In HER Shoes – Esther (Week 10)

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The end of Week 10, and this week we have all been challenged on how we deal with big life changing situations.  Esther was certainly facing one, and although she had made the decision to approach the King, she wasn’t rushing in to it.

“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16

Putting God First

The thing that has kept coming back to me this week, is that Esther looks for God’s help in this situation.  She has accepted Mordecai’s persuasive argument and is going to approach the King as he suggests, but she’s not rushing into it just because he has said so.  Part of his argument was around God using her to save the Jews, and so she wants to make sure that that is what God wants too.

Esther takes a breather and seeks God on this.  She decides to fast for three days.  Now, we could very well say that this gives her time and space to get her head round what she has to do, maybe she is stalling and hoping that something else will save them in that time, but she is taking time out to put God first in it.  She is actively denying herself food, her own pleasure and comfort, to make sure this is the right decision.   And its not just a little fast – she is giving up food and water, for the whole three days.  Sometimes people will fast just one meal, or just during the day and then eat at night.  But this is a full on proper fast.

Whilst looking at this verse, we were challenged as a group to fast ourselves and show God that he is first in our lives – I am always amazed at what God reveals and does during times of fasting,  It is sooo hard to do it (and there are many excuses as mums as to why not to – breastfeeding, being pregnant, needing energy to keep up with the kids!) but it is worth it to show God that we put him first.  It definitely paid off for Esther.

Putting others Second

When we discussed this verse in the Facebook Live discussion last Monday, someone mentioned that this action of fasting, and the way that Esther gets her attendants to fast with her, would have been an amazing ministry and teaching opportunity for her.  She had kept her nationality and relationship with God a secret up until now, but here should would have had to share with her attendants as to why she was doing such a strange thing, and what she hoped God would do through it.  She could easily have just done this by herself, or said she was feeling sick and not wanting to eat, but she doesn’t.  She gets those closest to her involved and shares the experience with them.  No doubt, when God does deliver the Jews from death, the attendants will then see Gods glory and come to know and understand Him better.

Esther isn’t selfish in the way she approaches this, but looks to put others second after God and include them in the miracle too.  She does this by asking the Jews in Susa to fast with her – she is allowing them to be part of this.  When God does deliver them they will be able to say that they had fasted alongside Esther and been part of taking her prayers up to God.  What an awesome thing to share!

I know when I have been asked to pray for someone who is ill, if they do receive healing it is an amazing moment of praise and thanksgiving to God, but also of being a part of something bigger than myself and a little part of God’s plan to heal them.

Not Facing Her Fears alone

I have great respect for Esther in this verse – she really is showing wisdom beyond her teenage years and is a great example to us in how to approach challenges in our lives.  She knew that she couldn’t do this in her own strength, so not only does she go to God but she also gathers others to face her fears with her.  She asks for prayer and fasting from others to help carry her through.

This has really challenged me as a leader of a bible study group at my church.  How often do we share prayer requests and half pray for things?  How often do we offer to fast with others for the issues they are facing in their lives?  How often do we ask others to fast with us when we are facing big things?  Often me and my husband will fast together if we have a big decision to make, but we’ve never asked others to do it with us.  I wonder how that would make me feel to know that others where sacrificing their comfort just to stand with me in prayer?  I am going to consider saying to those I know well that I will fast with them now, and see what a difference that makes to them.

putting herself last

The last past of this verse is quite a sad bit.  At first I thought it was a flippant teenage girl type comment, done with the flick of her hair and with a sarcastic tone in her voice!  As if that defiant attitude would change her having to see the King.  But after a bit more thought and meditation (and some helpful comments in the Facebook Community) I think there is more to it than that.   She is counting the cost and deciding that God is worth it.  She is accepting her fate, whatever that may be, and laying her life in God’s hands.  Are we ready to do that in our own lives?  To accept wherever God may take us and whatever costs may be involved in it?

Esther rises up to be a great role model

The first half of this series, I felt sorry for Esther and her family circumstances, I stepped into her shoes as she made her way through the harem and tried to set herself apart and show how she was different.  The last few weeks we’ve seen how fear has crept in and tried to take that from her, but this week she has stepped up again and shown wisdom and strength beyond her years.  She has proven to be a great role model, in showing us how to approach difficult things in life – to breath, take time, and give it to God.  To fight that fear, with the help of others around her, and to really trust in God.  I doubt that if she hadn’t had such a rough start to her life she would have had the strength to do that.   God had clearly made her resilient through those times and reliant on him.

next week

So next week is crunch time – we see Esther take that step of faith.  I am really looking forward to stepping in to her shoes in this verse:

“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance.  When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.” Esther 5:1-2

I do hope you’ll join me in discussing it this week in our Facebook Community and meditating on it yourself at home.

 

In HER Shoes – Esther (week 9)

 

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We are now past the half way point, and we have really started into the dramatic part of this story.  We are at a fork in the road, and Esther has a huge decision to make.  Last week we saw Esther’s argument against action, this week we heard Mordecai’s rebuttle (and he really does pull out all the stops!!!)

