Pursuing Peace

Deep in an upstairs closet hides a large plastic tote crammed with journals I have kept since 1966. My father started this journey when he gave me a small, green diary in which I nightly recorded all the trivial events of my day. Later I discovered the power of keeping track of my inner thought life, my spiritual growth, my struggles with handling the daily life of raising three girls, teaching school, and figuring out who I was meant to be (that happened when my life turned upside down on July 3, 2001).

It seemed such a shame to bury all that experiential wisdom I’d gained, and I wanted a way to share it with my girls, but I knew they’d never have time in the busyness of their own lives to plow through all the years I’ve recorded. So here you go, girls, distilled into bite-size chunks for your edification and encouragement. And if anyone else wants to come along with us in this journey, you’re welcome to join in.

For starters, here are my two life verses. Everything I do and everything that’s meaningful to me is anchored in my pursuit of relationship with God. Be still inside, stay focused on Him, trust Him in all things, and you’ll be at peace.

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10a).

Thou wilt keep him [her] in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he [she] trusteth in thee (Isaiah 26:3).


Is My God Box Too Small?

Any belief that isn’t part of your experience remains in the shadow of doubt (Pastor Allen Jackson, WOC).

Left to Tell, by Immaculée Ilibagiza, is a moving and powerful story of a Rwandan genocide survivor. In this book Immaculée recalls how God protected her, how her faith grew during the ordeal, and how she found God’s power strong enough to forgive her enemies.

My Protestant roots antennae shot up, however, when I read how Jesus AND MARY, the mother of Jesus, appeared to Immaculée and ministered to her. This scenario flies in the face of mypieta-by-michelangelo_2463081 Baptist upbringing. Was it truly Mary or was it simply a visual that God gave her because He knew it would comfort her heart?

Does God use what we believe and are familiar with when He speaks to us? Does God accommodate us in our beliefs with which we’ve grown up? OR does Mary, the Mother of Jesus, truly have a role in ministry to us here on earth? From my understanding of Scripture, I would say no, but how do I account for this person’s experience?

I have a couple Gentile friends who believe we should eat according to Old Testament dietary laws and worship on the Sabbath. Does God honor their hearts—their desire to return to the origins of our Christian faith? Are Protestants out of God’s will for worshiping on Sunday and eating pork? Who gets to decide what’s right?

I want to be holy. I want to do right, be right. I want to honor God with my lips and my actions. But what if I’m doing wrong out of ignorance? Does God honor my heart attitude? King David did right most of the time, but fell once, and conviction ate him up inside. Can I trust the Holy Spirit to convict me, to guide me, to prompt me?

While praying with people in my ministry, I’ve often been astonished at the answers God gives them that bring them to peace. “How can that be?” I wonder. I freely admit that my God-box is simply too small. Am I okay with the fact that Immaculée claimed to have seen Mary and Jesus and that they ministered to her? Is my God-box big enough to handle it—that her experience is hers and “what is that to me?” Like Mary, I “ponder all these things in my heart.”

I also hear the echoes of my teachers and pastors who cry out for doctrinal purity—who are careful to interpret the Scriptures faithfully according to their understanding. But who’s to say their interpretation is always the right one? Warren W. Wiersbe says, “Godly men differ.” We come to the Holy Scriptures with the biases of our own experiences, our triggers, our needs, our culture, our upbringing. How can we shake off error and embrace truth?

Will God honor obedience to what we THINK is right—even if it’s wrong? In Leviticus law, it didn’t SEEM to matter what the heart was—it was all about adherence to a set of rules. Or was it? God made provision for the unintentional sin.

I want to do right and to adhere to truth that I know and understand. If my friend chooses to keep kosher out of conviction, should I follow? No, I don’t think so. Then I would be following one woman’s leading instead of Jesus’ conviction on my own heart. But what if God gave me a vision of Mary ministering to me? How would I respond?

So does God have (or reveal) different truths for different people? Or is there only one truth, applied many ways? I believe that there is only one Truth—and His name is Jesus. Look to Him alone as the author and finisher of our faith and leave all others to God to handle, instruct, and teach. I’m not responsible for the way God works in others. I am only accountable for myself and my relationship to Him.

We all have blind spots. I wonder what error, mis-belief, or false teaching I hold to in my life?

But It’s Against the Rules!


RefereeThis may be a hot topic for some, but I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve changed my views on this subject over time. I’ve moved from dogmatically opposed to cautious acceptance to taking my hand off the lid of the box and letting God be God. I’ve come to realize that some rules are guidelines, not always absolutes.

