There are certain phrases in the Christian community that are quoted so much that I almost feel like I've built up a sort of immunity to their potency, simply because I've heard them used so many times.
I've heard it used and quoted so many times that I have a tendency to let it go in one ear and out the other. But yesterday morning I was reading the book of Esther and for some reason, as I read it in context, it jumped off the page as if I had never heard it before. It moved from being a bit of a cliche (for lack of a better term) to being alive with power and purpose.
Esther was an orphan being raised by her older cousin, Mordecai. The king of their land, after being humiliated by his wife and basically dethroning her, was in search of a new queen. The king's advisers went to him with a proposal. Their idea was to go to each province and gather the most beautiful virgins, bring them back to the palace, give them beauty treatments for a year and then let him pick the best of the best for his new queen. Then I read a verse that made me laugh out loud. It said:
"This advice appealed to the King, and he followed it."
Um.... yeah??!! Can't really imagine him refusing that one.
Anyway, Esther was obviously beautiful but the story tells us that not only was she beautiful but she had a great sense of humility about her which helped her to find favor with those around her.
To make a long story short, Esther was chosen to be the new queen. The king did not know this but Esther was a Jew. While she was living in the king's court she learned (from Mordecai) that the king had approved a conspiracy to kill of all the Jews in the land. Mordecai realized the timeliness of Esther's recent placement in the palace and encouraged her to appeal to the king to save the lives of her people. But, (and this is a big BUT) in order to do this Esther would have to go to the king which was not permitted unless you were invited, admit her nationality, and risk her life of comfort and luxury in hopes that she could save thousands of lives.
It was at this critical decision making time Mordecai floated out this pivotal and emotionally charged question and said, "Who knows that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"
Esther decided to rise to the challenge and responded by saying, "If I perish, I perish." Such courage!!
I've heard this phrase thrown around a lot but often without the gravity that it deserves. This was not about Esther rising to some position of power and influence but actually the complete opposite. It was about Esther realizing that her position was really not about her at all but about the thousands of lives that would be saved.
There are a lot of people anxious to have a position of influence but would they still be willing if it meant risking every comfort that they know...even their life? (I'm asking myself too...just so you know!)
Doesn't seem as glamorous when you read it that way. But what a beautiful display of courage to aspire to! The crown, the *bling*, the position, but along with it...the risk of total exposure.
Who are the people in your circle of influence you have been called to reach out to? Would you be willing to risk total exposure if you thought it may save a life?
I would love to hear from you...feel free to comment :)
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Still harping on the Alice in Wonderland theme…
At one point in Alice's journey when she consulted with Absolom, the Blue Caterpillar, about which way she should go, he answered her sharply saying,
“I can’t help you if you don’t even know who you are,
Ok, so that was a little harsh but there was truth in what he said. You cannot know where you are going until you know who you are.
It is most important on this journey of life to establish who we are; perhaps even more important, is to know where we derive our sense of self from. If we don’t, we run the risk of falling prey to the pressure of other people’s standards and hopes for us rather than charting our own course.
This is definitely a process, one that we must keep revisiting throughout our life. Every different stage of life presents new challenges and new temptations to let outside influences define who we are, how we feel about ourselves, and where we are going.
It is usually when we are completely fed up with trying to measure up to the world’s standards or the opinions of others (no matter how well-meaning they are) that we really dig in to find out who we are and where we should be going.
I love how Alice expressed herself in the movie when she finally reached her breaking point. She said, exasperated:
“From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole I've been told where I must go and who I must be. I've been shrunk, stretched, scratched, and stuffed into a teapot. I've been accused of being Alice and of not being Alice but this is *my* dream. *I'll* decide where it goes from here.”
Oh my goodness! Can anyone relate?? I have felt exactly that way before with the possible exception of being stuffed in a teapot, although I’ve definitely felt like that too!
Alice finally decided that she was her father’s daughter and she was going to let that be her guide. She was going to begin following her own instincts.
This is something I have recently really come to embrace. The fact that, because I have the spirit of God living inside me, I can depend on Him to guide my every decision and not stress out about whether or not I am veering off the "right" path. Here are a few verses that I rely on.
Acts 17:28 says (and I love this…)
“In Him we live and move and have our being.”
That pretty much sums it up. That is where we live and how we move...IN HIM. If you know that...if you really know that, and base your decisions on that reality ~ it will guide your every move.
