star of persia

To Be a Star

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We are Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. Brian is the die-hard, the rest of us support him and the team. Go Bucs! Siege the Day! and so on.

On Monday night the Bucs played against the Carolina Panthers. The game was tied with seconds to go. It was going to be left up to the “foot” of our kicker, Roberto Aguayo. Our quarterback, Jameis Winston approached Aguayo and said,

“…big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments.” (source)

When I heard that, I couldn’t help but think of Esther, the beautiful young heroine in the Bible and book I was finishing up, Star of Persia by Marion Dawson Gunderson.

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The book of Esther is an amazing story of courage. Although His name is never mentioned in the book of Esther, God’s fingerprints is all over her life and story. In an amazing turn of events, God uses Esther to save the Hebrew nation.

The Star of Persia takes the story of Esther and puts it into a story for young girls ages 7-15. Esther starts out life as a young girl living a simple life until a twist in circumstances changes her life forever. After becoming the queen of all Persia (a big-time player), she goes to the King without being summoned, a decision which could have led to her death (a big-time play). Because of her bravery, the Jewish nation was saved and their enemy executed (a big-time moment).

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In a world where a distorted and unrealistic view of true beauty is elevated, Star of Persia does a beautiful job of emphasizing the qualities and characteristics of a truly beautiful woman. Her kindness, wisdom, humility, and discreetness are portrayed in a way that reminds girls that their value is not in their appearance but in the character qualities that they carry with them wherever they go.

As you and/or your daughter read this book, keep in mind that creative license has been taken, especially in the last chapter concerning many of the major events mentioned in the Bible. I think it is important to make sure your daughter knows the actual account before she reads this version. Giving her an explanation of creative license will help her understand going into this book that it will not be an exact retelling of the Bible’s account of the life of Esther.

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Our daughters need to read about women they can admire and emulate. They need to read about women of character whose footsteps they can follow in. They need to see how real women handled life threatening situations and came out on the other side. Star of Persia is a great place to start.

Tactics to Thwart the Cheerleader in Us All

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Insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, judgement…

Oh….It’s an ugly band of bullies, each one with its own strategy to keep us locked away in our own little boxes… away from genunine friendship and true confidence.

We were created by God for relationship. And aside from the most important relationships we have as women- with God, our husband, our children, and our families…

We also desperately need good friends in our lives who will be there to pray for us, to give us good advice, a kind word, a listening ear, someone to identify with, and a cheerleader to encourage us along life’s journey.

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But have you ever stopped and wondered why it is that women seem to have so much conflict with each other? (Okay, well… Maybe you’re not one of these women… But just think about women in general and how they can respond to each other at times.)

Unfortunately, we all have the ability at one time or another to allow ourselves to be badgered by insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, and judgement when it comes to others.

But if you really stop and think about it…Perhaps, it’s for the very reasons listed above- showing how beautifully good relationships can affect our lives- that this happens…

Yes, insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, judgement are tactics from the devil to thwart the good that God wants to give us through relationships with others.

Yes, friends, healthy relationships with others- if left without threat- could actually help us become stronger and more encouraged in our roles as wives, mothers, and followers of Jesus.

And while those feelings may not always be visible above the surface in our words or actions, they can be seen in more subtle ways in our lives via our thoughts and attitudes.

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For example, when we see someone else who looks the way we wished we looked, achieves something we wished we could, or acquires something we wished we had- although we may not say anything outright against her- have you ever found yourself either feeling badly about yourself or maybe envious of her?

I know I have. (Gasp!!!)

I know…Shocking, isn’t it? Lol. But, rest easy… God’s working on me, and He’s helping  me to learn more and more how to line up my heart and feelings with His…one reason why I’m writing this post.

You see, something I’m learning is that, instead of allowing those ugly feelings to go unchecked, God wants my heart to be filled with His love towards others.

He wants me to reflect who He is to those around me. That’s what a “Christ-ian” is afterall, isn’t it? A follower of Christ!

So it just makes sense that our heart and our thoughts towards each other should ilne up with His, right?

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I think the following Bible verse sums this up pretty well…

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”                       Philippians 2:5 NIV

Would Jesus be jealous of someone else’s success? Resentful? Absolutely NOT! And that’s how we are supposed to be as well, if we truly belong to Him and wear His name.

No, it’s just not “okay” to allow those ugly feelings to remain and fester in our hearts. Rather, they must be brought back to God in repentance, and we need to ask His help to move forward with the right kinds of attitudes that He wants us to have.

God created each of us and loves us all so much, and what He wants is for us to be a blessing, support, and cheerleader for others… to be a tangible demonstration of His love in the world.

And when we choose to follow His heart and have His mindset… not only are we doing others good, but we’re doing ourselves a whole lot of good as well….