  • The posted minimum speed limit on the freeway is 40.
    But in fog or heavy snow, it would be foolish to try to maintain that speed.
  • The rule stated that only priests were allowed to eat the holy showbread.
    When there was no other food available, King David ate some of the consecrated bread and was not condemned for his action.
  • The fourth commandment says to keep the Sabbath day holy.
    Jesus healed the sick and “harvested” grain on the Sabbath.
  • The norm was for male judges to rule over Israel.
    One of the 12 judges in the Bible was Deborah.

The norm is for male pastors to provide church leadership. Can there be exceptions without violating Paul’s instructions to Timothy?

What do you think?


Too Many Hats

hats-fedora-hat-manufacture-stackThis journal entry goes back to my teaching days at a junior college, but I find I still have seasons when I struggle to find that perfect balance in my various life roles.

The demands on my time have increased exponentially this winter. I’m trying to wear five to six different hats at once, and each one is a fulltime job: housewife, mom, teacher, editor, office worker, prayer minister. Each job has its joys and challenges. Each by itself is manageable, but put them all together and it’s a recipe for burnout.

Right now I’m struggling to wear my teacher hat. Yesterday’s English class was sheer melodrama. One student cried the whole class because her grandpa was dying. Another left early because her mom was taken to the ER. And a third was irate and belligerent because she failed to follow the instructions for an assignment, created some other work to make up for it, and then didn’t get credit for it. Who needs this kind of grief!?

Why did I agree to take this job in the first place? It has its rewarding moments, but for an introvert like me, teaching drains me, wears me out, and is stressful and time-consuming. Give me a desk job shuffling papers any day! Or wearing my prayer minister hat—now that’s fun and rewarding. So why did God give me this source of revenue? I’m grateful, but it’s not filling my soul. I don’t think I’m suited for this task.

If I could compartmentalize a little more, maybe I could focus better. I want to put each job into a box and let it stay there until its allotted time to think about it. But my mind doesn’t work that way–it’s not wired to multi-task. It’s racing and scattered and unfocused.

And so I mentally go to the hall closet, snatch up my jumble of hats and toss each one into a different room. Now when I’m in one room, that’s all I can focus on. I can’t BE in two rooms at the same time.People/relationships can walk in and out of each room I’m in, and I can stop and interact with them.

The first challenge for me right now is being in one room physically while I’m in another room mentally. I find I want to hurry up with the tasks in this room so that I can get back to the Study or the Library or the Rec Room. The other challenge is deciding which room I need or want to be in and when.

And God? Thankfully He’s in every room of my house. However, I desperately need concentrated, uninterrupted time in the Prayer Room.

Lord, help me to be fully present with each person who enters each room of my house today. And will You be my Guide for which room(s) to work in and when?

How do YOU manage your closetful of hats?


Excuses Excuses!


All of my life I have struggled with getting enough exercise. I seem to be able to do it for a while and then I quit the routine.  I envy those who seem to enjoy it and thrive on bodily movement. I have one daughter who thinks dancing is fun. I prefer to sit in the library and read!

I prefer to excuse my lack of exercise as a physical or time issue, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s really a spiritual one. My body is God’s temple. I know that and I practice it when it comes to sexual purity, but somehow choosing to stay healthy doesn’t feel like such a priority—and I know this attitude will come back to bite me someday.

A tithe of time for a 24-hour period is 2.4 hours. I can manage to devote one hour to nourishing my soul and another hour to feeding my spirit, so why can’t I devote one hour to maintaining the body?

So . . . is it a priority to me or is it not? It’s time to put my excuses down on paper and examine my heart.

#1 I don’t enjoy it, so it feels like a chore, and chores feel like . . . work.
#2 I don’t have it scheduled into my daily routine.
#3 Routine, for me, is best kept if it’s scheduled for first thing in the morning, but I have other priorities in place already for that time slot.
#4 It’s a time factor. I don’t have enough time in my morning routine to add a half hour of exercise. But if I delay it till later in the day, other things crowd it out.
#5 It’s a timing issue. I don’t want to do it when I’m too hungry or too full. I know–more excuses.
#6 I’m not hurting enough. Only pain seems to get me motivated.

Here’s my visual: I see a stand-up, circular shell (like a stiff grass zana mat in a Nigerian village).

zana mat to use

The soul/spirit inside may be nice and supple, but the shell is hard and rigid. And that’s okay if I plan to remain in one place. And that’s okay if my body is paralyzed like  quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada and I don’t have a choice. But I do have a choice.

What is my motivation to loosen up the shell? If the soul starts to move, and the shell can’t keep up, the shell will trip and fall on its face. And then the body will become dependent on other people to care for it.  (Forgive me, my daughters, if that happens.)

