Thursday, March 26, 2009

And That's the Rest of the Story

Sandra--Can you believe we have worked our way all the way through the book of Esther?! I don't know about you, but sometimes I felt as if I were actually a participant in the story. I'm really glad that I already knew, basically, how the story would end, or this could have been a very stressful study. There were days when I would find at the end of my study that my shoulders had become tight and tense, wondering if Esther would be granted an audience with the king or would she be killed! Or would she finally tell the king what she really wanted? It was like reading a good mystery, wasn't it?

The late Paul Harvey had a long-running radio program that I loved. He would tell an intriguing story and then just sort of leave the listeners hanging, wondering what in the world was going to happen. There would be, of course, a commercial announcement; then Paul Harvey would return with "The Rest of the Story," telling us how the story turned out. Very often, it was the exact opposite of what we expected.

Have you ever felt that way about your own life? That this was NOT the way you had thought (hoped, dreamed, prayed) it would turn out? As a child, how did you envision yourself as an adult--a teacher, a lawyer, a sales rep? I thought for a long time that I would love to be an architect--design houses for families where they would live "happily ever after." Then I found out that that job required a LOT of math, so I lost interest in that quickly. As a child, our younger daughter was very quiet, very low-key. You can imagine my surprise when one day she announced that she wanted to be a person who picked up garbage every week. As we talked our way through it, I discovered that the idea of riding on the back on the big truck really enticed her. Needless to say, as she grew older and realized that that job had some definite disadvantages (sweat, bad odor, all kinds of weather), she decided that something else might be better for her.

It is so comforting to me to know that God knew even before I was conceived what my life would involve. That really amazes me because I can't always plan the next hour with any certainty of how it will really turn out! But He knew when Esther was born that she would have very little time with her parents before she would become the little Jewish orphan who would be adopted by her cousin. She would travel much of her life because the Jews were often on the move, and she would end up in Susa!! And then as a teenager, she was herded in with hundreds of other beautiful, young virgins who would eventually have to sleep with the king of the Persian Empire. Do you think that's how she had pictured her life?! Now, if she had dreamed of growing up to be a princess, she didn't aim quite high enough, did she?

But God knew exactly where He was taking her, what she would have to go through, and how she would respond. In other words, from the very beginning, He knew the "rest of the story" for Esther. And He knows the "rest of the story" for you and for me. That is really comforting because it assures me that no matter where or in whatever situation I may find myself, He already knows the plan. One of my favorite quotations is, "Do not be afraid of tomorrow. God is already there." And life is so much easier when He's in charge!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's Tough Being a Woman -- Turn Around

"Dear, Dad

I now you like to fish. But please do not take to many fish. Why? Because seals eat fish. And if you take to many the seals won't have ining to eat. And they'll die.

Love, Erin

Please help the seals"

My eight year-old daughter found out her daddy was going to be going camping this weekend and fishing with the guys in our Sunday school class, so she gave him this letter Monday night.

This morning, Erin asked her daddy if he was a Christian. He said he was, and she wanted to know when he asked Jesus into his heart. August 1, 1990, was his reply. "Who have you told about Jesus? Who are you witnessing to?" I have to admit I left the room about this time, but I knew that Patrick had taken an opportunity to witness to one of his workers last week. She followed up with the question, "Daddy, are you a missionary?"

I don't recall being concerned about the world around me at eight or the condition of my parents' souls, but my daughter with the gift of mercy is. She is concerned about others which is a wonderful quality to have, and just like most of us, she will have to learn where to draw the line.

There was a recurring theme in our "red book." Women are tired of feeling responsible for everyone else sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed. As women, we are responsible for the primary role in raising our children, but ladies, at some point in time our children will be grown at which time our role will change. There are some that don't make the change well. There are some that don't make the change at all and end up in the middle of their grown children's affairs where they do not belong whether they were invited or not. I know of a grown man whose parents have bailed him out of every fiscally irresponsible thing he has ever done, and he is still making horrible financial decisions. I don't pretend to know where that invisible line is in every relationship. You know the one that separates the actions of a listening and praying parent from the one who is overly involved in a grown child's marriage, finances or child-rearing. I don't know how my mom knew, but I'm thankful she did.

Then there are those of us who are fixers or just want to help. I was in what I called a "friendship," but it grew into something altogether different. I was solving her problems and telling her how to live her life. Beth Moore said having that hero mentality can cause emotional bankruptcy, and she is right. After that relationship ended, it took a long time before I became close friends with another woman. I had crossed the line.

