That Moment of Destiny

Esther 2

   THAT MOMENT OF DESTINY.  At least once in our lives, there comes a moment when we have to say something that, once said, will change everything, forever. Moreover, we know that once we say that thing, we can’t unsay it or take it back or get a do-over. We may fight with ourselves over saying it—but we lose. We may try to talk ourselves out of it—but we fail. We may try to delay the inevitable—but we can’t. We may wish that things could stay the same—except we know that they’ll never be the same again.

But we also know one other thing—the only thing worse than things changing forever will be if they don’t.

   I’ll never be able to prove it but I believe Queen Esther felt that way. Do you ever wonder why, after inviting King Xerxes to the very special banquet she’d prepared to set the stage to petition him to save her people and herself, she didn’t say a word that night—except “’Will you come to another banquet tomorrow?’”

   Backstory: King Xerxes, world ruler of Persia, is persuaded to make a rash decree that, on an appointed day eight months from then, anyone who cared to could go on a killing spree to slaughter and obliterate all Jews anywhere in the Persian empire (all 127 different countries of it). The man behind that suggestion to the king was the wicked Haman who hated all Jews everywhere. Little does he know, though, that Queen Esther is Jewish. The problem is that the king doesn’t know it either. And the bigger problem is that, were he to find out, he still wouldn’t be able to cancel the decree because, according to Persian law, once a king made a decree, even he could not revoke it afterward. So—Esther sets out to educate the king as to what this means for her and her people: unequivocal annihilation of the Jewish race. However, in order to plead her case, Esther must approach the king in the throne room uninvited, which is simply not done. Queen or no queen, she could be executed for such presumption should the king not extend to her the scepter of mercy. But she knows that.

   Nevertheless, Esther approaches the king and he extends the scepter and promises to grant her petition, even up to half his kingdom. But does she tell him of the plot against herself and her people? Not quite yet…

   Many believe that Esther held her tongue because Haman was such a powerful political figure, even more powerful than she—which meant that she wasn’t out of danger quite yet. So instead of accusing Haman in the courtroom, she moves the battle to her own turf, to her own private apartments. Fair enough. But having done so, then she still doesn’t tell the king that she, his beloved queen, is about to die. (And don’t think Haman wouldn’t have had her killed.)

   Why doesn’t she?

   I don’t believe Esther was silent because she was afraid of dying; she’d already come to terms with the possibility that her destiny might require her to sacrifice her life when she resolved that “’If I perish, I perish.’” I suspect rather that Esther postponed the conversation simply because she knew that no matter what happened after she told the king her story—whether he believed her or not—things in the kingdom would never be the same again. And Esther wanted just one more night of intimacy, of peace, of normalcy with her husband.

   Have we ever done that? Have we ever avoided that moment of destiny because, no matter how we respond, nothing will ever be the same again?

   That “moment of destiny” is often our greatest test. When faced with the most challenging moment of our lives, what will we say?

   A chaste, unmarried, Jewish virgin is told by the angel Gabriel that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah. Wouldn’t that be every young Jewish maiden’s dream? Maybe. But Mary knows what happens to unmarried pregnant women: outcast, abandoned, even stoned to death—so what will she say? It’s her moment of destiny, and Mary responds, “’Let it be done unto me as you have said.’” Regardless of her answer though, Mary knew nothing could ever be the same again. She would either be the most honored woman of all time—or the most disgraced.

   Abraham was commanded by God to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him on the altar. As he takes his son and goes, Isaac asks him why they weren’t bringing an animal for the sacrifice. That moment—knowing his beloved son was the sacrifice—was the most heart-shattering moment of Abraham’s life and his greatest test; what would he say? “’God will provide the sacrifice.’” Even so, Abraham knew that, regardless of his answer, nothing would ever be the same again. I suspect he might have feared that he would go home either without his son or without his God.

   And Jesus. When faced with his moment of destiny in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asks God to take the cup of crucifixion from him but then says, “’Not my will but your will be done.’” He knew full well what would happen if he submitted to his Father’s plan of salvation—he would die an excruciatingly painful death. And he knew full well what would happen to us if he did not. One way or the other, he knew that nothing would ever be the same again.

   You will have your moment of destiny. What will you say?

 

 

 

Beware the Hidden Snare

Web 2

   Jack never saw it coming. He knew he’d been working late a lot of nights in the past few months, and he knew the young, attractive intern had been, too. But he knew enough to stay away from her. She worked somewhere down the hall—he didn’t care where. He had a good marriage to a good woman and he wasn’t about to mess that up. So when the attractive, young intern started hanging around his office after hours with a question here or an offer of coffee there, he simply told her—very politely—that he didn’t want people to get the wrong idea so could she please stay put in her own space. He was sure she wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression either.

   Unfortunately for Jack, he had no real understanding of the wrath and peril posed by a woman scorned—the scorched earth, the nuclear fallout, the mass casualties.

   But he found out.

