The Esther Effect

27 02 2015

It reads like a fairy tale. A beautiful girl who lives as a stranger in a strange land is chosen to try and win the heart of the king. While undergoing twelve months of beauty treatments, her kind and gentle ways win the admiration and loyalty of those around her. Finally, her turn comes and the king chooses her to become his queen.

The crown has barely been placed on her head, however, when an evil presence casts its shadow over her happiness. The wicked man at the center of this evil is ambitious, power-hungry, and bent on destruction. His deep hatred of the queen’s people is matched only by his determination to see them annihilated. He becomes the king’s advisor and a plot, stunning in its scope and ferocity, is born. In a single day, the people he so despises will be wiped out, their blood spilling in the streets all over the kingdom.

The queen’s cousin hears the news and sees the hand of God. He sends word to the queen that her unique position may be the salvation of her people. The queen, who has been keeping her nationality a secret, is frightened. How can she stand up against evil, speak with deep effect, and make a difference for her people? The rest of the story unfolds in equally dramatic fashion. Through wisdom and grace, the queen hosts a banquet in which the wickedness of the evil man is revealed, and her people are saved.

Because it sounds like a fairy tale, we don’t really believe that God means for Esther’s story to be a mirror for our own stories. After all, I am not that beautiful and will never rule over any kingdom, unless someone crowns me queen of the laundry. Yet, the same God that moved in Esther’s life is working in me. Here. Today. For His purpose and glory. Perhaps the effects of Esther courage and commitment are meant to open my eyes and ignite my determination to make a difference for the people I love.

My Jesus Resolution today is to embrace The Esther Effect. I am not here on this earth merely to take up space, breathe the air, and wash dishes. God has put me here to make a difference. To challenge the darkness with His light and to look like Jesus in a world that doesn’t think it needs a Savior. It is time to see Esther’s story as my story. The scenery may be different, but the woman He calls me to be is the same.





Awesome

25 02 2015

In 1988, Rich Mullins wrote a beautiful song that is playing in my heart this morning. Sing with me?

Our God is an awesome God;
He reigns from heaven above
with wisdom, pow’r and love.
Our God is an awesome God.

Awesome is one of those words that is a bit overused in our society. We use it to describe a great hamburger, a beautiful sunset, and our new shoes. There isn’t anything wrong with using the word in a variety of settings, but just for today let’s allow our souls to be awed by our awesome God.

When we describe God as awesome, we are acknowledging that His presence inspires us, allowing awe, reverence, and wonder to fill our hearts. To be honest, I let too many awesome God moments slip by me. Answered prayer should fill us with awe. Worship should catch our breath as we enter His presence. Noticing the way that He provides or protects us should cause our hearts to pause in praise. Grace should make our hearts race and our knees bend. The cross should always compel me towards gratitude. Experiencing God-inspired awe should direct me, if only for the briefest moment, to stop, be still, and glorify the One who is here, who is sovereign, and who loves us beyond measure.

My Jesus Resolution today is to make an awesome God list. I want to be deliberate about noticing all the ways that God touches my day with His presence. I don’t want to miss the chance to be filled with awe. I want to look at the sky and see His handiwork. I want to watch my family and feel His love. I want to be still, feel small, and understand again that God is big. I want to sing and remind myself that I serve an awesome God.





I Can’t See It

23 02 2015

We live near a small park. It isn’t big, but it has trees, swing sets, jungle gyms, and dirt to play in so eventually all the neighborhood kids make it down there. One of the fun things about living so close to the park is watching the families that make their way past our house on their way to play.

The other day, it was a mom with three very young children. The oldest couldn’t have been more than four, while the youngest was just steady on her feet. Mom and the kids were making the trek to the park. I would like to tell you that they were walking, but it looked more like mom in the center of a cyclone with three very busy, energetic blurs swirling around her legs. The oldest girl caught our attention. Her blonde hair blew in the wind while it carried her voice across the street. “Mom, mom, mom! I can’t see the park from here,” she worried. Mom gently put her hand on her back, guiding her in the right direction. The little girl still couldn’t see the park, but kept walking with mom, confident that she knew the way.

I listened, and heard my own voice. I can’t see it, God. I worry, wonder, and ask ‘why?’ about not being able to see around the next corner. I insist on a map, a timeline, and a preplanned route (one approved by me) before being willing to take the next step. I wear myself out trying to figure out what is ahead instead of enjoying the walk and the beauty of the moment I am in. I forget that just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t know where He is going.

My Jesus Resolution today is to learn from the little girl on my street. She couldn’t see it, but she kept walking. She trusted the one who loves her to get her where she needed to go. Many times I can’t see it. The way is filled with twists and turns that fill me with worry. But God can see what I can’t. He is leading me on the right path in order to bring me closer to His heart. I need to trust the One who loves me to get me where I need to go. I need to remember that even when I can’t see it, the best thing I can do is to keep walking with my Father.





Shoes

20 02 2015

I love new shoes. Trying on new shoes opens up new worlds of possibilities. You can see yourself differently as you slip into sandals, buckle up boots, or tie up new tennis shoes. You can feel glamorous in heels or search for comfort among the slippers. Each pair of shoes lets you frame yourself in a different picture and imagine, dream, or deal with the practical.