I'm going to talk to you as one girlfriend to another. "If it ain't yo' baby to rock, don't rock it!" Do you know what happens when you start rockin' a baby that isn't yours? It becomes yours, and you keep it till it's complete. Meaning, if you start handling someone else's problems, they become your problems till they are resolved or finished. I have enough issues to deal with. I really don't need to take on someone else's or get into the middle of their business. Ladies, the reason we get overwhelmed with being everything to all people is because we take on responsibilities that are not ours to take on. When we try to be all things to all people, we are taking out the need for Jesus Christ in that person's life. We are attempting to replace God in essence, and that is not Biblical. What if we backed out of meddling in the affairs of others including our grown children, friends, coworkers, family members, and prayed for them instead and did as the Lord led? What do you think would happen? For one, they would survive. Second, instead of relying on you, maybe just maybe they would turn to Christ and rely on Him. Isn't that what we want to do? Point others to Christ.

(Note from Sandra: I love how Beth described us when we're attempting to do things that only He can and should be doing. She said we were trying to be "God Jr."

We don't have to take on every cause that comes across our paths. It's okay to say, "no."

Unlike us, Esther was responsible for saving her race, God's people, but she wasn't doing it alone. God was in control the whole time. Esther was not responsible for the "how" everyone would defend themselves or the "how" each should fight. She was responsible for being obedient to God, and she was. She stood up. She acted. She spoke, and she wrote a new edict, and that is where the line was drawn. Each province and town down to every family had to determine the best defense for themselves. Am I making any sense? Just as God empowered her, she empowered her people, God's people. Are you empowering your people or are you enabling?

Erin started off this week carrying a crusade to save the seals that might eat the fish her daddy might catch in the bayou which is a noble cause, but she got down to the heart of the matter this morning. Let's empower our children, families and friends and encourage them in their spiritual walk, and let's allow Jesus to be responsible for their "hows."

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's Tough Being a Woman who feels responsible for the "how"

Hi. My name is Sandra (left), and I'm an organizer. I've been an organizer for as long as I can remember. My mother is an organizer. My daughters are both organizers. I even have an 7 1/2 -year-old granddaughter who as early as the age of 4 showed signs of being an organizer. (It's a strong gene!)
Sounds like an introduction at a 12-step program, doesn't it?! There are those who think that people like me DO need "help." My husband, for instance, is not "gifted" in the area of planning and organizing. Bless his heart, that's why he has a good office manager. But there are times when he must actually do the work himself, and it's not a pretty sight. He struggles with it but finally gets it accomplished. However, he's usually not happy at that point because it's so stressful to him.
Planning, organizing, list-making--that's how God created me. I have the gift of administration--sometimes in big doses. At various churches, I have been included in the planning of some very large projects, especially Christmas productions and Easter pageants. I love that kind of stuff. My music minister knew that he could hand me 50 pages of notes with 1,000 details, and in no time flat, I would have things worked out with a time schedule, a list of committees, and suggestions for who would play each role in the production.
But as organized and as detailed as I was, I would still hold my breath through every production, just praying that the scene of the resurrected Jesus would come off just right, that the scenery would get moved quickly and quietly, and that the donkey would wait until he had left the building to leave us his little "presents." And when it was over, the planners would always meet to discuss what we would do differently "next time." Even with this Bible study, Kristy and I have talked a little about what we would change if we had a "do-over." As human beings, we are always having to edit, make corrections, or start all over again
One of the ways in which I really relate to Jesus is that He is also a planner, an organizer (I Cor. 14:40). The difference though is that His plans are always perfect; He never needs a "do-over." I don't know about you, but I am very greatful for that! It means that no matter what He has me doing, where He sends me to do it, or how long it will take, I can rest assured that it is THE perfect plan. He makes no mistakes. Sometimes I have questioned His plan, and, personally, I think He's okay with my questions. There have been times when I have said, "Lord, are you sure this is the best way to do this?" or "Lord, let's look for a Plan B."
But He is always positive because He has known from the beginning of time what He has planned for each of us (Psalm 139:13-16). Look at the above picture on the right; is that not the cutest little thing you've ever seen? So proud of her tiny purse! Yes, it's Kristy, and God knew even at that point (as unlikely as it would seem to you and me) that she would investigate insurance fraud and, at times, would deal with some of the kinds of folks that her mother always warned her about. And it's certainly not what she studied to be: she studied to be a speech pathologist!! But isn't it neat that way back "whenever," God already knew her temperament(He created it!), and He knew that she would be bored silly as a speech pathologist and would be much better at something else? Our lives are full of times when, as we studied last week, we have had reversals of destiny. I'm so glad that God is in charge of that set of plans instead of me! God is constantly at work in our lives, moving us to wherever He wants us and changing us to become what He knows we need to be. Those times are not always pleasant for us, especially for those of us who don't do well with change. (Maybe that's what He's working on!)
I loved last week's lesson as we watched God's plan start coming together. It was so neat watching Haman come to the realization that his plans were just not going to happen. I loved it! God took all those puzzle pieces with which He had been working so long--the little orphan girl Esther; Mordecai, her obedient uncle; the pagan king, Xerxes; Haman, the insecure prime minister--and He fulfilled His promise that He would protect His people. It's hard to believe that Esther was happy with everything that had happened in her life just as we are often not thrilled with where God has us at the moment or what He has going on in our lives. But please always rest assured that His plan is never flawed and can always be trusted. It was so comforting and so reassuring in last week's DVD when Beth explained that we don't have to make things happen; we don't have to know ahead of time how to make things work out. We just have to obey God and trust Him to bring His plan together.
Be sure to write your assignment this week and bring it to class. Remember also to bring your picture back to class. It was so much fun looking at all those cute little pictures last week, and I am really looking forward to hearing some of your experiences.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's Tough Being a Woman who can balance passion with patience

