May 28, 2017

Hannah: Power of Prayer

Over the past month we have met several women who are matriarchs in the faith. Carl Jung said, “Every Mother contains her daughter in herself and every daughter her mother and every mother extends backwards into her mother and forwards into her daughter.” If that is true then we have parts of these faithful women in our DNA. We carry the strength of Eve, the hopefulness of Naamah, the fulfillment of Sarah, the love of Leah, and the inclusivity of Ruth. 

Today, we’ll meet Hannah, a woman who knew the power of prayer. In 1 Samuel, we learn that Hannah and her husband Elkanah lived in “the hill country of Ephraim” in Ramathaim. This is the area of Israel, north of Jerusalem. It included the famous holy site of Bethel, where Jacob saw the ladder to heaven. By the time of Christ, this same area was known as Samaria.
Elkanah had two wives, and we learn in 1 Samuel 1:2 that “the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.” We have seen before, in Sarah’s story, how the lack of children was devastating in a culture that considered sons a gift from God, and having no sons a form of curse. We are told that Peninnah often cruelly “used to provoke [Hannah] severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.” (1 Samuel 1:6) Let's see how Hannah coped with this...

It was always hard to go up to Shiloh. It wasn’t just the length of the journey, although it took two days over the hills and through the wadis. We walked, and walked to make the annual pilgrimage. My husband, Elkabah was very proud of his heritage. He was descended from the line of Ephraim, one of the patriarch Joseph’s sons.
He insisted, “We must make the required sacrifice at Shiloh. For that is where the Lord of hosts meets his people.”
Eli was the aged priest of the Holy One of Israel at Shiloh. His two sons now accepted the sacrifices and prayers. They were not nearly as holy. In fact, it was whispered that Hophni and Phinehas were disreputable and even stole from the offerings. Eli didn’t seem to notice their evil.
I avoided them when I offered my sacrifice. Elkanah always gave me a double portion for the offering even though I had no children. It didn’t make me feel any better. Every year at Shiloh I prayed for a child, even a daughter. Every year we returned home. Every year I remained childless. I tried to hide my distress, but my husband knew I was sad.
Elkanah tried to comfort me, in the way of men, by asking, “Why do you weep and not eat? Why are you so sad? Am I not more to you than 10 sons?”
Even though he held me close when he tried to comfort me, my empty womb always stood in accusation of my uselessness and even sinfulness.
Then one year it all changed. I took my offering. As I had for years, I prayed. This time I added a desperate promise, “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and will give to your servant a male child, then I will dedicate him to you until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”
I didn’t know that Eli was sitting nearby as I wept and prayed. When I rose to go, he spoke.
“How long will you be drunken? Put away the strong wine.”
Normally I would not have responded to such an important man. Stung by his accusation and not caring what happened to me, I snapped, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.”
Then I turned to go. The old man stood up, blocking my path. I cringed, fearing his anger.
Instead, he laid a hand gently on my head, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” 
I burst into tears, and blubbered, “Let your servant find favor in your sight,” before rushing out of the room.
Somehow the old priest’s reassurance calmed my soul. Even Peninah’s nagging didn’t bother me that evening. I welcomed my husband into my arms without reservation, feeling that perhaps at last God would indeed answer my prayer.
And the Holy One of Israel did! I conceived! My son was born not long before the annual pilgrimage. We named him Samuel.
“I have asked this child from the Lord,” I explained. “I promised to lend him back to the service of God.”
The boy was my delight. 
“Let me stay home,” I urged. “I have dedicated him to the service of the Living God, and when he is weaned, I will take him to Eli at Shiloh to be raised there.
“Do what seems right,” Elkanah agreed. I watched him tramp away with Peninah for three years before I went with them again.
That year, my husband gave me special offerings. There was a three-year old bull who had been just a calf when Samuel was born. I also had an measure of finely ground flour and a skin of wine.
After the sacrifice of the bull, I led my son to the ancient priest. Bowing low, I told him, “My lord, I am the woman who stood in your presence praying to the Lord for a son. The Lord God has granted my desire, Now I return him to the service of the Lord for as long as he shall live.”
Eli surprised me by bowing in return. “He shall be as one of my own sons. May the favor of the Lord God rest on him. May the Lord’s favor return to you, my daughter.”
I left the holy place surprisingly exalted.
I found myself praying, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.”
As a reward for my offering of my son, the Lord God blessed me with three more sons and two daughters. Each year, I took a new tunic to Samuel when we went to Shiloh. I loved watching how each year he was taller and wiser.
Truly I have been blessed.
Hannah’s prayers were answered. Even though she had to wait many years to see the result, she persisted. Hannah waited on God’s timing. It can be hard to remain faithful over many years.
Do you persist in prayer for your heart’s desire, or do you give up when it looks like nothing is happening?
Hannah offered Samuel back to the Lord's service under the tutelage of Eli. The image is a statue by Tom White studios that depicts this moment. 
Would you have been as brave as Hannah to offer her son to God's service at only 3 years old?
Do you feel like you have the ‘faith DNA’ of some of these matriarchs of faith that we have met during Eastertide?

