God Hears Your Cry

After some time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, because she said, “I requested him from the LORD.”
1 Samuel 1:20 (CSB)

God Hears Your Cry. 

We live in an age of the instant. We are annoyed by the buffering of a Youtube video, long lines at the grocery store, and drive-thrus that take more time than expected. If not careful, this instant-grits-mentality bleeds over into our spiritual walks. We wonder, “How many times have I prayed about this situation? Shouldn’t God have answered by now?” Rest assured, God hears your cry. 

Hannah prayed for Samuel, and it was “after some time” before she received an answer.  Before this answered prayer, Hannah was in agony over being barren. A “double portion” from Elkanah would not suffice. This gesture of kindness from her husband wouldn’t soothe the ache of Hannah’s heart. She desired a child – a son. 
 
Why did God take so long to answer? Could it be that God used this time to prepare Hannah’s heart? Did Hannah desire a child to prove she was as “good” a Peninnah? It’s possible. Regardless, the hot tears of Hannah’s brokeness washed away any prideful ambition. This delay prepared a young mother’s heart to be willing to say, “I prayed for this boy, and since the LORD gave me what I asked him for,  I now give the boy to the LORD. For as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD” (27-28a). 

In seasons of silence, we question if God hears our prayers. He does. He is working on your behalf. However, patience is a virtue forged in the flame of heartache and tribulation. But God is working during the pain.  He may be shaping your motivations to align with His purposes. The Apostle Paul encourages us by saying, “He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?” Romans 8:32 (CSB) Take heart. God knows your situation, and He hears your prayer. 


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Me, a Memoirist?

Memoir—/ˈmemˌwär/ (noun) – a narrative composed from personal experience; an account of something noteworthy; an essay on a learned subject

Memoir. The word has always conjured up images of a man with a long gray beard sitting in a worn leather armchair, flanked by bookshelves filled with antique tomes and trinkets from his many travels, while smoke lifts and lingers from his hawkbill tobacco pipe. I don’t know why. It may be because I believed the misconception that people with extraordinary experiences write memoirs. There are those authors for sure. However, I understand some of the best memoirists are those that capture the simplicity of life in unique ways.

I’ve loved the genre without even knowing it. For many years, I’ve wrestled with what type of writing I felt the most comfortable writing. As a pastor, I knew sermons, devotionals, and Bible studies fell in the category of nonfiction, but I wanted to tell stories. Short stories and novels were my first choice. However, after several attempts, something didn’t feel right.

When I studied the craft of writing more, I learned what a memoir actually means. A memoir is a “narrative composed from personal experience, an account of something noteworthy,”1 or “an essay on a learned subject.”2 After learning this definition, I realized this was the stuff I loved to write.

Why do I feel qualified to write in this vein? It’s simple. I’m not an authority on any topic, but I observe the world in my own unique way. No one can tell a story from my point of view. My personal experiences as a husband, dad, and small-town pastor provide endless fodder for memoirish writing. I think my perspective on life, which is fueled by a biblical worldview, can help offer hope for the readers.

1https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/memoir

2https://www.google.com/search?q=memoir+definition

Have a Messy Christmas

I came across this piece I wrote the day after Christmas 2020. I thought I'd share it here on my blog.

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:23)  

A few years ago, I preached a sermon called “Have a Messy Christmas.” I called the congregation to reconsider the night Christ was born. Not the dating of his birth, but to reimagine the conditions into which Christ was born. I emphasized how we allow our culture and traditions to paint a mental picture of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus with halos in a clean stable surrounded by a host of animals and divine visitors. However, I can’t imagine a place where people kept animals being too sanitary and clean.  

Although our minds may fill with picturesque nativity scenes, the truth is Jesus, God with us, was born in a lowly estate. Jesus came to redeem a broken and dirty world. God did not give baby Jesus a clean delivery room to enter the world (or even a bottle of Germ-X). Christ wasn’t concerned with painted halos about his head, but he came to roll up his sleeves and to do the work the Father sent him to do.  

Why am I talking about this? Well, it’s because for many people Christmas 2020 has been tough. I’m not sure why several people have testified it didn’t feel like Christmas to them. And I must agree it didn’t for me either. The reasons are different, but for some, it was because of sickness, tragedy, or even death. For my household, it was all three.  

Last night, I struggled to hold in the tears as I looked at my phone screen. I realized I would not get that call from my dad this year. Many times, they were brief, and I didn’t realize how important they were to me. I was a fool to think of them as an obligatory act. Of course, we had our disagreements, but he was (is) my dad. Our relationship should’ve been stronger. Sometimes, life is messy like that.  

But that’s the point of Christmas, isn’t it? It’s not about ribbons, bows, eggnog, or mistletoe. It’s about a God who loved us so much, that he came into our world. Into our brokenness. Into our sorrow and pain. Christmas was not meant to be about many of the things we celebrate. Some of them, are good in and of themselves, but when they fail to happen we shouldn’t lose hope, because Christ was born in Bethlehem!  

It’s become a cliché to say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, in 2020 we all would do good to recall this simple fact. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came for you and for me.