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

the final word

The thought that was swimming through my head this week is that this is one amazing argument winning speech.  Not only does he mention what will happen to her (in the verse before – Mordecai says that she will still die even if she stays quiet), but he refers to her family being wiped out (as she was the last one of her father’s line that makes sense) and the shame it will bring on her father’s name, but also that she will be disappointing God.  A three point punch.  Just reading this I can feel the desperation in Mordecai’s voice, this is his last chance to save his, and many other people’s, life.  You would go all out in that situation wouldn’t you!  And most people will be moved by one of those things – either a consequence to themselves, a consequence to their family, or the thought of letting God down.

As I put myself in Esther’s shoes and imagined hearing this, it felt like a battering ram at my heart.  I could picture the words being spoken out, and then her just sinking down on her seat and realising that there’s was no way out doing the scariest thing she had ever done in her life.  She did not want to let her family and her God down, and Mordecai knew that to suggest she did would hurt her and move her into action.

Sometimes we have to say the hard things.  Sometimes we have to hit people where it hurts to make them see how desperate the circumstances are.  Sometimes we have to pack a punch and trust that God will use those words for his will.

Seeing God in the midst

There is no doubt that in this verse Esther is being seen as a stubborn teenager, which is probably what she is!!  The word “remain” is translated as “persist” in the Message version, and I like that better.  Persist is to “continue in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition” and it is doing so “stubbornly, despite warning”.  These harsh words were needed to break Esther out of that stubborn teenage mood, but something else was also needed.

Mordecai hints at what God might be doing through her.  You know, we all want to be used by God in some way don’t we?  We all want to be part of his master plan, to have an impact in this world for God, whether that is bringing one person to know Jesus or to do something entirely different.  But we don’t always know what God is doing through us until after the event has happened.  It is easy to look back and say “oh yes look what God did there!”.  So sometimes we have to guess at what God is doing, and try to see him even in the gravest of situations.  Mordecai here says “who knows?” and admits that he doesn’t know, but suggests the possibility that God might have positioned her there for such a time as this.  That little suggestion was enough to lift Esther’s spirit and give her the confidence that God IS on her side.  Instead of feeling trapped and powerless, she felt connected to the most high God, to the maker of all.

What about us?

I don’t know what situations you find yourself in, but maybe you need to channel this question – who knows?!  Who knows what God is doing through you, who knows why you are in that situation?  I can tell you who – only God!!  But by realising that God is possibly working through you, we can be empowered to do above and beyond our capability.  He has put you in your world for “such a time as this”. 

Next Week

So this week was the turning point, and next week we will see Esther moved to action.  I do hope you’ll join me in meditating on the following verse:

Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16

I will be kicking the week off with another Facebook Live Discussion over in our Facebook Community on Monday evening at 8pm, so please do join me there (and pray my internet holds out!).

 

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In HER Shoes – Esther (week 8)

 

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We are now HALF WAY through our Esther Series!!  It has been great to really get underneath this story and look at the details, and this week has been no different.  The verse we meditated on was:

All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” Esther 4:11

This was Esther’s rely to her cousin Mordecai after he asked her to approach the king and beg for the Jews to be saved.  Behind this verse we can be sure that there was a heap of emotions and thoughts and conversations taking place that we don’t hear, so this week we have been trying to think through what those might have been like.

Real fear

On initial reading, Esther’s response is pretty understandable – we would probably all do the same.  When faced with almost certain death, the answer is no!  No I won’t do that favour!  At this point in the story, Esther’s nationality was still hidden amongst those in the palace, and so she probably thought she was safe.  Self-preservation would be kicking in here, and Esther can see that if she does nothing and keeps her mouth shut then she will be safe.  But her cousin and all those other Jews won’t be.  Esther is experiencing real fear.

Compounded fear

week 8 lock screenThis is a huge decision for Esther, and in the Mummy Meditations Community we talked about similar decisions that we had had to make (none of them life or death!) and how our brains became a jumble of thoughts, perhaps we couldn’t sleep properly because of them,  we get nervous, it feels stressful.  We have to consciously step away from those fears and thoughts and try to stop them taking over.  It sounds like perhaps Esther is wrestling with this decision in the same way, trying to play out every outcome in her head and figure out what the best one is.  But going over and over it in your mind only serves to compound and exaggerate the fear, making this all the more worse for poor Esther.

Peer fear

A lot of us mentioned have trusted counsellors or friends who we could turn to when making big decisions, but Esther probably wouldn’t have had any.  Yes she had eunuchs and servant girls, but despite their willingness to share an opinion, they wouldn’t have had all the facts and hence their counsel wouldn’t have been all that helpful.  None of them would have known Esther’s fate due to her Jewish heritage.  We also see that she mentions that ALL THE KINGS OFFICIALS know she would be killed, and EVEN THE PEOPLE IN THE ROYAL PROVINCES.  That peer pressure of knowing that everyone would think she is stupid and ridiculous and clearly insane for approaching the king uninvited would have been huge on Esther’s shoulders.