Next week, is Pentecost. We’ll hear from some of the women who were present in the Upper Room that day.

May 21, 2017

Ruth: Foreign No More

There is a lot of talk these days about ‘aliens’ and ‘foreigners’. The concern is not new. In the Old Testament, there are many citations about treatment of the foreigner, along with reminders that the Children of Israel were “strangers in the land of Egypt”. (Exodus 22:21, Deuteronomy 10:19, Deuteronomy 23:7)
Leviticus 19 further says, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resided with you shall be as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
The New Testament builds on this base. Jesus says that all will be judged by their response to the needy, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:25-36) Of course the story of the Good Samaritan is, on one level, a condemnation of the religious and a commendation of the foreigner, who acted with greater mercy than the priest and lawyer. (Luke 10: 25-37)
There were rules in the Old Testament, making provision for the aliens, along with widows and orphans. Psalm 146:9 says, “The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow,” The stranger gets the same level of care as the orphans and widows. The law in Leviticus 19:9-10 is especially applicable to the woman we are meeting today. We read,When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.”
Today we see that God provides for those who are ‘foreigners,’ just as much as God provides for the Children of Israel. Ruth was a foreigner, without a doubt. She was born in Moab and raised in Moab, She was wed in Moab to a Hebrew man. This is not the first instance in the Bible of foreign women becoming wives of Hebrew men. Judah, son of Jacob, married a Canaanite woman. Joseph, while in Egypt, married Asenath, daughter of a priest of On. Moses himself was married to a Midianite woman-Zipporah.
Ruth, we learn loved and clung to her mother-in-law even after her husband died. (Ruth 1:6-19) She returned to Bethlehem with Naomi. In my book Naomi’s Joy, it is Ruth who helps Naomi understand that she is not cursed by God. In my story, when the miller will not grind the grain Ruth has gleaned in Boaz’ field, the young woman is devastated. As she comforts her friend, Naomi realizes God loves her, and has provided for her all her life:

