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Category Archives: Esther

Emails to God – Flawed Leaders (Esther 3:12-15)

12 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. 13 Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews —young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.

15 The couriers went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.

Dear God, I think my favorite part of this passage is frank look at the situation at the end of verse 15: “The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.” That’s great. You know, we always want to think that the people in leadership know what’s going on and are making good decisions, but sometimes the truth of the matter is that they really don’t know that much more than the rest of us, and they are prone to make just as foolish decisions.

I wonder how much people might look at me as a leader who will surely make the right decisions. I think the board that I work with trusts me in this way. I think our staff trusts me and looks to me in this way (for the most part). My kids used to, but they are older now and in the mode where they don’t think anything I do is right. But the truth is, there are times where I am just as overwhelmed or lost as any of them might be. I don’t have any special power that gives me a monopoly on wisdom. The most I can say I that I have you.

Father, help me to simply make the right decisions at any given time. Love others through me, first and foremost. There is a woman coming this morning to visit with me, and it will be up to me to see how she will get help to pay for a surgery. Give me discernment about this. I have another big project today. Help me to remember and share everything I am supposed to. Represent yourself through me with integrity, honor, and your glory.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Esther

 

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Emails to God – Assuming the Worst in People (Esther 3:7-11)

7 In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur (that is, the lot ) was cast in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar.

8 Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. 9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.”

10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”

Dear God, it can be dangerous to make a decision without first having all of the information. I am not old and wise yet, but the longer I live and the more I experience the more I realize that there are ALWAYS two sides to every story. There is ALWAYS more to be learned before a good decision can be made. Very few people have wicked motives. Very few people set out to hurt someone else. Those that are perceived by some to be wicked usually have a perfectly good explanation for the reason they did whatever it is they did. This is where Xerxes failed as a king. He never asked any of the Jews about Haman’s charge. He just assumed that they were a rebellious element within the kingdom because Haman told him they were.

I get to see this every day at work. There are patients here who can be manipulative, who lie, and who will say whatever they have to say to get their way, etc. They might be addicted to pain medications. They might have learned over time that the way to get their way is to be pushy. Because there are a few patients like this, it can be easy to paint all of our patients with the same brush. One can become cynical. But it is our job to try to cut through the layers of appearance and get at the truth. What is causing that person’s pain? Is there a legitimate way we can help them? Is it time to discontinue our services to them, or is there a way to be firm and yet merciful?

Father, this happens in every area of my life. It happens with my kids. It happens with my wife, my siblings, my parents, in-laws, etc. I can get offended and assume the worst of the person. The important thing is to try to get to the bottom of it and get the entire picture before I make a snap decision that is foolish. One thing I have found is that, with the exception of my kids who sometimes just do silly, selfish things, all of these others have no intention of doing me harm. There is simply a good reason why they did what they did. So please keep me from making the mistake Xerxes made. Help me to love others and have good relationship with them as they come into contact with me.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Esther

 

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Emails to God – Reflecting God in my Life (Esther 3:1-6)

After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.

3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.

5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 6 Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.

Dear God, why doesn’t this story mention you? Why doesn’t it say, “Haman would only bow to God, and, therefore, he would kneel to Haman and pay him honor”? I find it fascinating that, although you were probably his motivation, this book doesn’t record that at all.

Okay, here’s the big question: Can the same be said of me? When people see me and my actions, do they know my motivation? When I turn down an opportunity to advance my career do they know it is because I don’t want to go against your call? When I try to show a difficult person compassion do they know it is because I have asked you to give me your eyes for them? When I try to go out of my way to love a donor, do they know that it is so that you will be able to bless that person through their sacrifice?

Father, if a book were to be written about me, I want it to be impossible that it could be written without mentioning you. I want anyone who comes into contact with me, including the people with whom I am in conflict, to be able to see you in me. Of course, that means that you have to be my motivation. You have to be woven throughout my life. I need to reject sin and embrace you. So I do that today. I pledge this day to loving you and seeking you as I make decisions that will bring others a sense of you.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Esther

 

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Emails to God – Letting Go of “What If’s” (Esther 2:19-23)

19 When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. 20 But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.

21 During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. 22 But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. 23 And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were impaled on poles. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.

Dear God, there are interesting cause and effect principles in play here. We think of this being the story of how the Jews were saved through Esther being made queen, but let’s play a “what if”. What if Esther had told people she was Jewish? What if she was expelled from the virgin competition over it? What if Mordecai weren’t sitting by the gate to check up on Esther? What if the two guards had succeeded? Well, if Mordecai had not been there then he would have had to bow down to Haman later and the Jewish people wouldn’t have been targeted. So is this the story about the saving of the Jewish people or the story of how Xerxes was saved, but in doing that the Jewish people needed to be saved too?