   The two days later Jack was invited into his boss’s office for a little chat where he was informed that he was being fired. The attractive, young intern had, in tears, accused him of sexual harassment after insinuating that if she complied, the company might be hiring. Jack denied the allegations, of course, but the company board seemed to feel that, regardless of the facts, it would be a huge liability and PR crisis to keep him around.

   Snare.

   Such is the nature of traps set by the enemy. When Jack failed to fall for the temptation of working alone at night with the attractive, young intern, the enemy set a trap for him.

   Could this scenario have been avoided? Yes. If Jack had questioned the wisdom of being alone with a young, attractive woman about whose character he knew nothing, then he might not have ended up the lamb at the slaughterhouse. What Jack failed to consider was that just because he was an honorable man, doesn’t mean everyone else is honorable.

   While the enemy might regularly send temptations our way, traps and snares are a little less frequent—that is, unless we make it easy for him. A little wisdom, an ounce of prevention, could have saved Jack a mega-ton of trouble.

   Make no mistake—the devil’s number one priority is to take you down, destroy your destiny and, if he can, induct you into his eternal hall of flame and torment.

   So—what can you do?

   Don’t let him.

   The Bible is replete with warnings regarding the enemy’s traps: the “adulteress” is called a snare. Foolishness, arrogance, drunkenness, careless spending, lying, cheating and general stupidity are all mentioned as probable causes of snares. And there are others.

   Anger is a snare. What about that graphic gesture you treated the other driver to, the waitress whom you stiffed because she forgot to refill your coffee or the cashier you were rude to because she took too long? (Doesn’t she understand how busy you are??) Who was watching? Your boss? Your seven-year-old? Someone in the Sunday school class you teach?

   Snare.

   What about “bad company”? You know what they say about that…

   One night Philip went out drinking with a buddy. It was a weekend and after the bars closed, the buddy suggested that, on the way home, they stop at a convenience store. Coffee or cigarettes or some such thing… “Not a problem,” said Philip, and in they went. But before Phil had even made it five feet inside the door, his good buddy pulled a weapon and robbed the clerk at gunpoint. And shocked and dismayed though Phil might have been, no one quite believed that he was innocent. (Apparently policemen and judges hear that a lot.) So for the insidious crime of hanging with bad company, Philip did two years in the fed pen for a felony—Class A.

   Snare.

   Could that set of cuffs have been avoided? I would think. It’s hard to imagine that a good buddy could have a mindset that armed robbery is an option and his good friend not know that.

   And what about the high school girl who went out with the class bad boy? (He was cute, after all.) Nothing happened between them but that’s not his story. She’d had a rep as a good girl. Not anymore.

   Snare.

   The thing about traps and snares is that we don’t see them coming. But we can perhaps anticipate them. As the mother rabbit said to her little bunnies, “Don’t play over there! There might be a trap and you won’t see it until too late.”

   Ditto. Guard your integrity, your relationships, your finances, your health, your reputation.

   Guard your destiny.

 

 

 

The Unseen Realm

Big bang 2

   Imagine a place at the far reaches of the earth, a remote corner of the world where mansions are one-room straw huts; five-star restaurants seat people in the dirt around small cook-fires; and the latest irrigation technology means two pails of water carried from miles away. Imagine that higher education is a knowledge of the great stalking cats lurking in the bush or how to scent a storm before its burning pitchforks of lightning split the sky. And imagine that the greatest entertainment to be found is a fiery display of blazing stars wheeling across the heavens in the stillness of some dark midnight.  

   In such a place, glittering fifty-story high-rise buildings would be beyond imagination—and yet they exist. Grocery stores filled with bread and meat and fruits and vegetables and cakes and pies enough to feed an entire army would be unfathomable—and yet they exist. The technology to hear a voice from the other side of the world or to broadcast a picture from anywhere on earth would simply be a myth, a privilege limited to the gods—and yet it exists. In such a place, lights never go out when the sun goes down; commerce never completely halts anywhere on earth; and working and building and making money are second only to laughing and dancing and drinking—twenty-four hours a day, every day, forever.

   Somewhere on earth—perhaps in a few hidden places—the inhabitants are oblivious to even the concept an outside world; they are, as far as they know, the sole inhabitants of creation.

   Now—imagine us, in the center of our cosmos, as completely unaware of another dimension, another realm, as the people who populate the primitive universe are unaware of us. And imagine that this realm, this other plane of existence is, to us, as completely incomprehensible in terms of its supremacy as is ours to the primitives.

   Imagine that in this realm, the marble palaces of this earth are dingy in comparison to entire cities comprised of light; our most intricate satellites are obsolete because thought is the only vehicle needed to communicate; and travel, commerce and education—all gone—because one has only to speak and one knows, visits or sees whatever one wishes to know, visit or see—in the blink of an eye. Imagine that in this realm, there is no night—yet there are stars; there are no schools—yet there is always learning; and there is no rest—yet there is no fatigue. There is limitless energy, strategy, purpose and activity and yet there is no strife, panic or uncertainty.