Separation fear

Thirty days.  Thats a month since she had seen her husband.  And yes it probably wasn’t exactly the same as our relationships now (we would clearly all fall apart if we couldn’t see our husbands for that amount of time – some of us can’t last a few hours without texting our spouse!) but there would be a certain sense of fear that came with the unknowing.  If she had seen him the day before she might have known what kind of mood he was in, what political challenges he was facing, how likely it was for her visit to be approved with the gold sceptre.  But with not having seen him there is a bigger element of unknown.  There are thoughts that start to creep in that perhaps  he doesn’t like her as a wife anymore, maybe he’s looking for another new one to replace me, maybe I am out of favour with him.

Fear upon fear upon fear upon fear

That is a lot of negative emotion and fear building up in Esther.  And lets not forget that this could be a teenage girl facing this decision.  How on earth could she break through that piling mound of fear??!  I think I would be crippled by it all.   We will have to read on in the story to find out.

Next week

Well it is poster verse week, yes the one I’m sure you’ve heard quoted before:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Do join us as we see if there is more to this verse than meets than what is on the surface.  You can join the discussion with questions and prompts during the week, as well as a Facebook Live Discussion at 8pm on Monday night over in our Facebook Community.

If you’ve joined us halfway through, then great!  There’s still loads to get out of this story, and you can find some helpful resources over in our shop.

 

 

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In HER Shoes – Esther (week 7)

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Hello Mummy Meditators!!  Welcome to week 7 of our Esther series, and to a summary of what God has been revealing to me and others this week.  Our verse this week was:

“He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.” Esther 4:8

Mordecai’s desperation

I think the first thing that struck me in this verse was the desperation in Mordecai’s message.  Here is a man who is weeping and wailing outside the palace, making a scene and refusing to stop.  Here is a man who desperately wants to see his last remaining relative but can’t.  Here is a man who is going to be murdered in a few days time, along with many other people from his nationality.  Here is a man thinking of any crazy idea to try to get out of this predicament.

And that is when it comes to him.  I don’t think that in any way this was planned or that he sent Esther into the palace “just in case something bad happened”.  No, I think he is just standing outside the palace grieving and wailing, and then it comes to him.  ESTHER COULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!!!!

You know that tone people get in their voice when they are grasping at straws, at any possible way out of a bad situation.   Begging, grovelling, wild eyes and crazy voice.  I imagine Mordecai speaking so quickly and excitedly that the messenger had to ask him twice what he was saying.  And I imagine him hopping up and down with nervous excitement that it might work.  Yes, he might have just sorted out this pickle that they are all in.   And so he sends his message to Esther…

Esther’s realisation

Up until now, Esther was probably unaware of what it was that had made her cousin go slightly crazy and refuse to come see her, despite her best efforts to send him clothes.  And so I can imagine her nervously pacing up and down in her quarters of the palace.  Perhaps her servants are telling her to relax, trying to comfort her, but she is having none of it until the messenger she has sent comes back.  He walks in and she rushes over to him, desperate to hear what Mordecai has to say.  But its not good news.

In our discussions this week, some of our community members highlighted how alone Esther would have felt receiving this news.  Yes, she was probably surrounded by people (servants and eunuchs), but she was the only one there whom this message had deadly consequences for.  As this news was read, I can see her staff being confused as to why this was affecting Esther so much – she hadn’t told anyone she was a Jew.  Perhaps at the reading of the edict she just crumpled in grief and pain at the knowledge of what was going to happen to her people.  To her beloved cousin.  To herself.

And yet there was one pain more than that.  A personal pain that Mordecai had requested of her.  To go into the King’s presence.

Asked to do the unthinkable

Have you ever been asked to do something you really don’t want to, but its by someone you really respect, trust, honour or love?  Have you experienced that sinking feeling that you don’t want to do it because you know its going to be awkward or uncomfortable or dangerous, but you know that that person wouldn’t be asking unless it was entirely necessary?  That would be the heavy sinking feeling Esther would be having right now.  That would be the lump forming in her throat.  That would be the tears coming to her eyes.  Her head would be in overdrive thinking through the consequences, the other option, any other way to sort this out that didn’t involve her having to approach the king.  Why?  Well that is for next week to discover….

next week

Esther sends a message back to Mordecai next week, and we will be meditating on this verse:

“All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” Esther 8:11

I hope you will join me in thinking and discussing this verse during the week over in our Facebook group.

There is also the chance to join in a Happy Mail exchange for Purim (the celebration of the story of Esther) later in March, so don’t forget to sign up here!

