Mary’s Trepid “Yes” – Our “NO THANKS!”

Here we are in Advent again – sitting in darkness, in wonder and awe, anticipating the birth of Christ. Each year, we imagine Mary, not so quietly, sitting in prayer after Gabriel shook her world to its foundation!  She had to be blindsided by Gabriel’s visit to her.

Imagine that encounter, if you can. “Hey, Mary! I have some exciting news! This Christmas will be a bit different for you because you’ve been selected – drum roll please – to be the Mother of Jesus! You’ve been chosen from several applicants, some of whom had some pretty sketchy character flaws, I might add. Anyway, I know you have lots of questions. Like, ‘why me?’  or  ‘whose Jesus?’  or better still, ‘what’s Christmas?’. We’ll get to all that eventually.”

I’m not gonna lie, like Mary, I also questioned God’s wisdom when he approached me with some fun new adventure.

ME: “Wait, WHAT?! ME? You’re kidding, right?”

GOD – “NOPE!”

Though she was blessed with extraordinary parents who excelled at Parenting 101, training her up by their example, she was still just a teenager. Would she accept God’s call? Of course, we know she did humbly offer her “yes” to God. That response had to come from the depths of her heart even amid the doubt and fear.

I was just a teenager when my daughter was born, and I can assure you that if I would have had the good sense to consider the magnitude of raising a child and loving her well, I would have been scared to death! Unlike Mary, I had no positive role models to emulate. It was trial by fire and I made plenty of mistakes, later requesting a do-over from God – which he never granted. However, in his infinite love, mercy, and forgiveness, he tenderly held and began healing those broken parts, infusing his love into my relationship with my daughter. I suppose you could call that a do-over.

I still question God’s thinking each time he comes up with a new plan, sending me in an uncertain direction. Thinking I know myself better than he does, I want to leave my options open. Okay, I’ll go this far, but no further. I’ll wait this long, but no longer. I’ll trust you with this, but not with that. Admittedly, it’s usually in hindsight that I see the progression of things God put in place to provide everything I needed short of my “yes”.

Years ago, I recall striking out on my own to do “volunteer work”. Those efforts usually failed because they were never born out of longing or purpose, only an effort to garner praise from others and hopefully God. To get a few brownie points for heaven. But, in short order, I would lose interest or burn out because there was no real passion for what I was doing.

And guess what…you’re not off the hook either, my friend. God has called each one of us to be Christ-bearers. Scary, huh? Take a deep breath. It’s okay.

When we can’t see how we could possibly accomplish the task God sets before us, it takes trust and faith, like Mary, to say “yes” in the midst of our doubts and fears. And let’s get this straight now, it won’t be “Savior of the world” that job’s taken! Sorry.

And keep in mind God doesn’t do ordinary. He does PASSION AND PURPOSE – OVER THE TOP!

When it’s God’s plan it will not fail. He will see it through to completion. Jeremiah tells us so (29:11). Think of it, if he relied on us to figure it out by ourselves, we would surely mess it up and make him look bad. This, in turn, may cause others who are watching to reconsider any thought of trusting him. “WOW, Linda! You royally screwed that one up! And wasted a whole lot of time and energy in the process. No thanks. I’m not goin’ there. I have better things to do.”

Keep in mind that it’s God who initiates his plans for us, not the other way around. He doesn’t consult us for anything! Take Job for instance, he found that out the hard way! It wasn’t pretty when God confronted his whiny self, “Hey buddy, I’m curious, when I was creating the world out of nothing, I don’t recall seeing you there or consulting you on how to keep the oceans in their place or how to make a Zebra from scratch (and, yes, that was intentional).

Did I ask you for pointers on how to paint a breath-taking sunset? Whew, I outdid myself on that one. That was brilliant! Even if I do say so myself. And, of course, the myriad of other uniquely spectacular feats of creation that on one has been able to top.

And what about my grand finale? Humans. Huh? Yeah, I know, that was genius. Sure, there have been a few hiccups along the way – okay fine – major human failings. But that’s not my fault! It’s you guys never seeming to get your part right.”

