July 30, 2012

Esther 5:1,2
On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne, in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

Esther asked her cousin Mordecai and the rest of the Jews to fast and pray with her for 3 days and it is on the third day this queen goes before her king. That had to be very frightening for this young girl. She knows she can be put to death for what she is about to do and the fasting and praying did not give her an answer. God did not send a prophet to her or a sign so she would know that she would be fine. She was going before the king hoping that God would grant her favor, but knowing that He may not. That takes a lot of faith in God to do.

When we are in trials of our lives there are two things that I believe are the hardest for us to accept. The first is, we didn’t see it coming so we feel blindsided, or sucker punched. The second is, we are no longer going in the direction we thought and we have no clue where we are headed. All we know is that life as we knew it is changed, altered and now is uncertain.

These trials can come to us by way of disease or accidents. It can be through a loss of employment or marital status. Trials happen in ways we least expect and we always believe that we are ill prepared. However, that is not the case and we are learning that in our Esther study. God does prepare us and he does it in stages. You may think that this was a sudden change in Esther’s life but it isn’t. The proof in that is that she asked for everyone to join her in a 3 day fast and prayer. She knew that she had to go to God before she can go before the king. She knew that this did not guarantee her safety but she understood it kept her with God. This was not something she learned suddenly, on the spot, she learned this and she carried this wisdom and knowledge with her to the kingdom.

In the rest of this chapter as you read it you will notice that Esther does not just blurt out to the king what her request is but rather she wisely does something to honor him. I am sure God impressed that upon her as she prayed and it is a very wise move. Her faith in God has prepared her for such a time and we will see next week how God’s plan all comes together.

Write down where you are in your life right now, please record what is going on. Tomorrow or the next day you may see the hand of God move you over or to a new spot. Then you can look back and see how God prepared you. God does prepare you because God never sucker punches His children. He catches us after Satan does and shows us how He saw the blow coming and how we will recover. He is Omnipresent He is our God, He is our Father and He is always for us.

July 23, 2012

Esther 4:16 NRSV
“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, nor or day. I am my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

Esther exhibits great wisdom for a young woman in this verse. She knows that what she is about to do can and will risk her life. She understands that the only one who can save her and keep her safe is the One to whom they pray. She doesn’t want any popcorn prayers. You know what I mean, the two second prayers we say for someone when they ask us to pray. No, she wants the people to fast and pray and to do that for three days. She wants them to pray for her safety while she delivers the message. She wants serious and dedicated prayers.

There are different kinds of prayers and all of us know that. There are times when we just give God a quick popcorn prayer. At other times we sit with God and we give Him much more time. Then there are times like this when we need protection and assurance that where we go, God will go with us. We want to make sure we are going where God is sending us. We want to make sure it is God we are obeying and following. Those prayers require much more time and if you give prayer that much time, you just normally fast. You don’t think about food or playing on the Internet. You just pour your heart out to God and beg Him to hear you.

Our intention is to have God answer the prayer the way we want it answered. We will see next week how Esther’s prayer is answered. Today we are just going to see how fasting and prayer doesn’t always go the way we expect it.
2 Samuel 12:15-18a

The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became very ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child; David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his house stood beside him, urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died.

David is known as the man after God’s own heart and when him and Bathsheba commit adultery they conceive a child, it is this child who dies. David lay prostrate before God and fasted and prayed, begging God to keep the child alive. Certainly, this did not end the way David wanted.

There is a reason I am showing these two examples today. There is no way, not one way you or I can see from this side of heaven the plan of God. He invites all of us to come before Him in prayer and ask for what we want in the Name of Jesus. That is all He requires, the answer to the prayer is His. As David says in verse 22, who knows if the Lord will be gracious; and that is the truth. Since we don’t know how the prayer will be answered than that part of the prayer is not what we should concern ourselves with. We are called to pray and/or fast and pray when needed. We are not called to answer God’s prayers for Him. Therefore, if the prayer does not come out as you wanted, it is not what you have done, but God’s will.

Esther is going to go before the king. She calls for the people to fast and pray for her. She did not ask for a sign from God to show that she will be safe. She just placed that concern in the hands of God. What are you praying for? I prayed for a year for Gary to be healed. I fasted and prayed for a year and Gary is not healed. Does this mean God is unable to heal Gary? No, it means that healing Gary is not in God’s plan.