In HER Shoes – Esther (Week 6)

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Good Morning Mummy Meditators (or good afternoon/evening if you are catching up later today!) and welcome to week six of our Esther study.  This week has been an emotional one for me, as I’ve tried to step into Esther’s shoes and imagine what she was feeling during this verse:

“When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them.” Esther 4:4

Something Awful had happened

We have jumped ahead in the story quite a bit this week.  Last week we left on a high as Esther had been crowned Queen, and a big party commenced.  But then a chunk of the story happened before we next saw Esther.  Mordecai uncovered a plot to kill the King (a side-note really but crucial later on) and then we are introduced to Haman.  Haman had risen in the ranks and it had kind of gone to his head.  He liked it when people knelt down and honoured him, but Mordecai wouldn’t do so.   We’re not told why exactly that Mordecai won’t do this – perhaps it is because he sees this as idol worship in a way, and like Daniel refusing to worship the king, Mordecai refused to taint himself by bowing down to anyone other than God.

Haman hears about this, and that Mordecai is a Jew, and gets the hump.  He decides to deal with it by blowing it out of proportion and making it sound like the Jews are about to revolt against the King.  The King acts appropriately and wants to quell any potential revolution, so allows Haman to issue and edict to kill all the Jews.

grief kicks in

So perhaps we read out meditation verse and thought Mordecai was over-reacting – verse 1 of chapter four says this:

“When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. ” Esther 4:1

But if you knew that yourself and all of your friends/family/relations (even if you didn’t have many) were going to be mass-murdered in a few days, what would you do????!  Would you carry on going to work?  Would you smile cheerfully as you carried on normal business?  Or would you cry like you’ve never cried before?  We deduced earlier in the series that actually it might just be Esther and Mordecai left from their family, and so Mordecai heads to the one person he wants to share his last few days with.  Esther at the palace.  Only he can’t get close.

“But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it.” Esther 4:2

Just reading this makes my heart go out to Mordecai.  It makes me want to hug him and make it all better.  So can you imagine what Esther feels when she hears this?

separated from each other

Esther is in the palace and probably isn’t allowed to leave the palace grounds.  Mordecai is outside the palace and isn’t allowed in the way that he is dressed.  So Esther thinks of the easiest solution that will mean she can comfort her cousin – sending him clothes.  Clothing is the barrier between them, and so she tries to fix that.  When I read this story as a teenager I always thought she was ashamed of Mordecai for making a big scene outside her palace, but reading it again I see the compassion here, the ache to be with her last remaining blood family member.  After losing her parents, it must have been agony not to be there with him.  It says in the verse she was in “great distress” and I imagine she was inconsolable by her many servants and eunuchs.  As nice as they may have been, they weren’t the one person she wanted to see in that moment.

In the Facebook Community we shared experiences of not being able to physically be with our loved ones during times of need.   We said we might feel sad, frustrated and confused as to why our help had been rejected when it would have brought us together.   We also mentioned possibly feeling resentful for the position that we were in that was stopping us from getting to our loved one – perhaps Esther also felt resentful that she was now Queen and now allowed the freedom to go outside and see Mordecai.  If she had just stayed at home and not tried to become Queen they would have been able to spend those last few days together.

Overall, it sounds like it would have been a very confusing and heart-breaking time for the two of them, and the phrase “great distress” is a very simplified way to describe all those emotions going on.  Lets try to remember the state that Esther would have been in as we come to next week’s verse.

Next week

From this place of emotion we now see Mordecai’s attempt to solve the problem, as we meditate on this verse:

“He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.” Esther 4:8

I hope you will join in the conversation over in the Facebook Group, and join me at 8pm on Monday evening for a Facebook live discussion to kick off the week! You’ll also find the free phone lock screen over in the group tomorrow morning so you can keep the verse central during the week ahead.

In HER Shoes – Esther (week 5)

 

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As I came to think about this week’s verse I was acutely aware that I hadn’t found much time this week to ponder it and meditate on it.  I was gutted that I hadn’t given it enough time, as I don’t feel like I’ve got everything I could have out of this verse.  If thats you too, then welcome!  You are at home here with those of us who have rushed through this week with barely a moment to spare.  Instead of feeling guilty, I hope you read this post and that God reveals something to you through it, and I also pray that you (and me too!) can find just a bit of space in our coming week to meditate over the next verse.

It is weeks like this that I am so so grateful for the Mummy Meditations Community, for their comments and input and ideas, and I’ll be sharing lots of them below.  Our verse this week has been:

“Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favour 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.” Esther 2:17

That feeling

I read this verse in the King James Version and it threw open a whole new understanding of it.  Instead of the words “attracted to” it used the word “loved“.  The king LOVED Esther above any other woman.  He loved her.  This had stopped being a contest to find the best woman in bed, because the king had felt something.  He’d been moved.  He’d felt a connection to Esther.  The bible doesn’t tell us what or how Esther felt about the King unfortunately, but I’m sure she would have wanted to feel the same way.  The way you feel when you both click, and you could spend all night up talking to the other person about anything and everything!  That rush of connection and emotion.  Esther was not just any woman, she was the one.  Lets not overlook how amazing this moment could have been for this couple.  We assume that because it was the king and there were hundreds of other women involved that it was all forced, but what if it wasn’t?  What if Esther and the King were truly in love?

