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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ask Ellen: What is Gracie's favorite color? Lexi.

What a cute question, Lexi.  A lot of times we see Gracie wearing her school uniform which is a blue plaid.  Do you wear a uniform to school?  If you do, you might agree that it isn’t your favorite thing to wear and might not be a color you would choose.

If you look at the strips, you might notice two things.  For one, Gracie likes her pajamas.  I think comfort is very important.  She also wears pink shirts a lot.  I think Gracie likes to bring color into the world.  Remember when she said she was “a pink candle girl in a purple candle world”?

We will probably see more colors and trends as Gracie grows.  I think she would want you to bring color anywhere you go too.  When you wear a bright color this summer, think of Gracie and smile, ok?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Here I Am

Last week we were introduced to Samuel as the baby his mother, Hannah had promised back to the Lord.  This week we will look at the man of God Samuel became.

Let’s read 1 Sam 3:1-21

There are two phrases that resound through this passage, two phrases that should resound in our lives: “Here I am” and “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

Samuel served the Lord in many ways.  He was a priest, serving at the sanctuary of Shiloh.  He was a prophet.  He spoke God’s words, interceded on behalf of the people and pronounced judgment when necessary.  He is probably most remembered as Israel’s last Judge.  Recall we’ve met other Judges like Deborah and Samson.  Samuel was a bit different from the other Judges though.  The previous Judges were often warriors, seeking to defend Israel from its enemies.  Think Samson.  Samuel was less of a warrior and more an administrator of justice.  He is the figure that moved Israel from the period of Judges to that of a monarchy.

Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel.  During Saul’s reign, Samuel often spoke for God and had to rebuke Saul many times.  Look at what he says in 1 Sam 13:13-14.  Israel’s king was to keep God at the center of all he did.  Saul failed to do that.  Therefore, the kingdom was taken away from him.

Samuel goes on to anoint David king of Israel.  A monarchy was kind of a step backward for Israel.  They already had a king, God.  Samuel knew this and pleaded with Israel to see it.  However, Israel wanted to be like all of the other nations.  They wanted to have what everyone else had.  Sound familiar?

God granted Israel a king under the condition that the king center his life and that of his kingdom solely upon God.  Saul failed to do that.  We talk more about him next week.  Samuel was steadfast in his devotion to the Lord.  His issue was righteousness.

The Dictionary describes righteousness as “in accord with moral law, free from guilt,  decent, ethical, honorable”  Samuel was surely all of those things.  But are we?  Nothing drives me more crazy than a Christian who acts righteous.  A person who appears holier than thou is not righteous, they are self-righteous and there is a big difference between the two.  A person who is made righteous by God (like Samuel) knows how unworthy they are and seeks to extend the mercy God as given them to others.  A self-righteous person beats up the people around them with their own sense of morality.  These are the people who think, I’m saved, its a pity your aren’t”  Look at Samuel’s example and see if you find one shred of evidence that this is righteous behavior.  I offer you Biblical proof that you won’t.  The first step in being righteous is getting over yourself.  Why not try it?

Ask yourself the following questions:

When people ask me for something, do I respond “here I am”?

Do I ever really listen to others?  To God?

Like  Samuel, am I willing to deliver a hard message when its needed?

Am I ethical and honorable?

Am I free from guilt?

Am I righteous or self-righteous?  What is the difference?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bait and Switch

Click on the Gracieland icon to see this week's strip.  To see all the strips, please visit:

Tuesday Table Talk

Ask Your Child:

What does dad mean by quality time?

What things do you do that are meaningful to you?  Who do you like to do them with?

What does Anthony think is the best part of the day?

Do you like to do things with just one parent?  Why?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Samuel, Samuel....

Click on the Gracenotes link above to hear this week's podcast.  Also check back tomorrow for a brand new Gracieland.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Week Off

I am taking this week off to be with my kids.  Check back later in the week for a new Gracieland.  Next Monday we will have a new podcast.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Fun

Cut and paste the following link to hear this week's song.  (Jimmy is on tour out west and I don't know how to make the hyperlink :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ask Ellen: How can I keep from being distracted during prayer? Tricia.