It was a subdued meal. I was distracted by the idea that Boaz bar Salma was developing an interest in my daughter-in-law. Ruth stared at the basket of grain as if she detested the sight.
“My mother, forgive me for bringing such shame to his house,” when she spoke, I realized that she thought my preoccupation was from anger.
“Oh, my child, no!” A wave of sympathy swept over me. “You have done nothing wrong. I was thinking about something. My daughter, truly without you I would not care to live.”
Tears welled and slipped down her smooth cheeks.
“I am a foreigner,” through sobs she spoke. “The ga-al you spoke of will not want to have the burden of two women. Why would anyone be concerned with what happens to a Moabite?”
“Ruth, my daughter,” compassion had me scrambling to her side.
I took the slender frame in my arms. Sobs shook her body. I held my friend tight.
“Ruth, you must forget what Ahaz said. He is wrong. You are a daughter of Israel.” Comforting words flowed easily. 
I felt the negative motion of her head on my shoulder.
“Yes,” I insisted, “Your faith is greater than mine. I have turned away from the God of Israel in despair and anger.”
My own words convicted me. I stopped with a gasp. It felt as if all my breath had been kicked from my lungs. Ruth drew back to look at me when I stopped speaking. I stared past my companion trying to draw air past the great lump that felt lodged in my throat.
“Mother Naomi?” I barely heard the question.
I lowered my head in despair. Tears welled in my eyes. Suddenly I was sobbing. Whimpers of animal anguish wrenched from my lips.
“God, God,” it was all I could say. I rocked back and forth holding my knees as the truth rolled over me.
“My mother,” Ruth tried to take me in her arms.
She had to be satisfied with patting my shoulder as I continued to rock and weep. A lifetime of pent up sorrow and grief flooded out in my tears.
“It is true.” I spoke more to myself than Ruth. “God did not reject me I turned away from the Holy One. I would not let I AM comfort me.”
“I did not know,” the girl stroked my hair.
“I needed to blame the Almighty for my grief. I told myself that God took what I loved because I had done something wrong or because I was not thankful enough. All my life I hated I AM. I never dared trust that I would be cared for. If I failed in any way I was certain that I would be punished. When Elimelech died I knew I was right. I told myself that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob turned away when we left the Promised Land. After Adah’s death I was sure that the Holy One hated me because I allowed her to marry a foreigner.” I panted as the confession poured out through my sobs. “I hated my life enough to die.”
“Mother Naomi,” the young woman held me tight unable to respond to my words.
“I was wrong. The Living Lord did not desert me.” I spoke low as comprehension burst into my heart. Tears I could not stop rolled down my face. “You once said that the Holy One of Israel provides healing even for death and pain. Ever since my father died from the bite of the serpent I have been angry with God. Everything that went wrong was another reason to blame the Lord of Life. All I saw were the many laws that had to be followed. When I AM brought the people from slavery it was not to blindly follow laws.”
“Really?” Ruth was trying to understand me. “All the gods have rules to follow.”
“That is not the way of the One God. Sarai once tried to explain to me that the Law is a guide built on love not a whip for punishment.” I raised my head and took my friend’s hands in my own. “It is in relationship with one another and with God we can all live in freedom no matter what our circumstances. Your loyalty and steadfast faith in God are all that kept me alive even when I have refused to be free. All my life I preferred rage. The Almighty never stopped providing help and comfort. Even in the depths of my despair, a way was opened to return to Bethlehem. We have come here to the land of promise.”
“Your God may yet be gracious,” hesitantly the young woman offered.
“Yes,” I took a deep shaky breath. My tears dried on my cheeks as I moved my head in assent. With my newborn faith I asserted. “I AM will provide.”
Ruth tilted her head to study me. In an awestruck voice she whispered, “You really do believe the God of Israel will help us.”
“I do not know what will happen now that we have returned to Bethlehem.” Tears began again. They were joyful. Confidence enfolded me. I held Ruth’s hands between mine. “Already we are being provided for. God is with us. I know that the God of Israel will yet bless you, bless us.”
In writing this part of the book, I was reminded of the times in my life when God provided for me and my family. Sometimes it was actual money in just the right amount and at the right time. At others it was the direction toward a new job or new opportunity. God has always been there for me. God is there for all of us, all the time. There is a saying: "God is good all the time." and the response to that is "All the time, God is good!"
In the New Testament letters, the early Christians were called aliens and foreigners. the First Letter of Peter notes “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and exiles to keep on abstaining from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. (I Peter 2:11) Paul tells the Gentile congregation in Ephesus “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:12). However, he continues, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household,” (Ephesians 2:19)
Have you ever known that God has provided for you?
Since God doesn't make any distinction between loving you and loving a ‘stranger’ or ‘foreigner’, shouldn’t we treat everyone the same?