…Because instead of beating ourselves up for not being where others have arrived, allowing seeds of resentment to grow, or allowing a sour attitude to ruin us on the inside, we’re instead choosing to focus on someone else’s good and trusting God to make all things beautiful in our very own lives as well in His perfect timing. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Just think about it. What if we lived in a world where we didn’t envy each other?

A world where we didn’t feel as if we were “less than” everytime we saw someone who had a little more sparkle than us?

Or, on the other hand, what if we didn’t look down on others who maybe didn’t have as much as we do?

In that kind of world, we would all be there for each other. We would all be cheerleaders on the bleachers of life spurring each other on rather than jeering because we found some flaw or were resentful of the other’s success.

The Bible sums this idea up well when it tells us:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 ESV

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That’s the kind of world God wants us to live in…And those are the kind of women He wants us to be…

Not selfish or self-seeking, but expressions of God’s love, grace, and encouragement toward each other.

Which is why we should continue to pray to our Father in Heaven, “May YOUR kingdom come. May YOUR will be done…On Earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

Life should never be about any of us building a kingdom for ourselves, where we become the focus.

Our lives and any successes we have should be pointing everyone to the One Who loves us all more than anyone ever could, Who gave us more than anyone ever could, and Who can do above and beyond what we could ever ask or think in EVERY life that is yielded to Him. (Ephesians 3:20)

So, Sisters! Let’s pick up our pompoms and totally disarm the devil of those tactics in our lives with God’s power, His love, and His Word.

We’re not in a competition against each other.

We were meant to be each other’s cheerleaders in life…women of impact and influence for the glory of God and the good of each other.

So, let’s cheer loud and strong, not allowing one negative feeling from the band of bullies to have any place in our lives.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 ESV

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”                         1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

 

A Letter to My Little One

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Dear Little Treasure of Mine,

You are so very young and have so much to learn. And we are so excited to have been given the privilege of guiding you along in your journey.

As your parents we’ll teach you so many things to help you get a good start in life.

You’ll learn your first words in our home… You’ll learn the right ways to speak and behave. You’ll learn how to use proper manners. And, hey, we’ll even teach you how to use the potty! (A lesson we’re currently working on now that you’re two…and one that I hope you will learn very soon.)

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Most importantly though, as Christian parents, we are excited to teach you the most important thing you’ll ever need to know… And that is teaching you about God…

Who He is.

What He has done.

What He says.

And most importantly how you can know Him as your Heavenly Father…

I want you to know I am praying for you as you grow…

As I rock you before bedtime, I pray for you… My heart’s truest desire is for you to see and know God as He really is…I want you to know that He really  does exist and that He is good… Always.

His finger prints are on everything.. so many of which we take for granted…

The vegetables, fruits, and herbs that grow and hold the perfect nutrients our bodies need…

The way our bodies repair themselves after an injury.

The way a baby grows inside its mother’s womb and is equipped with a food supply from its mom immediately after it is born.

The amount of hours we have at night, giving us rest to prepare for a new day.

The way our earth rotates and the seasons change giving us a variety of fruits and vegetables in their perfect time.

The air we breathe and the exact distance of our planet from the sun, giving us an ideal  environment in which to live.

I could go on and on forever describing all of the amazing things God has done and yet which so few give Him credit for….

Yes, Dear One, God did all of these things.

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Unfortunately, though, many people only give God credit….when things go wrong.

“Why did God let this or that happen….?” They ask.

But, you know what…. Really… None of it is ever His fault.

He designed everything to work in its perfect order.

He called everything He made at creation “good”. (Genesis 1)

He did not invent evil. Evil is the choice to go against God’s way of doing things, resisting His order and authority.

It was sin entering the world through man’s choice that caused things to go awry.

Never forget that.

God did not make us robots, but instead gave us a free will. And the first man’s choice to listen to the devil and go against God’s direction gave entrance to all of the things that go wrong in the perfect world God originally designed for us to live in. And it continues that way to this day.

No, we may never understand everything that we go through in life. We may never understand all of the reasons why tragedies take place and pain and suffering come into our lives.

But one thing I want you to remember in all of this is….God is always good.

He went to great lengths to restore us to a relationship with Him after “we” were the ones to cause the separation. Man’s choice to sin is what separated us from Him…and it is also what tainted this beautiful world.

And yet, God still extends His love, His hope, and His peace to us…

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He knew we could never be good enough to earn back what we lost by our sin. We could never make ourselves right or earn a place as His children on our own.

And so, He sent Jesus…His Only Son…to die in our place. To take our punishment.

He got what we deserved… The punishment, the shame, and separation from God.

Jesus felt all of that on the cross.

