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  • Queen Esther

    Posted on December 17th, 2013 rhonda No comments


    For you, O God, tested us;

    you refined us like silver.

    You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.

    You let men ride over our heads;

    We went through fire and water,

    But you brought us to a place of abundance

    Psalm 66: 10-12


    I had no idea that Queen Esther was, in fact, a concubine. 

    I attended the Women’s Prayer Meeting before service started.  The leader talked to us about being in “captivity”, and used Esther as her text.  She revealed Esther’s reality clearly.  She was being prepared to be “queen” for a year.  Subconsciously, I thought of her as a forerunner of Kate Middleton, being prepared to marry Prince William.  Or maybe I thought of her as a historic Cinderella, someone being elevated from servitude to freedom through marriage.  The leader was clear.  Esther was being prepared for the King’s bed.  He’d use her, send her back to the harem, and she wasn’t to return to his presence until he wanted to use her again – or she’d be killed (v. 11).  Esther had a whole year to think about her fate. 

    Leader said that Christian women today live in a dichotomy, not hypocrisy, characterized by our living out our calling to God faithfully and still suffering the unspeakable – rape, sexual & physical abuse/assault, domestic violence, divorce, abandonment, loneliness, etc.  Also, like Esther, the best reason we’re given is that we live in a fallen world, but we’re not allowed to wallow in our own suffering.  We’re to recognize others’ pain and help them because our fate is tied to theirs (4:13-14).

    I’m thinking that not only don’t I understand Esther, but I really don’t understand how routine it is to be misused and violated in a world without God.  The poorest American is wealthy compared to most of the rest of the world.  We’re at war, but the war is not on our shores.  I grew up with the American fairytale that pain is neither frequent nor normal.  Now, I have a dawning understanding that persecution, pain & maltreatment is both quite frequent and normal in this world.  I really do have to learn how to endure suffering rather than being paralyzed and overwhelmed by it.


    None of this sits well with me. 


    “The Lord is in his holy temple;

    let all the earth be silent before him.”

    Habakkuk 2:20


  • Nelson Mandela R.I.P.

    Posted on December 11th, 2013 rhonda No comments

    “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

    Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord,

    the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me,

    but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”

    Timothy 4:7-8

    I was in college during the height of the anti-apartheid movement.

    I remember debates & discussions about how best to support the freedom struggle in South Africa.  Students erected “shanty-towns” on the main campus lawn and slept in them for weeks to show solidarity, raise awareness, and push the university to divest from South Africa.  I got my first taste of political activism on campus.  I got more political education from my classmates than my classes.  I voted.  I went to student-club meetings to hear the debates.  I signed petitions.  I went to protest rallies.  I switched banks because I wanted one that did not invest in South Africa.

    There was excitement in the air when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.  We saw him on the news with his wife, Winnie, and we were proud.  He emerged from prison “unbowed & unbroken”.  His back was straight.  He had principle.  He stood up for what he believed in.  He was a grown man.  They were a dignified couple who kept the faith.  When he came to the United States, we scrambled for a way to see him.  A friend got tickets to the baseball stadium where he was appearing, and took me with her.

    We were all watching the elections that resulted in him becoming president.  I remember seeing a picture of a very long line of voters.  Again, we were proud.  We were proud of Nelson Mandela.  We were proud of the Black South Africans for making the effort of waiting & voting to elect him.  They set an example for Americans.  Elections in the United States are fairly anemic events.  I got a taste of what South Africans must have felt when we elected Barack Obama President of the United States.

    When I think of Nelson Mandela, I just feel pride & excitement.   He ran his race, and he ran it well.  Now that he’s gone, I feel sorrow.  Nonetheless, as I see the news broadcasts from South Africa, it’s appropriate & sweet to see people singing and dancing in Madiba’s honor.


    “Brothers and sisters,

    we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death,

    so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind,

    who have no hope.

    For we believe that Jesus died and rose again,

    and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus

    those who have fallen asleep in him.”

    I Thessalonians 4:13-14

  • Mistress Sarai

    Posted on December 4th, 2013 rhonda No comments

    “Go, sleep with my maidservant;

    Perhaps I can build a family through her.”

    Genesis 16:2

    I went to see 12 Years A Slave, which is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free African American living in New York who was kidnapped and forced into slavery.

    I won’t spoil the plot.  One subplot involved the master’s wife and a slave woman (Pats).  The Master was fixated on Pats, and his wife was jealous, angry, alone, childless, lonely, dependent – and impotent to change anything.  She tried an ultimatum, “You either sell that slave girl or I’ll leave you!”  It didn’t work.  The film left me thinking about Mistress.  In all the films I’ve seen about slavery, Mistress is a secondary character.  She deserves a primary place because her cruelty, hatred and insensitivity are equal to her husband’s.  She was like Sarah.

    It’s important to me to reflect on the real Sarah.  Sarah was a barren, jealous, lonely, miserable woman; and Hagar was her slave and scapegoat.  Maybe Sarah was so evil because she thought she was being left out.  In Genesis 15, God promises children to Abram, with no mention of Sarah.  She figured her husband would have children with another woman while she would still be left barren.  It’s only after Sarai’s abuse of Hagar that God changes her name to Sarah, and tells her that she’ll be the mother of nations (Gen. 17).

    I got angry and started arguing with my Bible study members because the New Testament (Galations 4:21-31; I Peter 3:5-6) treats Sarah like a hero.  She wasn’t.  Despite being chosen by God, Sarah acted more like Potiphar’s wife, an Egyptian non-believer, in her abuse of slaves.  The New Testament also makes Hagar guilty.  Hagar was a victim.  Joseph Prince explained that Christ forgets our sins.  Therefore, the New Testament does not record how horrible Sarah was.  He remade Sarai into Sarah and comforted Hagar by promising to make Ishmael into a great nation as well (Gen. 16:9-12, 17:20, 21:18).   As Christians, we should be grateful that God will forget the horrible things we’ve done and console the victims of our actions.

    12 Years a Slave was about Solomon, so I don’t know what happened to Mistress or Pats.  Mistress was a professing Christian.  I hope God gave Mistress a new character and gave Pats some comfort in this world.   I hope Pats is in heaven.

    I won’t spoil the plot for you.  Experience it for yourself.

     And though she spoke to Joseph day after day,

    He refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

    One day he went into the house to attend to his duties

    And none of the household servants was inside.

    She caught him by his cloak and said,

    “Come to bed with me!”

    Genesis 39:10-12