Prayers to God are always heard, but He doesn’t always answer in the way we prayed. Pray anyways.

July 16, 2012

Esther 4:13, 14 NRSV
Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a times as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish, Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”

Esther is one of those girls who right now could be saying to herself, “If not for bad luck I would have no luck at all.” I mean this is a young girl who was orphaned and then raised by a cousin. She had to mourn the loss of her parents for a long time because that is not something a young child recovers from easily. Then when she is still young she is taken captive to live in the kings harem so he can try her out one night to see if she is worthy of marriage and if not she is never summoned to him again. However, that does not happen and Esther is chosen by the king and that is a blessing right? Now the Jews are looking to her to go to her husband and ask him to save her people. The king doesn’t even know she is a Jew. Esther is expected to use her position to persuade the king to rescind his death order. Esther knows that she cannot go to the king unless he summons her and he has not summon her for some time. She realizes that what Mordecai is asking her to do is risk her life for the others. If I were Esther I would be considering my current position more of a curse than a blessing.

All of you can relate in such various ways to today’s story. Some of you went to school and earned degrees and landed the job you worked hard to get, only to discover it is that job that makes you miserable. Some of you waited your entire life for Mr. or Mrs. Right to come your way and they do and then after they are done loving you they become Mr. Or Mrs. Right for the next person. Some of you exercise and eat right and take good care of your bodies, and find out you have cancer and could die young. Some of you wanted a child so badly you would have bought one, but God blessed you with one, the same one who is rebelling and walked away from you and God. An orphan was chosen by the king to be his wife and she wears a jeweled crown. This is the kind of stuff fairy tales are made up of; only this really did occur, Esther is now the queen. A queen with a very heavy burden in life and being a queen isn’t all it was cut out to be.

That child of God is called life. Life as we know it is lived in a fallen world with all its natural and hidden dangers. There is only one promise, one guarantee, one truth and that is Jesus is our Redeemer and God. Aside from that everything else is made from pie crust, easily made and easily broken. Some of us get by in life learning this lesson down easy road, others aren’t so fortunate, that is the group I belong to. In that group we walk up hill, rugged roads filled with all sorts of peril, desolate and dark; except for that teeny tiny light which appears to be very far away. That light is God and that is how small and far away He appears to us when we feel alone and abandoned on that road. It can be argued and I am sure many Christians read this far and want to write to me quickly and remind me that Christ is always with me and never leaves me. I know that truth. What I am saying is that when we get placed on a very difficult road, we don’t always feel like we are sitting the in palm of God’s hands. We feel like God just flicked us across the universe and we are the furthest person away from Him. That is a lie of course, but this is what trauma feels like!

Esther hears that her cousin actually expects her to go to the king uninvited and appeal to him for the Jewish people. Esther tries to reason out to her cousin why she can’t go to the king who then reminds her that she is a Jew herself and will have to die under the same order. Then he concludes with that one powerful verse that Christians have memorized: Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.

Have you taken my suggestion and written down what it is you are going through right now? If not then do that today. I want you to go back on that day God reveals to you what He was doing. I want you to see firsthand God’s plan and purpose. I know you know the verse from Jeremiah 29:11 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” There is a plan and at this time Esther has no clue what it is. Her brain is scrambling and turning over all kinds of thoughts like: first my parents die, then I have to be raised by a cousin and if that was not bad enough I get taken from him to be tried out by the king. Than the king chooses me and for a short time I get to live like a princess but all of that is about to change. The minute I step before the king he will give the order for me to die than what good will that do anyone? Am I supposed to shout on my way to the gallows ‘save my people?’

What Esther doesn’t know, what I don’t know, what you don’t know, is the plans He has for us and perhaps He has brought us here today to this problem or tragedy for such as a time as this.

July 7, 2012

July 7, 2012

Song of Songs 2:16a NKJV
My beloved is mine, and I am his.

One year ago my life was perfect. Gary and I were making plans to move to Tennessee after my graduation. We just came back from being in Franklin and Brentwood, Tennessee, and we almost purchased property. Gary wanted to but I asked him to wait. I wanted us to look at Ashville, North Carolina first and make sure that Tennessee was the place we wanted to live forever. He didn’t like waiting but he did, and we were busy looking up property on the Internet and making plans to go to Ashville during my winter break from school. In August we were heading to New York City and Philadelphia and then Boston. We were going to vacation with Patti and Chuck and it was just one month away. The both of us were very excited.

