Sunday, September 26, 2010

Your Esther Moment

     Did you ever wonder if you were really making a difference in the world? Maybe you know that nagging feeling that you should be more or do more, like you aren't doing enough that really matters. As we get older perhaps that question looms larger. When we realize that there are more days behind than there are before, we start to wonder if our existence on this planet has had any lasting impact. I want to submit to you that it has, but that you are probably looking in the wrong place for the evidence. We Americans have an implied understanding that if it isn't big, loud, fast, beautiful or famous it doesn't count. Well, I believe that we are wrong. I submit that your greatest influence and lasting impact is right where you are spending your life at this moment. Let's call it "Your Esther Moment."
     Have you ever heard the phrase "for such a time as this"? When I hear that phrase I think of the Bible book of Esther. Esther was a beautiful young Jewish girl who caught the eye of the king of Persia and became queen. When the Jews were threatened with annihilation by their enemies, Esther's surrogate father, Mordecai, encouraged her to go to the king and plead for her people. He told her "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) Esther did go to the king and her people were saved. She was in the right place at the right time and did the right thing for the right reason, even at her own risk. She used her influence where she was and made a difference.
     We all have a desire to make a difference. I believe that is born into each one of us. God-designed, if you will. It says in the book of Ecclesiastes that "...He has set eternity in the hearts of men..."  This desire for eternity is what drives people on to do something that lasts. Some strive for fame or to accomplish a feat of great importance. Whatever it is, we each want to feel that we have done something that goes beyond ourselves.
     It may be that you have come to your current position "for such a time as this". Your current position may be as a stay-at-home mom, or at a seemingly obscure job. Perhaps you see yourself doing something big and important and wonder when that is going to come about. Your greatest influence and most lasting impact may be in raising that child or helping that co-worker through a difficult time. Your "Esther moment" may be as a listening ear for a grieving neighbor, or a care-giver to an aging parent. Your "Esther moment" may be happening over and over in the little things you do that improve the lives of those around you. You are in the right place at the right time so that you can do the right thing for the right reason.
There are few things that really matter in life and even fewer that make an eternal difference. Don't miss your "Esther moment". It could be happening... right now.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Aged to Perspective

Don't you love new things? We love kittens, puppies and babies, a new car, a new house, even a new piece of clothing, or a new notebook. In the halls of the school where I work I have seen many a notebook that could be re-used tossed in the trash bin at the end of a school year. Our love for new things has caused us to discard much that still has worth and value. Even relationships and people have become disposable.
Japanese society reveres the elderly. American society often treats the elderly as a burden to be cast aside. They slow us down on the roads and in the halls. They require extra patience and care, bu oh, what treasures they have to share with us if we would only slow down and listen before they no longer have the ability to pass on their wisdom.
Yesterday I attended a class taught by a 73-year-old man who had been in ministry for 53 years. he described himself as bi-vocational for most of his years in ministry having been employed as a teacher, a school administrator and even a chief of police while also leading a church! It didn't take long to realize that this man, not only had a thorough knowledge of the subject he was to teach (Old Testament survey, to impress you bible students), but had a wealth of insight and wisdom that he had gained as a result of his many years of experience, not only in ministry , but in life. He was full of humility and joy at having the opportunity to share the many jewels he had acquired in his travels with our small class. Though our class was released long after the other classes had finished, we didn't mind at all. The time had been well spent in the presence of a master, not only of the class subject, but of life. What an honor to sit, listen and learn from his wealth of knowledge and from his perspective gained by age.
The Hebrew Scriptures say in Leviticus 19:32 "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respecct for the elderly and revere your God." Now there's a practice that has gone out of fashion in the US! Isn't it interesting that respecting the elderly and revering God are equated with each other? Paul says in I Corinthians 14:5 "you have many teachers, but not many fathers." I had the rare and marvelous opportunity to hear from a "father" yesterday. How grateful I am that I was not in too great a hurry to pay attention.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Black Screen, My Friend?

So, I am no computer geek, but even I know that a black screen on a laptop is not a good thing. What I am wondering is: Is this the black screen of death or will my laptop be resuscitated and live another day? I have found ways around the black screen. At the moment I am typing on my laptop, but viewing a desktop monitor via a video cable. It works for now, but it isn't ideal. I am in communication with a computer geek I know and am hoping that I will get some good news. We all need a computer geek in our lives in these days when technology changes as fast as a click.