So, this Christmas, as we are reminded once again of the remarkable story of Christ’s birth – God’s love coming to us with skin on, I pray we will listen for and accept God’s call to us to be Christ-bearers in whatever way he has prepared us, just as he did with Mary.

Go ahead, allow yourself to sit in the darkness with God, and bravely ask him what you are here for. His answer will surely surprise you. And I guarantee you if you utter that one little word, “yes”, be prepared because there will be no more business as usual.

My prayer for this Christmas is hope for a better, more peaceful, and loving world that begins with God and is manifest through us, just as it was with Mary and Jesus so long ago.

Never Forget Girl – You ARE a Warrior!

“There’s no heavier burden than a great potential!”- Charlie Brown.

I want to dedicate this blog post to my granddaughters, great-granddaughters, and all the little girls out there (or big girls getting a late start – like me!). Girls who may not yet be aware of their great warriorness. In particular, those who may not have someone in their lives to instill in them a belief in their magnificence, brilliance, and untapped potential. I often wonder what a difference someone like that may have made in my life as I was growing up.

Certainly, I have grown immensely over the past twenty+ years. I have gained the strength and courage to recognize and face down many of the lies I believed for so long about my insignificance. Mostly, it was an uphill battle that I often felt I fought alone. Of course, in hindsight, I know I was not alone. I could not have overcome what I have without God’s strength, tenderness, and guidance, which enabled my heart and soul to begin healing and grow into the life I never believed I was worthy of.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process

is the bravest thing that we will ever do” Brene Brown

A review of my life may seem to a casual observer that I wasted a lot of time. Yes, I may have wandered in the desert for fifty years. But, these last twenty years of working to fulfill a life of meaning and purpose tell me that everything in God’s plan is just as it should be. Even amid the “fruitfulness,” there will always be messiness and missteps, mostly of our own doing. I seem to step in it, clean myself up, move on, forget, and step in it again. But, hey, it is said that you’re okay if you fall as long as you fall forward. 

So, now that I am higher on that mountain than I have ever imagined, I would love to reach back to encourage and help lift little girls and young women whom God has given me a heart for. I want you to know that you are a warrior, a superhero, and a gift meant to be shared with those who suffer.

I have often written about Esther, you know the “made for such a time as this” Esther? But let’s look at another courageous young woman, Joan of Arc.

Here’s a short biography of her young life from the St. Joan Center Website:

“From her earliest of years Joan was known for her obedience to her parents, religious fervor, goodness, unselfish generosity and kindness toward her neighbors. Simonin Munier, one of Joan’s childhood friends, tells how Joan had nursed him back to health when he was sick. Some of her playmates teased her for being ‘too pious.’ Others remembered how she would give up her bed to the homeless stranger who came to her father’s door asking for shelter.

Joan was ‘like all the others’ in her village until her thirteenth year. “When I was about thirteen, I received revelation from Our Lord by a voice which told me to be good and attend church often and that God would help me.” She stated that her ‘Voices’ were Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. At first her ‘Voices’ came to her two or three times a week but as the time for her mission drew near (five years later), they visited her daily telling her to ‘Go into France’ to raise the siege of Orleans, conduct the Dauphin Charles to Reims for his crowning and to drive the English from the land.”

That simple peasant girl stood her ground against English kings and a motley crew of bishops in the Catholic Church. It was a good-ole-boys club in which she was not welcome (little seems to have changed, huh?!). One bishop declared that she should be sent home and given a good spanking. How dare she think anyone would believe angels spoke to her? The audacity of her leading men into battle! They would have none of it. She was arrested and put on trial by a bunch of weak men who got their underwear all bunched up because she had the strength and courage none of them could come close to. She was too much for their fragile egos. They had to make an example of her lest other women got some crazy notion they were meant for more than servitude. So, they conspired to condemn her for heresy, witchcraft, and violating divine law for dressing like a man (huh?). They were hell-bent on proving it was Satan, not angels, that spoke to her and led her astray. By conspiring and lying, they eventually got what they wanted. She was put on trial, condemned, and burned at the stake for good measure. Needless to say, they hated her and everything she stood for. There is even controversy concerning her canonization in 1920 as being more politically than faith-motivated.

Now, don’t start imagining that you would end up like Joan if you followed God’s calling and reconsider what being a warrior asks of you, “No thanks. I’ll just hang out here with my Barbie and Macho Ken.”

