Hannah’s Apostrophe

I Samuel 1:4-20 – The 25th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, November 15, 2015

“Then she made this promise: ‘Lord of heavenly forces, just look at your servant’s pain and remember me! Don’t forget your servant! Give her a boy! Then I’ll give him to the Lord for his entire life . . .’” (I Samuel 1:11)

Hannah prays*
Hannah prays*

Tell me about Hannah’s place or time of birth. Tell me how or when she died. Tell me what happened to the woman also known as Samuel’s mother between her first and last breaths.

No response? Are you word-searching your digital Bible? Perhaps desperately Googling?

Indeed, my brief opening paragraph summarized the scant Biblical verses on Samuel’s mother. Punctuation-wise, the apostrophe between the “l” and the lower case “s” defined Hannah.

Not fair, you might protest. There are more apostrophes and details to her credit: Elkanah’s barren wife, Peninnah’s rival, believer, pray-er, promise-maker and a woman whose name means grace. Continue reading →


In her first days with us, and Jeanie's favorite pic of Hannah and me.
In her first days with us, and Jeanie’s favorite pic of Hannah and me.

On October 4, 2014, we entered the vet’s office to help our fourteen-year-old dog Hannah peacefully take her final breath. On a cold linoleum floor, nestled between my wife and me, the vet injected her with the medication. Hannah died on my wife’s lap in the blink of a teary eye.

I have regrets.

Several years after Hannah entered our lives, a person shook my hand while leaving worship—I am a United Methodist pastor and served a congregation then—and told me that she was tired of the Hannah stories in my sermons. Like too many weak-willed preachers, desirous of pleasing every church member, I tried to reduce my dog tales. Continue reading →

HANNAH, Backwards or Forwards

I Samuel 1:4-20 & I Samuel 2:1-10 – The 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, November 18, 2012

“…He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap…” (I Samuel 2:8)

Once we were younger…

We did not name our dog Hannah after the Bible’s Hannah. However, over a dozen years ago we gave our golden retriever puppy the same name as the prophet Samuel’s mother.

We’d thought of dubbing her Chardonnay (we love wine) or Sierra (our favorite mountain range) or even Ginger (after the only other dog I’d owned). We tossed various names around in the weeks between her birth and when she’d be old enough to bring home.

Then one day, while my wife and I window-shopped at a Fresno mall, an older gentleman ambled by, trailed by a girl perhaps five years of age. I guessed them grandfather and granddaughter.

The older fellow slowed, turned back, and said something like, “Come on, Hannah, we have to walk a little quicker.”

That was it. They were gone.

Suddenly we were talking about Hannah as a possible name. Who knows why something not thought of a moment before can become the perfect choice?

Then and now I enjoy word games and the notion of naming my future dog with a palindrome added to the pleasure of the name. Words or sentences that are the same if spelled backwards intrigue me, like . . .

  • The brief . . . Hannah (duh!)
  • The four-word sermon . . . Live not on evil.
  • A dog owner’s foolish hope . . . Dog saw I was God.
  • And even the longer longing of . . . Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?

Clever, eh? Forwards and backwards, the same word or sentence.

Hannah she became. She got us coming and going.

Here, since I know my dog Hannah far better than the Biblical Hannah, I could expound on life lessons my puppy has taught me. Don’t folks always love tales about wagging tails? Indeed, dogs are always safer to talk about than any of the tough subjects like religion, politics or whose mother made the best potato salad.

When I walk alone people ignore me or perhaps mention the weather, and we keep moving apart. When I walk with Hannah, conversations blossom. At the least folks will say, “What a pretty dog!” (And never acknowledge I’m a decent looking dude.) On many occasions, people will stop me and ask to pet our pet and then we’ll swap dog owner stories or childhood memories or about the difference between dogs and cats. We’ve had fellow golden retriever owners grab on to Hannah and cry, eventually sharing about their best four-legged friend who died a year or a decade ago.

Walk a dog, invite a conversation. Continue reading →