a beauty pageant w a murderous sub-plot

One of movies that always makes me laugh is Miss Congeniality – there are some parts that are obviously cheesy & sketchy, but the whole tom-girl, secret agent competing in a beauty pageant plot makes me laugh ALOT!!!!  And back in the Bible days, there was also a beauty pageant that had lots of drama, danger & suspense – the story of Esther.

Over the last few days I’ve been reading Esther & I’m always impressed with Mordecai, Esther’s surrogate parent.  I admire his integrity, honor, courage & character in the face of great anger, animosity & even violent intent from Hamaan, the evil villain.  But here’s what has caught my eye this time:  despite Hamaan’s best efforts, Mordecai was given honor even at the expense of Hamaan’s position.  There’s one point where Hamaan was conspiring to hang Mordecai & when he came to express his desire to the king, the king asked Hamaan’s opinion on how to best honor someone.  After giving the king all of the ways that Hamaan wanted to be honored, the king told Hamaan to go out & implement Hamaan’s ideas with Mordecai.  Hamaan wound up leading the horse that Mordecai rode on, crying out that Mordecai was an example of how the king honored those whom the king favored.

Don’t you know that Hamaan was more than humiliated by having to publicly honor Mordecai, whom he hated with murderous intent?!

So here’s my take away: maintain your integrity, grace & poise regardless of your enemies & God can take something very evil & dangerous & make it into a blessing in your life 🙂

dignify the difficulty

 One of the mentors in my life has this saying, “dignify the trial”.  I used to get cranky with him about this idea, but the more I think about it, the more I agree with this idea.  When he’s talked w me about dignifying the difficulty, he means that when I’m in a tough situation that I can bring dignity to the challenge, as opposed to making the trial a pity party.  Whenever I’m facing a hardship or difficulty, I have a choice to make – I can gripe, moan, worry, complain, fight, argue and other things that could possibly not be constructive.  Or I can make the choice to dignify the difficulty.  In my mind, that means that I don’t run around, complain, whine advertise my struggle & gripe about it to any listening ear.  To dignify the difficulty, that means that I bear up under the struggle, looking to God for strength, wisdom & help.  I may chose to share with a person my struggle in a very private way, but I’m not advertising my hardship to gain sympathy, support, pity or commiseration.

I’m exploring this idea in my daily living with some difficulties that you probably face as well & so far, this idea of dignifying the difficulty has been very rewarding in a very personal way.  I’m particularly liking the idea of leaning into God for His strength & support, rather than advertising my struggle – this seems to be much more constructive & beneficial 🙂

harvest is a result of growing

 Among other things, Fall tends to remind me of harvest & harvest is the results of planting, watering & growing. In this Fall season of harvest, I’m noticing some interesting harvests in my life, that are coming as a result of making choices to change & grow (not always the easiest decisions).

Here’s some transparency that I talked about with my mom this morn:  last year when I came back from Angola, I had a SERIOUSLY DIFFICULT time recovering in my heart from that trip.  Truthfully, that trip permanently changed me in a good way, but the process of that change was extremely harsh.  In contrast, my recovery from our Angola trip last month hasn’t been nearly as brutal as it was last year.  Here’s something that I think is a key difference for me between these trips:  last year when I came home, in many ways I tried to process the trip by myself & barely talked w anyone about it on a heartfelt level.  In contrast, this year, I’m way more open (by contrast) to talk about the trip, my experiences, feelings & observations.  I find myself being less independent than I was last year & it feels like I’m processing the trip in more healthy & constructive ways.

So I find myself growing in surprising ways – being less independent & more interactive.  And the fruit or harvest of this growing feels more healthy & less hurtful.  While independence can be good, strong & powerful, there’s also a toxic side that can be a blindspot of lethal magnitude.  Perhaps the operative word would be “inter-dependent” 🙂

My friend, let’s always chose the growing path because the harvests are worth the cultivation & process

overwhelmed

 One of my first experiences with swimming in the ocean was when I was about 9 yrs old.  I was really enjoying the sand & the waves but when I tried to go deeper one of the waves up-ended me & jammed me into the sand.  It was a really painful experience because I was slammed down on my head, spitting out sand, sea water with burning eyes & my sinuses were overloaded with sea water.  I was thoroughly discombobulated.