Remember in Luke’s gospel when Jesus was hanging on the cross, and those cocky rulers sneered at him? “You supposedly saved others; why don’t you save yourself? Ha!” Well, Joan, like Jesus, had the courage all her life to listen and obey God’s call. All the while not really knowing what that would entail. On the surface, you might conclude that the way it ended for both Joan and Jesus would not make a powerful recruitment tool. They both felt abandoned by God at a critical point in their lives. But God did not abandon them. We know how Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have sustained Christians throughout thousands of years, so we can rest assured that God fulfilled his purpose in Jesus even when he was silent.

As for Joan, I read a fascinating unpublished novel by Virginia Frohlick, The Lost Chronicles, The Story Of Joan of Arc. Frohlick, by profession, is a registered nurse and writes extensively about the wounds sustained by Joan during battle. She detailed (to ad nauseam, really) four of those wounds and said each of them alone would have been fatal. All this is to say that God truly was with Joan and guided her from the moment of her calling at the age of thirteen until her death.

(If you are totally bored with life during Covid you can access Frohlick’s work here: http://www.stjoan-center.com/novelapp/joaap02.html)

                                                  Our granddaughter’s warriorness on display!

Okay, now that we have established that God is totally enamored with you, your brilliance, and your eagerness to answer the battle cry that is your destiny…

Now what?

Good question. I don’t know. Sorry. I have no idea what God has planned for you. 1 Corinthians 2:9 tells us, “But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined,are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”

However, what I can share with you is a bit of my own journey full of twists and turns and doubts and, yes, awesomeness, because that’s really all I know for sure. I was made to believe that I was nothing special; that anyone who made something of themselves possessed gifts or talents or even some magical powers that I did not have. When you feel so beaten down you begin to believe the lies. It’s hard enough to drag yourself out of bed in the morning without having to perform like it matters. So, then you begin to tell yourself that everyone but you got “the gift”. You got a lump of coal.

It gets us off the hook. We have a valid excuse for sitting back and accepting that we will never amount to anything because, well, we were not blessed with those God-given talents we see in everyone else. Oh well.

I tried to stop comparing myself to all those people I grew to envy, but in truth I continually found myself deficient in so many areas of my life. Then, ever so slowly, the changes began. God knows how to deal with each of us. He knows some, like Paul, can get wacked off a horse, rub his lumps, and instantly convert to Man of the Year. Others, like me, need a gentler, more gradual tap, followed by a soft landing. I suppose that’s why it took so long.

If you had approached me before my transition to a semi-caring human and asked, “Hey, Linda, you wanna go out in the world and serve lost, dying, broken humanity?” My immediate response would be, “Hahahahahaha. NO!” Do you think God had any idea that would be my response? Of course, he did. So, he waited. And waited. And waited. He seems to be really good at that. Then, like the masses at Walmart on Black Friday, when the door of my heart opened ever so slightly, he quickly stuck his foot in the door. (Right! I know. God doesn’t have feet. Just work with me here, okay?)

To spare you the long version of the past twenty years I’ll just give you the bullet points, remembering what one of my professors in graduate school seemed to only ask me, “What’s your point, Linda?”

(And, yes, these are bullet points for an A.D.D. brain, so cut me some slack.) Anyway:

