Archives for : June2019

THIS IS A TEST

GUEST BLOGGER Joyce K. Ellis puts a delightful contemporary spin on the ancient biblical story of Queen Esther . . .

THIS IS A TEST… By Joyce K. Ellis

A Hebrew beauty queen in ancient Persia models how to ace the tests we’re facing in today’s world.

Tests in school used to set my stomach on fire. And when I began college at age 39, my synapses weren’t firing as quickly as they once had. So I feared exams even more. But in time I came to view tests as gauges of whether I had learned what I was supposed to know or not, rather than as sadistic inventions of deranged educators.

In our personal lives we may sometimes view tests and trials as ordeals to be endured by gritting our teeth and calling the prayer chain, rather than as opportunities to measure our spiritual growth and our understanding of who God is.

Reality: Tests are painful! We don’t like pain.

Preparation, Not Cramming

Esther, that Old-Testament paragon of beauty, on the other hand, seems to have sailed through her tests like a Bermuda sloop, designed for upwind sailing. But did this young woman in fifth-century-B.C. Persia score an A+ easily?

Orphaned at an early age, Esther grew up under the tutelage of her uncle* Mordecai—no indication of any Mrs. Mordecai nor any other female influence. Esther and her uncle lived in captivity—first to Babylon, then Persia (present-day Iran).

Apparently, by God’s grace, Mordecai taught Esther well, and she developed a beautiful spirit, enhancing her pretty face and great figure. But Esther’s looming tests would measure what she had learned about how far she could trust God and what she was willing to risk in order to stand up for what’s right.  (Though God’s name is never mentioned, Esther’s faith in Him shines through.)

King of Showoffs

Here’s the setup: In the lush palace gardens in Susa, Persia’s King Xerxes throws lavish “marathon banquets” to show off his incredible opulence and power. Queen Vashti invites all area women to a girls-night-out-with-the-queen banquet of their own inside the elegant palace.                     

Xerxes—more than a little tipsy—decides to show off his trophy-wife queen and demands that she leave her banquet to “walk a catwalk” before the guests at his.   

Fast forward: Vashti refuses. He’s furious. Advisors say, “You can’t let Vashti get away with this! We’ll all lose control of our women.” Vashti loses her crown. Xerxes gets depressed without his queen. His young male attendants’ solution? Let’s get some girls in here. Have a beauty pageant. Get a new queen.

So the call goes out for the most beautiful virgins in the land to participate in a beauty contest. And Esther gets carted off to the king’s winter palace in Susa.

SPAcation?

Most of us would gladly suffer through this test of Esther’s: a one-year all-expense-paid SPAcation, complete with fragrant oil massages and makeup makeover. But imagine her apprehension as time ticked down to her queen audition—sleeping with the wine-loving, anger-prone, demanding, superpowerful, King Xerxes! What kind of faith in God did it take for Esther to cross the threshold of his bedchamber that night?

Most of us would also gladly endure another test of Esther’s: watching Xerxes place the queen’s crown on her head because she pleased him the most. But had she recognized God’s hand in the preferential treatment she received in the harem and in the king’s losing his heart to her?  

And most of us would gladly tolerate this other test of Esther’s: the luxurious palace lifestyle with a plethora of servants to peel our grapes and polish our toenails. But then she learned that Xerxes’ right-hand man, Haman, planned to kill her people, all the Jews, because Uncle Mordecai refused to bow before him (a la Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Would God give her the strength to give up all this lavish treatment to do what was right? Remember, she had seen what happened when Vashti defied the king!

Esther knew that initiating an audience with the king could mean death. She knew that admitting her heritage—in the light of Haman’s planned holocaust—would certainly invite her own assassination. But Mordecai told her, “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 [including her beloved Mordecai] will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14 NIV, bracketed addition mine).

She may have thought of that, too.

Esther needed wisdom and courage beyond herself. So she asked Mordecai to gather together all her people in Susa for a three-day fast before she approached the king.

Final Exam

Since the Persians loved banquets so much, with fear and trembling, she takes that tack: Feed the king—and his sidekick, Haman—and when they’re happily full, plead for the lives of her people.

Fear is a natural emotion, and we either fight or run when we face fear-inducing tests: Relationships fall apart. We get frightening lab results. Our financial situation gets scary. Depression grips us in its vice. Or we find ourselves squirming under tests of character—challenges to stand up for what’s right and confront what’s wrong—in our families, jobs, churches, government, and world. “Speak up…,” God says, “defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:9).

