Being Sifted

I am a seeker, yes. I am a believer, for sure. I am also a person filled with many questions for God—big, overwhelming questions* that challenge and push and leave me unsettled.

I believe there are answers, I should make that clear. (On a most basic level, that knowing is what faith is all about, wouldn’t you agree?) Still the point I want to make is that there is much I simply can’t fit into the context of this earthly life, into my belief in a loving God.

He answered one such question for me last week in our Beth Moore bible study: Believing God. I am a huge Beth Moore fan, let me be clear about that. Her lessons on Esther and Daniel and the Fruit of the Spirit rocked me (in the very best ways) to my core. And now we are working our way through Believing God, a study based on the profound truth that believing in God is not the same thing as believing Him.

There is a five point pledge that forms the center of this study and each time I consider it, I am particularly drawn to #3.

I am who God says I am.

In the words of Beth Moore, Whoa.

I am who God says I am.

The lesson last week was on this very point. It crescendoed to a story that illustrated the reality that we all face difficult seasons in life in which we are “sifted.” (Can’t you just feel it? Haven’t you faced a time in which you made choices that left you simply shredded?)

It happens, Beth suggests, when God gives the devil access to you*, His beloved. [See overwhelming questions, above]. There is some sifting that needs to take place, some stuff you need to let go of, deal with, move beyond. Some lessons you still need to learn. Because sometimes what God is saying to you, His chosen one, is this:

We got places to go, you and I. And that stuff ain’t going with us.

Whoa again.

We’re not taking that stuff with us.

Thanks and praise for the ability to know this. Thanks and praise for the fortitude to deal with it.

~~~~~~~

You can find the Beth Moore studies Believing God: Experiencing a Fresh Explosion of FaithEsther: It’s Tough Being A WomanDaniel: Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophecy and Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit at Lifeway.

 

The Sunday Post That Just Can’t Wait

You may know I’ve been participating in a community photo challenge via fatmumslim on Instagram. There is a prompt each day, and you take a photograph to share via Instagram and Twitter.

Today is Sunday, February 5. That makes it Day 5: 10am. And that means at the appointed hour, my iPhone and I find ourselves in a Women’s Bible Study class at Providence Presbyterian.

I love this class. And so I sit there, paying attention to the Beth Moore study—but also (let’s be honest) keeping one eye on the clock. Waiting for 10am. Waiting to Shoot and Share.

Do you know what today’s study was about? Chapter 5 of the book of Esther: Time. And Waiting.

Coincidence?

We considered this question in class: Why on earth did Queen Esther stall when King Xerxes asked for her request and (in the same breath) granted it? Beth reminds us of the importance of knowing:

When it’s time.

When it’s time to wait.

When it’s time to wait for someone else’s time.

When the meantime is God-time.

My iPhone clock clicked to 10:00, and I took a shot of the open Bible in my lap.

#day5 #10am #febphotoaday

Time. And timing. And God-time. Things I am pondering in my heart, thanks to a strange intersection of Esther 5, Beth Moore’s Session 5, and #febphotoaday #day5.

 

You can find the Beth Moore study Esther: It’s Tough Being A Woman at Lifeway.

3) On becoming a Warrior Princess.

Our Sunday School study of the book of Esther has proceeded slowly, a pace for which I am grateful. It has given me time to think through each nuance of the Persian Queen’s remarkable story, diving into the verses and living them in way I simply could not have done had I pushed through in a more structured way.

It’s one reason Beth Moore bible studies are so powerful to me. An awesome teacher, Beth takes simple actions within the story, sometimes only a phrase or a word, and lifts them from the storyline—illuminating them in a way that gives incredible shape and clarity to the lesson. It’s like the Bible in 3-D. Study Esther with Beth and you will suddenly find yourself right there fasting and weeping and lamenting among the masses in the midst of the city while Mordecai makes his case at the King’s gate. You’re no longer observing the action from a distance of 2400 years. You’re there.

This past Sunday we focused on Esther 4. As happens so often in that class, two huge God Winks happened that caused me to stop in my tracks. (Acually, one caused me to take off running in search of the preacher, to ask him a Very Important and Urgent Question.) But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, there was this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way into church, I had been once more marveling at the gorgeous winter we’ve had in South Carolina when I said to my husband, “I don’t think I’ve ever noticed how pretty the sky is in January.” As we both looked up, I was so taken by the visual of our steeple against that soft blue I stopped to take a quick iPhone photo. It posted immediately to Instagram, where I made this simple comment:

providence

I made my way to our class, and the moment I walked in, my friend (and our class teacher) Teresa Coles said: So is that Queen Esther?

I looked down to realize I was wearing this necklace my sweet 80-year-old Daddy had given me for Christmas.

It was the perfect kind of present—something I’d never have chosen for myself, and yet something I absolutely adored the moment I saw it. It had just never really occurred to me to wonder who this majestic creature might actually be.

I ran out the door to find our minister, Dr. Mike Bragan, to ask about the Persian empire, Queen Esther, and how strong Egyptian influences might have been during her reign. Turns out Esther came along 2000 years after the dominance of the Egyptian empire—but that Persia did occupy the very same land.

Satisfied, I returned to class, where we carried on with our Esther discussion. I felt something rise in me as we read this commentary from Beth:

As painful as the process may be, that which shatters our superficiality also shatters the fetters of our fragility and frees us to walk with dignity and might to our destinies. We are not the fragile flowers we’ve considered ourselves to be. We, like Esther, are the warrior princesses of God.

That’s why she found me, I thought, coming through the unlikely route of my Dad at Christmas. She is a warrior princess, here to remind me of my own power, of my own obligation.

Beth writes:

“Beloved, absorb this with your whole heart: you are royalty. Not figurative royalty. Not just spiritual royalty. You are in the most literal sense possible the daughter of the universe’s King. The crimson bloodline of Christ flows through your veins.

Not only are you royalty but you also have been placed in your sphere of influence, regardless of the size you perceive it to be, ‘for such a time as this.’

…You see, even your current location is part of the set-up for your kingdom destiny.”

So where I am in my life, and where you are in yours—right now, right this very moment—is God’s providence, God’s plan, drawn specifically for us.

(I find this thrilling. And terrifying. I’m glad Beth went on to write:)

A war is being waged over your head in the unseen realm, and a great cloud of witnesses is cheering you on.

I plan to carry this thought with me as I make my way through this new year. I am in this place, with a designated sphere of influence, because God needs me here. Now. 

And so it is, my brave friend, with you.

________________________________________________________________
Note: A very kind authority on Ancient Egypt, Page Strong, provided this commentary about my necklace and the headdress:

The bust is based on the famous bust of Nefertiti, now housed in the Berlin Museum. The headdress itself, however, does not seem to have a story. As far as I know, Nefertiti is the only queen to wear that crown. Reportedly it was a tight-fitting crown. The hieroglyphs and symbols on the crown on your pendant would not have been there in real life. I cannot recognize any of the symbols.

No physical crown has been found, as far as I know, at least.

Thank you, Page, for providing such a quick response to a random question from a stranger! She’s pretty cool, my warrior princess.