  • My first AHA moment came when I worked for Youth in Need. I had an “I’m the boss” attitude until a twelve-year-old boy taught me what loving kindness looked like. I was basically a house mom and he came there hating the world. He would start a fight with other kids at the slightest provocation. He was a challenging child to deal with. One evening, he stole something from another resident and got very angry with me for confronting him when I found it under his bed. I told him I was going to the office to call our therapist, and he spit on me. Now, I was angry. I mumbled things under my breath I will not repeat here. When I called the therapist, I knew he was listening at the door. I explained what had happened, and she asked me if I felt threatened. At that moment, something inside me changed. It was Easter Sunday. The day we remember Jesus’ story reflects God’s promise. A promise made to me despite all my sins and brokenness. A promise that was made to this child I was about to have removed and sent to Juvenile Detention. I told her “no” I did not feel threatened, and we hung up. He fell into the room when I opened the door and started yelling at me to go ahead and call the police. He didn’t care! I told him I was not going to call the police. If he would calm down, shower, and go to bed, it was over. He got up, attitude still on display, and out of somewhere deep inside of me, I said, “And, Justin, if you need a hug, I have one for you.” He shoved the chair and “yeah, right!” ushered out of his mouth as he slammed the door and left. I repeated his “yeah right” a few times as I completed an Incident Report. What was I thinking? As I walked up the steps, Justin came out of the bathroom. He looked at me with a different demeanor now and asked, “Can I have that hug now?” I’m not sure how long I hugged that child or how long we both cried. I wondered if anyone in his young life had ever hugged love into his fragile heart. And there was God on full display, hugging love into both our hearts on Easter Sunday!
  • A few years later, there was the moment God’s clear voice told me to write a book, followed by my hysterical laughter, which I’m sure he did not find amusing. Anyway, I shook it off and went on about my business. A few months later, I went to community college and wrote a paper for an English class. When my teacher returned it to me, he said, “Linda, this is really good. You should see about getting it published.” Wait…WHAT?! So, I started writing my life story. Right! Like anyone would care. But I persevered, finished it, self-published it after many rejections, and even got a little award from a Writing Guild no one had ever heard of. The books were piled up in my basement, and Oprah never called, so my hopes of becoming famous were shattered. Fine!
  • In 2006, I was given the opportunity to attend graduate school with full tuition paid by a grant. God didn’t have to wait long for that rolling, side-splitting laughter from someone who barely finished high school! I prayed about it, and after a deeply mystical experience, not really, I just said, “What the hell! What have I got to lose?!” There are no words to describe how those three years challenged every fiber of my being. Then, beyond anyone’s expectations, except God’s, I graduated with a degree in Pastoral Studies. Then came the job search. You’d be right if you think I had a hard time getting any Priest to welcome me into the good-ole-boys-secret-hand-shake club. Of course, I whined to God…again…about why he had me on what surely was a wild goose chase to nowhere. “I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME!” No answer. Fine!
  • Fast forward to 2014. Tired of sitting at home and listening to my own belly-aching, I decided to just volunteer somewhere. After all, I was already beyond the age of retirement, so why not? Remembering our beautiful experience with Hospice when my dad was dying, I started working with them. During that time, I learned a lot about the dying process. We are not simple observers from a distance for those who are taking their final journey. Hospice care involves participating in what I can only describe as a profound sense of empathetic being-with, participating in a deepening movement through an almost palpable process. It was truly holy ground, and I always felt sitting vigil with the dying was a privilege that blessed me beyond words. I left there when my beloved mother-in-law, Catherine, went into hospice care as we sat vigil with her on her final journey. Then I waited…more calmly this time.
  • Next, I stepped a bit deeper into my fear and vulnerability by working with the homeless for St. Vincent de Paul, which ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. But, if you had told me I would be hugging and loving on two ex-cons at a dumpy motel they were staying in, I would have straight up denied the possibility. But there I was. There were many encounters like that. I didn’t tell my Supervisor about most of them because I didn’t think his heart could take it. Like the day I got the call from another agency, “Hey, you want to come help this girl who’s hiding from her mob boyfriend?” Here’s me, “Sure, why not?!” Sadly, our homeless program ended when our funding ran out. We then had to refer people to other agencies, and I did not feel the other programs were a good fit for me, so I stepped aside to discern what God had up his sleeve next. As of this writing, I’m still waiting, but I’m pretty sure God has removed his earplugs because I’m more patient now. You’re welcome, Lord!

I just shared with you a capsule version of my last twenty years. When I think about how I have grown and matured in faith, how others have taught me to live with ambiguity and uncertainty and be okay with it, I am stupefied! To say to someone in their brokenness, “I don’t know why this happened to you, but I care” – and then really care and be vulnerable to their pain is all God asks of us.

Learning to love and serve with God’s heart didn’t come naturally for someone who never had it modeled for them. Each step has built upon another to bring me to this place. It may not have seemed to make sense at the time. I may have spent too much time trying to repackage God’s perfect plan to fit my expectations, fixating on my own plans. But, at the end of the day, I know I am exactly where God wants me, and I know he does not waste time.

