Cup O’ Courage Brimming with Blessing

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(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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A Fearless Book Review

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Fear.

The word resonated with so many of us, especially us girls.

Fear we will always be alone. Fear we will never have children.  Fear we may lose those children once we do have them.  Fear for our families. Fear for our nation. Fear of the world in which we live. In Max Lucado’s book Fearless, published by Thomas Nelson, these issues are addressed with sound scripture and bolstering faith.

I know for myself, while some of my greatest fears have been directly related to the well being of my immediate family that is certainly not the extent of them. I become fearful when God challenges me to step outside my box. The first hint of severe weather and I can kick into fight or flight mode. Fear that I have hurt someone. Fear of not being liked. So many avenues for fear to find its way into our lives.

In Fearless, Max Lucado confronts these avenues head on and provides biblically based barriers to fear. The first chapter is dedicated to looking at why we fear. What is the root cause? Are we the only ones who have been fearful? What is the impact of fear in our lives? The remainder of the book tackles specific fears such as,

  • The fear of not mattering
  • The fear of running out
  • The fear of worst case scenarios
  • The fear of what’s next

Each chapter has a specific verse relevant to that fear.

Just to give a few thoughts that spoke to me:

Fear corrodes our confidence in God’s goodness….And it turns us into control freaks. (Chapter 1)

Acknowledge threats but refused to be defined by them. (Conclusion)

Jesus doesn’t condemn legitimate concern for responsibilities but rather the continuous mind-set that dismisses God’s presence. (Chapter 4)

We are constantly bombarded with things to be afraid of. If they are not from the news then they may come from our well meaning pears. From our kid’s report cards to our very own paychecks. We, as women, tend to carry the weight of all this with us. Fear plays on our emotions and can paralyze us. I highly recommend this book for any woman. Single of married. A mama or childless. Young or old. Mr. Lucado’s book will not only help you understand the ploy of the enemy that is tied up in fear, but the great victory that is yours through Jesus Christ as you become fearless!

We would love to read your thoughts if you have read this book. Share with us, build our faith, and let’s demolish the enemy with the word of our testimony!

2 Timothy 1: 7 (NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.


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Taken to Heart

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No one has ever accused me of being adventurous. I am a “stick with the plan” kind of gal. I don’t really like to try new things – well, maybe desserts, but not much else. I am not a fan of being challenged beyond my perceived limits. I like routine. I like knowing beforehand. I like security. Normally, that is not an issue, except when things change. Guess what? Change happens a lot. Daily it seems. The weakness in my pseudo armor of stability is that when change occurs, I worry. I fret. I struggle to not give in to fear.

One of my biggest, shall we say, opportunities to grow in this area has been in the raising of our two boys, especially the latter. When our youngest son, who I often refer to as Man Child 2 (MC 2), was born, I began to sing a song to him based on Joshua 1:5-7. The song goes like this,

Be strong and courageous/be strong and courageous/for the Lord your God is with you/He’ll never leave you or forsake you/be strong and courageous

I would put his or another family member’s name at the end of each verse and sing it over and over. It is a sweet little song that both boys request even today. The scary part is MC 2 seems to have taken those words to heart. There is not much that scares my youngest son. He is brave beyond his 5 years. I had no idea that when I laid the 10ft ladder on its side, after catching him perched upon the top, that he could pick it right back up and do it again. Nor did I have any clue that when the power went out and he said’ “Mom I am going to check on it,” he would actually go outside and lift up the main breaker box cover to see how things were. Wandering off in the woods by himself holds no danger in his eyes. He is fascinated by tornadoes. Strangers don’t bother him. One of his more recent fishing trips with his dad involved him kicking off his flip flops and sloshing around the pond with not a care or concern in the world. Needless to say he is never left unattended for long and we have multiple “teaching” moments each day.

While I know I can’t live my life through my kids, I have also learned that I can’t not live my life through them either. I can’t make them be worriers and fretters. I don’t want to make them be that. God has placed into MC 2 boldness unique to him. It is a trait that God has plans for. Although it is a trying trait at times, it is one I must not attempt to train out of him. I need to embrace who God has created him to be. I often joke that he will be a missionary to some remote country where they wear few clothes and eat whatever. Truthfully, the prospect of that scares me. I don’t know that I want to be the mom of a missionary who is fearless. Scarier to me though is the thought that I would squelch the boldness God has given him with my own insecurities. That I would somehow stop him from pursuing all God desires for him to be by vocalizing all my fears and worries.

I have to let MC 2 be who he was created to be. These few years together are a training period. I need to teach him wisdom and discernment. At the same time I need encourage the characteristics God has placed within him. My husband and I need to be tending those traits so they will grow and mature.

Still, there are those days when MC 2 is operating in the full force of his boldness that I start to rethink my choice of songs.
One simple little lullaby.

Honestly, though, if by that simple little lullaby the truth of God’s word is planted within my sons, it will have been worth it. I have a feeling in the not too distant future this mama will be singing that very same lullaby to herself. In those words she will find comfort and peace, regardless of the antics of her men children. If you are a mom, either physically or spiritually, you will find yourself in the same shoes one day. The degree of our children’s antics may vary, but we will feel fear and worry over them just the same. The good news is we can turn our children over to an all-knowing God who loves them, will never leave them, and will never forsake them. That, my sisters, security in the One who always has the plan, is a truth that can be taken to heart for generations to come.

In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take.
Joshua 1:5-8 The Message

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