1 samuel 1 i was struck by hannah's model of prayer.  first of all she is honest. i think we often feel childish praying to God of our heart's desires.  we feel like we can't or shouldn't ask for things we want, in a grand attempt to display that we recognize that "His will be done."  He is not so easily fooled though, He knows our heart and i believe He is pleased when we are just honest about what is on our hearts, what our spirits long for.  such was hannah's prayer for a child.

the second thing about hannah's example is that she prayed to God in anguish.  how often do i pray to God with such passion and zealous emotion?  i too often treat it as a part of my routine, a ritual i must or should do as a follower of Christ.  instead i should see it as the forum i can be most open, most myself.  the venue to truly relate to my Creator things that i'm wrestling with, articulations of my utmost joy and most penetrating sorrow.  i am too often robotic in prayer.

finally i was struck by hannah's example of praise-in-sacrifice.  she prayed in anguish for a child, and then gave him back to the Lord to become a priest.  how hard that would be to do, to give away the thing you prayed for, longed for, for so long.  yet, look at the fruit that was born out of this sacrifice, this example of praise to God: samuel [hannah's son] became a great prophet, who ended up anointing david as king of israel...and Christ is of the line of david...all is traced back to hannah's prayer.  the power of prayer never ceases to amaze.  it was one prayer and look how many blessings, in a ripple effect, emerged as a result of a honest request and a praising heart.

prayer is really just a conversation with God, which out to have equal portions of speaking and listening.  too often i think of prayer as me just laying out my woes to God...how infrequently i endeavor to listen for His half of the conversation.  as with all forms of communication in relationships, honesty and openness are important.  although it is true that God already knows our hearts, our thoughts, it pleases Him when we converse with Him, just as it pleases a parent when their child comes to them to speak of problems or joys, even when they already knew of them before the words were spoken.

so my encouragement to myself, and writing it here to keep myself accountable, and to anyone else who might happen to read this is to treat prayer as a conversation with God. come to Him honestly, do not shy away from conveying what is truly on your heart.  see it as an investment in your relationship with Him, the best and easiest way to grow closer to Him.  but also listen for Him, for what He has to say to you, show you.  in the pouring out of our soul to God, as hannah exemplifies, God is able to use our lives to further glorify His name.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

light


your Father's the light within all that you see
~mewithoutYou~


one 4th of july a few years back [i guess the notion of 'Christmas in july' has me thinking of july now around Christmas] i remember discussing fireworks with friends, and it struck me how in awe we are of light.  i mean, the highlight of any 4th of july, the grand crescendo of festivities is the fireworks display.  its more or less the same show each year, yet we gather in a mass, every city all over the country to watch brief explosions of light in the sky with a chorus of the most childlike, over-hyperbolic 'ooo's and 'awww's.  i'm right in there with the best of them

the memory of that brief discussion of light with friends over fireworks, hit me anew now that it is december and we are all putting strings of lights around trees and on the roofs of our homes.  yet again we are enamored with light.  light seems to be an honored guest of most holidays: fireworks on independence day, candle light for valentine's day, string lights for Christmas, candles on a cake for birthdays, the menorah on hannukah, full moon on halloween...

on a materialistic note, most of us are attracted to things that glitter and shine: a new car, diamonds, gold, chandeliers...all which are self promoted through the reflection of light.

sightings of light in nature also hypnotize, in my opinion these are the most worthy of awe.  take lightening:  a momentary flash of flight across a dark, stormy sky.  the celestial vein or tree branch in its intricate, jagged structure. it makes our hearts skip a beat [or at least for me] less out of fear of being struck [for we all know the odds of that occurring] and more for the spectacular display that it is -  a reminder of a power and majesty that is beyond us, bigger than us.

shooting stars have the same sort of effect.  a brief streak of light across the sky, a divine paint brush stroke.  no one later notes much of the details of the black sky after surrounding, just that trilling moment of a glimpse of light.  i challenge you not to stop to look at such moments, not to marvel at the beauty of light.

let us not forget dawn, twilight, and sunset.  the times of day which light changes its form, constructing a harmony of colors and shadows.  these times of day are the settings of many of our favorite memories and photographs, the imagery favored by poets and musicians, the muses of artists.  and while the colors are mostly spoken of, it is the rising and fading light that is the origin of such captivating hues.

i'm a bit of a collector of words...so...the following was a natural progression in my musings about light:

words we use that are related to light tend to have a positive connotation:
  • bright/brilliant - smart
  • brilliance - genius, intelligence
  • glowing
  • enlightened - well informed; tolerant of other opinions
  • luminous - easily comprehended
  • lucent - marked by clarity
  • shine - to excel
  • sparkle - to be brilliant
  • spark - inspiration or catalyst
  • aflame - impassioned
  • sunny - cheerful; joyous
idioms of light typically are used to translate hope:
  • beacon in the night
  • light at the end of the tunnel
  • guiding light
  • begin to see the light
there is something about light that warms the soul, inspires, and makes us stop for a moment in awe of this substance that is intangible.  it cannot be held or touched or aptly described for all the significance it has to and emotions it inspires in us. we are in adoration of light, in awe of it, give it a sacred respect and that is what leads me to marveling at how God uses something earthly to reveal His nature to us and His will for our lives.

mentioning of light abound in scripture.  the first words that God spoke "let there be light" [genesis 1:3].  Thus light is something that God  saw of great importance and is something that has long been connected to His nature.  He led the israelites through the wilderness by a pillar of fire at night to give them light to travel by [Exodus 13:21-22].  His word is a "light unto our path" [psalm 119:105], and a guide for our steps.  God petitions that we "let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven" [matthew 5:16].  Christ Himself is defined as "light of the world" [John 9:5]. 

beyond the scriptural appearances of "light," the nature of physical light has the aesthetics, awe-inspiring wonder, and striking beauty that stirs the soul, a form of language of our Creator in my opinion.  it has always spoken of Him to me.

but for all that light is, we are incapable of understanding it without its opposite: darkness.  no one can define light without darkness, no one would marvel at light without moments of its absence.  so it is life: we would not value and treasure blessings if we did not also experience struggles and trails.  God is the "lamp that turns my darkness into light" [2 Samuel 22:29], but I would not comprehend the treasure of light without its contrasting cousin.  As Job said "God rescued me from the grave, and now my life is filled with light" [Job 33:28].