Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lots - Lady, Luck, Lessons


God's dice always have a lucky roll.

This March 20, 2011 not only hails the first day of Spring, but also closes with an ancient Hebrew holiday which celebrates the Providence - the casting of lots.

The holiday is the Feast of Lots - Purim.

By Jewish reckoning, it begins this year at sunset on March 19th and ends at sunset March 20th. In some places of the world, the holiday starts the last night of Winter and ends the first day with Spring.

... weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Psalm 30:5
(King James Version)

The entire story is found in the Book of Esther. Also it is told wonderfully here - The Feast of Purim. Both are a good read with a beautiful heroine, heroes, evil villains, court intrigue, and a thriller with a plot twist. Most remarkable - it's true.

Instead of merely retelling it - and there are so many good links, such as the one above, that do that - I have drawn out a few points as to this marvellous story of God's Providence.

Here are three rolls of the loaded dice:

1st roll: The Lady

In the Old Testament, who was the greatest deliverer?

* Moses when he delivered the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt?
* Joshua who fought the Battle of Jericho?
* Gideon and his small band that delivered his people from the Midianites during the time of the Judges?
* David who defeated the Philistines?

If you go strictly by the numbers, it was a woman - Esther.

After 70 years of captivity, the prophets had decreed that Jewish people return to the land. Perhaps as many as 60,000 did so. Their story is told in Ezra and Nehemiah and two of the "minor" prophets - Haggai and Zechariah.

Yet, most disobeyed and stayed in the Persian Empire. The Book of Esther tells what happened to this majority, who did not go back to Israel. Again, it's the same old sad story of anti-semitism.

Moses and Joshua had delivered an estimated million in the Exodus from Egypt. But Esther, perhaps, delivered her tens of millions, for it has been estimated that several million Jews lived in the Persian Empire during this time.

This was no small feat. By modern standards, it would be as if Esther had stopped Adolf Hitler and prevented the Holocaust. And it was not mistake that during the Holocaust the Jews had called Adolf Hitler a modern day Haman after the villain in the Book of Esther.

For comparison and contrast, reference: Haman and Hitler

2rd roll:  "Luck"

* Was it "luck" that the king of Persia put away his wife and through a beauty contest picked Esther as his new queen?
* Was it "luck" Esther when exercised nepotism, so her next of kin Mordecai rose to a prominent position within the kingdom and had the queen's ear?
* Was it "luck" when Haman hatched his "final solution" to exterminate the Jews that Mordecai said to Esther:

... and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Esther 4:14
(King James Version)

The story is filled with many such lucky coincidences - such that Haman's plot was exposed and Mordecai and his Jewish countrymen found favor with the king and issued the support to stop it.

Sophocles was right. God does load the dice.

3rd roll:  Lessons

The Book of Esther is unique in many ways. It's one of the two books in Protestant Bible named after a woman. It is the only book which has no direct mention of God or prayer.

In spite of that, the hand of God is clearly seen, He is alluded to as deliverance coming, prayer is implied with fasting. In a pagan court, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was still there in the shadows watching over his own - even those who were deliberately out of His expressed will. (Reference: George Campbell Morgan)

The story today still speaks to me. It gives me hope for this godless world that seems to have gone mad, and the name of God only used as a curse word.

The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Psalm 121:7&8
(King James Version)

Question: Have you had any "lucky" coincidences, which have brought you deliverance?

Picture from Wikipedia Commons: Historical dice

Monday, March 7, 2011

Barbie ought to be in pictures - and she is

Since my retirement, I've rediscovered libraries.  A great thing - especially now when they lend out videos and DVDs.

Lately, I've been nurturing my inner child and catching up on the old Disney movies and classics. Pursuing the library, a pink DVD came into view. Barbie (TM).

As a baby boomer, I was perhaps the first generation to grow up with Barbie (TM). She was the "perfect" girl next door with a figure to die for and a fantastic life limited by our imagination.

This fashion doll became a hit and a billion dollar franchise was born. More than 50 years later, she is still going strong. Barbie dolls, all her friends, accessories, clothes, cars, houses, pets, ... Just check out Walmart. Since 2001 thanks to computer animation, she has starred in many movies.

I checked out one of these available Barbie DVDs - Rapunzel. (I had just seen the latest Disney princess movie, Tangled, in the 3D in the movie theatre and wondered how this version would compare.)

I was skeptical, but figured if the Barbie movie was so sweet that it would make me gag, not much was lost, except for some time. So much for prejudice. I was pleasantly surprised. I actually liked the animated movie... very much ... even better than many Disney movies.

So I checked out more. The Nutcracker - as in the Tchaikovsky ballet. The Princess and the Pauper (based loosely on Mark Twain's - The Prince and the Pauper.)  The Magic of Pegasus. The background music was terrific, classical music (like Beethoven) performed by such renowned groups as the London Symphony Orchestra.

It seems so many cartoons out there aren't so uplifting. Just check out the prime time animation on TV on Sunday night. They may be a hit in the ratings, but the humor and the story lines often appeal to the basest in human nature. Yet, the sample of Barbie stories I viewed reinforced good character and family values.

With a strong female in the leading role, the plots did not fall into the male bashing trap of misandry as in so many comedies. Each story reinforced a positive message so lacking in these seemingly sophisticated, cynical times.

I saw the heroine far from the helpless damsel in distress in Victorian fairy tales. She consistently showed courage, perseverance, initiative, and many positive characteristics: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The fruits of the Spirit.

Barbie's inner beauty outshone her perfect 10 "Barbie doll" figure. So, move over Disney, you have some serious competition here.

Photo from WikipediaBarbie Fashion Model