So we can relate to Esther— her passion to do what’s right, her fears, her need for God’s wisdom, and her cry for others to stand with her. After much wrestling within herself and God, she could say, essentially, “I will do what needs to be done—stand up for what’s right—regardless of the consequences.”

Esther courageously risked her life and saved her people. She had learned what she needed to know. And Haman hung from the gallows he’d built for Mordecai—an irony bearing the fingerprints of our Invisible God.

Esther passed her tests. Will we?

First appeared in Kyria.com

Joyce K. Ellis, award-winning author of more than a dozen books, including The 500 Hats of a Modern-Day Woman and the picture book, The Fabulous World That God Made, writes from her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and speaks for women’s groups across the country and internationally. Contact her through her website: www.joycekellis.com.

How Emotionally Healthy Are You?

How Emotionally Healthy Are You?

By Sharon Sheppard

A family friend, Dr. Tom Lowry, who was both a reverend and a psychologist, once commented that my dad was one of the most emotionally healthy people he knew.

I’m not an authority in this field, but since we are emphasizing this aspect of health on thewisejourney (as well as Father’s Day) during the month of June, I’ve been pondering what that label might mean. What makes a person emotionally healthy? How do you know whether you are? Or how do you get that way if you aren’t?

I surveyed a few lists to see what the experts are saying.

Personality Buzz mentioned a few traits that are characteristic of people who are emotionally strong:

  1. Tough people don’t bog down feeling sorry for themselves.
  2. Strong people stay in the present.
  3. Mentally strong people have no trouble being themselves.
  4. Mentally and emotionally strong people have patience/persistence.
  5. Mentally strong people have a strong support network behind them.
  6. Strong-minded people welcome change.
  7. Tough people stop wasting energy on things that are out of their control.
  8. Tough people don’t repeat their mistakes.
  9. Strong-minded people have no time for jealousy or negativity.
  10. Tough people know that the world doesn’t owe them anything.

Except for number 6, I’d say my dad scored high on 9 out of these 10.

Familydoctor.org gave a few suggestions for keeping your emotional health:

  1. Think before you act.
  2. Manage stress.
  3. Strive for balance.
  4. Take care of your physical health.
  5. Find purpose and meaning.
  6. Stay positive.

Again, I think my dad scored well on all of these. How about you?

If you need some help, Psychology Today gave these tips for reenergizing your emotional wellbeing:

  1. Hang out with people who love you.
  2. Take a break.
  3. Try something different.
  4. Write down your worries.
  5. Write down what’s working for you in your life.

OR, as Garrison Keillor used to say, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

And if you would like to keep in touch with us here at thewisejourney, drop us an email at mzigan2442@gmail.com

Happy Fathers Day!

This is a smattering of some humorous quips and quotes I stumbled upon as tribute to ALL fathers and dads this month of June and all year through. – MZ

Dad, you’re the world’s greatest, although my frame of reference is limited.

Dad, thanks for sharing your DNA, now we are both fabulous.

Dad, sorry you had to raise my awful siblings.

To a Father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter. I think my Mother put it best. She said, little girls soften their daddy’s hearts. ~ Paul Walker

Remembering My Father

Remembering My Father – By Mary Zigan

Father’s Day is fast approaching, which means it’s time to find the right card with the right words to let your loved ones know how much they mean to you. To my amazement, when I googled “Father’s Day Greetings” all the helps for the right sentiments were provided. There was a variety of heartfelt and funny Father’s Day messages to do just that, along with easy how-to tips.

            My Father has been deceased for 19 years, but no one needs to prompt me in what I would say about him. The memories are fresh with happy thoughts and gratitude. Here are a few:  

My dad was just an overgrown kid. Everyone in the church youth group loved to come to our house because dad was so much fun.  He would take out the tractor and tie on a toboggan and tow us around the fields or ice-packed roads. We skied or tobogganed behind cars. If something had a motor and made noise, Dad was counted in on the activity. Though money was tight, we kids didn’t know it. There was money for roller skating, and the stock car races, for all the fun snowmobiling trips up North to the shack. Dad would give his last quarter to us and do it in good humor.  He was God fearing and definitely a family man. If I could emulate one quality about him, it would be his integrity. Every girl would long for a Daddy like I had. Often as an adult with two small children of my own after lots of fun in the sun, swimming, savoring good food, and seeing lots of the “salt of the earth” examples of servitude in both my parents, Daddy would always say in his parting words to me; “Come home when you can!” What a heritage. Thanks be to God!My Father didn’t really tell me in words how to live; he lived for me, and let me watch him do it. ~ Mary Z.