Thursday, March 26, 2009

Let the Streets Resound with Singing

When I first decided to go on a short term mission trip to Morocco, I’ll admit that I thought there was something arrogant about a group heading to a foreign country and thinking they could have a significant impact being there for a small amount of time. Sure, we were going to learn things… to grow our hearts for countries and cultures less fortunate than our own… to give NYU students an alternative spring break opportunity...etc, etc.

I realize now that my attitude really spoke volumes about how I put limits on the things I felt God could accomplish. So the arrogance was all mine. I am incredibly thankful that God used my time in Morocco to show me that He is not a wasteful God. He would not send 30 people on a trip in His name without using them while they were there to accomplish great things. And although I think I knew that, my definition of “great things” needed to be changed.

Perhaps my definition of “great things” should be expanded to include the smiles of children, the grateful tears of relieved adults and revelations through prayer that God is working in the lives we touch. Perhaps “great things” includes getting a roof built or a room painted or knowing that praying over a child means that God will bless and protect her as she grows. And, perhaps, “great things” includes the moment I look back on the last year of my life and see God’s Sovereign hand in every detail of it.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

So is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
-Isaiah 55: 9-11

I was floored by this passage and the promise that the rain and snow coming from Heaven do not return to Heaven without not only watering the earth, but also making it bud and flourish. And that rain not only makes the earth bud and flourish but it ALSO provides seed for the sower and bread for the eater.

Several months ago, a friend told me “God wastes nothing”. But it was not until this trip that I truly grasped that promise through these verses. God doesn’t waste groups of 30 people going to a foreign country to serve. And God does not waste anything else. He does not waste my struggles, my hurts, my brokenness, or even my sins. None of that is wasted. All of that will not return to Heaven until it has watered the earth and made it bud and flourish. And not just bud and flourish, but until it has blessed the people around us as well. It will not return to Him empty.

So thankful for this verse.
And so thankful that I can live in the freedom of knowing that the specific details of my story (and yours) will not be wasted in this lifetime.

It will not return to Him empty.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Esther Lessons

I am sad that tomorrow is the final day of my Esther Bible study by Beth Moore. It has been such a lovely study for the last few months as I have transitioned from one phase of my life into the next. And Tuesday, crazy enough, was actually the second day of Purim, the holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the hands of Haman as recorded in the book of.. (drumroll please)... Esther.

So, in honor of Purim, Esther and transitions here are five of my favorite Esther reminders:

1) God is specific. I am always so tempted to look at what seems like a series of random events in my life and say, “Wow, what a coincidence.” But when I’m reading the story of someone else’s life, someone like Esther, it’s obvious that none of those things are coincidence but that God plots things out specifically in our lives to take us down the roads we need to go down. It’s just a little easier to see it when it’s someone else's story.

2.) Some things are worth losing face over. When Mordecai, Esther’s cousin/adopted father, finds out that the Jewish people are to be annihilated, he “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly." (Esther 4:1) He saw no need to save face. He saw no need to keep the mask on and pretend that something did not need to be done. He was at the ultimate point of vulnerability because he knew that the cause he was weeping over was more important than any pride that he would hold on to by pretending not to be in need. There are moments when God needs me to be vulnerable. There are moments when God needs me to put aside my pride and be open to the possibility of hurt/rejection/judgement of others because something greater is at stake.

3) Moments that feel insignificant may be the biggest piece of my puzzle. Mordecai told Esther that she was not allowed to sit pretty in the palace and watch her people be annihilated. She may have been created for this very moment, for a "time and a place such as this". (Esther 4:14) Certain moments in my life feel like assignments that could have no divine significance. But when I look back (as Esther did) I can see that God placed me in that moment because He needed me to be there.
Beth Moore said: "At strategic times of internal war I stop and ask myself, 'What if this is a critical moment? What if this very thing, this very decision, is the most important piece of the puzzle comprising my purpose?'"

4) There are simple inconveniences and there are authentic tribulations. Mordecai sends a message to Esther who lives in the palace that she must speak to the king in order to stop the annihilation of the Jewish people. Esther sends a message back saying that would put her life in danger (in other words, "Sorry, I can't help.") and Mordecai sends ANOTHER message to her telling her "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape." (Esther 4:13). Ouch. Then he tells her that she could have been created for this very moment.

Beth Moore makes the point that perhaps Esther's life had become so privileged as a queen that she was completely detached from the needs of her people who were condemned to die: "If we distance ourselves long enough from real needs, we replace them with those that aren't. Pretense becomes the new real and suddenly a delay in the delivery of our new couch becomes a terrible upset. We are wise to force ourselves to keep differentiating between simple inconveniences and authentic tribulations. The more detached and self-aborbed we become, the more we mistake annoyances for agonies."

5) "If I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16) Esther went before the king knowing that doing so was risking her life but she knew that her life was not her own and she did it anyway. The greatest battle has been fought and won by my Lord and Savior. Death's sting has no power over me. If I fail/hurt/am rejected/go broke/lose my life, so be it. I do not have to live this life in fear of those things because I do not even have to fear death.

Happy Purim.

P.S. Photo by tanakawho from Flickr.

P.P.S. Two Days until Morocco.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Psalm 30:1-3, 11-12

I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.

O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.


(P.S. Nine days until Morocco. )

(P.P.S. Photo by tanakawho from Flickr.)