2014 – At Chapel of the Holy Cross – Sedona, AZ
1 Samuel 3: God continued to show up at Shiloh.
God’s presence has been rare and, as a result, even those who desire righteousness have blindly stumbled through life. At our best humans are still pretty pitiful and, in this distant day, most people have no interest in striving for anything close to “the best” anyway. Because of that spiritual darkness dominates. Then, in the figurative and literal night God speaks to young Samuel. Even better than that: God speaks and then continues to speak. There’s something wonderful about the phrase, “God continued to show up at Shiloh.” It has the feel of springtime in it. After the long, cold winter, the sun is shining and new life is breaking out everywhere. I’ve journeyed through my share of spiritual winters: times when God seemed far away and unreachable. But I’ve also enjoyed spiritual springtime. Frankly, my experience was more like Samuel’s than I care to admit, because in my case, like his, I didn’t have much to do with the dawning of the new day in my heart. All I know is that, after the night, God showed up and then continued to show up. By his grace, I will be faithful when spiritual winter comes, but, oh, how I love the spiritual springtime!
Take Away: Spiritual winter comes to just about everyone. How good to be reminded that after the winter season, springtime arrives.
2014 – Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, AZ
Making the most of what God has given
1 Samuel 2: I’ll establish for myself a true priest. He’ll do what I want him to do, and be what I want him to be.
The priest Eli is an interesting person in the story of Samuel. He presides over the worship activities at Shiloh but is a deeply flawed individual. He has some spiritual insights, but won’t control his own sons who make a mockery of spiritual things. At the same time, he’s entrusted with the young Samuel who’ll usher in a new day in Israel’s relationship with God. I want to cut him some slack because he lives in these days of transition but it’s plain that the Lord holds him accountable for his failure. I don’t have to judge him because the Lord already has. Eli is, I think, a person who has great potential that’s never realized. He has position, insight, and opportunity to make a real impact for God. Instead, he shows only occasional flashes of that and is ultimately told by the Lord that he and his family will be replaced by someone more worthy. Frankly, I think one reason I want to go easy on Eli is that I fear my life also sometimes fails to measure up. God has been good to me and blessed me in many ways. I don’t want to someday look back and see years of wasted opportunity.
Take Away: Make the most of opportunities the Lord gives you.
2014 – Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, AZ
When God says “yes”
1 Samuel 1: Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried — inconsolably.
As I begin reading the books of Samuel the first thing I hear is the prayer of a broken hearted woman named Hannah. Young women across the ages have longed for children and that desire is especially true in this age, 3000 years ago. In her society much of Hannah’s worth as a human being is dependent on her ability to have offspring. Even her good husband’s efforts to make her feel better about herself fail. On a trip to Shiloh everything comes to a head. In her misery Hannah pours out her heart to God at this place of worship. The Lord hears her prayer and answers, bringing not only relief to this good woman, but the beginning of restoration to Israel which has fallen far from God. I wish I understood why God hears and responds to Hannah’s prayer and not similar prayers prayed by people just as good and just as miserable as she. I know that God cares for hurting people and provides strength and comfort for them, and, sometimes he says “yes.” The rest of the time, we do the only thing we know to do: we trust him with that which we don’t understand.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for the times when the answer is “yes” – trust him in the times when the answer isn’t the one we want.