Happy Friday

Lesley Graham
 

Y'all. Someone get me on the #write31days train. Take all the grace that's been given and use it to hoist my butt back onto that caboose. Thankfully I have no plans tomorrow (is this the Twilight Zone??) and I'm going to park myself at my computer with Bible in hand to work through Samuel! Hope you all have a lovely and relaxing (or productive) weekend! 

+ some links for your weekend: 

Image via Lesley W. Graham

Liquid Gold

That's Pretty Ace
 

Hi, friends.

I hope you're all doing well and that somewhere some of you are enjoying real fall weather. Today the high in Texas is 94 degrees. I'm just going to keep consuming pumpkin-everything and wearing scarves and hoping I can just sweat this one out.

Secondly, thank you for following along with my attempts so far at #write31days. After an exhausting summer of being poured into, I'm really making every effort to face my fears and keep writing. 1 Samuel has been so good to me. I'm trying not to read ahead and just take a chapter each day. Once I got past chapter one (my first day, darn-it!), I started realizing I had a lot of questions about each chapter. The old testament is a new beast to me. People are literally dying at God's command and my mind is blowing up. But it's forcing me to have good conversation (special thanks to Chris), to seek more knowledge (special thanks to Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul) and to learn to listen for His voice more diligently. I've developed a serious hunger these past few months to simply know Him better and the Bible is becoming the song of my heart. I know He wrote it to me, to all of us. It's His history, His love letter, His living Word... and I'll be honest that I don't know it well. 1 Samuel has been a wonderful experience of learning how to read it and how to listen with my heart. 

I also had a chance to sit down with a sweet friend of mine and chat about what it means to have a blog... especially one that's gospel-driven. I often tell myself that a "good reason" not to write is because God hasn't put anything specific on my heart that day. Or the next or the next or the next. So, because I believe the Holy Spirit hasn't invaded my hands and forced me to type, then I don't type anything at all. How ridiculous of me to assume everything I need to share here has to be liquid gold?? (Side note – Velveeta, anyone??) And how ridiculous of me to assume I know what liquid gold looks like... some of the posts that I know have been special for someone reading were some of the ones I've liked the least. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." Y'all. There is a good reason the writer of 2 Corinthians phrased this verse this way. "BUT HE SAID TO ME." He made it easy as pie to insert yourself in this verse as you're reading it, so go ahead and read that one out loud. 

For me, I feel like this mindset is so opposite of what the world has told me about perfection (which, gosh, is a whole other post for a whole other day). The world tells me I must be strong. I must be knowledgable. I must be well-spoken. I must be confident. I must excel. God says, "I am strong. I speak with the highest authority. You are weak. You will fail. So just trust me. Just take a step. Just let me work through you and you'll see my plans for you are good."

At some point, you have to let go of the control and fill-in-the-blank-like-nike-just-do-it. Just sit down and write. Just call up that old friend. Just go to that event. Just be nice to that person. Just say a prayer and try. I'm pretty sure that "Lord, be with me" has become the mantra of my days, because I have become fully aware in the past three months that I literally cannot do anything without the help of my God. The fact that I woke up this morning breathing is nothing short of a miracle. Me having a great conversation with someone I'm afraid to talk to – all Him. Me being able to provide comfort to a friend who's going through a struggle I can't begin to understand – all Him. Me being able to muster up the strength to lovingly serve my husband after a long day at work when all I want to say is "Bring me a glass of wine and let me vent for an hour" – definitely all Him. And He made Chris really sweet and adorable, so that helps too. Thanks, God. Thank you, all of the time.

So, hi. My name is Brittany. And I'm completely, 100% imperfect and messy. If you know me at all, you know I do not enjoy using the word "messy" to describe myself, but through some serious pushing and shoving God is showing to me that He did, indeed, make me that way. And it was for a reason... so that we could share joy. Yes, God. You make beautiful things out of my dust.

 

1 Samuel 4

That's Pretty Ace
 

Read 1 Samuel 4.

"Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord's covenant from Shiloh, so that
it may go with us and save us from
the hand of our enemies."