I’ve had a few repeats with this kind of overwhelming experience and sometimes, there can be things in our life that can be like my 1st ocean swimming experience – a physical challenge that is overwhelming, or a financial need that slams us into impossible situation, or a family / relational crisis that leaves us discombobulated.  I want to encourage you today that when we hold onto Jesus, He can help us through anything overwhelming.  Consider how my dad helped me with learning to swim in the ocean without getting hurt:

After my wave slamming, overwhelming, discombobulating & ocean swimming experience, I ran to my parents on the beach & they checked me over to see if I was seriously injured.  They saw that I wasn’t, but my dad noted that I was pretty scared to go back & try the swimming thing again & he didn’t want me to live with this fear.  So he took my hand & we slowly walked back into the ocean with the waves coming one after another & I remember being scared but holding onto my dad, super tight.  He was very calming, encouraging & super sturdy.  When a wave might have been too strong for me, I’d grab onto my dad & I knew that I wouldn’t get dumped again because he was so strong.  He coached me on how to walk into the ocean & to time my progress so that the waves wouldn’t be able to pick me up dump me.  Consequently, because of his help, one of my favorite places to swim now is in the ocean.

I’m not overwhelmed by the ocean because I held onto my dad & he taught me to not be afraid, to be strong & to work on my timing.  The same is true with our heavenly Father.  Perhaps this is what the Psalmist is talking about is Ps 42:7-8, “Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers & Your waves have rolled over me.  The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.”

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

I just watched some of the footage of these horrific events & it seems almost surreal – surreal because I’m sitting in my house, comfy & drinking decaf, very far removed from this tragedy.  But when I begin to think of the people who lived in the houses that were overrun by water, the people who drove the cars that are bobbing in the water like toys, the people who farmed the land & greenhouses that were swallowed by the mucky deluge . . . . I’m undone.  Even more, I’m very disturbed by the loss of life today in this highly industrialized country, along with the mounting numbers of dead & injured & other potential disasters that could result from this earthquake.

What do I say to all of this as a person who deeply loves Jesus?  The ultimate tragedy of these catastrophes are the number of people who have & will die, who are injured beyond medical help, the infants lost and families who are devastated.  When we hear the numbers for the dead & injured, let’s be careful not to get numbed by the statistics but stay deeply touched by the realization that each number is a person of immeasurable worth, deeply loved and treasured by Jesus.  Let us be certain & consistent in praying for the families who are left and let us be watchful for opportunities small & large to express the tangible love of Jesus to our kinship of humanity in Japan, but also in our immediate world as well.  May the love of Jesus compel us – 2 Cor 5:14

we follow strength but fellowship w suffering

I like what Paul says in Philip 3:10 about knowing Christ, the power of His resurrection, fellowship of His suffering, . . . .

I’ve been thinking about this alot & here’s something to consider:  i can find myself following strong people;  people who have vision, strength of personality & character & those who are strong within themselves.  I’ve been around LOTS of strong people – some politicians, Christian leaders, social leaders, etc & they’re very interesting people.

However, when it comes to connecting on a personal level, i find myself drawn to people who are flawed, who share their struggles & vulnerabilities.  I think this is because i can easily relate to someone else’s frailties & failures in some ways better than a person’s strength.  There’s a distinct fellowship & intimacy that can be experienced in hardship, weakness.  Truth be known, i think most of us find it difficult to share our weaknesses.  Our society applaudes strength, power, victory & not weakness, vulnerability & failure.  Nevertheless, we’re invited to share in the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus – bringing an intimacy w Him that is both distinct & beautiful.