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Happy Endings…

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Almost two weeks ago we had some church friends for something we call “Dinner for Eight”.  We have a yummy meal, play games, and have tons of fun laughing and getting to know each other.  We do a different group gathering every month.

On this particular one it was getting close to the end of the night and my hubby opened the door to let some cool air in because even with the windows open, it was getting warm around the dining room table.  As I got up to get something I saw our cat, Smokey (notorious for his hunting ability), run inside with a HUGE rabbit hanging out of his mouth.  It was almost as big as him!  He had the animal by the neck and it was so large that it dragged across the floor as he proudly walked into the living room.  I guess he thought that because we had so many people in the house he had to provide a bigger catch!

“Smokey!”  I yelled, which was a stupid thing to do because it just made him run (but, hey, what can I say?  I was in shock because I had a house full of guests and an animal about to be slaughtered in front of them).  He took off downstairs… with the rabbit… into the STORAGE ROOM (full of junk and an excess of closets, oil tanks, furnace, etc. – you get the picture)!  He let go of the rabbit and the mortally wounded creature took off to hide somewhere.

Well… to end this morbid story… we did not find the rabbit that night and almost two weeks later it is still missing.  Only now the house is beginning to smell real bad.  We searched and searched, but have come up empty and aren’t sure what to do now!  I guess we will keep looking until we find it!

The first day I had all the candle warmers going in practically every room of the house.  It smelled so horrible that it overpowered even the sweetest, most wonderful smell of “Iced Carrot Cake” (one of my new favorite warmer scents).  The next day I turned off all of the warmers, because I decided that I did NOT want to associate that lovely scent with the stench of decay.  Rotting bunny was all I could smell, no matter where in the house I went!

As I grumbled about it that morning a thought hit me… What if our sweet smelling walk with Christ was tainted or overpowered with the stench of the decay of sin?  Pretty soon our whole “house” would be affected by it!

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? — 1 Corinthians 3:16

 

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:2

 

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. – Romans 6:12

I string those three scriptures together to paint a picture…  Just like I refused to allow the decay of death to taint my favorite candle scent, we should refuse to allow sin to taint our lives.  This could be for two main reasons:

  1. We want to smell sweet before God.  He doesn’t want to see us corrupted by the things the world has to offer around us that will ultimately harm us in the end.  He wants the VERY BEST for us!  He wants us to make right choices that will lead us to joy, love, and peace instead of sadness, pain, and death.
  2. We want to smell sweet before others.  One of the biggest complaints we hear is that all Christians are hypocrites.  IT’S NOT TRUE!  We are human and make mistakes like everyone else, but some of us are trying real hard to display the love of God in our lives towards others.  When you look the same, act the same, and live the same as everyone else, you cannot separate the decay of sin from the abundant life that God has for us.  In another way to explain it, our “light” is extinguished by darkness.  Why would anyone want to come to church with us if we “smelled” like death?  We can be ruled by anger, lust, gossip, bullying, addictions, or many other things that control our body or personality OR we can be ruled by love, peace, patience, self control, or those kinds of things that come from God!  Others WILL know the difference.  We can’t hide it.

I definitely don’t want to stink, do you?

INTERACTION:

  1. Parent:  What are some things that can corrupt our lives? What do you think God wants for you & your teen?
  2. Teen:  How do you think others view you?  Is it a challenge to live every day for God?

PARENTS:

Here are some additional scriptures for you & your teen to look up daily & discuss throughout the rest of the week:  1 John 2:15-17;  Romans 12:2;  James 4:4;  Philippians 4:8-9;  Romans 8:5;  Romans 14:17-18

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Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.”  —  1 Samuel 1:22

 

The story is beautiful… a woman prays to be able to have a son.  In Hebrew culture, that was the most significant goal a girl had in life, to be able to have children, to possibly be able to fulfill a prophesy handed down since the days of Adam and Eve.  More important than that was the innate desire that she had to be a mother, to have a child to love and hold in her arms that was a part of her.

 

In this prayer Hannah declares a shocking vow, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”  1 Samuel 1:11

 

Her prayers are answered and she has a beautiful, healthy baby boy!  This is a wonderful thing!  The most incredible thing to me is that Hannah is willing to give up this child she had longed for ever since she married Elkanah.  As the scripture above stated, she waited until Samuel was weaned and then took him to the temple to live with Eli the priest and his sons.  In those days, usually weaning a child happened right around two or three years of age.

 

How was she able to do this?  I can’t even imagine!  I try to picture in my mind saying goodbye to my little 3-year-old son, knowing that I would no longer be hugging him throughout the day, kissing him goodnight, wiping away his tears, tickling his sides to hear him giggle, or whispering “I love you” in his ears.  My heart aches just to think of it!  I would probably cry myself to sleep at night!

 

Yet Hannah was content that she was given those precious few years with him.  To her, he was a miracle that she was thankful for and she kept her word to give him back to the Lord.  She was so overjoyed that she praised the Lord with a long and emotional prayer the day she gave him up.  (1 Samuel 2:1-10)   How AMAZING is this?!