My situation causes me to review something I have reflected on often. Life in the 21st century has gotten very complicated. We move at the speed of light from one activity to another. We instantly communicate and microwave our meals. We keep our calendars on our hand-held devices and can rarely find an empty space to get together with friends. All this technology was supposed to simplify life, right? Instead, we rush around hoping that we don't lose our cell phones, that our computers don't crash and that we can get that one-more-e-mail written or read before we fall asleep at the keyboard.  We are constantly in motion from activity to activity, but where are we really going anyway? Nowhere. And we are going there faster than ever before.

I am grateful for my cellphone and my computer. I enjoy having portable music and a calendar on my phone. I am glad to be able to keep in touch with people through text messages, e-mail and Facebook. But I wonder what would happen to our society if all the satellites and cell towers crashed tomorrow. What if we had no more Internet for Facebook and e-mail. No cell phone. No instant information. Maybe we would go back to just sitting with each other and enjoying a cup of tea or coffee or lemonade and talking. We might ask questions and really listen to answers. Now, there is a lost art. The art of conversation, reading faces or body language. The art of being there when someone is in need of a hug. The ministry of presence.

Technology can certainly aid relationships, but it can never replace face-to-face, voice-to-ear, hand-to-touch relationships.  There is a subtlety in voice inflections, gestures and eye contact that can't be replicated technologically. There is a comfort in the touch of a hand, a hug or a smile that symbols on a screen just can't imitate.

We were created for relationship, to love and be loved, to know and be known. When technology helps us to accomplish that God-ordained purpose then I am all for it. If I need to let my laptop go, then so be it. But I will replace it in some way so that I can stay in touch with you, because you can't be replaced.

Check your calendar. Coffee, anyone?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Beaches and Mountains

Everyone loves a vacation. We all get excited about some time away from our normal routine. Many of us return to the same location year after year for our R and R. Some people travel into the mountains and camp or rent a cottage. They love the woods and mountain lakes. They load up their hiking shoes and camp gear and trek to where the air is cool and fresh. Some travel to the seashore. They load up on sunscreen and reading material looking forward to the roar of the ocean and the sand between their toes. No matter which is your favorite, what is it about beaches and mountains that calls us away from our everyday lives? What is it that speaks so deeply to our spirits that we feel renewed and refreshed?
I love the mountains,, but when it comes to a favorite getaway, I am a beach person. I have come to realize that not just any beach will do. It has to be an ocean beach. And not just any ocean beach satisfies me. It has to be a beach that spreads out for miles, where the ocean breeze cools me in the heat, and where the sky seems to go on forever. I don't mind a crowded beach as long as there are not a lot of people between me and of the ocean. I find that on a beach like that, even if it is crowded, I can feel a sense of isolation and solitude. That sense of being alone with the sky and the ocean is what I love most. Why is that?
There was one year, one very difficult year, when all I wanted in the summer was to go away to the ocean. I wanted it even more because we weren't able to go. The longing was strong to the point of being overwhelming. I began to ask myself and God, "Why do I want this so badly? What is it about the beach that means so much to me?" One day the answer became clear: I feel safe on a beach. When the sand stretches out for miles and the sky seems to swallow the whole earth, I feel small...and safe. Why safe? Doesn't feeling small make us feel vulnerable and at risk? On a beach I am reminded how big God is. As expansive as the ocean or sky is, He is even bigger. He holds it all and me in the palm of His hand. When I feel alone with the sky and the ocean, I really feel alone with God. In that year, when so much of life seemed overwhelmingly difficult, the thought of God being bigger than it all and holding me in His hand made me feel safe. Even though I never made it to the beach that year, the realization of what I was really longing for and that God was just as big while I was at home and in the middle of a trial, gave me comfort.
Whether we love the mountains or the ocean, that sense of our Creator's enormity and creativity and beauty fills our spirits with an awareness of Him. We may not always recognize Him consciously, but we are renewed and refreshed because we have been in His presence.

"The heavens declare the glory of God;  
the skies proclaim the work of His hands." 
(Psalm 19:1)