Did you know that God is in the shoe business? Every day, as you are getting dressed, He wants you to slip on a very special pair of shoes. “and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15) When we wear these God-given shoes, we literally stand in peace. They help us be ready to face whatever comes our way through the day.

The most interesting feature of these peace-infused shoes is that they are designed as battle gear. They help us stand firm during the war that is being waged all around us. The wisdom writer wraps up his discussion on time by reminding us that there is “…a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:8b) The blessing is that we live in peace, even as we daily face the spiritual battle that rages in this world.

My Jesus Resolution today is to put on my shoes. My heart craves peace, and the best peace is found when I stand fully in Christ. Like any pair of shoes, putting on peace requires bending low and covering what is vulnerable and tender with something strong and durable. It is a daily habit, putting on these shoes of peace. They remind us of where we stand, who we stand with, and what it means to be a person moved by peace. War is inevitable. We are going to face its assaults daily. Whether we are able to stand up or are knocked flat really depends on whether we have taken the time to put on our shoes.





The Green Bean Lesson

18 02 2015

My son hates green beans. Seriously hates them. We have tried everything from threats to bribes to get him to eat them, but he won’t budge. I realize that some will see his profound aversion to green beans as a parenting failure, but it is what it is. He will go out of his way to avoid them. He will tell others that they need to be shunned. He refuses to take them into his mouth or touch them in any way.

Maybe there is a lesson to be learned from the way he hates green beans.

“…a time to love, and a time to hate;” – Ecclesiastes 3:8a

As Christians, we are saved and motivated by love. We learn early that love is the lens through which we need to see others and interact with the world. We are to love the Lord with everything we are, and love our neighbors as ourselves. We know that God is love, so while loving is not always easy, we understand it to be our focus. But a time to hate? It doesn’t seem to fit.

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:” (Proverbs 6:16) There are things that God hates. Hates is a strong word, but there it is. As deep as His love is, there are things that He hates. Pride, lies, violence, wickedness, evil intention, falsehood, and disunity. These are things that provoke a strong reaction in God’s heart. They are things that we should hate as well. As we train our hearts to look like Jesus, we must learn not only to love as He loves, but to hate what He hates.

My Jesus Resolution today is to learn the green bean lesson. Hating something means that I refuse to take it into my heart. I avoid it, walk around it, and go out of my way to keep from touching it or letting it touch me. Hate has its place because it teaches my heart to shun the things that cause God’s heart to grieve. Taking time to both love and hate stretches my heart to rest more fully in the image of Jesus.





Shhhhh…

16 02 2015

We are a nation of noise. Quietness has given way to constant sound. There is rarely a moment from the time we get up until bedtime that is not filled with some sort of media clatter. We turn on the television when we walk in the door, the radio when we get in the car, and our earphones when we head outside. These aren’t all bad things, but I do wonder if we have lost something profound by flooding our souls with constant noise.

The wisdom writer seems to share the same concern. He writes that there is “…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;” – Ecclesiastes 3:7b

There are many places in the Bible that talk about how we are to speak. Rarely, though, does God’s Word have to tell us to talk more. The opposite, however, is definitely true. Repeatedly, the Bible tells us about the necessity and wisdom of being quiet. Shhh. Let’s be silent, and listen.

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” – Ecclesiastes 5:1-2

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10a

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” – Proverbs 29:11

My Jesus Resolution today is to be like Job. There is a moment in Job 40:4 when Job finally understands that the best thing for him to do is to put his hand over his mouth and be quiet. My soul needs to hear the full resonance of God’s glory. My imagination needs time to stretch out into the expanses of His promises. My heart needs the opportunity to absorb the richness of His grace. Quietness helps me be small. Stillness encourages humility. It reminds me that the world is big, and God is bigger. Shhhhh…





The Crooked Heart

13 02 2015

It is embarrassing, really. I wanted to make a special wedding present for someone I love. I picked out the fabric, carefully sorted the different thread colors, studied the pattern, and imagined the smiles, oohs and aahs that would erupt when the gift was opened.

The pattern was rather intricate. There was a place for the couple’s initials, a beautiful landscape scene with a house nestled in a rich palette of colors. In the center, really the core of the design, was a heart. The rest of the picture flowed from the heart.

I got started, excited to see progress. The heart was the first thing to sew. I worked on it diligently. I couldn’t wait for the design to start taking shape. I finally finished the heart, and noticed that it was just a little bit off center. I stared at it for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do. Tear it out and start over or just keep going? I knew it wasn’t right, but impatience and time pressure won out. I decided to keep going. I figured no one was going to notice once the whole thing was put together.

Wrong.

The entire pattern revolved around the heart. Everything was measured and sewn from the placement of the heart. I didn’t realize it until I got to the edges. The entire picture was skewed. The small heart mistake at the center threw the entire design off, its crookedness magnified in each piece as it moved outward. I should have read Ecclesiastes 3:7a – “…a time to tear, and a time to sew;”

My Jesus Resolution today is to remember the lesson of the crooked heart. Sometimes I don’t want to take the time or make the effort to tear the little things out of my heart that make it crooked. They seem like such little things in the moment. I would rather sew vibrant colors, create joy, and see progress. But it doesn’t take much to throw God’s whole design for me off center. Good sewing often requires some good tearing. Taking the time to tear can keep my heart from becoming crooked and ruining the picture of Jesus He is creating in me.