Sunday, March 26, 2017

Doggedly Persistent or Blindly Stubborn

Spring has sprung!  Finally!

Flowers are blooming.  Pollen is in the air.  And our friendly neighborhood bluebird is trying to come inside the house.

Every morning, she sits on our bedroom windowsill and sings.  And taps.  And rams into the window.  Repeatedly.  It was cute the first couple of days.  Now it's annoying.  Bordering on infuriating.

She must be operating on the "name it and claim it" approach.  But I promise you that, no matter how beautifully she sings or how persistently she taps on the glass, she is not going to claim my house.

I watched her in amused fascination the first morning.  The second day, I couldn't help but look at the blossoming maple, the blooming redbud, and the swaying river birch in our yard.  As well as the dogwoods and willows in our neighbor's yard. 

It made me wonder why, with all the beautiful places to make her home, this bird is intent on getting into the one place she cannot go.  She is wearing out her welcome, creating a mess (if you know what I mean) on our windowsill, and she is missing out on other, beautiful options that were made just for her.

And it made me wonder why I do the very same thing.  Plead and knock and slam my shoulder into doors that aren't for me.  Dismissing the paths that God places before me because I'm blindly stubborn about that ONE thing I think I must have.  Making a mess of things in my willfulness.

The glass bluebird my
grandmother kept on her
windowsill. One of her
favorite stories to tell was
teaching me to say "bird"
while letting me hold
it. Its beak is chipped -
hopefully not from flying
into forbidden windows...!
And guess what?  If that bluebird somehow crashes through my window, she still will not claim my house.  She will be bruised and disoriented, and I will gently take her back outside and put up a new pane of glass.  Just like the Lord kindly binds up my wounds and redirects me when I try to force my way into situations that are not for me, or good for me.  Because He can see beyond my limited view of the world and my own potential.

Lord, please help me to not be like that sweet but stubborn bluebird - trying to force my own misguided agenda while shunning the beautiful paths you've prepared for me and placed before me.  Open my eyes to the beauty and purpose you've prepared perfectly just for me!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Life Advice from Queen Esther

Mosaic of Queen Esther
by Lillian Broca
Happy Purim!  

Tonight begins the annual, biblical celebration of Esther and Mordechai's rescue of God's people from the hand of Haman in ancient Persia.

When people talk about Esther, they often speak of Mordechai's "such a time as this" proclamation. Or Esther's daring, uninvited visit to the throne. Or Haman's attempted power grab that backfired with him having to  publicly honor his nemesis. 

I've spoken and written about all these things over the years. But today, with the state of the world and the state of many dear ones' circumstances, the importance of one specific verse is especially meaningful to me.  

"Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish."  Esther 4:16 ESV

Just a short time earlier, Esther - the orphaned exile - had entered the presence of the king, winning his favor and the crown.  It's a feel-good, romantic moment in Scripture. But it was quickly followed by Haman's plot to annihilate all of God's people throughout the Persian Empire. 

This dizzying shift from joy in Chapter 2 to distress in Chapter 3 is one of many dramatic reversals in the Book of Esther. Reversals that many of us know all too well. Unexpected downsizing at work. Crumbling marriage at home. Devastating news at the doctor's office. 

Life is filled with unexpected, gut-wrenching reversals. And the way Esther responded to hers is a simple yet powerful picture of how we should respond to ours:  The very first thing this young queen asked of her people was that they rally together to pray and to fast.  Right alongside her and her friends.

When we find ourselves at the end of ourselves, let us be like Queen Esther.  Let us not be overcome by spiraling circumstances, withdrawing into isolation, but rather petition the Lord of Hosts and ask others to come alongside us.  Because, you see, Satan - like Haman - strives to frighten and to isolate in times of trouble. 

So let us instead, like Esther, defy him with determination to reach up to God and to reach out to those around us.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Messiah. Galatians 6:2 HNV 
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul. Acts 4:32 ESV 

For previous blog posts from Tammy about Purim:
For Such a Time as This
God is a Hamantashen
Esther and Easter

Friday, March 10, 2017

Worship in the Whirlwind

The wind startled me awake this morning. 

If you've never experienced storm gusts at the top of a mountain, I'll tell you that it's not for the faint of heart. I know, because I'm one of those fainthearted people!

Every single window rattled in its casing. The sliding glass doors in our room visibly bowed in and out, continuously.  The deck and the roof creaked and strained. I could feel it. 

And mountaintop winds don't whistle. They thunder and they scream.  

If I'd been wearing my fitness watch, I'm sure my heart rate would have measured as if I were running hills. I was certain we were going to topple down the side of the mountain. Of course, I've thought that on countless occasions before, but I was absolutely sure of it this morning. 

Lying in the dark, the panic of the physical chaos around me actually triggered the stress of the past week within me. Between long-distance family medical emergencies, multiple significant projects at work, a sick child at home, and my inability to give anything my all, I struggled every day to discern which end was up. 

Lord, make it stop. I'm not sure if I was praying about the wind or the stress. Probably both. 

Staring at the ceiling - while strategizing a mountain rescue plan for my children and dogs - I was suddenly startled by a different sound. 

In the midst of the thundering wind, groaning house, and my racing heart, the bright melody of a songbird traveled clear and steady through the air. 

How in the world...?!? I wondered incredulously. Didn't she realize the tumult around her? Didn't she know the violent winds could knock her from her perch to the rocks below?

Clearly, she knew. Clearly, she felt the gusts all around her - she is an aviator, after all.  

Yet she sang. Because it's what she was created to do. And the sound of her song was all the more beautiful to my ears because of the chaos that surrounded it. 

Lord, let me be like that bird. 

Give me a worshipful heart, whether I'm in the middle of still waters or a whirlwind. Yes, give me wisdom in my circumstances, rather than denial or recklessness. But don't let me hesitate to be who You've made me to be, to do what You've called me to do, or to say what You've called me to say. Because that is when I will experience the infinitely deep joy for which I was made. 

And others will be cheered by my song.