Cup O’ Courage Brimming with Blessing

(Shared from April 2010 issue of Exemplify Magazine)

Imagine with me this scenario: you are preparing meals for an enemy, who has destined you and your extended family for the grave.  He is completely unaware that you are actually in the camp which he has already destined for death. In fact, his pride and joy at being invited not only once, but twice, to dine with you and your husband is immeasurable. He is both giddy and unassuming. So what do you prepare? Are you more or less likely to spend extra time caring about preparations for an enemy? How are you feeling about this whole situation?

This scenario is exactly what Queen Esther faced (you can read Esther’s story in its entirety here). She chose to prepare and fix two meals for her husband, who makes her feel less than confident, and for Haman, who has placed all Jews, including Esther, in mortal danger–and with his own money.

Queen Esther begins by asking her uncle Mordecai and all her people, the Jews, to fast from food and drink for three straight days–morning, noon and night.  On the third day, Esther initiates the preparations for the banquet she would host.

Her invitation to the king could easily have ended in death, depending on how he felt toward her at the time.  If he felt edgy that particular day, he easily could have sentenced his wife to die. But rather, he extended favor by putting forth his gold scepter.

The invitation is accepted by the king and Haman, so Esther begins to prepare the meal for her husband and her enemy. They sit to dine and the king asks Esther what she would like, even up to half his kingdom.  And Esther’s reply is that she want to do this all again tomorrow. She then prepares a second meal for her enemy.

Let’s now press the pause button…how did Esther feel about preparing the meal and sitting down with her enemy–twice? Did she make an extra effort to prepare or not?  Perhaps she thought of King David’s words in Psalm 23 (The Message), “I’m not afraid when You walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.  You serve me a six-course dinner, right in front of my enemies. You relieve my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.”

In courage, Esther issued the invitation. By courage, she prepared it. And clothed with courage from head to toe, Esther sits to sup with her enemy.

The ones she loved most had fasted for three days, as she had fasted herself, and the LORD infused wisdom and strength, wrapped in courage into this young woman named Esther. He showed her how and when to carry out each course of each meal.

I asked some friends to share about when they prepared a meal for an enemy and whether they prepared more carefully or less or the same. I also asked how they felt.

Here are their responses:

“Yes, I have a few times. I don’t think I prepared or decorated any differently but I do remember wondering if they might feel differently about me afterward. They didn’t, but it made me feel good to be serving them for His Name’s sake.”

“I worked extra hard, hoping to make some difference in their opinion of me.  I was uncomfortable at first, but as I began to pray, I felt God’s unexplainable peace. It did not change their opinion.”

“Knowing he was coming, and wanting to avoid any sort of negative comment and/or put down, caused huge anxiety and bitterness as I cleaned my home and ‘went all out’ preparing food I knew he favored.  It was never good enough, however, to escape scorn and ridicule…not enough salt, too much ‘this,’ not as good as my mother-in-law’s, ‘guess Judy didn’t teach you anything about cooking’ and the inevitable selfish comments and behavior. All of this from a man who professes to love the Lord and is a ‘religious church attender.’ During the time of preparation, I would be short-tempered, impatient, wanting everyone to be on top of things. By the time I sat down after hours of preparation I was usually unable to eat. I would brace myself for the comments and rude remarks directed at myself, my husband, my children, my mother-in-law. My focus would be defending my children and intervening if they became the target of his abuse.”

Can you imagine?  Have you ever felt this way before? It takes a God-infused wisdom and courage to face some people, doesn’t it?  Of course each of these scenarios did not leave their lives or their loved ones’ lives hanging in the balance.  Queen Esther’s real-life story is an extreme.

However, I believe, in reality, Esther planned more carefully, paying attention to every detail–perhaps she even listened to the advice of the head of the kitchen, as she listened to advice when she won her husband’s heart. And I believe she was not feeling angry at all.  Rather, I think the Spirit of God hovered over her as a guard. I believe she felt courageous and fully at ease. She was secure, confident and even quietly courageous–a God-infused response.

I want that in the face of my daily battles. I want to be quietly confident, courageous and secure in the face of my enemies.  I want to live God-infused every day, like it matters. I want to make quite a wave–affecting many– in light of the small drop of courage I release into the ocean of each day’s possibility. Don’t you?

Like Esther, we need to take our invitation to our enemy seriously, carefully and confidently–even courageously. It makes all the difference in a life, a day, a people and an eternity.

With that being said, here are two courses Esther may have chosen to prepare–rich foods, comfort foods, expensive foods, which call for careful, even tedious, steps in preparation. I think you will enjoy them!

Shrimp Scampi
3 T. butter
2 T. minced garlic
1 1/2 pounds peeled, de-veined shrimp
1/4 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. tomato sauce
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. basil
1/2 t. oregano
1/8 t. thyme
1 1/8 t. Italian hot pepper flakes
2 egg yolks
salt to taste
white pepper to taste
2 T. finely minced parsley (optional)
12 oz. angel hair pasta (plus 2 more T. butter for pasta)

Melt butter in skillet. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add shrimp and cook for one minute over medium-high heat, tossing with a wide spatula, until shrimp are bright pink all over. Do not overcook shrimp (makes them chewy). Add white wine and tomato sauce (still med-high heat) for one minute.

Turn heat down to medium-low. Add 1 cup of cream, basil, oregano, thyme and hot pepper flakes. Beat egg yolks with remaining cream and add to sauce., stirring until sauce is thickened. Do not boil. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Cook pasta according to package directions. Then drain and add 2 T. butter and stir.