I don't know about you, but I rather enjoy seeing people get what they deserve...this goes both ways.

As a fraud investigator, there are times I have investigated people, known in my gut they have commited fraud, but I can't prove it. We pay the claim. At first, that used to eat me up, tick me off knowing they got off scott free. Ladies, make no mistake, they did not get off scott free. When I realized that God's justice is more powerful and more just, I learned to relinquish that desire to Him. Sometimes I'd have to say out loud, "Okay, God, he/she is all yours."

Sometimes we have to do that with people in our lives who have done us or our family wrong, etc. My husband and I have been dealing with a situation involving some people who have made it their goal to blame their problems on us and have lashed out at Patrick. It is normal for us to want to seek revenge, but that is not biblical (Lev 19:18). So instead, we are praying for them, and they definitely need it. I liked when Beth Moore said that to nurse a grudge is to hold yourself in bondage to that person. Most of the time the one affected by the grudge is only the one who is holding it. How effective is that?

Then there is the other side of the coin. I'm so thrilled when children of God are rewarded for their work, their service, etc. Who couldn't be happy that Mordecai finally got his just rewards? He had been overlooked, his action forgotten. Do you ever feel like you're not seen? Do you ever feel like the work you do is not appreciated? Our focus is not to be on receiving the praise of others even though it does feel nice from time to time. I like Mordecai. He got it. He was humble. He knew his purpose and who he served. I don't know about you but I get tired of my work being taken for granted, especially at home. The past couple of days when I get home from work, my house has been picked up as best as possible, beds have been made, and the laundry has been done. One of the workers repairing my house has been bringing his wife, and when she has nothing to do she cleans. Ladies, I LOVE having my own wife. I fall over myself thanking her and loving on her. Am I alone here? I want gratitude and some contribution from others, but that isn't the example Mordecai gave us, is it? Mordecai continued being faithful at the gate, his area of work and service. God saw him. God knew what he had done. God doesn't forget. When Mordecai is finally recognized for saving the king's life, he meets the fanfare that Haman had desired. Then, Mordecai returns to his work, his area of service. His humility helps him to return to be the faithful, diligent person he was. His example is tough to follow sometimes.

One more thing--aren't you glad that God keeps the score book? And aren't you glad that He has chosen to redeem us because none of us deserves a life in heaven. If we got what we deserved due to our fleshly, sinful nature, we would be going to the pit of hell depths unknown, but while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and redeemed us. Hallelujah! Thank you, Lord, for the blood and the power of the cross. Instead of us trying to keep score with who has done what and what is owed to us, how about we trust God to keep track and reward us as He sees fit as our Heavenly Father who wants to give us wonderful gifts (James 1:17)? We can save our energy and mindspace for something else more worthy as a daughter of the King.
REMINDER -- Bring a childhood photo of yourself to class this week. Also night class, it's jammie night! WOOHOO!