(Image: Cover, Naomi’s Joy, (c) 2005)
(c) Cynthia Davis 2017 

May 14, 2017

Leah: Discovering Love

During the Easter season, we are looking at some mothers of the Old Testament who trusted God through good times and bad. Sometimes they struggled to understand why God acted (as in sending a flood), or did not act-by giving a child. Eventually, they each came to believe that, as Paul says, “all things work together for those who Love God,” and certainly for those whom God loves.
Leah was a woman who doubted that she was loved. You remember the story in Genesis. Jacob runs off to his family in Haran to escape the wrath of his brother Esau. The first person he meets is Rachel. In storybook fashion, he falls in love with her and agrees to work for 7 years as an indentured servant to her father Laban in order to marry her. On the wedding night, Laban tricks Jacob and he discovers that he has married her older, and not as attractive (at least to Jacob) sister, Leah. Ultimately, Jacob works for another 7 years to earn Rachel, again. All that is enough to make anyone wonder if they are lovable or loved.
In Beloved Leah, my book in which Leah tells her story, she doubts that she is lovely and lovable for most of her life. Despite bearing Jacob sons and faithfully caring for them, and raising her sister’s two sons Joseph and Benjamin, she never thinks it is enough. 
How many of us wonder if we are doing all we can as mothers, wives, women, workers…whatever the titles we give ourselves might be?
It is not until she is nearing death that Leah finally realizes that she has been pushing away the very thing she has desired. Jacob has loved her, and so had God. As they journey toward Egypt and reunion with Joseph, Leah falls ill. We meet her at that moment:
A rustle of movement and the tent flap was pushed aside.  The warm breeze from outside brushed across the woman on the pallet. 
She roused to call again, “Rachel!”
“Hush, my wife,” Jacob knelt and took Leah’s hand.  “Rest and be well.  Rachel is not here.  We will travel together to her son.  I need you, do not leave me.”  
The woman tossed her head restlessly and opened her eyes.  They softened when she saw the man kneeling beside her. She seemed to return to the present from somewhere far away.  His eyes filled with tears as he caressed her weak hands. 
“My husband,” her voice was gentle.  She tried to lift her one hand to touch the man’s face. 
“I never understood,” she murmured. 
“Leah, you are the strong, faithful woman I am honored to call my wife,” the old man kissed the hand he held.  “Your belief in the One God has strengthened me in the darkest times.  I need you now to go with me to Egypt.  Together we will find our son.”
A slight smile crossed her lips as she reminded him, “Rachel’s son, my love.”  She took a deep, ragged breath.  “I never understood your love for Rachel.  Through all her childless years and her whining your devotion remained strong.  I was angry and bitter for I thought that you had nothing left for me.  The God of your Fathers has taught me that love can be boundless.”
Her head moved fretfully against the pillows and Zilpah hurried to adjust them.  Bilhah brought a cup of water.  Gratefully the woman drank. 
Slowly, she turned her hand in her husband’s so she held his fingers.  Pleadingly she looked at him.
“Jacob, my husband,” she continued her confession, “my venom taught our sons to hate their brother.  God has shown me that He has forgiven me, for Joseph is restored to you.  Your God has taught me that even such grievous fury as mine can be forgiven.”
Tears trickled down the old man’s cheeks and he kissed her wrinkled cheeks.
“Leah, beloved Leah,” he whispered, “you too have I loved.”
With a great effort, the woman feebly touched the cherished face behind the graying beard.  Her voice was a sigh. “I know that, now.  All I ever saw was Rachel, loved by our father and then by you for her beauty.  Never could I believe that I was lovable.  My jealousy poisoned my sons against their brother.  When you see Joseph, ask him to forgive me.” 
She fell silent while the man wept unabashedly.  Her eyes closed and she seemed to drift into a doze.  Then suddenly she opened her eyes.
“Call my sons,” her voice was stronger and urgent, “I must tell them to let go of their hatred before it consumes them as it did me.”
At a nod from Jacob, Bilhah went to the tent flap and ushered in the eleven waiting men.  Zilpah helped her mistress sit up.  Jacob held his wife cradled in his arm against the mound of pillows.  She seemed to gain strength looking at the big men she bore and raised. 