Pour sauce over pasta and enjoy! Serves 4-6.

Chocolate Mousse
4 1/2 (1 ounce) squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/3 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
4 egg yolks
2 t. brandy flavoring (or 2 1/2 T. brandy)
3 c. heavy whipping cream
1 egg white

Melt chocolate over hot water in the top of a double boiler. Place water and sugar in small saucepan, cooking over medium heat until sugar is dissolved (stirring frequently). Pour melted chocolate into blender or food processor. Blend, slowly adding in sugar/water mixture. Continue, while adding egg yolks, one at a time. Add brandy flavoring. Process until smooth.

Set aside and let cool. In a separate large bowl, blend egg white and whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in cooled chocolate mixture with a spatula. Spoon into 8 individual serving dishes. Garnish with chocolate shavings. Chill 2 hours. Serves 8.

Be courageous!


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You are not alone…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.      2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“I’m not the first mother to lose a child and I won’t be the last.”

These words said to me, by one of my best friends just a few days after her 18month old son was buried.

I had flown in to the States from Peru, where we were missionaries at the time, for a child’s funeral.  I arrived to a church body grieving and broken, asking deep questions of how a good God could allow such a senseless accident that would take his life, a life loved by a dear family walking closely with Him and serving faithfully in His work.  I must have had 50 conversations that week, all asking the same things.  And these were my own questions as well.  God…why???

But my friend, the child’s mother, while not the picture of stoicism at all, honestly spoke truth that has stayed with me even these several years later.  She was not the first mother to lose a child and she would not be the last, and while that in no way trivializes the trauma, it does speak to our tendency to think we are the only ones suffering a particular difficulty, tragedy, at a particular moment.  And the truth is, there is nothing new under the sun.  Everything that we have gone through or will go through, someone else in space and time has gone through as well and someone else will go through it in the future.  And that comforts me.

None of us live under the illusion that life this side of Heaven is, well..heavenly.  It is hard and frustrating and yes, even tragic at times.  But God, who never said we would not face trials, but instead tells us how to encounter them (James 1), also comforts us in our times of difficulty and tragedy.  He comforts us with His Spirit, and he comforts us, with…us- those of us who have walked that difficult and tragic path have the privilege of serving as comforters to those who are called to follow behind us.  And while we wish no one would have to endure anything so hard, we know that it will happen.  And so we wait, and keep ourselves available, seeking help for our own grief and struggle from those who have gone before us.

A year later, almost to the day, my mother called me in Peru.  My brother had died in his sleep. It was hard to hear, hard to walk, but my friend had already been walking the path of grief, so I knew that while it was a difficult road, it was doable with the grace and comfort given by God through his Spirit and His people.

A few months after that, when we had moved back to the states, my friend and I were walking and she was telling me how she has had several women who have lost children seek her out to talk with.  She told me, “This is not a ministry I would have asked for, but it is a ministry that I now have.”

Yes, my friend, and it is a ministry with which I myself have been graciously served.  And I love you for it.  Thank you.

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El Shaddai

I’m not sure why, but I tend to be one that remembers almost everything I ever received as a gift. I remember wedding presents, gifts from when I was a kid and gifts that people sent to me along the way just because. It’s important to this brain o’ mine. So I hold and treasure and remember each gift.

This morning, as I was singing in church, one verse in the refrain really captured my heart. It said, “He holds my world.” As I sang the words, I realized that one of the very most important things to me in the whole world is knowing not only that God has the whole world in His hands, but He has MY world in His hands–He is my El Shaddai, my All-sufficient One, able to be all that I need and cover each worry and care with Himself.

He knows…my heart concerns, my earthquakes, my emotions, and my world. Everything that I see and know and touch and experience–He is sufficient over. Everything that I care about, every one that I treasure–He is sufficient over. The past, present and future of who I am and what I face…they are in His Hands–and He is sufficient over it all.

God doesn’t just hold my world, He holds me. He sees me and cares about me. He is ever-present, ever-helping, ever my very own closest friend–He is sufficient over me.

I don’t know about you, maybe it doesn’t shake your world as it does mine, but the God of the Universe is my friend. On the days when I’m surrounded by friends and on the days when I feel friendless, He is there. He has given me and you the gift of Presence.

Lord, I thank You. You are my All-sufficient One, my El Shaddai. You are holding our worlds, our shattered, broken, crazy, angry, helpless, hurtful, scary, unstable, individual worlds. Father, that means the world to me, to us! For we are hanging onto Your promises and believing that above all You are FOR us, WITH us and You are ENOUGH. Thank you, El Shaddai, You are sufficient through and in and over and around.

Help us to be present with those we love, to hold their worlds with a loving heart. We are choosing to give the gift of presence this year to our families and friends–each one you bring on our pathway. Someday, they’ll remember and maybe even say, “She looked a lot like Jesus.”

Visit the other participants of 31 Days of Ministry Online at A Woman Inspired or:

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Heart Prompt #9

“Christian” should be an action verb!  Get up and move in the spirit of the Lord.  Do something…love someone….read something….live someone that puts life in your step {Jesus}.  Check out Mercy Me’s CD, The Generous Mr. Lovewell, and be determined to do something….buy the next person’s order in line at the drive thru…even in the check-out counter at the grocery store, put $20 on the next person’s bill.

Philippians 2:4 hcsb…Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others.

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