My friend Claude Hamilton, is the finest leader I know. He really is.
I don't say this lightly, and I don't say it from a distance. You could ask his business partners, his wife, his best friends, his accountant, his book keeper, the nanny, the guy who built his dream house, the decorator, the teenagers who are helping clear his land, the kid who showed up at his front door selling apples for his scout troop... And they'd all affirm what I'm telling you. He is who he is, on and off stage, at home, in his writing, with his son, with my son, with a new friend, with an old friend. Claude Hamilton is real.
The thing people notice first is how comfortable he makes you feel, even though he's head and shoulders taller than most of us...
But what REALLY resonates about the man is his passion. It's a passion born of wisdom and conviction and honour and integrity. And it's a passion made powerful and effective by courage and prayer. It's a good recipe. It makes great soil for growing other leaders.
Early this morning I was reading about a man who had cultivated that same great mix within. His name was Mordecai, a Jew during the reign of King Xerxes of Persia. Mordecai had raised as his own daughter his young orphaned cousin Esther, who eventually became Queen Esther, the wife of King Xerxes. You can find the whole story in the book of Esther in the Bible... It's a great read. I've read it to my children when they were small. I've read it to a 75 year old man with Alzheimer's disease. And this morning I was reading it for my own pleasure, encouragement and instruction.
But part way through I was struck by how very relevant the story is right here, right now. In this city at this time.
In this city, in this past month, a young girl's life came to a tragic, avoidable end. And in the first few hours of her death, her story had so tugged at Claude's heart that he started to talk about it, to learn about it and he began to collect the information needed to do something about it. He wrote about her, posted, tweeted, blogged about her, and tearfully spoke of her to hundreds and hundreds of other leaders. So when I read this passage from Esther this morning you'll see why I thought of Claude.
Here's the passage. It's a long one, but I've included the entire chapter because every verse resonated with me and pointed to Claude's powerful, passionate response to Retaeh's story. It'll probably be familiar...
New International Version (NIV)
Mordecai Persuades Esther to Help
When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king’s gate,because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.
So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.
Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”
When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
When Claude first started to react to the devastating information about the crime against a little girl in our city, I didn't understand. I had somehow missed the whole story and just wanted to "send clothes to put on him instead of sackcloth". My friend Phil, another powerfully passionate leader in my life, asked me what I thought about it, and the truth was, I hadn't. All I knew was my leaders and friends were running around "in sackcloth" about something on Facebook, and that seemed, to my Suzy Christian mind, to be an OVER-reaction. But I was UNDER informed.
We need...I need... Mordecais who will react, gather details and facts and TRUTH, who will inform, give direction, and encourage and "urge" us to act. To wake us up to the matters that align with our purpose. And to keep urging until our hearts get involved, until we respond as we were meant to.
Thanks, Claude, for reminding me of who I am and WHY I am... And WHOSE I am.
Thank you for being a Mordecai in a world that badly needs them.
We desperately need the kind of leaders described by King Solomon in Psalm 72 of the same Bible:
"For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy
And save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight" (vs12-14)
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