Tag Archives: Coincidence

Coincidental Presence

That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.
Esther 6:1-2 (NIV)

I am currently listening to the book The Volunteer by Jack Fairweather. It tells the true story of a Polish army officer who volunteered to be arrested and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in order to smuggle out news of what was happening in the camp and to attempt to create a resistance movement from within. After enduring the hell-on-earth realities inside the camp for years, he escaped and was able to offer primary source evidence of what was happening inside the camps to the Allies.

As I’ve been listening, it has brought to mind the story of Corrie Ten Boom (told in her book The Hiding Place), a Dutch Christian who ended up in the Ravensbruck concentration camp with her sister. She and her family hid Jews in their home until they were caught by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. She was the only member of her family to survive. I have a connection to Ten Boom through my mentor, and the founder of our company, who was head of marketing for the feature film made about Corrie Ten Boom’s life (also called The Hiding Place). He spent a lot of time with her and she had a tremendous impact on his life. As long as I knew him, he had a photo of Corrie in his office and he loved telling stories about her.

The first-hand accounts of life and death inside the Nazi concentration camps are always sobering and difficult to read or hear. They are so horrific and difficult to fathom or absorb. I’m reminded, however, of Corrie’s description of her sister, Betsie, who never failed to experience God’s presence, and even joy, amidst the terror of their daily existence inside the camp. Corrie was released from Ravensbruck because of a clerical error. She spent the rest of her life telling her story and telling whoever would listen: “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

In today’s chapter, we reach the narrative center of the story of Esther. Things look bleak. Esther, Mordecai, and the Jewish exiles are in a deep circumstantial pit. The king has decreed the annihilation of the Jews throughout Persia and his highest official is bent on leading the genocidal slaughter, beginning with Mordecai. But now, unexpectedly, a coincidental event becomes the pebble that starts an avalanche of events which turn the tide of the story. The King has a bout of insomnia and he insists that the annals of his reign be read to him. It just so happens that the story of Mordecai unearthing an assassination plot (about five years earlier) is read to him, and he realizes that Mordecai was never honored for bringing the dark plot to light.

As I’ve pointed out in previous posts, God is never mentioned in the book of Esther. But I find God present and active in the coincidences and events that happen in the story. If God is omnipresent, and most followers of Jesus would cognitively say that He is, then God is always present even when His presence isn’t acknowledged. Even in the deepest and darkest of pits. Betsie Ten Boom didn’t just believe in God’s omnipresence, she experienced it amidst the hell of a Nazi concentration camp, and her sister Corrie was, coincidentally, released by a clerical error in order to tell the story to millions of people.

In the quiet this morning I find myself meditating on the notion of God’s omnipresence, and what that really means. I’ve always found it odd that people in church pray almost every week for God’s presence, and in doing so deny the very thing we say we believe. If God is omnipresent, then it’s silly to ask Him to be present. What we really should pray is that we actually experience God’s presence there, here, everywhere, at all times in all circumstances. Because God is always present.

I remember sitting at the bar just inside the front door of our local pub last summer. The door was propped open to allow fresh air in the place and a friend from my local gathering of Jesus followers happened to walk by and see me there. He stood in the doorway and greeted me, then engaged me in a conversation, but it was obvious that he was not about to step foot inside the establishment and the whole conversation felt incredibly awkward. Knowing a bit about my friend’s background, I realize he was raised to believe that one should never go inside a bar and I honor his conscience. Nevertheless, I’ve known fellow believers who would avoid going into a pub as they believe it to be a godless, evil place. I’ve had some amazing God experiences and conversations in pubs. God is there.

I want to experience God’s presence at all times, in every place, and in each circumstance. It’s then that I begin to see the coincidences of clerical errors and ironies of a King’s insomnia for what they really are.

Divine Appointment on a Park Bench

On “Remember When” Wednesdays I like to look back at some great posts of yesteryear and re-blog them for newer subscribers. This was originally posted in July, 2007.

Wendy’s four-month-old laptop crashed last Friday. The past ten days have been some of the busiest for Wendy’s job and the loss of the computer was agonizing. We took the laptop back to the Greek Squad on Friday and they immediately started the process of trying to recover the data off the hard drives. It would be a process of days to get the lap top back and even then Wendy would have to restore all of her software, all of her settings and rebuild her on-line life from scratch. Needless to say, she was angry, frustrated and depressed all weekend.

The situation only got worse on Monday when the Geek Squad called to inform her that they needed her “restoration disks”. Just an hour earlier I had left for meetings in Des Moines. Bad timing. This meant that she would have to drive to Des Moines and personally wait for up to five hours for the computer’s system to be restored so she could take it home. Wendy reluctantly took her book and found herself sitting on a bench outside of the Jordan Creek Mall reading as she waited.

A girl approached Wendy and asked to use her phone. Wendy obliged. Upon completion of the call the girl commented on Wendy’s tattoos. A conversation started. Wendy felt that still, small voice in her heart telling her this was not an ordinary conversation. This was a divine appointment. Seemingly, for no reason, the girl started to share the intimate details of her life to Wendy.

The girl had been abandoned by her parents and lived in a series of foster homes and orphanages. Wendy knows abandonment. She could relate. The girl had been adopted. Wendy knows what it’s like to be adopted and to live in a family with adopted children. The girls adopted parents raised her in the Open Bible Church. Wendy was raised in the Open Bible Church. The girl had run from her family. She ran from God. Her life was a mess. Wendy knows about running from God. She knows mess. She also knows God’s presence in mess.

Wendy didn’t need to mention God. The girl raised the subject. Seeing “Rev. 21:5” tattooed on Wendy’s shoulder, the girl asked about the verse and then asked “Are you a Christian?”

The discussion continued. Wendy silently prayed that the computer guys wouldn’t call her to pick up her computer until after this conversation was over. The two sat on that bench for a long time. The girl  inexplicably poured out her heart to a stranger whom she met on a park bench outside of a mall. Wendy listened, related, and loved, reminding her that no matter where she runs in life – God does not let go. God has a plan for her life, and He won’t let go of her – even as she tries to let go of Him. The divine appointment ended with a hug, and with Wendy’s promise to pray for her. The girl walked away.

Within ten minutes her phone rang. The computer was ready.