And one final promise to tuck deep inside your heart ~ Isaiah 30:21
"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
So trust His voice and get on with your journey!! The best is yet to come.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
When Alice arrived in Wonderland for the second time there was some debate about whether or not she was "the" Alice that they were all waiting for. They were anxiously anticipating her return because they knew that she was going to be the White Queen's champion on the Frabjous Day making things right in their world by defeating the Jabberwocky.
Yes, I realize this all sounds a little bit ridiculous but stick with me for a minute.
When she meets up with the Mad Hatter he immediately assures his friends that she is indeed "the" Alice. He says that he would know her anywhere. But after being with her for a little while he notices her reluctance to slay the Jabberwocky, a feat that would save them all from the terror of the Red Queen's rule. He notices that she no longer has the fighting spirit she once had. This is how he tells her.
He looks at her sadly and says, "You're not the same as you were before. You were much more...muchier. You've lost your muchness."
It is a funny way to put it…but have you ever felt that way? Like you have lost your muchness? Life has beaten you down, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t muster up the energy to keep getting back up? But deep down inside you just know that your muchness is still there somewhere!
This is where Alice was but slowly she began to realize that the people of Wonderland needed what she had to offer and that light began to grow inside of her pressing her forward.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 puts this idea into context for us.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
And so regardless of our present circumstances we must reach down deep and get our muchness back because the world is waiting for it!
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Cor. 4 16-18
Monday, April 23, 2012
My daughter and I recently cuddled up on the couch and watched Tim Burton’s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland, with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. I’ve seen it before but for some reason this time I saw so many parallels to the journey of life and faith. So, I thought it would be fun to write about them this week.
From the opening exchange between Alice and her father I was hooked. Alice was having nightmares and delusions and asked her father if she had “gone round the bend.” His response was, “"I'm afraid so...you're mad; bonkers. Off your head...but I'll tell you a secret...all of the best people are."
I have always had affection for people that are just a little wacky. Wackiness is often indicative of an eccentric personality or an entrepreneurial spirit both of which I find inspiring and fascinating.
I found Alice so endearing. Perhaps I identified with this unconventional and often defiant young girl and her quest to become all that she was meant to become. It was not an easy journey to say the least, but one with many twists and turns, much like life. I loved her spunk and tenacity. She was not always sure of who she was, nor was she confident that she had what it would take to fulfill her destiny, yet she displayed an enormous amount of courage from the very beginning. It was her courage coupled with curiosity that led her down the rabbit hole to ultimately discover her identity. And every step of the way she was becoming more and more her self.
Alice had a sense that there were great things in store for her. She carried her father’s free spirit inside of her but she was being pressured to settle for a life of convenience. However, just in the moment that she was “supposed” to accept the marriage proposal that would “supposedly” mean that she would be taken care of financially and live a carefree life, a rabbit in a waistcoat showed up and challenged it all. She recognized the interruption as an invitation to embark on an adventure. Instead of settling for the status quo, she followed the rabbit all the way to Wonderland where she would realize an inner strength and resolve that she didn’t even know she possessed.
I think we all have times in life when we may be tempted to settle for the path of least resistance or the less scary option. But we have our Father’s spirit inside us pushing us to believe for the impossible.
Alice’s father in an opening line in the movie said, “The only way to achieve the impossible, is to believe it’s possible.”
Is there a path you should be following even if it goes against all reason? Is the Holy Spirit nudging you to follow Him down a particular road? Say "Yes!" to the invitation to embark on the adventurous life of faith marked out for you and just wait to see all that is around the bend!
Friday, April 20, 2012
For months I had been having visions of starting something. For years actually. I could see it. I could taste it. I was growing more and more impatient.
For months I had been having visions of starting something. For years actually. I could see it. I could taste it. I was growing more and more impatient.
I knew that there were lots and lots of women struggling just like me to find their place.
I had just been through a very trying time of feeling like I had lost, or was losing, my identity. It lasted longer than I would have liked, but through the process, I felt awakened to the suffering of other women. We all face challenges maintaining our identity because of all the different hats we wear. Coming through the experience, I felt called to take what I had learned through the process and reach out to others that may be struggling. I was a woman with a mission burning inside of me, and I was ready to go out and change the world.