   But this place is not some future heaven. This place is the spirit realm which exists, right now, just beyond a flimsy curtain of element. It exists, right now, in the very places we sit, stand and sleep. It is a realm populated with spirit beings who keep watch, who defend, who protect, and who strategize on our behalf. They stand, warriors of spirit, invisible—yet more real than we can conceive.

In realms unseen and incomprehensible.

   Imagine now that in this place, every possible outcome is already known and our greatest challenges are already being met—even though we don’t see. Imagine that in this place, answers to our petitions have been decreed and await release for some future moment—even though we don’t yet know. Imagine that solutions to our problems and resolutions of our crises have been pronounced and are being kept in invisible storehouses for delivery until the times of our challenges are fulfilled.

   You don’t have to imagine.

   The fact is, it’s all true. Wheels are turning in the spirit realm and circumstances aligning that we cannot see and therefore do not know. Judgments against unseen foes are being declared on our behalves—against even those enemies of whom we are not yet aware. Events are being planned, people strategically positioned and divine appointments decreed—even if our faith is wounded and bleeding.

   Still, angels are aligning, invisible messengers taking wing, and the whole spirit realm is on alert and positioned to deliver our rescues, our blessings and to assist us in the fulfillment of our destinies.

   Just believe.

 

 

 

 

 

First-World Problem— Third-World Perspective

Third World Problem 3   Years ago, I returned to my apartment one Saturday afternoon after yet another extended-family party at a relative’s home. It was bad enough (in my mind) that this particular relative had a house but this was their second house, an upgrade from the first one which had been very nice to begin with. Meanwhile, I was still stuck in the same apartment my husband and I had been in for ten (long) years, living in a very, well—unfortunate—neighborhood. And for various economic/financial reasons, we had few prospects of owning a house anytime soon. Or ever. So you can bet that God got a piece of my mind that day. However, half-way through my rant, God suddenly decided a little conversation was in order.

   GOD:  “Look around your living room. How big would you say it was?”

   ME:  “Huh?”

   GOD: “Your living room—how big is it?”

   ME: “Uh, maybe 12×15. I guess.”

   GOD: “Do you have any idea how many people in the world would give their right arms for this much space? Do know that in many places in the world, entire extended families live in spaces even smaller than this?”

   ME: Uhm, no…

   That was the end of that rant.

   That day gave me a whole different perspective on life. It taught me to focus on what I have instead of what I didn’t have. I remember that from that day on, no longer did I mourn not having what my relatives had, but I found myself very grateful that I was not living in a mud hut with nine other people and no heat or bathroom or shower or even running water. Did I mention that I was pregnant at the time? So instead of being angry and resentful that I didn’t have a new house to bring my baby home to, I was grateful that I would be able to bring my child home to a warm, safe home. I was grateful that I would have food for my baby and medical care and diapers and even toys. I couldn’t help thinking, often, about women all over the world who have to watch their children suffer from hunger or thirst or disease. I thought about how, in some places, their children had no clothing or shoes or if they did have them, they might be too small or outgrown altogether. I thought about how their children might have no diapers and no water to bathe. I thought about how their children might not be safe from violence or thievery or even kidnapping. And I thought about the orphans who had no parents to provide even the smallest of these necessities and whose only hope of surviving was to beg in the streets—or worse. 

   I still think about them.

   Last month, I had a series of mishaps and break-downs occur in the house among appliances and other things that needed a tweak here and there. An electrical outlet in the kitchen stopped working and, among a tangle of extension cords, I had to plug appliances into outlets in other places until I could get it fixed. As I began to gripe and complain, it occurred to me that this was a 1st-world problem. At least I have electricity. Then the washing machine (which, granted, is well past its teenaged years), decided that it might take a break from spinning water out of clothes. As I struggled to wring out the laundry by hand, I might’ve muttered some stuff. Then I pictured women in other places hauling their clothes down to a stream somewhere (if there was one) and scrubbing their clothes on a rock. At least I had a washer—and it could be fixed.

   1st-world problem.

   Over the years I’ve seen too many students pitching fits that they have to come to school. I try to explain to them that in many countries in the world, education is not free or even available, and people in 3rd-world countries (after I define that for them) have no hope whatsoever of making their futures better for themselves or their children. I try to make students understand that, not only do most children in the world not have cell phones or computers or television, many of them don’t even have food or water or clothing. And my little speech seems to make an impact. For about ten minutes.

   The sad thing is that those in 3rd-world countries who have so little are so grateful when they’re given even a little more, while many in 1st-world countries who have so much are jealous and bitter because they don’t have more.

   That’s the difference between a 3rd-world perspective and a 1st-world perspective.

   As I tell my own sons—there are always going to be those in the world who have more than you have and those who have less than you have. Your happiness, success and destiny will depend entirely on which you choose to focus on.

   Don’t think so? Look around. Who’s more grateful? Who’s more influential? Who’s more productive? Who’s more contented and fulfilled? Who’s more pleasant to be around?  

   Who’s got the right perspective?