When I asked the Mummy Meditations Community to think about what it was like to fall in the love, a “spark” was mentioned and that “fluttery feeling”.  If that was how these two were feeling then it would have been one amazing night.  In fact it doesn’t mention in the verse that she was asked to leave and go to the different part of the harem for the concubines.  Instead it says that he put a crown on her head.  So maybe this was a night that lasted longer.  Maybe they were chatting and sharing their hearts and bodies with each other in a way like the King had not done with anyone else.

I always thought she was being groomed to be raped by the king, and forced into marriage.  But that one word of translation – love – changes everything when I read it this week.

That “thing”

From Hegai, to the whole palace court, and now to the King.  Everywhere Esther goes she finds favour, approval and gets special treatment.  What is that all about???!  We chatted about this in the Facebook live and some of our thoughts as to what made her different included:

  • her faith in God – even when she tried to hide her heritage it shone through
  • her dependence on God – she would have had to trust in her as her Father after losing her parents at a young age
  • her lack of dependence on physical things to win people over – she didn’t take extras in with her, just the bare minimum.

In the same way that the light of Jesus shines out of us for all to see, the light of God shone out of Esther as her hope, her confidence and her provision.  This would have been starkly different to the other virgins there who would have been mostly Persian, and trusting in other things to win the King over.

We may not always think we are different to the world, in fact sometimes we might hide who we are in Christ, but lets not forget that the light within us will always shine through everything we do and be visible to others.

Royal crown

The climax of this verse is that Esther is made Queen, and lots of you loved the imagery of the Royal Crown being put upon Esther’s head.  There were lots of parallels drawn to Christ with his crown of thorns – being elevated into this position was not necessarily going to be an easy place to be, and like Jesus on the cross, it would come with its own sacrifices.   It also reminded us that we wear a crown now because of Jesus, and that if we continue through life and stand during trials, we too will be bestowed with crowns of life.

Stepping in to Esther’s shoes, I started to wonder how she felt in this position.  The previous Queen had been humiliated and cast aside, and so there may have been some doubt in her heart about her future in that role.  I wonder if there was also a sense of being a winner!  Out of 400 women, she was the one he chose.  Did she boast in that news?  Did she commiserate with the other virgins in the harem who might have either been her friends or enemies for the past year?  Did she take the news gracefully and accept this new role well?  Again, we can’t be sure, but when I put myself in her shoes I felt this torrential mixture of emotions – pressure of a new role, joy of security, sadness for those who lost out, compassion and perhaps the dizzy feelings of new love!  One thing is for sure this would have been an exciting and confusing time for her with lots of new experiences (she had just lost her virginity – thats big enough on its own without throwing in becoming Queen!!).

next week

Well, now that Esther is officially Queen, we are going to jump ahead in the story.  The rest of Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of the book don’t actually mention Esther at all, but do read through them to catch up on the plot before meditating on our next verse:

“When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them.” Esther 4:4

I would love for you to join me live at 8pm tomorrow (Monday!) night for a Facebook Live discussion to kick off the week!  I want to hear about how you deal with success?  Would you have reacted the same was as Esther when she “won” the prize?

 

In HER Shoes – Esther (Week 4)

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Well, its been an interesting weekend with out internet refusing to work properly, so its a miracle really that this is written at all!!  But welcome to week 4 of our Esther series.  We are now a quarter of our way through the story, and I think we’ve learnt a lot about Esther already.  This is a young women who hasn’t had an easy start to life – she’s lost her parents, been adopted, forced to keep a rather large secret and live in a harem with 400 other women.  But despite all of these challenges, she seems to be able to keep making a good impression and make friends where it counts.

This week we were meditating on the following verse:

“When the turn came from 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 favour of everyone who saw her.”  Esther 2:15

There are four things that I want to highlight that have come through in our discussions and in my own meditations on this verse:

Anticipation

Lets take a moment to think about the magnitude of this moment for Esther.  As a young girl in this culture, getting married would have been a big landmark in her life, signifying her separation from her old family and joining to start a new one.  Throw into the mix that this is with the King of the country she was currently living with, that she was in competition with 400 of the most beautiful women around, and that if she got it wrong she would be tossed aside like nothing, and you’ve got yourself a high stakes situation.  Nervous, anticipation, fear, stress?  Those would be the things that I would be feeling in that situation.  My own wedding night was stressful enough, and I was with someone I loved, trusted and knew! So I can’t even begin to imagine how this would have felt for Esther.  As she walked down that corridor towards the King I am sure there were butterflies in her tummy, but perhaps there was also a air of certainty or confidence, as we know that she had taken Hegai’s advice……

Advice

Esther wasn’t unprepared.  In contrast to the other women who were trying to think up all the amazing things they could take with them to woo the King, Esther took a different approach.  Instead, she befriended Hegai, the eunuch, and asked for his advice.  Esther recognised that she was young, naïve and didn’t know the King at all, and so went to someone who could help.  Hegai was older, wiser, knew more about the King than she did, but we also think he may have been of Jewish heritage, so possibly shared the same values as her.  He had the inside knowledge, and was able to wisely recommend to Esther how to proceed.  This must have been a great comfort to her, and Esther was wise enough to listen to someone greater than her.