“My sons, hear my story,” she said looking at each face in turn.  “Give up the anger you hold in your hearts against your brother.  It will only destroy you as it consumed my relationship with Rachel.” 
Reuben, the first born, leaned forward.  His mouth opened on a denial.  A slight shake of his mother’s head stopped him.
“Hear my story,” she repeated, “it was always Rachel who was adored by everyone.  She received special attention because she was lovely and pleasant.  I was envious and my hostility grew.”
The men crouched around the pallet while Zilpah held the cup of water for Leah to take another sip.  Then she began …[later, after she finished telling her story]
The old woman looked around at her sons.  Tears glistened in their eyes. 
“For too long, I raged against Rachel and against Jacob for not loving me,” she said. “I wanted them to love me for being beautiful.  Too late I have learned and understand that they loved me for who I am.”
Jacob bent his head to kiss his wife’s forehead.  “You are my faithful Leah.  You are the strength of the family,” he whispered.
She seemed almost beautiful as she smiled softly up at the man.
“My husband, God is your strength.  He will be with you to bring you to Egypt and back.  Your God always keeps his promises.”
Turning her head, she admonished the eleven men still crouched near the bed.
“My sons, you are all my sons, though I didn’t bear you all.  I have raised you and watched you grow into good men, true husbands and loving fathers.  Do not forget the God of Israel, your father, when you are in Egypt.  Remember and teach your children how He showed grace by redeeming your anger and restoring your brother to you.  Joseph has forgiven you.  Accept that gift.  My God has forgiven you as he has forgiven me.  Do not be afraid.  Trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He has promised to bring you back to this land as a mighty nation.  Let go of the remaining fear and grudges against your brother.  Do not continue to blame yourselves.  The mighty hand of God has turned our evil designs and anger to great good for all.”
Lying back, the woman closed her eyes.  A slight smile slid across her lips as a breath sighed, “Rachel, Rachel, I must tell…”
Jacob heard the softly spoken words fade.
“No!”  The cry wrenched from him in agony as he gathered his wife close.  Unashamed he wept.  Zilpah and Bilhah raised the mourning cry.  Dinah fell across her mother’s lap wailing and her brothers took up the keening through their tears.  Throughout the camp, each person added a voice to the lament.
“We will bury Leah in the cave where Abraham and Sarah and my parents are buried.”  Jacob instructed his sons in the morning.  He looked very old and the men glanced at each other in concern. 
“Leah, my beloved, here next to Abraham and his cherished Sarah you will rest.  As Isaac and Rebekah are side by side, so shall I return to be buried beside you, my faithful Leah.  My dearest wife, you reminded me of the faithfulness of the One God by your words and deeds.  I will go to Egypt but my joy in Joseph is less for I am without you.”  Jacob’s words were spoken through tears as he laid his hand on hers for the last time before leaving the cave. 
The days of mourning ended and the caravan faced southward toward Egypt.  The mood was sorrowful as sons and family missed the gentle hand of the woman.  For so many years, she had been the inspiration of the tribe.  Jacob was not the only one who missed her guidance and love.  Dinah divided her days between her family and her father.  Like her brothers, she missed the encouragement of her mother even as she took over the duties of overseeing the camp.
Gradually, however, the excitement of reaching Egypt and seeing Joseph again began to occupy everyone’s thoughts.
“I will see my son.” Jacob told his sons daily.  Ten of the men wondered if their half-brother would turn on them after the family was safely settled in Egypt.  “We must not be tempted by the ways and gods of this land,” the old man warned his sons.  “The children must learn all that the God of our fathers has done.  They must learn of the blessings and promises given to Abraham and to my father Isaac and to me.”
Levi nodded when Jacob added, “As my beloved Leah said, ‘God is gracious and has blessed me fully throughout my life.’  The One God will be with us in Egypt and like Abraham the Wanderer, we will return to Canaan a great nation.”
Leah found her long-sought-for love and her real faith in God too late. Each of us can take a lesson from her, and accept God’s love now. We can embrace the love of family and friends, esp. on this Mother’s Day weekend. It is the perfect time to think about our own mothers, and the Mother-like love of God.  
Will you, do you, allow God to love you like a mother?