Great question, Tricia.  My answer in short is practice, practice, practice.  When I first made the decision to get serious about prayer, I found it nearly impossible to sit still.  A good friend told me that I just needed to sit in the quiet.  This terrified me.  I had always surrounded myself by noise.  I would have the TV on even if I wasn’t in the room and an Ipod blaring upstairs even when I was outside.  I didn’t do silent.  But I believe it was the key in going deeper.

Once you get used to sheer quiet, you begin to open yourself up to what is going on inside of you.  You are able to “pour your troubles out to the Lord” like we saw Hannah do this week.  It becomes easier each time you sit down to pray.

It also carries over to public prayer.  I used to spend my time at Mass people watching.  Once I learned how to pray, I could be in a room full of people and hardly notice.  For me, the quiet was the key.

In fact, I just noticed that I am sitting in my office, typing away and the only noise is from the keys tapping and the birds chirping and I am at peace.

Go, unplug, sit in a chair and be quiet!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pouring Your Heart Out

This week we move on to the First Book of Samuel.    Immediately we meet our girlfriend of the week, Hannah.

Let’s read 1 Sam 1:1-7 to set the scene.  Right away we see that there are two wives in this story and that usually means trouble.  In this case, the wife who had all the children constantly picked on Hannah.  This was probably because she knew her husband loved Hannah best.  This sounds like absolute torture to me.  To desperately want a child and to be constantly reminded of your lack by your husband’s other wife.  Sheer hell, in my opinion.

I love what her husband says in verse 8.  Typical man!

Let’s read what Hannah does next in verses 9-15.  Hannah is intently praying.  I love how she says she “is pouring out her troubles before the Lord.”  Oh, that we would do the same!

The scene changes in verses 16-18.  After she lays her troubles before the Lord, she gets up, bids the priest good day and has a meal.  Hannah fully believed that her prayer had been heard.  All too often we fail to trust that our prayers are heard and continue to carry our troubles around.  When Hannah says she “poured it out to God”, she meant it.  And she left it there and didn’t pick it up again.

Hannah’s issue is revealed to us in verses 19-23.  Her husband says, “may the Lord bring your resolve to fulfillment.”  Another word for resolves is dedication.  Hannah had dedicated herself and her son to God and she intended to follow through on it.

The Dictionary says that resolve (or dedication) is “firm or unwavering adherence to one’s purpose, decidedness, determined, firmness, purposefulness, resoluteness, stick-to-itiveness.”  Hannah is the picture of this.

In our fast paced, modern society we no longer value dedication.  We want things instantly or else we move on.  Hannah asks us to question this.  She followed through on what mattered.

Look at what she does in verses 24-28.  She gave her most precious gift back to God because she was dedicated to Him.  She knew that God answered her prayer and was firm in her resolve to keep her promise.

Biblical Scholar Alert- 1 Sam 2 is the Old Testament version of Mary’s Magnificat.  Mary quotes much of Hannah’s prayer here in her Fiat.

Also, a footnote, look at how God rewards Hannah’s dedication in 1 Sam 2:18-21.  The world may no longer value dedication, but God does.

This week examine what things you are dedicated to in your life.  Ask yourself the following questions:

Have I ever fully poured out my heart to the Lord and then walked away, trusting I was heard?

Am I aware of my purpose in life?

Am I purposeful as I go about my day?

Do I see things through?  Or am I always on to the next thing?

Am I dedicated to God?  What can I learn from Hannah’s example?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


We do not have a new Gracieland today.  Jimmy is touring this week.  We will be back next week with a new webstrip.  Until then, feel free to visit: to see all of the strips.

Which one is your favorite?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hannah...Take Two

We only got the podcast up last week so we are going to do Hannah again this week.  Click the Gracenotes link above to hear the podcast.  Check back all week for new content on Hannah.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Click on the Gracenotes link at the top of the page to hear this week's podcast on Hannah and her dedication.  Check back tomorrow for a new Gracieland webstrip.