On that night we were talking on the phone with Chantel. I wanted a pool to sunbathe and Gary said I could have one as long as it was in Chantel’s back yard. Chantel agreed and so while the two of us talked, Gary got on the computer and started to look for pools to purchase. We were laughing and having a good time. Then Gary stopped and told me he was tired and slipped off to bed. That was very unusual for him so I finished the call with Chantel and joined him. He said he was okay, just tired, and then as I started to fall asleep he said, “Michele, do you know how much I love you?” I told him yes and asked if he knew how much I loved him. Then we both drifted off to sleep. Two hours later, seconds before midnight, I heard a strange sound and woke up to find Gary dead.
Not one day has gone by since that day that I have not laid down in my bed and cried. Not one day has gone by that I have not begged God to please wake me up from this nightmare. Not one day, not one single day has gone by that I haven’t prayed and begged and wished for Gary to be healed.

I walk around my bedroom and see everything as it was the night this happened, and I keep telling myself to put some of the memories away. I try, I can’t. There are doctors who tell me that I have to grieve the old Gary and just understand he is never coming back and this new Gary is all I will have. I try, I can’t. Moving on, going forward is impossible at this time. I know I tried but I can’t. I can’t because there is a part of me that still hopes and wishes that Gary will be healed. There is a very sensible part of me that knows that day will not come. Still and in spite of all that, I can’t.

The only thing I can do now is beg God that on the day Gary gets to heaven God will show Gary all that I did for him during this time and just how much I loved him. That is important because Gary really wanted more than anything to be loved by a woman. When his first marriage ended Gary shared with me that she shattered his ideal of marriage. Gary was single for a long time. He dated here and there, got close to marrying another woman one time but backed out. He told me that he used to hate hearing the DJ on WBGL talk about his ‘bride’ and the reason he hated it is because he didn’t have a bride, he was jealous. When Gary and I got married, Gary called that radio station prior to our wedding day and dedicated September 19th to his bride Michele. He did that so that for the rest of his life he could hear the DJ say on our anniversary that Gary Beck had a bride. This is how important a wife was to Gary and that is why it is important to me that Gary knows when he gets to heaven that he was loved more than he ever imagined. I had planned on making Gary happy for the rest of his life. Now I struggle to be remembered the rest of mine. That is the nature of this brain injury and the hard truths I am learning to deal with.

It was one year ago on this day that my entire world turned upside down when my husband’s heart stopped and mine shattered. Gary you will never know as long as you are alive just how much I love you. It is for that reason that I pray to God and ask Him to show you and tell you because baby you really did want a wife to always be by your side, and she is Gary and she always will be.

Ti amo molto beni Gary.

This is a song I have chosen that reflects how I feel. It is not a Christian song but it is a song that really speaks the words my heart cries out.

July 2, 2012

Esther 3:5 NKJV
When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath.

Haman is lucky enough to be promoted and in this promoted state it is ordered that all should bow down before him, and all do. Well, almost all do, evidently Mordecai doesn’t and that one person is just enough to set Haman off in a tizzy. Oh, this is exactly what I want to talk about today. All of us who get ourselves all worked up over those who do not find us cute, loveable or as friends. Those people who talk about us, disagree with us and don’t like us. I am talking about the people who get under our skin, worm their way through our brains and camp out in our thoughts.
The question I have for you is this: Do you know how someone gets under your skin or into your brain? The answer here is simple: You Allow Them! You put them there all on your own. This is a great secret that I learned after 50 years on this earth. I will use Haman today to show how that happens.

The king promoted Haman and that is very good news for Haman. This had to bring him such a great feeling of success and pride. This is great news and he should be very happy with his promotion. The entire kingdom bows down before him. What a big man he became and all his hard work has finally paid off. There is one man, one man out of thousands upon thousands, who refuses to bow down. This man is not important to the king or to the community. This man is not important to Haman or his family. This is just one man among thousands who will not bow down. Why does this one man bug Haman? I mean truth be told, Mordecai is insignificant.

It bugs Haman because he lets it bug him. Instead of just walking away from Mordecai and letting the offense roll off his back, Haman internalizes the insult. The longer that insult sits within Haman the more treacherous the man becomes.

