I meant to write and post this earlier, but my (one-year old) laptop died, then Darren revived it. Hence, the delay.
I've been doing this nine-week study (confession: it has taken me longer than nine weeks):
It has been intense, and I have learned so much. If you are looking for a good study, I highly recommend this. Esther is kind of a tricky subject actually, I've found. Some people tend to romanticize this into a great love story (think "One Night with the King"). I've found it to be unbearably sad in parts. First off, if you look at the text carefully, Esther was "taken," "brought," "given"--she was a very young girl, most likely a young teen, who was forced into a grotesque "beauty contest," which included a sexual tryout for the king, who was an egotist and not too bright into the bargain.
She was put in a waiting area palace for a year and given beauty treatments until it was her turn. The saddest verse in the book for me is 2:11, "And every day, Mordecai paced in front of the court of the women's quarters, to learn of Esther's welfare and what was happening to her." Now I'm married to a protective father of two daughters. I can't imagine what that father must have felt like, knowing what his girl was facing--out there every day, pacing, wondering what was happening to his Esther.
Much is made of the fact that God's name is never mentioned in this book, but rest assured, His hand is seen throughout.
One of the most incredible things I learned was how important the dates are. I don't know if you've read the book of Esther recently, but a lot of it is stuff like "the twelfth day of the twelfth month" or "the thirteenth day of the third month" or whatever--the kind of bits you just sort of skim over (if you are me). However, I learned the day the Jews received the decree of their death sentence from Haman was the thirteenth of Nisan. Get this--the fourteenth day of Nisan is the first day of Passover. This is what Beth says:
"The edict hit the provinces of Persia on exactly the day observing Jewish households were preparing their tables for Passover. That very evening, the fathers were to recount to their families the story of Israel's deliverance from the mighty Egyptians....Celebration turned to shock and horror, but for those who were willing, perhaps also to hope....the story of God's merciful redemption gave those who were willing a hope against hope. Could He who had delivered them from the Egyptians not also deliver them from the Persians? You bet He can, Beloved. He who delivered you from drugs can deliver you from distraction. He who delivered you from bankruptcy can deliver you from bingeing. He who delivered you from infertility can deliver you from inconsistency. He who delivered you from the fire can deliver you from fear. Sometimes God uses the winds of a new threat to blow the dust off a past miracle that has moved from our active file into the archives. Remember, Beloved! Remember what God has done for you! Dear One, He who delivered you from a Pharaoh can deliver you from any Haman. Remember who you are!"
Is that awesome or what?
If you know anything about our family, you know we love to celebrate. We'll use any excuse, but we especially love celebrations of God's faithfulness. There have been times, especially lately, where I have felt discouraged about my own mothering. Sometimes I just don't seem very good at it, and I can find a lot of things to criticize about myself. But one thing that I am determined will be my legacy to the girls is that I communicated to them that the Bible is not some dusty old tome or God's Big Book of Rules or whatever. It's a living and active, a treasure, a celebration of goodness and faithfulness, our stone of remembrance for the past, our rock for the present, our hope for the future.
So, highly coincidental I'm sure, I was talking to my friend Jamie on the phone on Thursday (she's also doing the Esther study), and she told me that Purim, the festival during which the Jews celebrate their deliverance from Haman was Sunday, February 28!
Time to party!
The girls and I set out to make a traditional Purim treat, hamantaschen, which are filled pastries. Beth provides the recipe at the back of the study book. We listened to James MacDonald's sermon on Esther "God at Work: Even When I'm Not Seeing It" while we baked, and every time he said the name "Haman" we booed and hissed, just like we were supposed to. If you get the chance, you should definitely listen for several reasons, not the least of which is that it is really, really funny. Did you know King Xerxes (I can't spell Ahasha-whatever) had a southside Chicago accent? Bet you didn't.
Here are my girls, rolling out the dough:
Cutting it into shapes and getting ready to add the filling. Traditional fillings are jam, fruit, poppyseed, etc. We used poppyseed, apricot preserves, and strawberry preserves.
The finished product--and they were delicious!
Today I studied how, on the day that the Jews were to be destroyed, killed, and annihilated, the reverse occurred. They were given victory over their enemies instead. The day after, they rested and sent each other portions of delicious food in celebration of the portion of victory God had given them. Here was the closing thought from today's lesson:
"The same Hebrew word for 'portion' or 'lot' is used in Psalm 16:5, Esther 3:7, and Esther 9:19. This is the way the three terms--favor, portions (or "presents") and lots--tie together. No matter what life hands us, the favor God has on His children causes that "lot" to tumble out on the table in such a way that, instead of destruction, the child will discover that her portion turned into destiny one trusting step at a time. Here you are. You're still standing, aren't you? Instead of falling apart, your lines are all starting to fall together. Once you wrap your mind around the favor God has had on you and the richness of the portion, you can't help but share your portion with others. Oh, that we'd wake up to the goodness of our God and the crushing defeat of our enemy! The day we do will be 'a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other' Esther 9:19."
2 sticks butter (softened)
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 t vanilla
4 t baking powder
4 cups flour
1. Blend butter and sugar thoroughly. Add eggs and vanilla, blending thoroughly. Add baking powder, then flour, 1/2 c at a time. (You might need to add a little milk too, I did.)
2. Refrigerate dough overnight or at least a few hours.
3. Roll it out to 1/4-in thickness (you may need to soften it a bit first) and then cut circles with a cookie cutter or drinking glass.
4. Put a tablespoon of filling in the middle of each circle (circles s/b about 3 inches in diameter). Fold up the sides to make a triangle, overlapping the sides as much as possible so only a little filling shows through the middle.
5. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.