So, now what?

 “God gives food to every bird, but he doesn’t throw it into the nest.”

An ancient Hindu saying

 

Angela Duckworth did a lot of research for her book, Grit. She says:

“Often we believe that people who excel have some innate gift that no one else has. But it seems it isn’t so much ability or talent as zeal and hard work. Without effort your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t. Enthusiasm is common, endurance is rare.”

Duckworth names four psychological assets necessary for success in any worthwhile endeavor and addresses critical aspects of growing into our God-given purpose:

They are:

  • Interest: Discovery
  • Development: Daily discipline.
  • Purpose: Conviction that your work matters. A lifetime of deepening.
  • Hope (needed in every stage) keeps you going when things are difficult, even when you have doubts.

I can relate to all of these aspects that have continually reinforced God’s plan for my life, but I would add one more: Trust. If we cling to our fears, we will stay stuck in our emptiness. You must own your story, not wait for someone else to write the chapters.

Through that still small voice, in my most broken moments, God spoke into the depth of my heart, “No matter where you are at this moment, no matter what heartache or pain you may have suffered, you are now and always have been, enough because you belong to me. You can trust me.”

Granted, I did not run into God’s arms with wild abandon. It was more like a slow crawl and a lot of back-sliding. I wanted to test him because trust was not one of my strong suits. But the more I submitted to him and experienced the changes in my heart, the more I was hooked. I just knew this was different; my life was different. I began to breathe in a love I had never known before. It was incredible, and I couldn’t get enough of that sense of God’s immense love for me even when I mess up, which I still do. I must remind myself daily that being worthy and imperfect are both aspects of our humanity. They are not contradictory.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

So, dear ones, it’s up to you to pray and listen for God’s whack or still small voice, whichever one works. Pay attention to your desires that speak to God’s desires. What are you passionate about? What breaks your heart? What gives you joy?

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”

Howard Thurman

And just in time for this post USA TODAY published their list of 100 “Women of the Century” you can check it out here: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/life/women-of-the-century/2020/08/13/19th-amendment-women-succeed-grit-rita-moreno-billie-jean-king/3331178001/

The author of the article, Nicole Carroll, tells us:

“They didn’t succeed despite adversity, but often because of it. They didn’t just blaze a trail. They hammered one with their voices, their ideas and their grit. They did it at massive protests and in church basements, on big stages and in dusty fields. They stood on the shoulders of ancestors and pulled along those behind them.

The lessons of the women who brought us this far show that from the darkest moments, we find our greatest resolve. So many women who’ve achieved have first been hurt. Trauma can shame and shatter. But, they will tell you, it can also guide.

How do women keep pushing forward in the next 100 years? The same way they always have. They’ll imagine. They’ll create. They’ll fight. With grit and with sacrifice. With not enough sleep and not enough help. With bright days of self-confidence and desperate nights of self-doubt. With courage.”

So, here are a few thought-provoking questions for you. I pray you will hear the voice of God speaking to your heart, and you will respond with a huge, “Here I am, Lord! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). And then, dear one fasten your seat-belt for the adventure of your life!

  • How are you unique?
  • Do you know what your gifts are?
  • Who do you admire and why? (Often, what we admire in others is what we would like to develop in ourselves).
  • Do you like helping others?
  • Do you consider yourself a leader?
  • What makes you happy – sad?
  • Has someone else told you you are good at something?

 

A Holy Calling in Holy Week

(originally posted 4/13/17)

Jesus came to earth as a human being, just like you and me (we seem to have a hard time believing that). He had a special purpose to fulfill, just like you and me (we can’t seem to believe that either).

God wanted him to show us by his life, death, and resurrection, how deeply and passionately we are loved, how much he longs to bless us, and how we should care for, and be blessings to, others (those truths also seem to have been lost to us on our often broken journey).