Can you accept the love God offers through the lives of family and friends? 
Ann Voskamp offers a challenge: "Share one word of affirmation and one word of advice" [with other women]. 
(Image: Original cover, Beloved Leah, (c) 2001)
(c) Cynthia Davis 2017 

May 7, 2017

Sarah: Nothing is Impossible

In the past couple of weeks since Easter, we have ‘heard’ women of the Old Testament share their stories. We have heard how God loves us through our ‘what ifs’ and provides a new promise when things look really scary, and everything you know has washed away. Sometimes the answering of an impossible prayer is how God responds to our needs. Sarah speaks to us from her life:

I was born in Haran. When I was old enough, my father gave me in marriage to my half-brother Abram. It wasn’t long after that when Abram told us all that he knew Elohim, the Living God, had told him to leave Haran. We all argued with him. I was full of questions and arguments.
“How can you want to leave all we have ever known? How can you ask me to leave my family and friends? You don’t even know where you are going. The people are strange to us. It could be dangerous. Our father will never know the joy of holding our children if we leave.”
If I thought any of my words would have any affect, I was wrong. The man simply smiled and assured us all, “The Living God will provide a way in the wilderness. Remember how our Grandfather left Ur to come here? This is just another part of that journey.”
Of course I had no choice. When Abram was ready, I followed him down the road out of Haran. Our father walked slowly beside us to the edge of town. There he embraced us and turned back. I felt tears welling in my eyes. They spilled over when the old man turned back.
“May the God of my father, whom you follow, go with you and bless you and give you sons and daughters.”
I shed many more tears over the years that followed. There were no children at our tent doors. The Living God spoke to Abram, promising him offspring and even changing his name from Abram to Abraham. The new name felt like a knife in my heart because I was barren and could not be the instrument to make him the ‘father of many’ as the name indicated.  
I knew I was cursed because I had doubted Abram’s call from God, and now I was past the age of child bearing. My monthly cycles had ended. There was nothing left for me but to dry up and die like a desert weed. In desperation, I allowed my Egyptian slave girl to bear a son with Abram. It was a custom of the people we lived among and one that Hagar was familiar with, too.
“At least he will have an heir of some sort,” I tried to comfort myself as I watched her belly and attitude swelling.
Ishmael was born, a strong and healthy boy. Hagar’s pride knew no bounds. I spent most of my days in the tent weaving furiously so that I didn’t have to watch Abram playing with the baby. Most of the time I could barely see the cloth for the tears rimming my eyes.
One day Abram welcomed three strangers to our tent. We were pasturing the flocks near Mamre. As usual, I was in the tent. I heard Abraham greet someone.
My husband spoke the standard desert greeting, “Let water be brought to wash your feet. Rest here and I will bring bread.”
“Make three cakes of fine flour. I will prepare a calf as well,” my husband told me as he rushed through the tent.
He did not see my astonished expression. I peeked out at our guests wondering who they were to merit such regal treatment. To my eyes, there was nothing surprising or special about them. To please Abraham, I made my special cakes, which were usually reserved for feast days.
I lingered near the tent opening when Abraham returned and served his guests. I heard one ask “Where is your wife, Sarah?”
My eyes opened wide in astonishment. How could these strangers know my name?
Abraham shrugged toward the tent, “She is there in the tent.”
“I will return to you at the right time, and Sarah shall bear a son.” The stranger’s audacious statement made me gasp and then chuckle in derision.
“Am I to have the joy of a child now that I am old?” I felt my lip curl slightly, even as tears blurred my eyes and a strange hope struggled in my heart.
The stranger could not have heard me, but he said, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I bear a child at my age?’ Is anything to wonderful for the Living God? I will return to you and Sarah will have a son.”
“I didn’t laugh,” the whispered denial was almost drowned by the frightened pounding of my heart.
The stranger smiled in the direction of the tent. It was a tender and understanding expression as he nodded, “Yes, you laughed.”
Soon the trio and Abraham walked away from the tent. I was left with a tumult of thoughts. Uppermost was an almost unbearable feeling of hope.
“Could it be true?” I asked myself again and again. I even asked Abraham.
“The Living God has promised to give you a son,” he responded as if it was the most natural thing in the world for a 99 year-old woman to have a baby.
When my body began to change, I remained hidden. I was not prepared to answer questions about how such a miracle could happen. Slowly I gained the confidence, and faith, to accept the reality that I would be a mother. The women of the camp rejoiced with me when I finally admitted that I was pregnant.  
After 9 months, a son was born. Abraham named him Isaac, a reminder of both my laughter at the promise, and the joy the child brought to our lives.
“Who could have guessed that Sarah would nurse a child? I have born a son to my husband in his old age.” I laughed and rejoiced with the man.
“There is nothing impossible for the Living God,” agreed Abraham.

Has there been a time in your life when you doubted that something would happen?
How has God kept a promise to you?  

(Image: 'The Hospitality of Abraham', 13th Century Byzantine Icon)
(c) Cynthia Davis 2017