I can see myself in a race, zana mat around me, but now I have feet and legs. So what’s keeping me from finishing the race? Those pesky excuses.

What’s yours?

Postscript: Once I worked through and addressed each of my excuses, I began walking my neighborhood 2-3 times a week with no emotional resistance. I invested in an iPod so I could listen to podcasts and books on tape, and I started to snap photos of trees and flowers that reflect the changing seasons. Eventually, I found myself looking forward to this body movement (I still can’t bring myself to call it exercise!)

On Love

Let love for your fellow believers continue and be a fixed practice with you—never let it fail. (Hebrews 13:1)

God loved me when I was most unlovely, and He loved me before I loved Him. In turn, I want to radiate God’s love to others, no matter what they are like or how they treat me. But how does one do that?


My Visual:  I see a thick steel cable stretching from the cross to the end of time. And I am walking on a platform beneath this cable, but I cannot fall off because I am harnessed and hooked onto the cable with a permanently sealed brass ring. Nothing can release me from God’s love or His covenant (Heb. 13:20-21). I may slip or stumble, but the cable from me to Him is strong. I will not fall. I am safe.

An obstacle in my path might try to prevent me from moving forward, but God can remove it for me. Or my brass ring might get tarnished and I’ll need to polish it with prayer. I may get distracted on my journey, but sometimes it’s okay to stop and look around and rest and see the beauty and the scenery around me. I get so focused on my goal that I forget to do that sometimes.

And now I see that I’m actually on a moving platform. It’s God’s job, God’s timing, and His decision as to when to move the platform forward and when to make it stop still—because my concern is not the end goal (I can’t see the end anyway because it stretches to eternity). For now, I have a job to do—rest when He says rest; keep alert when He moves me forward; look around and enjoy the scenery; fight the good fight, keep my spiritual armor on at all times.

Suddenly I see myriads of other cables—each person is hooked to his/her own, each on a separate platform. I can reach out and touch several people. One is on a steady platform, and we spur each other on to love and good works. Another one is afraid. Her platform is wobbly, disconnected, unstable, and she keeps looking down. I keep encouraging her to take the next step and to put her faith in the cable. Another one accuses me falsely of knocking her off-balance. I remind her to refocus on her own cable. Help me, Lord, to love well each one in my sphere of influence.

Let us continue to invest our lives in people even though we may not see immediate results. (Missionary Sam Goertz)

A Chance Encounter?

A friend of mine once challenged me to be on the lookout for God-sightings throughout my day. This one didn’t take much imagination on my part to see His footprint!

July 2007 Journal. Scott and I are attending managers’ meetings for Moody, and I had Bookstore 2some time to myself. I was praying that God would give me an opportunity to minister to someone this week, but little did I know that He’d planned something special for me this afternoon.

I wandered down the street and into a two-story bookshop, found a secluded corner and plopped down on a comfy couch to read. Before I got to page two in my book, a young couple sat down in the seats next to me. Within two sentences of greetings, she began to tell me that they’d just gotten word that she’s pregnant and that she was feeling both excitement and fear. She said she felt like she was in a dark place.

I asked her if she’d like me to pray with her, and she agreed. Immediately, God gave her a visual of Himself being in the dark room with her, and she no longer felt alone. The anxiety left her.

A chance encounter? Hardly. She said she’d been praying for an answer to her fear for the last 24 hours and hadn’t slept all last night. God heard her prayer—and mine.

Have you had a God-sighting lately?


Learning Through Suffering

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8 NASB).pexels-photo-551590

Was it only at Gethsemane and the cross that the Son of Man suffered and therefore learned obedience? Or was He learning it all along?

How was junior high for Him? Was He rejected, accepted, or loved by His peers? As a toddler, did He get into trouble for wandering off? When did He first understand enough to respond in obedience to Mary or Joseph’s commands? As a ten-year-old, ever feel sad when He saw injustice, poverty, or illness, and knew that it wasn’t His time yet to make things right? That he had the power to heal, but didn’t because He was learning obedience to His Father? What about His temptation in the wilderness?

Was it a shock to Mary when she had a second child and found that he had a sin nature? Did Jesus’ sibs feel jealousy toward Him? Was He given preferential treatment because He was the firstborn, or because He was such a goody-goody? I suspect Jesus’ suffering began at conception—the Creator of the space of the universe confined to the space of a womb.

Why am I surprised when someone reacts positively during a trial? I expect him or her to struggle, to rage, to cry and complain. But when someone gives glory to God and rejoices in the suffering, I’m suspect. Is she for real!? Perhaps it’s because I know my own heart. . . .