Acceptance

She hasn’t even reached the King’s chamber yet (that happens next week!) but it mentions again that she is winning favour with everyone she meets.  I can’t help but see the hand of God in this, as she walks around the palace and has a different demeanour and attitude to the other women because of her relationship with God.  Perhaps she wasn’t trying so hard to catch attention or be flirtatious.  Perhaps she was more confident in herself as women.  We don’t know, but we know that she was making all the right steps.

answers

I don’t know about you, but for me this passage threw up way more questions to me than it answered.  I long to know what Esther took in with her, what the others took in, how were they being prepared in the harem?  So many things unanswered.  What questions do you have from this week?

application

The application that has been jumping out at me all week from this verse is this: WHO AM I TAKING ADVICE FROM????

Is it from the internet, is it from a person who hasn’t earnt that position in my life, is it from someone less wise than me?  Check who it is that you are listening to and taking advice from and follow Esther’s example – someone wiser/more experienced in that area, someone who has inside knowledge, someone who shares the same values as you.  If you are taking advice from someone who doesn’t tick these boxes, then that advice is useless.  There are so many pressures and stresses in this world that we need to make sure we are getting help from the right places.

next week

It’s a landmark week for Esther next week as we move on to looking at this verse together:

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favour 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.” Esther 2:17

There is a new FREE PHONE LOCK SCREEN design coming out to you all on Monday over in the Facebook community, along with the opportunity to join me at 8pm tomorrow night to kick off the week’s discussions and thoughts.  Do join me there and share your comments on this weeks verse below or in the Facebook group.

 

 

 

 

 

In HER Shoes – Esther (Week 3)

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Welcome to week 3 of our Esther series, and its fair to say its been a bit of a controversial week this week!!  I love when a topic sparks discussion, so lets jump straight into the verse in question:

“Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.”  Esther 2:10

to lie or not to lie

White lie or lie of omission, the first thing that jumped out to me in this verse is that Esther is hiding something intentionally from others.  So whether she had to tell a lie and say she was Persian, or whether she just didn’t mention it and let people assume what they wanted, she was trying not to let on that she was of Jewish descent.  This started us straight into a discussion of whether it was ever ok to lie, and what God’s heart on that is.  Ranging from the black and white view that it is always wrong to lie, to the more grey areas of moral values and whilst truth is high on that list, stopping potential evil is even higher, we had lots of different opinions and thoughts.

I’m not going to share my own opinions on this – there are plenty of articles and other sources shared in our Mummy Meditations Community – but I am going to draw one observation.  Clearly we all see truthfulness as a desirable quality, something that is characteristic of God and hence something we should strive for.  And so it must take the thought or prospect of something pretty horrendous to make Mordecai forbid Esther from being truthful.  Something unimaginable, that he wants to save his precious adopted daughter from.  Or perhaps even just the fear of the unknown.

Yes, the Jewish people were accepted and allowed to live in the Persian Empire, but that doesn’t meant that they would have been treated the same once inside the palace.  One mum also mentioned that perhaps as an orphan and adoptee that she might have been considered lower ranking too.  Maybe this would have lowered her chances of seeing the king and pushed her back in the queue (when she had been fast-tracked last week by Hegai) or perhaps it could even have resulted in physical abuse or death.  We really don’t know, but we know that Mordecai acted out of love to protect Esther, even if that was by telling her to lie.

forced to lie

As I stepped into Esther’s shoes, I tried to remember a time when a situation had come up where I had been forced to lie or protect some piece of information and how it made me feel.  Examples flooded into my mind, such as safeguarding issues at church where you may need to only share information with certain people on the team, or when a friend had confided in me.  Work examples of news such as concert line-ups which are embargoed until a certain date and time.  All these examples have made me feel very uncomfortable, almost anxious, with having to keep information to myself.  I have felt threatened and accused when people asked me innocent questions around them.  Esther might have felt similar, as if every question, comment or action of those inside the harem was designed to catch her out or make her reveal her true identity.  It is not a nice place to be in by choice, and even worse when someone forces you to be there.

When it is someone else who requests you lie, then you feel like you are going to let them down if you slip up, there is added pressure and responsibility on your shoulders.  Esther must have been so aware of everything she was doing, trying to hide her prayers, trying to forget about special days and not seem bothered, trying to hide her accent, way of dress or distinguishing features that would mark her out as different.   How tiring that must have been.  Despite being surrounded by 400 woman and her own set of servants, I am sure she would have felt isolated and alone in that place.

what can we learn from Esther?

