Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pursuing God, and why we do it

Here's something interesting- check it out-

I enjoy Dick Staub- he's got some interesting things to say- and one of these days, Marty and I are going to make it over to Kindlings Muse to see/hear the program. As we talk about calling in our Sunday School class- it seems to keep coming back to relationship with God. As in, our own. I keep thinking that if you get that intimacy in place, the rest will come. Like getting the first button on your shirt right, as my old pastor used to say. Calling will be clear- our first calling is definitely to God himself. Like most relationships, it requires some time- which is counter cultural to what we Americans know as we go eighty billion miles an hour. But it is well worth the effort. I've been enjoying getting back to a worship/prayer time. I'm not a hundred percent consistent yet and I don't show up with a list- I just show up. I haven't "heard" anything earth shattering and profound yet- but I have felt God's presence and love surrounding me and that's enough. Like Dick Staub talks about- I feel like He must change me from the inside so that I can be effective in the world- and why not let Him?

I'd forgotten how much fun it is just to hang out with Him.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

One Night with the King

I just watched the movie, One Night with the King- about Queen Esther. It was a visually lovely movie- very lavish- good costumes, etc. etc.... There were some historical issues, changing the king's name, how the whole fasting and approaching the king went down, etc. etc. The movie had some continuity issues, particularly surrounding a necklace which was a major plot point in the movie (which also had some questionable issues historically- such as, was the star of David such a symbol for Judaism at this point in history?) but all in all was kind of interesting to watch. It raised some questions in my mind, particularly because, like many women- I really like the book of Esther and have had oh, a kabillion kinds of teachings on it.

Most teachings I've had have been about Esther's faith and obedience. Obedience to Mordecai (whose role was a bit downplayed compared to scripture) Obedience to the king, etc. etc. Heck, I've even had teaching on all the beauty treatments she received! And while I have nothing against obedience (personal experience says it's best to obey than rebel) I wonder...

For instance, Queen Vashti. She always gets the short end of the stick. She didn't want to be paraded in front of her drunken husband and his drunken friends. That Jezebel. Well, this is often how she is portrayed in teachings, at least the ones I have received. She didn't submit to her husband and look what happened to her! Let that be a lesson to you! But I think- even the most submissive wives of leaders that I know probably wouldn't be keen to be paraded about in front of a bunch of drunks. Also, here's a thought- if Vashti HAD obeyed her husband, what then, would have been the fate of the Jews? Ah. Hmmmm.... If Vashti would have obeyed her husband, and all would have continued on as is, would Haman have had his way- and would all the Jews have been annihilated?

Perhaps, since the great I AM is the great I AM....He could foresee all this- and for all we know, gave Vashti a valid reason to disobey her husband, knowing what would happen so that Esther could be in a place "for such a time as this." It's times like these when I wish the amplified Bible were even more amplified, you know what I mean? God sees the big picture and I am constantly amazed how He coordinates circumstances, situations and people to get His will accomplished in the earth.

Another thing about this movie that got me thinking... How God does indeed bless obedience. How scary for Hadassah to become queen- rules, protocol, dresses that weigh a million pounds, having to be wise- and be a wife- to someone she barely knows? Loves? While the Bible does talk about how Esther found favor in the king's eyes- what the movie presented was the fact they had a mutual loving relationship. And while all that may not appear in the scriptures, per se- to me, it keeps with the nature and character of the God that I love and serve. Why should the king listen to her if she was only a trophy wife- good for nothing but her beauty? I don't think so. I also don't think that God would have given Esther and unhappy marriage. She was obedient and I think they must have had a good marital relationship. They loved and trusted one another- isn't that interesting. And often glossed over in teachings that concentrate on Esther's seemingly blind submission and faith. I don't think God desires us to have blind submission and faith- our pursuing Him, our RELATIONSHIP with Him- causes us to have faith and to be able to submit and obey- even to the point of facing death. The whole sceptre of favor thing in the movie was a very intense moment, one that I think also can get glossed over. It's one of the better scenes- Esther approaching the kind amidst the yelling and squawking of the advisors about broken protocol in a culture where protocol was everything. What she did was a really, really big deal. And whether it was for a valid reason or because she was a Jezebel- I am thankful that Vashti didn't obey her husband and that the jewish people have a reason to celebrate Purim.

The Beaches, the Burches and the (N)elmes....

Once upon a time, in the far away land of Guilford, Connecticut, there lived three families.
The Beaches- Ken, Ann and their daughters Kathleen and Jena.
The Burches- Donald, Diane and their daughter, Sarah.
The Nelmes- Jim and Jan, who had no children. She was a high school science teacher, there's a great photo of her with a dissected cat. Ew. And she had a fabulous shell collection.

These families all attended the First Congregational Church in Guilford, which is how they met. In addition to many joyous church activities including singing in the choir, pageants, picnics, teaching Sunday school, advent potluck suppers, talent shows- these families were very much a part of each other's lives.

Ken Beach would cook fantastic chinese dinners, making sure ALL of the above mentioned folks were there as there was a course for each person present.

The Nelmes had volleyball and barbeques at their house almost every Saturday during the summer, and they always let everyone play, no matter how bad they were. After all, how could you get better if you didn't play?

The girls would put on concerts and plays. Kathleen played the flute, Sarah played the oboe and Jena played the cello. Mostly, these were performed at the Burch's house, as there was a little "stage" spot at the foot of the stairs. Favorite "plays" that were put on (mostly by Sarah and Jena, Kathleen was a little too "mature" for these) were Cinderella and many a "Barbara Walters Special." "Barbara" interviewed many famous folks including Michael Jackson, Boy George and Mother Nature. Hilarity ensued.

The girls also went to Girl Scout camp together, but that's another story.

Anniversaries of the three couples were celebrated every year with a big dinner, a silly sign saying such things as "Joyful Nuptual Commemoration" and the ritual passing of the tacky anniversary wine glasses- still in the box, of course. Other celebrations included Edgar Allen Poe's birthday and family birthday's as well. Ann and Sarah shared a birthday on March 17th.

Sarah called Jim Nelmes "Shorty." He was about 6'2" and he sold caskets for a living. The Nelmes called her "Munchkin" and sent her silver candlesticks when she got married. As they had no children of their own, Sarah often felt "adopted" by them.

When Sarah was 12, she was in the hospital for a long time. She had a weird sinus condition that caused scar tissue to build up in her sinuses. She was very ill, although, she had a good time in the hospital making friends and tissue flowers so she didn't understand how sick she was. Shorty and/or Mrs. Nelmes visited her almost every day. They brought ice cream and toys. They gave her a doll, whom she named Emily, who is still with her, 25 years later.

When the Burches moved to Illinois, Sarah still needed to finish school. She lived with the Beaches and on Monday nights, she would go have supper with Shorty and Mrs. Nelmes. After supper, she and Shorty would watch Fraggle Rock. One time, they watched "Something Wicked this Way comes." The spider scene still gives her the willies.

After the Burches moved, the Beaches also moved. Only the Nelmes still lived in Guilford. There were holiday cards and occasional visits. Beloved pets died- dogs named Ruff and Happy and cats named George, Tuffy, Abby and JB. Children grew up and got married and life went on. There were still solid ties of friendship and many, many happy memories. These families loved each other very much.

Today, Diane called Sarah to inform her that she had received a phone call from Jan. Shorty had a heart attack and died. He was 58 years old.

Sarah cried.

She was also thankful for the love and the happy memories and privilege of being a part of this man's life. She hopes to remember to never take life for granted, because even though it seems it will always go on, it doesn't. She also hopes to remember to never let people forget how much she loves them.