Part 3: How do we respond?

This is part 3 of 3 of a series based on a talk I gave at a parish in 2016. Find Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking on these links.

To contemplate how we respond to the God who loves us, let’s turn to Samuel and see how he responds to the Holy One, Adonai, who calls him in the night…

“A third time Adonai called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that Adonai was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

1 Samuel 3

Samuel needs guidance from a trusted advisor who has listened to Wisdom and heard her voice many times. It is only with Eli’s help that Samuel can get the words for what to say.

Who in your life has been an Eli? Who has been a person who helped you to realize that an event was a call from God?

Samuel’s response is simple and profound at the same time:

Here I am.

In Hebrew, Hineni.

Hineni, in Hebrew

Hineni refers to a quality of presence, rather than just the reality of being somewhere. It’s not just a notification (My body is here). It’s a revelation of our internal disposition. (I am here, ready to serve, respond, be present).

We all know the difference between being somewhere and being truly present in a place. For me, the difference lies squarely in being aware of my breathing. Even right now – if I can feel the breath coming in and out of my nose, then I know I’m closer to being here than to not being here.

Jewish cantor and song-writer Linda Hirchhorn says about the Hebrew word Hineni, “Hineni is about the attitude and bearing of the entire person — their emotional and spiritual presence.”

It’s only used 8 times in the Old Testament – mainly in the Abraham story when God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

When I am able to take the time to breathe, I cannot help but feel drawn to a sense of God being present too. To the reality of this loving, wise presence there with me, watching me, helping me, breathing in me.


When my daughter was small, there were many times when I heard a small voice calling from the other room. It was usually around 6 in the morning; and on a good morning, it starts small. “Mommy” and then it gets persistent and louder… “Mommy!” And I admit there are still many mornings when I just show up physically.”Here I am….”not whole body and soul. It’s a notification. Maybe I have just awoken – and I’m still tired – or I’m rushing out of a shower to greet her for the day. But on my best days, I am ready – body, soul, and spirit, to greet my daughter, Sophia…

I take a breath, reach for the doorknob, enter the dark room. Sit down next to her bed. I say, “Good morning.” And she will usually greet me the way a two-year-old might – “Roar!” or “Poop!” Ah well. And we’re off. And I try to be slow with her… staying present and breathing.

When she gets upset or hurt or mad, and when I’m not – and when she’ll let me, I try to just bring her to my chest and breathe on her. I try to help her feel the rhythm of my breath. Hineni. Here I am.

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