Well, we don’t know an awful lot more about how she dealt with this situation, because as we already noted – the book is written from a male perspective, and so they can only report the facts that they knew.  On her own in that harem, who knows the struggle that Esther went through inside, whether she turned to God in that dilemma and found comfort in him, or whether she just isolated herself and avoided everyone so that no questions were asked.  However, as we know from last week, she found favour with people inside, so I doubt highly that she did that by hiding away.  The only thing we do know is that Esther succeeded in keeping her nationality a secret until later in the story.

Esther was obedient to her adoptive Father, even when she didn’t know why is was necessary, even when it would have been hard for her to do so, and even when it battled with her inner conscience that wanted to be truthful.  In this messed up and sinful world, sometimes we have to be obedient to those wiser than us and to God, in ways that we just don’t understand.  Obedience is certainly a characteristic that Esther displays here, and perhaps one that we need to practice more.

Next week

I’d love for you to join our Mummy Meditations Community over on Facebook to discuss our next verse over the week:

“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 favour of everyone who saw her.” Esther 2:15

Please do share your own comments and thoughts below or over on Facebook.

 

Esther week 2 verse

In HER Shoes – Esther (Week 2)

 

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Welcome to week two of our Esther series (I already feel like we’ve been looking at Esther forever!) and we move into the start of the story this week now that we’ve met the main character!

“She pleased him and won his favour. 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.” Esther 2:9

who did Esther please?

Now, a bit of a blunder on my part, but for the first half of the week I had assumed that the “he” in question was the king.  But I was really jumping ahead of myself, and it was only when I read this verse in the Message version that I realised it was Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the virgins, that was being talked about!!  Big well done to you if you didn’t make that mistake!!  Always good to learn to check the context and who is being spoken about.

So this verse is right at the start of Esther’s progress through the palace.  She has just arrived, along with hundreds of other candidates for the role of Queen.  When I researched I found that there could have been as many as 400 virgins assembled in this particular harem, making it a pretty busy place to be.  But even amongst that many other girls, Esther stands out.  She makes an impression.  The phrase used is “she pleased him”.  The Message translation puts it like this “Hegai liked Esther and took a special interest in her”.

Hegai was surrounded by beautiful women day in day out, and he wasn’t really able to or allowed to act on that beauty.  So there must have been something else that made Esther stand out from the crowd.  Some sources speculate that perhaps Hegai was of Jewish descent and that he recognised that in her.  In our Facebook Group discussions we erred towards this showing her true character, and being a contrast to the physical attractiveness mentioned last week.  I guess we’ll never know, but we can be inspired by Esther that it is not a bad thing to get on well in the place that we are at, even if we think it is an unfavourable place to be, as God can use us in those dark places.

Fast-tracked for a reason

Esther week 2 verseSo why was it so important that Esther was noticed by Hegai?  Because of the things that he then set it motion.  Esther had four huge blessings come out of this, but the biggest one (and probably most overlooked) is that she got to start her beauty treatments early.

All the virgins had to go through them (and some people suggest it might be because they had fungal diseases and other things that they wanted to make sure the king didn’t catch) and they last about a year.  Esther, being resident in Susa where the palace was, was probably one of the first virgins to arrive in the harem as part of this search.  The search went across the whole Persian Empire, and would have taken months if not years to collect together all 400 possibilities for the King.  Being within the first batch arriving and then also being one of the first to start her beauty treatments meant that Esther would be one of the first few women to have her night with the King.

Esther was fast-tracked, and this increased her odds of getting to see the King in the first place, because if he saw someone before her that he quite liked, then that was game over and they would become queen.  God needed Esther to be seen early so that the King would fall in love with her.  Time as of the essence and so Esther wasn’t just fast tracked to make her life easier, but because God needed her there.

in her shoes in the Harem

Its amazing to see God working in this verse to make sure that Esther was in the right place at the right time (“for such a time as this”!).  But this week I also tried really hard to step into Esther’s shoes and understand how she might be feeling about all this.  My first step was to consider what actually was a harem.  The first thoughts that jump into my head are of prostitutes, concubines and basically a whole load of women just sitting around waiting to be called on to have sex with the king at his whim.   It doesn’t sound like a nice place to me, and I’ve always viewed it negatively.

I thought Esther would have hated being taken from her family home with her adoptive father and put into the harem, but then I read more about them.  A harem was actually supposed to be a place of protection and safety for these women.  The king was taking them away from the prying eyes and attention from other men that they may have had outside the harem.  They would have had security as they would have been fed and looked after, possibly even educated within the harem.  Contrast this with outside, where Esther probably would have had to work and risk herself in a mans world, where she was a virgin and very desirable.  Maybe Esther actually felt relief to be inside the harem.  Yes it did mean that she was being lined up to basically be raped by the king so he could choose his favourite virgin, but in this situation that might have been a better prospect than what lie outside the palace walls.

How might Esther have felt to be given preferential treatment?  I wonder if she had any backlash from the others in the harem because of this?  There are so many questions I have when I step into Esther’s shoes that I don’t know where to start!

