1 Samuel, Children, King David

Practicing Innovation

Light Princess at Graduation This morning I will drive a child to Renowned Middle
School for the last time. Light Princess celebrated the official end of her career there yesterday, and this morning she will go in — an option for 8th graders — to help her favorite teachers pack up their classrooms for the summer.

Since I moved to this house in 1998, I've had a
child at King for 8 out of 11 years: 2 on, 2 off, 3 on, 1 off, 3 on. I've been
to band concerts and awards assemblies and culminating events. I've learned the
principles of Expeditionary Learning and wished I had been able to study things
as holistically as the students there do. I've marveled at how a school
population including so many English Language Learners can be so cohesive and
inclusive. I've been surprised over and over again at the innovative practices
of the principal, who at first glance one might write off as a stolid white guy
of a certain age.

Appearances can be deceiving.
In 1 Samuel 16:1, the prophet receives instructions
from God:
The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you
grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your
horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have
provided for myself a king among his sons."
Samuel resists this idea. It will get him in
trouble with the sitting King Saul. Also, a king among the sons of Jesse?
In what amounts to a beauty pageant, the sons of
Jesse pass before Samuel, who stands waiting to anoint the one to whom God
points. He might have assumed, in that culture, that it would be the eldest, and
if not the eldest then the tallest or the strongest or the fiercest. But that is
not to be, and even after seven sons have passed by, the Lord has not given
Samuel the signal.
He asks, "Have you any other sons?"
This part always reminds me of


, when the
prince comes with the shoe and must ask if there are any other young ladies in
the house.

Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?"
And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep." And
Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he
comes here."
He sent and brought him in.
Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, "Rise
and anoint him; for this is the one."
(1 Samuel 16:11-12)
He had beautiful eyes.

We must never forget that God practices innovation.
God brings together surprising people for amazing purposes. God chooses new ways of being for us.

Remember this when people tell you things have always been a certain way. Remember the youngest son called in from the fields, where he was keeping the sheep.

This Sunday we'll have my favorite Hebrew Bible story, David's amazing encounter with Goliath. After dramatizing it the past two go-rounds, complete with swords and Pure Luck playing the giant and falling to the floor in the sanctuary, victim of those five smooth stones from the wadi, I'm not sure how to approach it.

It seems to be time for an innovative practice.

1 Samuel, Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, The Inner Landscape

“Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Molly at church--cropped
(Thinking about 1 Samuel 1:3-20)

Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, "Samuel! Samuel!"
And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."
(1 Samuel 1:10)

I love it when Molly watches me so attentively. She did the same thing at her photo session last spring. "Look how she loves you, said the photographer's assistant. She must be a Mama's girl!"

But I fear the truth is Molly pays closest attention to me when she knows treats are in my pocket.

And in pondering the story of little Samuel, who heard God so clearly but did not know who he heard, I wonder if we don't all tend in Molly's direction, paying attention when it suits us rather than keeping an ear tuned to, an eye focused on God?

Samuel first thought he heard the voice of his human master, Eli, and he woke the old man up to offer his services. I do that, too, following the wrong voice, giving priority with good intentions but confused loyalties.

The great wonder of my early blogging days was connecting with other pastors who were also mothers. I rejoiced in knowing, and I don't mean this in the sense of schadenfreude, that others faced the same conflicts of interest I did. We willingly joined up in a kind of work that promotes scriptures about leaving your family behind, but we did it with babies on our hips or in our wombs. This way lies madness?

I find it's not much different with an older child. I'm struggling to find the right balance between appropriate maternal care and sufficient professional satisfaction and — here's the tricky part — actual attention to God. Where does God want me next? Why is Her voice not clearer? Why are His directions not plain? When will I get the kind of message Samuel received?

Of course the message he heard in the middle of the night frightened him:

Then the LORD said to Samuel, "See, I am about to do something in Israel that
will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his
house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity
that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not
be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever."

Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD.
Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.
(1 Samuel 3:11-15)

No wonder.

Maybe we don't hear because we fear truly paying attention. Do we want to listen when the answer may not be what we would wish? I know I don't, even if in theory I say I will follow where I am led.

As I work out what's next, the things I want and the things that seem possible and the things I feel pretty sure the Spirit guides me to simply will not seem to line up, at least not yet. No amount of mental gymnastics on my part has brought me to a conclusion. I need help.

"Speak, for your servant is listening."