Jesus set out to fulfill his purpose even though he knew he was making a lot of “important” people angry. So angry they would kill him. I’m pretty sure no one wants to kill us for striving to be all God created us to be (though that is not the case for many Christians in other countries). Just to be sure, we have to come up with an excuse to opt out – and we do: I’m not smart enough, I’m busy, I don’t think that applies to me. I need to straighten up my messy life and my underwear drawer first…wha-wha-wha…

Daily, Jesus had to decide if he would keep doing what he came here to do. Just before they came to take him away, scripture tells us that he was in agony, praying that God would just make it go away (Luke 22:39-46). After all, the human side of him did not want to suffer. But, in the end, he accepted whatever God’s will was.

It will soon be Holy Week – when we remember Jesus’ suffering, death, and glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday, which we celebrate as the church’s most powerful reminder of how much God loves us! Easter Sunday is the moment in time when the disciples came out of hiding, when their fears and doubts fell away, and they tripped all over each other to get busy preaching and teaching and glorifying God.

Jesus could have made a different choice. He could have said “no” to God. The disciples could have stayed in hiding. What about us?

(Shaqille O’Neal – like you can’t tell!)

God tells us that he made us in his image and had special plans for us before we were even born. He gave everyone gifts and talents and, at the same time, made each person unique and special. (Jeremiah 29:11)

charlie brown1

Sure, you may doubt yourself. You may not want to risk using gifts that you think others might criticize or feel inadequate to pursue. But, if you trust that God gave you those gifts, then you must believe that he has already given you everything you need to use them for his glory. Not doing that would be sort of like gifting you with a new car and not giving you the keys, wouldn’t it?

So…what do you say? There is no better time than now to reflect prayerfully on what your life’s purpose is if you haven’t already. Sit quietly with God and just ask him to help you consider the following:

  • How are you unique?
  • Do you know what your gifts are? Let’s think about that…
    • Who do you admire and why? (Often, what we admire in others is what we would like to develop in ourselves).
    • Do you like helping others?
    • Do you consider yourself a leader?
    • What makes you happy – sad? What are you passionate about? (These can be thoughts that can lead to the discovery of your gifts)
    • Has someone else told you that you are good at something?

God is waiting for each of us to come out of hiding, step out of our comfort zone, and serve this broken world.

During this Holy Week, perhaps for the first time, deeply contemplate Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in light of your own life, and purpose. Is this your resurrection moment? Is it time for your “yes”?

2 Corinthians 5:17 proclaims that you are a new creation in Christ each new day, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Also, and very importantly, when considering your gifts and how you are called to use them try not to get all full of yourself in the process – okay? It would be easy to do, but, dear heart, this isn’t about you! Sorry.

Always keep Jesus’ example in the forefront of all you do:

Why did God send Jesus here?

It wasn’t to flex His muscles – although he could have. He could have taken his anger out on our sinfulness and rejection and wiped us all out. He did it before you know…

No, it was to show us in the most powerful way he could how deep his love is for us, and in particular, those who suffer.

It wasn’t to gather groupies who would idolize him, serve him, and cater to his every whim – although that would have been easier. All he had to do was eliminate free will. But our free will to love him – or not – was too important to him. Even though that very will of those in power nailed his Son to the cross.

No, it was to model meekness, humility, and service to those most in need. 

It wasn’t to puff out his chest and boast of his great might – although he had plenty to boast about. No one, no matter what pedestal we set them on, or place of honor we bestow on them – ourselves included – no one should brag or exult themselves (though we often try).

No, his extravagant love was manifested through his beloved Son, not puffed up and boastful, but rejected and slumped over on a cross.

Now, go on – what are you waiting for? God knows you’re a hot mess – so what?

set the world on fire

You Were Made For Such a Time as This

Originally posted on February 26, 2012

Esther ROCKS! – plain and simple.

Esther was the joy of her cousin, Mordecai, who raised her. She was a beautiful Jewish girl who became the wife of King Ahasuerus after he defrocked, dethroned, and divorced Queen Vashti for refusing to obey him. Big mistake Love!

When the king searched for a replacement, he chose the meek (not really, as we will see) and lovely Esther. In Esther’s day, women were to be seen and not heard. She was undoubtedly reminded of Vashti’s fate as the crown was placed on her head. Even as Ahasuerus’ wife, there was no exception to the rule everyone else had to follow. There would be no, “Hi honey, how was your day?” conversations over tea. She had to request an audience with him or risk death.