- 1 Samuel 4:3 - 

In chapter 4, we see that there's some pretty major things going on for the Israelites. They're in a war against the Philistines and not doing so great. The Philistines are pretty tough dudes, and they have many gods – gods that they've made idols for that they bring with them to battle. The Israelites remember how their God brought them out of slavery in Egypt so many years ago and they decide that maybe they should bring an idol of their God down to the battle field as well. The elders of the city meet together and decide to have Eli's sons bring the ark of the covenant down from the temple. Probably not the best idea they've ever had, since they're not supposed to cart it around and show it off!

Long story short, Eli's rebellious sons bring the ark to the battle, the Philistines see it and become afraid (they've heard about the escape from Egypt, too) and they make a rally cry and become to determined to fight even harder. The Philistines win the battle by a long shot and capture the ark. Eli's sons are killed that day (just like in the prophecy), and when Eli hears the news about the ark, he falls over and breaks his neck and dies as well. It's all a very dark and sad day for the Israelite people. 

I was reading back through this chapter over and over, trying to read critically and see if I could find myself in this story. I had to put it down and come back to it before realizing that I am 100% right there with the Israelite people. Through doing a little research, I found that during this time the Israelites weren't particularly spiritual people. If you've read much of the Old Testament, it's easy to see that they wander away from God often, even after He's proved himself faithful to them over and over. They easily doubt. They easily fear. They become frustrated when He doesn't give them what they want or when He doesn't move things along fast enough. This is a pretty prime example here in 1 Samuel – instead of calling the people to fast, offer sacrifices, or pray together, they decide it would be best to bring the ark out of the temple (a big no-no) to show it off before the Philistines. This backfires completely and they suffer huge consequences.

How often do I try to control a situation to find a "quick fix"? (All the time.) I know I've done this with my jobs, with my friendships, with anything I want or think I need... I try to make the process move along faster. I try to control the outcome. And nine times out of ten, this doesn't turn out so great because I'm not being prayerful and I'm not listening for where God might be leading me in the situation. I hold onto the control so tightly – if I would just let Him in, he would create so much more beauty in my life then I could even imagine. 

I had a friend tell me recently that she feels that God often works in this way in her life – that He gives her just a glimmer of something, enough to spark her curiosity, that she has to step into it a little bit to see anything further. That He encourages her to make a decision, to dig a little more, to spend a little more time with that person, before He gives her another glimmer of clarity. Sometimes we're going to walk through seasons where we're not even 75% confident of what we're doing, but we're listening just enough to know that God is guiding the way. It's a weird place to be in and, if you're a Type A planner like me, it can be terrifying. 

The best place to start letting go of control is through prayer. When we lay down the things that are on our hearts, our honest desires (remember Hannah?), God is good to listen and to offer guidance. It might take awhile to see it, and it might not turn out the way we had in mind, but His ways are so good. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" He desires us to walk with Him through every minute of our day so that he can show us glimmers of His perfectly made plans, so that we can lay down our pride and our fear to live a life focused on His goodness and His strength... so that we can do more with our lives than any of our best "quick fixes" could.

 

1 Samuel 3

That's Pretty Ace
 

#write31days really is a challenge! So sorry for falling behind. I ended up taking the weekend to do some additional reading to help me understand these next few chapters better, and it was so helpful. Let's roll! Read through 1 Samuel 3. (Also, if you are in Texas, say a quick prayer of praise for the surprise fall weather we've been having!)

“He is the Lord; let him do
what is good in his eyes.”
- 1 Samuel 3:18 -

I'll go ahead and let you know that these next few chapters are going to get rough, and they start with an ominous message from God. The boy Samuel, Hannah's gift, still lives at the Temple and is learning under Eli the priest. Eli's aging and nearly blind. One night, Samuel hears a voice call out to him. Thinking that it's Eli, he gets up and goes to him. Eli says it wasn't him calling and tells the boy to go back to bed. The third time this happens, Eli realizes that the Lord is calling to Samuel. He tells the boy to go back to bed, and if he hears the voice again, to reply "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening". 

When Samuel does, the Lord tells him that he is going to erase the things he had promised to Eli and his family and that they are going to be rebuked for their sins against God's holiness. The next morning, Samuel was naturally a little afraid to tell Eli what the Lord had said, but Eli called to him and insisted he give him the report. When Samuel finished relaying the message, Eli said, "He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes."