Why do I/we believe that we don’t deserve sorrow and pain? Our behavior is often an attempt at pain denial or pain removal. When is pain part of God’s plan and we should embrace it and lean into it?

Past emotional pain—remove it. Present pain—lean into it.

There’s always a purpose for our suffering . . . God never wastes our pain. Jesus learned obedience. What have you learned?

Faithful till the day I Die – Lessons from Joshua

mountainThere are few major characters in the Bible whose character flaws are not mentioned. Joshua happens to be one of them. He was on Mount Sinai with Moses AND he was in the tent of meeting with him when Moses spoke to God face to face. In fact, Scripture says that when Moses left that tent, Joshua did not leave. This young man, son of Nun, quietly ministered to Moses for 40 years as his right hand man. He observed firsthand how God interacted with his 80+-year-old mentor, and he learned his lessons well in how to trust and have faith.

I wonder if Joshua ever struggled in the beginning with jealousy over Moses’ chosen leadership role? And later did he think, “No way would I want that job!” But God rewards his faithfulness and places him in that very position after Moses dies. I wonder if he knew he was being groomed for this job?

Can I be faithful in the role God has placed me, trusting that it’s all for a purpose–no matter how long it takes?

Commercials, Commercials!

One of the best gifts Scott ever gave me was my own rRemoteemote control for the TV. (Yes, ladies, that’s true love.) He even put my name on it! I guess he got tired of my complaining about the commercials. My favorite buttons are mute and fast forward.

Have you ever noticed how many commercials appeal to our bodily functions and needs? Take this medicine (and listen to an ad nauseam* litany of side effects), wear this clothing (so you can be accepted by the in crowd), try this diet (mainly a first-world issue), fix your sexual dysfunction (I won’t even go there). Drives me crazy! How can I keep my right focus intact when the world’s messages are clearly skewed toward the body?

I am a spirit; I have a soul; I live in a body.

We spend thousands of hours and dollars on trying to make our bodies healthy and fit and good looking. This is not to say that neglecting self-care is acceptable, but what would happen if we paid as much attention to our soul/spiritual needs as we did to our bodies? And what if networks were required to have sponsors who provided a balance of appeals to the whole person?

What would those commercials sound like?

Send me a link to the best TV commercial for the soul. Go ahead . . . I dare you!

*in case you’re wondering, ad nauseam literally means “to the point of sickness.” How’s that for irony?

A Mountaintop Experience–Glimpses into other worlds


I don’t have an imagination large enough to picture what it must have been like for Moses to encounter God on Mt. Sinai or to enter into the experience of Peter, James, and John who saw a glimpse of God’s glory atop the Mount of Transfiguration or to identify with Isaiah who had a vision of the Lord “high and lifted up.” I have friends who report having seen angels and others who’ve had a near-death experience.

Why does God allow some people to see visions, to see the “other world,” to have a deeper sense and understanding of and insight into the spiritual dimension?

Wouldn’t  mountaintop experiences like these change a person forever? You might think after such an event: I’d never sin again, never doubt, never have another fear. But it’s not so. At some point we have to return to base camp and live in the earthly realm where we experience hurts and triggers.

There were a million Israelites on the journey through the wilderness, but God CHOSE only one through whom to communicate and commune. There were 12 disciples, but Jesus CHOSE only 3 to see His glory. Out of all the prophets, only one records an experience similar to Isaiah’s.

God CHOSE for me to grow up in a remote village on the continent of Africa and to answer His call on my life at an early age. But He did not choose to give me the gift of sight into the spirit realm. He chose me to minister to wounded and abused and hurting people—me!—who has experienced so little hurt in my life. Me—a vessel offered to God for His use. No special talents or gifts, just average in skill, intelligence and energy being used by God so that He gets the glory. I just have to be faithful.

Would I really want to have been in Moses’ shoes? To catch a glimpse of God’s glory but then have to follow through and lead a bunch of rebellious, griping, thirsty, murderous stiff-necked people through the heat of the desert? Would I be willing to follow Jesus to martyrdom like the apostles? Or grind through a life of rejection and abuse as a prophet? I will not envy the mountaintop experiences of these giants in the faith. God has given me what I need now and prepared me for what He wants in the future, and that is enough.

I want to be faithful for life, not to falter when my body fails me or my mind quits working. I want to be faithful till I draw my last breath, at which time I will be able to see at last into the spirit realm and experience the Lord in all His glory, high and lifted up. I’m happy to wait for my mountaintop experience.

What kind of experiences prepared you for your work for the kingdom?