Next week

Join us over in the Mummy Meditations Community as we discuss the following verse this week:

“Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so”  Esther 2:10

I would love for you all to join me at 8pm on Monday night for a Facebook Live discussion to kick off the weeks thoughts!  So do head over to the Facebook Group for more information.

 

 

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In HER Shoes – Esther (Week 1)

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Welcome Mummy Meditators to the first summary post of our new Esther series!  I am very excited to kick off this series with you all, and who knows where God is going to take us over the next 16 weeks.  We all probably know the Esther story reasonably well, it’s a Sunday School classic and a women’s ministry favourite too.  But that is not why I have chosen it as our next series.  I want us to step right into Esther’s shoes, to experience this story like we never have before, and to truly grasp to magnitude of the task set before her.

We started off with meditating on this verse this week:

“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.” Esther 2:7

What’s the situation?

We jump straight into being introduced to Esther, but its really helpful to know the cultural situation of the time.  The Jewish people documented in the story are not in the promised land, they are resident in Persia despite being given the freedom to return to Jerusalem.  After being taken into exile years before by the Assyrians and dispersed amongst various towns and cities, the lives of the Jewish people were now entwinned with those of the places they had moved to.   They have lives, friends and family there, and the thought of going back to rebuild the temple and repopulate the promised land wasn’t that appealing.  So they are not slaves, they are widely dispersed across the area, and they are mixed in with the other nations around them.

In my head before studying this I thought the Jews were still in exile, badly treated and forced to live in a foreign land, and that was why Esther didn’t want them to know her nationality.  But clearly I was wrong!  The king of the Persian Empire actually quite like the Jewish people and gave them freedom to worship as they pleased.   Even if that was under his rule.  So that begs the question….

why two names?

esther bible verseOne of the things that lots of you Mummy Meditators picked up on straight away and wanted to look into was why did Esther have two names?  You quickly found out that Hadassah was her Hebrew name and Esther  her gentile name.  Taking a deeper look, it seems that this was common practice, but it is not known if her name was changed when she married the king or before that.  I guess it might have been a bit like when Chinese students come over here to study and adopt an English name that is a bit easier to pronounce for us who suck at Chinese!  Either way, it allowed Esther to fit seamlessly into the Kings courts and not stick out as different.

Adopted, not orphaned

As mothers we were all drawn to the part of this verse where it says that her mother and father had died.  When we step into Esther’s shoes we can feel this sadness, this loss of her parents, even though we are not told how old she was when they died, if they died at the same time or different times, and the circumstances surrounding that.  We can perhaps assume that she was quite young when it happened, as no brothers and sisters are mentioned.  This is not a sweet innocent girl who has had a sheltered life, this is a young woman who has been through some emotional times and had to find a way to deal with that.  She would have questions, doubts and fears surrounding her.

Although our hearts break for Esther to hear that she lost her parents (and doesn’t seem to have any brothers or sisters to share the burden with), we are told the joyful news that she was not an orphan, she was not left to fend for herself or fall on the mercy of others, she was adopted!  The way this phrase is written “that he took her as his own daughter” reveals a tenderness, a fondness and love between Esther and her cousin Mordecai who became her guardian.  This may have been an adoption of necessity (if he was the next closest family member then it would have been his duty to take care of her in the circumstances) but she is now considered his daughter, a fully fledged member of his family.

It doesn’t mention a wife for Mordecai or any other children that he has, and so it seems like a really close set up between the two of them.  Despite the awful events that have happened, Esther is loved and cared for by him and has a place of safety and security.

Beautiful for a reason

As we were chatting through this verse in the Facebook live I mentioned that it would likely have been written by a man, from a male perspective, and that was probably why it was mentioned that she was beautiful (men notice these things you know!).  But looking deeper into it this week, actually we saw the necessity of this aspect of Esther for the story to succeed.  If Esther was not beautiful and physically attractive in the eyes of men, she would not have been invited into the courts of the king.  So this is not a throw away comment or slightly interesting character note, but a key piece of information for later on.  Esther was beautiful for a reason, and it is amazing to see that God can use the things of this world to bring glory to himself.

Novella, not fact

One final thing to mention as we move on in our study of Esther, so that most people seem to think that the book of Esther is written as a historic novella and not a pure historical document.  This means that not every detail in it is strictly historically accurate, but it is a historical story fleshed out so that we can understand better what happened at that time.  It was written to explain to the Jewish nation about the origin of the Jewish Holiday of Purim, and why it should be celebrated.  Amazingly, Purim is celebrated on the 20th March, which will be within this series, so hopefully we can celebrate this together in some way (suggestions welcome!).

next week

Well what a way to start off the series!  There is so much to take in, and this is just the introduction of the main character.  Next week we will move on to meditating on this verse:

“She pleased him and won his favour. 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.” Esther 2:9

Do join me at 8pm on Monday night for a quick Facebook live discussion to start off the week over in the Mummy Meditations Facebook Group, and don’t forget there is still time to download a workbook or grab other resources in the shop.