Eli, a man of God, a priest, came from a long line of priests – a lineage ordained by God himself. The Lord is his life... and yet, God is telling him that this will be taken away. Eli's sons profaned God's holiness and misused their titles for their own selfish desires, and the Lord let Eli know that they are going to die in their prime on the same day. And because Eli failed to restrain them, he's being severely punished as well. My heart hurts for Eli and for his betrayal to God's holiness. But I love his response... "let Him do what is good."

I was talking last week with a few friends about difficult relationships, and how sometimes "brotherly affection" involves correction and helping to steer someone in the right direction. We have opportunities, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to speak truth to one another when we see our flesh taking control of us. This is hard to do, but so beautiful when done with love! We also have the opportunity to be steered – but, gosh, it can be uncomfortable. No one likes feeling as if they're "wrong", especially when they're really comfortable in their ways. But when I read Eli receive the Lord's message for the second time and feel his acceptance of it... I am so convicted.

It is well with my soul. God's will for my life may not always be what I want, and when it hurts, I definitely do not want it. But if we can lay down our pride knowing that His way is better... we can say with peace "let Him do what is good."

1 Samuel 2

 

Read 1 Samuel 2.

He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced
in the place of darkness.

- 1 Samuel 2:9 -

We start with the prayer of Hannah. She's singing praises to the Lord for providing her a son she asked for... before she leaves him to stay with Eli in the temple. I can't imagine how hard that must've been for her, but it's obvious through her prayer that the Lord has made His way clear and given her so much peace. 

However, immediately after reading Hannah's prayer, we're told about Eli's two sons, who are also priests in the temple. These dudes are bad mamma-jamma's. They're taking more than they're supposed to from people's sacrifices for themselves, and even sleeping around... and The Lord is not pleased. In fact, he sends someone to tell Eli! "A man of God came to Eli and said to him" (v.27) that The Lord has numbered Eli's days, and the days of his sons. He reminded Eli of the way he had provided for his ancestors, and how he had picked Eli's ancestor to be his priest. He questioned why Eli had let his sons continue on in the way they had. He told Eli that good will still come to the people of Israel, but not to Eli... that Eli had lost his favor, and that he was going to raise up a new priest "who will do according to what is in my heart and mind" (v.35).

Our God is a jealous God. We're going to see a lot of this in 1 Samuel (as we often do in the Old Testament). It's hard for me to read this, because I have a sensitive heart when it comes to God's good discipline and justice. Being the big softie that I am, I want to look for Jesus's kindness and ultimate salvation for us, even though his death on the cross hasn't come yet. But you know what's crazy about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit? They have always been. They will always be. They're in Genesis 1 – in verse 26, God said, "Let us make mankind in our image..." And they are here in 1 Samuel as well. We just have to look closely to see them working together. 

You know when a surgeon goes in and cuts away a tumor? When he or she removes what is diseased, what is broken, to let the good cells grow and multiply? When we hear stories of incredible surgeries where whole sections of someone's brain or major organ is removed, and with time and healing and hard work, their lives are saved and for the better because of it? 

The trinity does this kind of work, too. Pruning away our pride and shame, God does surgery on our hearts and minds so that they can be better fixed on Him and less fixed on the fleeting, unsatisfying things of this world. In a new life with Christ, the posture of our hearts begin to change, and our desire shifts from wanting more of the world to wanting more of Him. The surgery, the pruning process... it's never easy. Laying down our pride, our fear, the nature of our flesh, is uncomfortable work and the work is never "done". But when we chip away at those sections of our hearts, God fills those spaces with His peace, His joy, His compassion, creating the fruits of the Spirit rise up in us. He fills our minds with His truth, giving us His holy armor for our daily battle against sin. 

So even though I don't love hearing about how Eli and his sons have turned away from the Lord, I do recognize that he's doing work here – hard work. He's calling them back in His own perfect way and putting them on a path where they can be filled with the humility and satisfaction that only comes from God. And he's also working on quite the side project... raising up a young boy named Samuel, who will do great things only because He loves the Lord and is obedient to His call.