Of course, there is no way to answer any of this. History is history. John F. Kennedy was president during the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis instead of Nixon (by a narrow vote). George W. Bush was president on September 11 instead of Al Gore (by a narrower vote). Were those elections providential? Perhaps. But we’ll never know. History is what it is.

My wife read a Stephen King book that plays the “what if” game regarding Kennedy’s assassination. What if the Lee Harvey Oswald had been stopped? How would history be different. It’s fund to consider, but we could send ourselves in circles chasing the answers when those same answers wouldn’t change our reality today.

Father, history is what it is. That includes my personal life. I chose the college I chose. I chose the jobs and cities I chose. I chose the wife I chose. I make hundreds of little decisions each day. Any one of them could change the course of a life. So I offer all of the paranoia I might be tempted to fall into to you and ask that you please be with me in the decisions I will make today. Make them as pure and selfless as possible. And please don’t let any of my mistakes do too much harm.

 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Esther

 

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Emails to God – Missing the Point of Marriage (Esther 2:12-18)

12 Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. 13 And this is how she would go to the king: Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. 14 In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name.

15 When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail ) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. 16 She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.

17 Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality.

Dear God, this is such a foreign concept to me—women being treated this way and having a king pick his wife this way.

As I think about it, what is sad for Xerxes is that he missed out on some stuff that he doesn’t realize he missed out on. By having women as objects who are summoned instead of partners who are equals he missed out on an intimacy that can be had between a woman and a man. The intimacy of sharing your fears, working through your frustrations, and being there to be that confidant for your spouse. He missed out on the romantic weekends where they would travel together and experience new things—or just a little non-sexual (as well as sexual) time alone. I get the feeling that the only time he summoned any woman was for sex or to show her off (see Vashti in the first chapter). I doubt he ever summoned Esther for meaningful conversation and soul sharing. This was not a marriage of three cords.

Father, help me to be everything you need me to be for my wife. Love her richly through me. Give her your love through me. Thank you for what you do for me through her. Thank you for the love you show me through her. Please take the earnestness of both of our hearts and turn it into your blessings, words, and deeds for each other and our children. Be glorified in our marriage and in our family. Help us to “figure all of this out.”

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Esther

 

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Emails to God – Racism (Esther 2:8-11)

8 When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many young women were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. 9 She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem.

10 Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so. 11 Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.

Dear God, I find the need to hide her nationality and family background to be interesting. Isn’t it funny (in the ironic sense) how we humans make such a big deal over race, nationality, gender, etc. You can almost see the idea of the gender issue just because men and women are sooooo different, but the fact that we make race such a big deal is somewhat puzzling.

There is good news on this, however. I don’t believe we are born with this prejudice. I remember when my son was in Kindergarten and even first grade. He had friends who were Latin and African American. They were great boys and, frankly, my wife and I were thrilled to see it. The something happened some time during first grade and into second. I don’t know if it was stuff the boys heard from their other kids, older siblings, parents, relatives, television, or what, but somewhere along the way they started to notice they had different skin pigmentation. Then we saw them starting to segregate themselves on the playground.

I work in a charitable medical and dental clinic for low-income families who are uninsured. Although roughly 40% of our patients are Caucasian, the assumption by many who visit us is that most, if not all, of the patients we see are undocumented Hispanic people. They don’t realize that there are plenty of poor Caucasians who cannot find affordable medical help. The irony is, if I were to use a broad brush to overgeneralize the races, our difficult patients who do not perceivably work hard for a living tend to be the Caucasians. More of the pain medication seekers tend to be Caucasian. We all want to think our race is “better”, but…

Father, I know that the corruption of racism is deep within my heart, but I also know that there is your hope of being able to expunge it. I really do want to be rid of it completely. Help me to do this. Help me to go back to the Garden, as it were, when my eyes had not yet been opened and the corruption of shame and ridicule had not yet come into my heart. Help me, also, to instill this spirit in my children and those who work with me.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in Esther

 

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Emails to God – Where is God in Esther?

Dear God, I find it peculiar that you are never mentioned in the book of Esther. No one ever prays to you. The author never mentions that you orchestrated any of the events in the book. Even the Jewish people are simply referred to as Jews and there isn’t any reference to them being “your people” or anything like that. It’s weird.

So where were you in this book? Where were you in this story? I think you are everywhere and it’s why people rarely notice that you aren’t explicitly mentioned. The implication of you is all over the place, but the author never refers to you at all. I wonder why they didn’t do it.

I guess I can see how the author missed you. There have been a lot of times in my life when you were there and I never acknowledged it. Try as I might to give you the credit for blessings our organization experiences, too much of it still ends up coming back to me. How many of us are guilty of that? We tell this remarkable story of your intervention, but we fail to ever include you in the story.

Father, help me to request your presence in my life and in my different situations. Help me to realize it is you when I see you move. And help me to tell others the story of your movement in a given situation. Father, I give you glory for the good that is in my life. I ask for your help in overcoming the challenges before me. Help to protect me from Satan’s traps and attacks. Guard my heart and keep it open to you and those around me. Love richly through me.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Esther

 

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Emails to God – Delayed Evaluation (Esther 2:5-7)

5 Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, 6 who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. 7 Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.