But instead, I was working as a Marketing Director for my husband's business. I knew he needed me there, but I could feel myself itching to move on and start living out what I now believed was my "calling." I became very frustrated. I didn't understand why I felt so impassioned to reach out to women of all ages and walks of life and start this ministry when I was not free to do so.
On my way to work one day I vented my frustration to God. The whining session sounded something like this: "I just don't get it. You've given me this passion, but I feel like my hands are tied. I just wanted to get started." And I felt Him challenge me by saying, "So start."
I started to list the reasons why I couldn't, and I heard that still small voice say, "Start right where you are." I thought about it for a bit and realized that I was surrounded by women every day and that I could look for opportunities to encourage someone right where I was. I adjusted my attitude and asked God to give me an opportunity that day to do what I believed He was calling me to do in my current situation.
When I got to work I overheard a conversation that a young girl that worked for us was having with our manager. The young worker was disrespectful, and I needed to step in. I asked her if I could speak with her and gave her some gentle instruction about submitting to authority even if you don't agree with everything they say or do. I told her God would honor that and it would serve her well to learn that lesson now. (I had the liberty to do that because I knew that she was a believer and was striving to live by biblical principles.)
She didn't looked thrilled with me, but before I left that afternoon, she asked if she could speak with me.
She shyly said something to this effect, "Every time I am around you, I feel like I learn something. Do you think it would be possible for us to meet outside of work for coffee every now and then just to talk?"
That was the day I learned the "Start Here" principle. No title. No logo. No fanfare. I just needed to start.
Can you relate? Are you there right now? I'd love to hear your story!
Feel free to leave a comment!
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Before I decided to get intentional about making my garden look nice, I would just wish that I had one. I wished I could just close my eyes and *poof* a beautiful garden appear. But great gardens don't just happen.
In my wishing stage I would see other people's gardens and find myself being jealous. And then I would make excuses. A list of reasons why I didn't have a nice garden. I decided that there was something wrong with the soil in my front yard. Every time I planted flowers, they would inevitably shrivel up and die. So I blamed the full sun exposure of my yard. Excuses, excuses.
Last month, I decided to trash the excuses and get serious about finding out what it would take to have a thriving garden. That was step one.
STEP ONE: Stop making excuses!
So let's apply this principle to life.
Is there something in your life that you have been dreaming of doing? Do you see someone else pursuing their dream and find yourself being envious that you are not living yours? Do you have a gift that you could be sharing with the world that you are not using? Do you find yourself making excuses for why you are not stepping out?
Every dream, no matter how big, starts with one small step.
What is that one step that you need to take today to start moving in the direction of your dream?
Food for thought: "Not enough time" and "not enough money" are both excuses.
Have a wonderful day!
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light,
bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept."
I have been doing a lot of gardening lately. This is a fairly recent passion. The more I get into it the more I have seen so many parallels to life.
My gardening endeavor coincided time-wise with preparing for our Girls Night Out that we had this past Monday evening. The topic of the evening was a serious one ~ Human Trafficking, specifically sex trafficking. It is not a pleasant topic yet it is important that we talk about this and don't ignore what is going on right under our noses, in our city, on our watch. (and not just our city ~ lots of cities and even small towns)
According to the Clearwater Area Task Force on Human Trafficking's website recent studies estimate that approximately 18,000 to 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States annually with Florida being one of the top 3 destination states.
And so if we look at our community as our "garden" and we want to bring out the God-colors in our corner of the world, we must do what every gardener has to do when they get started.
We must CLEAR, CREATE and COMMIT.
We must clear the garden of the things that are choking or eating away at the potentially beautiful plants and flowers. The Task Force is working hard to do that along with the lawmakers and concerned citizens that are aware and looking for signs, calling the hotline with potential leads.
We must create safe and nurturing environments for the flowers and plants to grow. We must make sure the soil that they are planted in is rich with nutrients. Organizations like Created and Bridging Freedom are doing just that. Making sure that the victims that are rescued have a safe place to recover and rehabilitate.
We must commit to caring for our plants and flowers. We cannot expect to plant flowers in the ground and just expect them to thrive. They need water, fertilizer and light! If we want to see change we must commit to helping in someway. Everybody can do something.
Our evening ended with this song. If you have time, have a listen.
COMING UP: I will be expounding on the gardening theme but how it applies to our personal lives and dreams...stay tuned :)