When was the last time you heard something that instantly transported your mind back to the past? The image is so clearly portrayed you remember it like yesterday?
For me that time was this morning. As I was caught up in the dramatic telling of a story, my mind reenacted the narrative. What it recalled was flannel graph figures I used over and over again telling the same story to groups of enraptured children. My delight in watching their facial expressions matched my enthusiasm for introducing them to such a powerful story.
During my years of training and experience with Child Evangelism Fellowship, an organization whose mission is to reach children with the good news of Jesus Christ and disciple them in their faith, we endeavored to weave the gospel through every Bible story we shared with the children. The truths of God and His Word formed the foundation of each lesson.
But how do you accomplish that when a story never mentions God? In fact, throughout ten entire chapters of this biblical account, there is not one reference to Him. And yet, as ourpastor repeated several times the past three Sundays, “God’s handprint is all over the book.”[i]
Esther’s story has always been my favourite in the Bible. Understanding its significance to the preservation of the Jewish nation and God’s ultimate plan of salvation for all humankind reveals its place within the Scriptures. As our pastor outlined this morning, how can you take
- One angry king
- A banished queen
- An orphan girl
- An exiled Jewish man
- A lunch date
- A case of insomnia
- A narcissist
put them all together in one compelling story and not believe that God was the One who orchestrated every event? Each character – a king, a queen, an uncle, a villain – was used and directed by the Almighty God to accomplish His will.
There is great benefit to reaching this stage of my life and being able to look back and reflect on the ways in which God has guided me through every peak and valley. He took
- One very shy girl
- Two summers as a CEF missionary
- Bible college and leadership training
- Marriage to a Chinese immigrant
- Thirty four years of children’s and leadership ministry
- Health challenges
- The passing into glory of my older sister
- Exposure to many countries and cultures
- An agonizing transitional phase
- An overwhelmingly fulfilling shift into ministry to women
and put them all together to shape me into the person I have become today. Many times I marvel at the confidence I am developing, my ability to live more in the moment instead of feeling anxious about the future, the willingness to embrace new things and attempt something I never thought possible, all these aspects are new to me and it feels great!!
And I am becoming a better leader too. Although teaching has been, and will always be, my first love I am surprised at the growing confidence I feel to lead and influence others going forward. Listening to a speech during my son’s graduation in electrical engineering this week I was impressed with this statement,
“A leader becomes one because his intent opens him up to possibility and opens doors for success.”[ii]
Esther impresses me because of her willingness to lead her people, the Jews, during a time of crisis. She led with an intent that filled her with a boldness transcending fear even for her own safety. She risked her life but used her position as queen to influence the most powerful king of the world – her husband. Applying whatever resources were available to her she effectively thwarted the plotting of the enemy and prevented the annihilation of the Jewish race. Today the Jewish people still celebrate their deliverance through the annual observance of Purim.
God is always at work. He uses every person and every circumstance “for such a time as this”.[iii] “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel (and you and me) will neither slumber or sleep.”[iv]
I’m so thankful that each night when I lay my head down on my pillow I can rest assured that God’s faithful hand is directing my life. Because He never sleeps, I CAN![v]
Until next time,
[i] Rev. Donald Calder, Stoneridge Fellowship Church, Lwr. Sackville, NS
[ii] Dr. Richard Florizone, President of Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS
[iii] Esther 4:14, NIV
[iv] Psalm 121:3-4
[v] Rev. Donald Calder
**All photos taken by Kathy Lai of flannel graph illustrations from: Esther, by Beatrice Hollenbeck, lesson visuals by Sam Butcher, (c) Child Evangelism Fellowship Inc., 1964