In fact He cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

And you know what….He went through all that because of His great love for you and me… So that we wouldn’t have to cry out that same question ourselves…And so that we could know we have a Father in Heaven who hears us and will never forsake us.

In dying for us and rising again, Jesus gave us what we could never earn ourselves….the privilege of being able to call God our Heavenly Father.

Because of what He did for us, and by faith in Him, His death and His resurrection, we can now call the God of the Universe Our Father too! What an amazing privilege that is….

I don’t want you to simply go through this life just knowing about God…but actually knowing Him personally as your Heavenly Father for yourself.

And you will.

I have dedicated you to God. I know He has your heart and life in His hands, and I have been praying that He will reveal the reality of His existence in your life just like He did for Samuel in the Bible. (1 Samuel 3) He will draw you to Himself.

Yes, you will know Him…because it will be God who opens your spiritual eyes to really know that He exists, that He is real, that He is ever present, and that He is your everything in this life… just like He has done in Mommy and Daddy’s lives.

If there’s anything I want you to know, Dear One, it’s that you have a Heavenly Father who is waiting with open arms.

He loves you so much…. Way more than Mommy or Daddy ever could…

And He wants you to know that you can come to Him freely anytime you want because Jesus made it all possible.

This is something worth celebrating…and definitely good news worth sharing with the  whole world!

And I’m so glad I have the privilege of sharing this news with you.

Am I Beautiful?

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Ok, tell me I’m wrong… But do you ever feel as a woman like there’s just something more you need to be or have different in your life before you can officially say you “feel” beautiful?

Oh…. Maybe it’s your hair, your skin’s condition, your weight, your teeth, your nose…

…Achievements you want to attain…

…Your personality that you’d love to change…

Perhaps you want to be more outgoing or, on the other hand, more refined…

Regardless of what it is, though…

There’s just that one other thing you need in your life that will finally give you permission to check off that last little box on your mental “I-finally-feel-beautiful” checklist.

Oh, trust me, I have my little boxes as well.

And while I am working on those areas, and honestly believe we all should work on being the best version of ourselves we can be…

Somehow I’m absolutely convinced that checking that last little box off isn’t going to be what ultimately convinces me.

You want to know how I know…?

…Because I’ve checked off that box once before… and for some odd reason… I still didn’t feel as though it was good enough to be checked.

Furthermore…even though I checked off that last little box, another box appeared for something else making me still feel inferior.

Yes, we all should have goals in life.

We all should do the things possible to make ourselves feel outwardly beautiful. There are definitely things we can all do to improve ourselves, and we should do our best to work on them. Goals are definitely important to our overall feelings of well-being.

But one thing that saddens me is that many women simply cannot give themselves permission to feel beautiful until they’ve reached the end of their goal….

And yet at the same time, I think somewhere deep inside we all long to feel beautiful and have someone to tell us we are… before we can be “fully” convinced for ourselves.

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In some sense I think that’s one reason why “selfies” have become such a popular phenomenon these days. (…And, no, I don’t claim to be an expert in “selfie” psychology.)

But somehow as I see multiple selfies within a short period of time, something inside of me says, “Women want to know they’re beautiful. They want confirmation that what they see in the mirror really is true and visible to others.”

They simply want affirmation.

How do I know this?

Um…Because just a few years ago that  was me too.

Don’t get me wrong. I do take selfies every now and then (many of which never get seen), but I definitely have stopped posting them as frequently.

Why?

Well, for a few reasons…

For one, God helped me understand the deeper reason “why” I was needing to share my selfies so much.

He began to heal my heart of my need to “request” that affirmation from others.

And more importantly, He also began to show me that my purpose in life is not to highlight myself but Him.

Have I arrived at a place where I can officially say I don’t ever desire that affirmation from outside sources?

Well….. Unfortunately, I have not. I’m still a work in progress. But, trust me, God’s working on me….

Of course there are definitely still days when I want someone to tell me I’m beautiful because (even though I may think so at times myself) I think it’s still in us to just want that extra affirmation from the outside. Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves and get confirmation about it, right?

But you know what…?

Even that affirmation is never enough. We all still end up needing more………..the next day, the next week, and on and on it goes.

Why is it that the compliments just don’t stick or keep us in a place where we remain fully convinced that we are?

Maybe, it’s because our definition of beauty is flawed…

If you want to know the real scoop about beauty…..

Outward beauty is temporary… Look at the godly great grandmother in her 80’s who’s lived a full life but now looks nothing like her younger self. But here she is… smiling in her hospital bed surrounded by three generations of family members. They treasure her dearly for the joy she’s been in life and will always be grateful for the godly legacy she’s leaving behind.