We do the same. Someone says something rude to us or shows their dislike for us in some way, and we go home and replay that one single event over and over in our minds. Before we know it that one moment takes up a lot of our thoughts, and that is a lot of moments we forfeit over someone who doesn’t give us a second thought. We justify this by trying to think of other moments we may have with them when we come out on top or better. That is what our mind does with this sin activity. It makes good use out of our imagination. The only problem is that it is only in our mind, and when we come back to reality we are still no better off and maybe even a little bit more angrier with that person.

Where is God in all of this? God is going to use this offense to bring about His glory. However, before He does I think God wants us to learn a lesson from Haman. I think God is trying to teach us not to think too highly of ourselves and believe that every person on this earth is going to find us adorable and lovable. When we run into those people, and we will run into those people, we have to learn how to just let what they say or do pass right over us. If they offended us we pray to God and ask Him to help us forgive them, and then forget them.
Easier said than done I know, and next week we will see the outcome of Haman’s foolishness.

June 25, 2012

Esther 2:22 NKJV
So the matter became known to Mordecai, who told Queen Esther, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Esther is crowned queen out of all the young virgins who were gathered to the palace. We also learned that her cousin Mordecai, who cared for her since her parents died, came to the palace every day to the king’s gate to inquire about Esther. It is there in the king’s gate that Mordecai learns about the plot to kill the king. He tells Esther who then on behalf of Mordecai tells her husband, the king. The men are dealt with and this all gets recorded in the book of Chronicles.

Several years ago, if you all remember, I was a teacher’s aid for special needs students. I only worked there for 3 years and really didn’t understand then why God opened that door for me to walk through. On April 12, 2008 I walked into the Evangelical Free Church of Naperville and met my now step-daughter Christine. I walked right past her dad and right up to her and started a conversation. A few months later I told Gary that I know God used that time I worked with the students to free me up so that I could talk to his daughter and through her meet him. I knew it was God who opened that door. I was only half right about the reason. A few months ago one of Gary’s doctors watched as I showed her the therapy that I used for Gary. She was impressed and asked me how I knew what materials to use and how to implement them. This is when God’s purpose for those 3 years came into full focus.

I chose the Book of Esther because I think it parallels very nicely with my life circumstances. It is an easy way for me to show you how God prepares us for something that will happen later on in life. This is how detailed God is. When I am done with the Book of Esther I am going to show you how God takes us gently through stages. For now I just want you to acknowledge the fact that God is Sovereign and He does know what lies ahead for us, He does prepare us and He does take care of all the little details. The proof of that is found in the steps of our lives. Soon, very soon Mordecai and Esther will discover how important it was for him to overhear the plot to kill the king. The two of them will see how they play an important part in God’s greater plan.

Today they don’t see it, we never do. Today they just see what is before them. They see two men plotting to kill the king. What do you see? What is it you are going through that today you don’t understand? Write it down and mark this passage with it. Then when it becomes evident to you go back and see how God used this time for that. God is Sovereign and not one day is wasted. God will use all our days to bring out His glory. We are seeing that in the Book of Esther; let’s learn to see it in our own lives.

June 18, 2012

Esther 2:17
The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Finally! Finally something great happens to Esther. She is crowned the queen and this king prepares a banquet in her honor. He actually rushed this along once he met Esther. She was not the last virgin so he didn’t go through them all and then decide; nope, he chose her on the spot, instantly. This is great news for Esther and now at last she can have a very easy life. She deserves an easy life; she had a rough one to start. She is an orphan who was raised by her cousin and then taken from her home, so she deserves this honor and God is blessing her, right?

For those of you who look at others who have an easy life and think how lucky they are, just remember luck wears out. Don’t assume they are blessed either. Blessings from God don’t wear out but as the song “Laura’s Story” tells us, sometimes blessings come in the way of trials. This every child of God should know and understand. For the time we will just celebrate with Esther the fact that she found favor instantly with the king and he makes her the queen.

We won’t even ask questions like why? What is it about Esther that the king finds so endearing? Why does he act with such haste in crowning her? How will God use a woman that is pampered as a queen? Did Esther lie in bed at night thanking God over and over? I am sure she did. Who among us wouldn’t? Any time any one of us gets something pleasant we are quick to thank God and throw Him kisses and praises. We love when God blesses us in this way.

The answer to the question of where is God is answered, right?