Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Energy from your dreams

"Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out if they've got a second. Give your dreams all you've got and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you."

William James

Monday, August 30, 2010

Turning your life around

"Every achiever that I have ever met says, 'My life turned around when I began to believe in me.'"

Dr. Robert H. Schuller

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The rite of Confession and Absolution in I Samuel 1

An infertile woman and an adversary at home? Not a happy combination. But we're given the story of such a problem relationship in I Samuel 1, in the story of Hannah and Eli's interaction in the Temple. And what's even more interesting is the picture this story gives to us of an event in the Temple that goes on now in the church: that of Confession.

I Samuel 1.9-17 (AV): "So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him."

In the larger context, the story's fairly simple. Hannah's unable to conceive, and she goes up to Jerusalem with her husband to worship and pray. Contextually, we can guess that she's praying for a child, and more specifically (from I Sam. 1.8) for a son. The Temple was likely a fairly busy place, and we can guess that there were others there praying as well. What's interesting is that Eli the priest was also there, and we're told he was sitting on a seat by a post there in the Temple.

What was Eli doing there? Given that he was sitting, we can probably assume that he wasn't simply passing through the Temple precincts. He might have been praying himself, but that seems odd, given that he notices Hannah's behavior, and if he'd been praying, one would guess he'd be more wrapped up in his prayers than in her behavior. (Given that Eli notices Hannah's mouth moving -- and leads him to question her being drunk -- shows that she wasn't praying out loud). But from his later statement to Hannah ("Go in peace") I would suggest that Eli was there to hear Confession.

In certain circles (especially Roman, and some Lutheran), Confession is confined to a very specific set of behaviors, of confessing sin, and being absolved from that sin. However, I would argue that in the scriptures, Confession is a much larger set of actions, encompassing not only confessing sin, but godly counsel, spiritual direction, teaching, correction, and guidance. None of these preclude confession of sin or absolution from that sin. But there are numerous occurrences in the scriptures that make sense when we realize a larger, more encompassing meaning of private Confession. Most of these behaviors (i.e., godly counsel, spiritual direction, teaching, correction, and guidance) occur in other contexts, but I'd argue that what sets Confession apart is that is directed at one individual, and is set in a context where that individual Christian can especially be given to realize that these are directed specifically at themselves. Given this definition, I believe that Eli was hearing Confession in the Temple, and Hannah was the recipient of that Sacrament.

Hannah is probably not there to specifically confess her sins, per se. She's in distress, upset over her inability to conceive, and upset by her adversary (the adversary possibly being Elkanah's other wife Peninnah, a demonic adversary, depression, or simple grief over her condition). In such a situation, Hannah would be in need of pastoral care, loving reminders of God's care for her, encouragement to continue praying. I argue that Eli gave her precisely that care, in the context of what we would now call Confession -- and that that is precisely what he was there doing in the Temple that day.

The lesson from this? Some things change in the course of the biblical revelation. The incarnation is the most obvious example: some things were very different after that event. But much remains the same. God's people -- then and now -- needed pastoral care directed to themselves as individuals. Eli -- and likely other priestly colleagues -- were there to provide that care, as are priests in our time. We can take comfort for the godly continuity found through the scriptures. Things are different, but much is the same, and we are given hope through the scriptures (cf. Romans 15.4) for our walk in God.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Doing good in the moment

"Act well at the moment, and you have performed a good action for all eternity."

Johann Kaspar Lavater

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Believing in yourself

"People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success."

Norman Vincent Peale

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Getting ahead

"Getting ahead in a difficult profession requires avid faith in yourself. You must be able to sustain yourself against staggering blows. There is no code of conduct to help beginners. That is why some people with mediocre talent, but with great inner drive, go much further than people with vastly superior talent."

Sophia Loren

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What successful people do

"Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit."

Conrad Hilton

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What successful people do

"Successful people form the habit of doing what failures don't like to do. They like the results they get by doing what they don't necessarily enjoy."

Earl Nightingale

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What you want in life

"When you are clear, what you want will show up in your life, and only to the extent you are clear."

Janet Attwood

Monday, August 16, 2010

Getting what you want out of life

"The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want."

Ben Stein

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Not being discouraged

"History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats."

Bertie Charles Forbes
1880-1954, Financial Journalist, Author and Founder of Forbes Magazine

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to fail

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

Bill Cosby
Comedian, Actor and Author

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Accomplishing great things

"All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim; have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible."

Orison Swett Marden
1850-1924, Writer

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The kind of man (or woman) we should be

"Today, I would like to become the man my dog thinks I am."

Jack Thomson

Monday, August 02, 2010

Don't give up

"I realized early on that success was tied to not giving up. Most people in this business gave up and went on to other things. If you simply didn't give up, you would outlast the people who came in on the bus with you."

Harrison Ford