Beauty isn’t the mark of our value… Look at the military servicemen and women whose faces are almost unrecognizable after surviving a hit by explosives. They risk their own lives to preserve our freedom and safety….and return to short-lived recognition followed by lifelong injuries and scars.

Beauty is “vain”… A focus on beauty so often makes life all about “us”. And thank God our eyes are situated inside of our sculls rather than outside our heads because, in this day and age- if it were the other way around- I’m sure many of us would stare at ourselves all day to see how good we looked.

But most importantly… Something beauty was never meant to be… is the main focus of our lives or the measure of our success in life.

It was never meant to define us, to show us who we are as women, or to show us how much we are worth.

It was never meant to be the deciding factor as to whether we were worth being loved or not.

It was never meant for any of that.

And ultimately… Beauty fades…

But you know what… Beauty can be a really AWESOME word when redefined.

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And if it’s true that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, God’s eyes have a really awesome perspective of what true beauty really is…. And it’s not limited by our weight, the straightness of our teeth or whether we’re having a good or bad hair day… Not any of that.

According to God, true beauty springs out of who we are on the inside… This is what truly gives us permission to feel beautiful…

And, you know… Another cool thing…. Is that the beauty of those inner qualities never fades like outward “beauty” so often does.

Our Heavenly Father’s definition of beauty is not limited by the numbers on the scale, how we look in the mirror, or how others have treated us.

…Because true beauty is not determined by those surface standards but by a different and more purposeful set of qualities.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.”                                         Proverbs 31:30-31 NASB

“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4 NLT

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NASB

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Finding Stability in an Unpredictable World

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On June 24, 2016,  the New York Stock Exchange dropped a full 600 points by the day’s end as a result of the shocking news that the UK decided to leave the European Union.

A vast amount of money lost in just one day due to a totally unforseen decision by Great Britain which the news media dubbed the “Brexit”.

People frantically made calls to their financial firms in hopes of protecting their investments… (I know because my husband works in the industry.)

The news these days is so often filled with bad news…

Terrible tragedies and shootings occurring with so many unsuspecting individuals losing their lives…

A family lost at sea…

A toddler losing his life at Disney…

Twists and turns abound…

Health issues… Relational issues… Natural disasters…

Life can seem so unpredictable at times.

The grief that people are experiencing these days can be so heartbreaking, as you watch the news and see what’s going on…

Oh…. You can bury your head in the sand and avoid the news stations, but believe me, I know from personal experience that the news will find it’s way to you one way or another…

And if you’re not careful, you can begin to get discouraged and even fearful as you go through life.

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If only Earth was a little more like Heaven… Right?

Oh, so many often like to think that this is it….that this is all there is…

…And oh how often we try to make Earth our “heaven”.

But you know what, it isn’t. This world is tainted by evil.

Yes, there is beauty in this world, and yes, there are beautiful and wonderful things to enjoy while we are here, but one thing this Earth is certainly not….is Heaven.

God created this world and everything in it and called it all “good”, but when people were given the choice to either follow God or their own desires…. They decided to listen to  a different voice and chose to follow their own desires.

…And that is very much a picture of what life is still like today. We think God is trying to keep us from something “good” just like Adam and Eve did in the garden, not realizing His directions are actually for our safety and benefit.

And so….We see evil in the world today… sickness, pain, natural disasters… things that are not “good” living right along side things that are.

Yes, we live in a tainted world…

But again, thank God this world is not Heaven…

When Jesus was on Earth He didn’t sugar coat the kind of world we live in or give us fanciful ideas that life would be easy. In fact, He clearly expressed that in this life we would have trouble. (See John 16:33)

And yet He further went on in that very same verse to encourage us that we could have peace in the midst of it and told us to “take heart” because He had overcome the world.

Yes, my friends, Jesus triumphed over evil at the cross, not only disarming the devil and sealing his ultimate defeat, but also in the process providing a way for us to have peace with God in this life as well as preparing a perfect dwelling place for us to be with Him for eternity.

With all of the shootings, terrible tragedies, personal losses, and disease in this world, it can be so easy to fear and lose heart for so many of us…and especially for those going through the grieving process of having been touched by the pain and trouble in this world.

No, tomorrow is not a guarantee for any one of us, although we prefer to imagine so…

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But the words of Jesus (in John chapter 14) serve as another great reminder.

And it is this…. The sure guarantee is that Jesus is preparing a place for those who have placed their trust in Him, and one day we will be with Him in that place where there is no more pain, death, sorrow, or heartache.

Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going…Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him….Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’” (John 14:1-4,6,27)

Yes, life can seem unpredictable at times. But when your hope is in Jesus and He is Your Rock, you can rest safely in the peace He gives, knowing every breath your breathe already comes from Him…and He can keep you until the day He is ready to bring you safely home to that perfect place He is preparing for those who have placed their faith in Him.

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