 

What about Samuel?  How did this tiny tot do without his mommy those first few days?  I believe God must have blessed him with such an abundant sense of peace and love that he too was content.  It had to be!  The entire world of a small child is wrapped up in their parents, especially the mother.  Samuel grew up to be one of the most amazing prophets in the Bible, so I know that God miraculously kept him from distress at this tender age!  GOD was his father and mother all rolled up into one.

 

I say all of this, because her “sacrifice” speaks to me today.  As a parent I tend to hang on to my children extremely tight.  I so badly want the best for them, that it can be overwhelming (to me and to them)!  I am always trying, though.  I want them to be healthy and learn how to make their own decisions and think on their own, but it is SO HARD to see them make mistakes that will hurt them.  The older they get, the more I have to let go… yet I am always there guiding them and teaching them.  Hannah gave all of this up.  She had to totally trust in the Lord to take care of her son.

 

I need to trust in the Lord also.  No one can care for my kids like HE can, so I need to stop worrying and stressing out about every little thing.  I need to find comfort, as Hannah did, in leaving my kids in the hands of God.

 

What does this look like?  Not obsessing over everything, allowing for mistakes, laughing and talking more instead of getting angry and frustrated, flowing with each new stage of their lives and seeking God for wisdom in how to best raise them, and many other such things!  Most of all, I need to ENJOY THEM while they are still under my care, and APPRECIATE the three amazing miracles that were placed in my life to love.

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I have always had an overactive imagination!  When I was a little girl I believed that there were dinosaurs living in the small forest behind my house and that aliens would someday come to take me to a place called spaghetti planet.  Many times in my pink, flowery bedroom I would make believe that I could talk to angels and once even recreated the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (you’ll have to look that one up in the Bible – Revelation 19:7-9).  I pretended to talk to Jesus and all the saints and martyrs while eating fruit and bread and drinking tea.

 

This trait I had was sometimes a good thing and sometimes not!  All it would take was for me to hear one small piece of scary news and I would have nightmares for weeks.  I was afraid of strange things because my mind would run off to that place I heard about on the news or in someone’s nearby conversation.  Here’s a funny example:  for many months I was afraid of motorcycles because I heard about a gang called Hell’s Angels that supposedly was going around killing people.  I would imagine them crashing through my house riding on their screaming two-wheeled monsters and into my bedroom to take me away as a sacrifice to the Devil (weird, I know, but that’s how the story went back then).  I was also afraid of dark, unlit roads because of serial killers who had escaped from their insane asylums and I was petrified of deep, murky water (it might be hiding some kind of hideous creature).  Needless to say, my parents were careful about what I was allowed to watch due to this overactive mind of mine.  After all, they were the ones waking up in the middle of the night to comfort me back to sleep!

 

Most of the time, especially in my younger years, I could push out the scary thoughts and focus on the happy ones!  I would lie on my bed at night and think of different Bible stories or characters and play it out in my mind like episodes of popular television shows.  I used to wonder if when I got to heaven God would let me watch the Bible unfold in living color on a magical movie screen and get to witness how it all really happened!

 

Now that I am an adult, I still let my imagination get the best of me.  I still can’t watch the tragic events on the news channels and I still think about characters in the Bible and what their personalities must have been like.  I often wonder… how did they feel?  What emotions were they having?  What were they thinking?  How did they express themselves?  How did they handle life?  What did they look like?  What was it like to be them?

 

This book is an expression of that curiosity.  Hundreds of hours of research into the Hebrew culture of that time are combined with my thoughts of what life must have been like for them.  Through this story I hope to introduce people to Ancient Israelite customs that are deeply intricate to our beliefs today.  Their lives were so much different than ours, which we often forget when reading God’s Word.  We wander around the Scriptures, reading stuff we do not completely understand.  It is my desire to help encourage a hunger in all of my readers for more of the Bible, and to put themselves into the shoes of the people God talks about.  Maybe this will help us get a better grasp on our own lives as well.

 

I chose Rahab, the reformed prostitute, because her incredible story touches me.  I think she must have had a very difficult life, full of pain and heartache, before she was saved and grafted into the Israelite family.  The loathsome title frequently attached to her name speaks volumes to what she must have had to endure throughout her young life.  Yet she was a strong woman, able to overcome disappointment and almost certain abuse to be used by God through her willingness to believe in Him.  Rahab had a faith so solid she went down in biblical history for it!  It was her faith that saved her, enabling her to exchange the unwanted label of prostitute for redeemed daughter of God.

 

I want to make a disclaimer:  this book is FICTION, although based on some Biblical accounts.  A few of the people in this book did actually live and breathe and walk the earth, but these are just my ideas on what it must have felt like to be Rahab.

 

Please read your Bible to see the true story (Joshua 1-6).  There also will be various scripture references at the end of the book to help you.  God bless you as you come with me on this journey back in time to about 1400 BC…

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