Dear God, I read this and I thought of Jair, Shimei, and Kish (verse 5). I don’t know what their lives were like. I don’t know if they were loved, or if they treated people well. But history will remember them as the forefathers of Mordecai, the man who helped save the Jewish people (along with Esther, of course). The details of their lives have fallen away, but each one must have done something right at some point.

I just finished reading a book last night about the Presidents of the United States, and at the end of the book the authors make the point that presidents can’t really be evaluated until some time has passed. For example, Bill Clinton was quoted as telling friends that we won’t be able to judge George Bush’s decisions about Iraq for a long time, but he is confident that George Bush did it because he thought it was the right thing to do for the country.

Sometimes I feel like this as a husband and father. I make decisions, especially as a dad, that I know are not appreciated at the time. They won’t win me any popularity contests, but I am making them so that they kids will have something that they can use, whether in their character or their skill set, twenty, thirty, or fifty years from now. I’ll be dead by the time the book is written on the kind of job I did as a father. Much like Iraq for George Bush, we can’t tell yet what the results are, but I am confident in saying that I did each thing because I thought it was the right thing to do.

Father, much like I prayed yesterday about you overcoming any mistakes I make so that your will is always done in spite of me, I pray that you will overcome the ways I hurt others around me so that your will will be done their lives. I pray that you will help me to keep from hurting those I love, and I am sorry for when I fail them. At the same time, I know I will never be perfect, but I pray that you will overcome my imperfection in their lives.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Esther

 

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Emails to God – No Mistake Too Big (Esther 2:1-4)

Later when King Xerxes’ fury had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her. 2 Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. 4 Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.

Dear God, this is an interesting way to do a “Match.com”. The sad thing is that it had to be done at all. The only things that make this story passable for me is that 1.) Vashti wasn’t killed and 2.) you were working in this to save the Jewish people.

It kind of begs the age-old question—Do you cause bad things to happen to people for your purposes or do you simply work within the bad things that people do for your purposes? I feel like the answer is the latter. I don’t think you caused Xerxes to banish Vashti, but you knew how to use his sin.

Frankly, stories like this give me some comfort because I know that there are times every day when I fail you, but it seems that there is nothing I can do that will go too far to destroy your plans. I can hurt individuals, to be sure, and this is something I should avoid, but I know that you have accounted for my incompetence in whatever your plans for me are.

Father, what I really do not want to do with my life is hurt those around me. Whether it be my wife, children, family, friends, business, etc. That is where my desire for perfection starts. I want to be pleasing to you. I want to be your man to the people to whom you have entrusted me. Help me to not make the mistakes that Xerxes made (figuratively or literally), but at the same time I want to thank you for loving me just the way I am and planning around me accordingly.

 

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Esther

 

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Emails to God – Advising Through Conflicts of Interest (Esther 1)

1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: 2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.

4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the citadel of Susa. 6 The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. 7 Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality. 8 By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.

9 Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.

10 On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas— 11 to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.

13 Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times 14 and were closest to the king—Karshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memukan, the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom.

15 “According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?” he asked. “She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.”

16 Then Memukan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. 17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ 18 This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.

19 “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. 20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.”

21 The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memukan proposed. 22 He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue.

Dear God, I find the advisors’ advice interesting. They weren’t as concerned about the idea of the king’s authority as they were concerned about the authority of men over women in the entire society. Getting more personal, they were more concerned about their own lives and their own wives. They had a conflict of interest in giving this advice. Did they do the right thing?

I am reading a terrific book right now about the different Presidents of the United States and their relationships with each other behind the scenes (The Presidents’ Club). It is interesting to see the times when a former or current president will reach out to another under the guise of helping, but it really falls into the category of helping their own self-interests. The book is also clear that it is often easier for the person who isn’t the president at the time to make an aggressive decision than when they are president. They give an example of a president never taking the country into a war while he was president, but then encouraging his successor to take a harder, more aggressive line in using the military to advance foreign policy.

I guess my point is, Xerxes needed some sound counsel and got this instead. Perhaps it was cultural, but it would have been nice if he had just gone to his wife and asked her why she wasn’t coming. Perhaps she had a good reason.

Father, I know that marriage, especially between kings and queens of that era, are not what I think of as marriage now. I know that there is no comparison. My point is, this man needed some wise counsel. Perhaps he got it for that time. I, however, don’t think he did. Help me to seek wise counsel when I am in a quandary. Help me to know how best to tap into your wisdom in any given situation. Help me, also, to be your counsel to others. Give me your words and your voice. Help me to look beyond mine and others egos into the depths of what you might have me to do that might even be at my own expense so long as it is for your glory and your plan.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Esther

 

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