Everything was going well until Mordecai refused to bow to Haman, who was elevated to the highest position under the king. Haman got a big head (men!) and required everyone to bow to him (except the king, I suppose). In his wrath, he became hell-bent on wiping out the entire Jewish population. And the king, albeit unwittingly, signed a death warrant for all Jews and made it official. (An important note here: Esther and her cousin failed to mention to the king that she was Jewish – oops.)

Mordecai sent a message to Esther, hoping she would go to the king to save her people. She reminded him of the king’s decree that no one was permitted to approach him without advanced authorization. Doing so would surely result in her death. To which Mordecai replied, “…who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this”? And her reply? (You gotta love it!) First, she asked everyone to fast and pray for three days. And then she said, matter-of-factly, “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish”! (4:15-16) Meek huh? Not so much!

Do you know what makes Esther’s story really incredible? There is no mention of God – anywhere! God came to Abraham in a vision, Jacob in a dream, and Moses in a bush. There are countless “God sightings” in the Old Testament – but nothing for Esther, at least nothing visible. She had no idea if her story would end there. But that didn’t stop her. Do you know why? I would suggest to you that it is no different today for us. When was the last time you stood before a talking bush? I didn’t think so – me either.

Esther did, on a regular basis, what we should all be doing; she fasted and prayed. And from that simple devotion, she had to know, deep down in her heart, that it was what she was “called” to do even though God remained mysteriously hidden.

I will tell you that God’s call to me to write my book was as clear as anything spoken to me. I would never have dreamt that up myself. Never! Most of the time, his voice is not so audible, but I still know. Deep down, I know it is what I am supposed to be doing, and I know God is behind it.

And this is the point I am trying to get to. God has a plan for your life. A plan that goes far beyond what you could ever imagine. My book is full of God stories, of tentative “yeses” – waiting for more clarification “maybe’s” – and out-and-out Jonah-sized “No way’s”!

It’s those pesky “no’s” that stop God in his tracks. It’s too bad because I often imagine I miss out on many blessings and grace-filled moments when I sit on my fears. Then God says to me, “That’s fine, Linda; I’ll get someone else to do it. But this is a gift I gave you before you were born, and guess what, young lady? I am going ask you for an accounting when I see you.” Oops….

So, tell me…

  • Do you know what gifts God has given you?
  • Are you now using those gifts for him?
  • If not, why not?
  • Have you ever even thought about it? If not, that’s the place to begin.

Keep in mind that “God does not call the equipped; he equips the called.”

If the world has told you that you are nothing special, I am telling you that’s a LIE! I don’t care what your life has been like. I don’t care how mundane your life is now or how many times you have sinned and fallen short. God’s plan for you has not changed and never will! He will not take back your gifts, but he will be sorely disappointed if you waste them. Actually, more than disappointed, according to Gian Carlo Menotti:

Hell begins on the day when God grants us a clear vision of all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts which we have wasted, of all that we might have done which we did not do.

Let me give you one short version of an example (the full version is in the book). I graduated from high school and was nine credit hours short of an Associate’s Degree (central point) when God came calling. “Guess what, Linda? I am giving you an opportunity to go to graduate school for theology! Are you SO excited?!” Excited wasn’t the word I chose. It was more like, “Have you lost your mind”?! Here’s where I leave you in suspense…

But, I would like to say this in conclusion. Fear has no teeth when we trust God – and I don’t mean when we know the outcome. We function so poorly when we’re afraid to trust God! Instead, we dig in our heels and refuse to budge. If we don’t know for sure what’s happening around the corner, we just stay put! Fear denies us the fullness of life that God has promised.

So what are you waiting for?…

First and foremost, get on your knees and face your fears because it’s from that place where God can do his mighty work in and through you. Then, look for workshops, conferences, or presentations that focus on discovering your gifts. Go back to church if you have drifted away. Get a mentor or join a prayer group or Bible study group.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” As you lay this desire before God, he will give you what you need to fulfill his plans for your life.

But be prepared for awe and wonder like you could never have imagined! So, what the heck – if you perish, you perish! Come on, don’t let that stop you! Wouldn’t you rather go that way than be run over by a bus or dropped off a cliff?

Now go…

Because this, my friend, is your time!