From my 2015 Journal. With spring in the air, I grabbed my camera and set off for a walk in the woods with my Fitbit (a Christmas gift from my husband) secured to my shoelaces. At one point I left the path and tramped through some weeds to get a close-up photograph of a bird-shaped branch. When I returned to the path, chagrined, I discovered my shoelaces were untied. Though I retraced my steps, regrettably I could not locate my fitness tracker among the heavy, wet leaves. How could I admit to my dear husband that I’d lost his thoughtful gift?
I finished the trail and returned to the cabin where I was staying with some friends. They could tell I was upset, but I just shook my head when one of them offered to search for my missing device. “Impossible to find,” I said. But she insisted, so I told her the general direction I’d gone. About 20 minutes later, she returned with my Fitbit in hand. Astonished, I said, “How did you find it?”
“I just asked the Lord to tell me when to look down,” and when I heard, “Now!” there it was lying in plain sight on the path!”
This incident is a reminder to me that I am in God’s hands—every little detail of my life. If I had not found my device, His character would not have changed. But the blessing of finding it confirms that I’m His spoiled child. He delights in giving me good things.
From my 2012 Journal. Once I learn a perceived truth, I tend to filter all of life through that grid. For example, when I first learned about the benefits of homeopathic care, I shunned all allopathic doctors—until experience taught me that each has its merits for curing diseases.
One day I had a conversation with a gentleman who declared that the key to a child’s emotional health lies in his relationship with his father. This may be true in some or even in many instances, but not in all. It struck an emotional chord with him, however, and he began to take on some “shoulds.”
I’m currently reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert—a book on the subject of poverty and how not to hurt the poor in the midst of generous attempts to help. What strikes me is the matrix through which the authors view the subject—not that it’s wrong—but that all the verses and arguments are from one premise or topic. For example, the authors pose the question: Why were the Israelites sent into exile? “Idolatry” would be my immediate answer. But the authors concluded: because they didn’t properly care for the poor. Well . . . maybe . . . and that certainly could be part of the answer, but it’s not the only one (See Leviticus 26).
If I were writing a book about idolatry, I’d focus on that topic only and ignore the issue of caring for the poor. Or if I wrote a book on children or women or finances in the Bible, I’d examine all the Scriptures that pertain to just that topic. It’s normal to focus on one topic at a time—it’s all my brain can hold anyway—but I think I may develop tunnel vision in the process.
Solomon says it’s unwise: look at the consequences (Proverbs 23:29-35).
The counselor wants to know motive: why are you doing it?
The doctor suggests it’s a chemical imbalance: let’s help you detox.
The family says: you’re hurting me; you need help.
The addict says: I’m not hurting anyone but myself and I’m fine.
Whose grid is correct? The study of psychology, boundaries, codependency, temperament, TPM, or any other system or method (including a set of doctrines)—these are not the authentic answers to human needs.
So here’s where I struggle. Because of my profession and training, my grid tends to be too narrow. The worst part of it is, I’m always thinking, “You could be fixed . . . if only you had the set of keys that I have in my possession. These keys could help unlock the doors on your pain—but either you don’t want to use them, or you don’t know that they exist.” Truthfully, however, my tools are plastic. Jesus is the Master Key; only He can unlock every door. Only God sees the whole picture all at once. He knows every answer, nuance, and issue.
A 2021 Update: I’ve since added HeartSync Ministries to my toolbox. But even this grid is imperfect. Only Jesus has the perfect toolbox.
We don’t fit right because we were shaped for something else.
“Compassion fatigue” occurs when we become less willing to help—because the recipients of your help fail to improve.
We must differentiate between:
Relief (crisis from natural disaster)
Rehab (restoration to positive elements before crisis)
Development (process of ongoing change that moves all the people involved—both “helpers” and “the helped”—closer to being in right relationship with God, self, others, and creation.)
Don’t apply relief when development is needed!
Avoid paternalism—doing things for people that they can do for themselves.
We are not bringing Christ to poor communities. He has been active in these communities since the creation of the world, sustaining them by the power of His word (Heb. 1:3). Hence, a significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a long time!
Change begins when something triggers an individual or group to reflect upon their current situation and to think about a possible future situation that they would prefer.
Three common triggers:
A recent crisis
The burden of the status quo becoming so overwhelming that they want to pursue change
The introduction of a new way of doing or seeing things that can improve their lives.
“Never waste a crisis!”
Has anyone else had experience with this topic? In what context?
From my 2013 Journal. I sprained my pinkie finger this week and had to tape it to the next finger to keep it stable and from feeling shooting pain anytime I bumped it. As I stood in church yesterday during a clapping song, I was conscious of how I had to restrict my hand motions in order to compensate.
All I could think about was what people would think if I just stood there and didn’t participate. Later I began to reflect:
#1 Why do I even think people are looking at me?
#2 If they are looking, are they judging me?
#3 Do they even care? Do I?
First of all, I suspect most people are doing the same thing I am—thinking more about themselves and what others are thinking of them if they act a certain way. And, yes, I think they’re judging—because I do it—judge people for their actions, that is. But so what if they judge or not? If they care or not?
More than feeling self-conscious, however, I think about my motive to set a good example. If I don’t clap, am I giving someone else permission not to participate in group worship? Do I hear a “should” in there somewhere? I want people to know why I’m not clapping. I can’t just stand there and not do it! Why not?
From my 2012 Journal. We tend to focus on different things at different seasons of our lives. For example, when our daughter Cindy took a course in human anatomy for her degree in sculpture, she couldn’t help but notice the shapes of different people’s noses, eyes, and hairlines. As a young mom now, I suspect she’s focusing more on toddler behavior.
I, on the other hand, learned to critique a speaker’s vocal quality and body language for my oral interpretation degree. Perhaps that’s what kicked into high gear last night when I attended an evening church service. I found myself distracted by what I observed on stage. The words to a song splashed onto the screen, the worship leaders stepped up to the front in unison, each dressed to perfection—except that I think one is too perfect—I wonder what that rigidity looks like in her daily life?One dresses fashionably, I muse, but the fashion doesn’t suit her. Another is not petite enough. (What?! I just critiqued “the perfect one” as being too petite!) Arrggh! What’s wrong with my mind? I’m noticing the outward appearance, but inwardly, I’m critiquing: too perfect, too immodest, wounded, relaxed, etc.
I’m not God, and I can’t see into another person’s heart, so where do I come off having the right to judge and critique someone else’s inner soul? Yes, the externals give clues to the internals and, because of my counselor’s training, I’m getting better at noticing. But I don’t like the consequences. It’s distracting to my focus on worship. I’m not these people’s judge . . . or have I become one? When did I take on this role, and how do I stop it? It’s one thing to notice; it’s another to critique and then to judge.
So why do I do it? I think to myself, This person needs fixing! Yikes! What an ugly thought! That’s God’s job, not mine.
What if I focused on creativity and beauty instead of flaws? What if I celebrated our differences and our choices instead of our motives? Celebrated the colors on stage. Observed the style of clothing from a designer’s eye, appreciating the variety of shapes and sizes and textures rather than as a critique of a person’s character. I need to separate the physical from the internal.
So when does assessment turn into judgmentalism? Or pride? Or contempt? Or pity? Or concern? Or compassion? Have I created a standard in my mind for right and wrong that is different from God’s standard? God’s measuring stick is absolute (don’t lie, hate, lust, covet). My standard is a moving target based on cultural norms, a person’s age, historical time periods, etc.
And so I begin by stating an observation regarding externals:
She’s large-boned / He’s shorter than average
She wears high necklines / she has a plunging neckline
She has 4 visible tattoos / he has none
She wears tight-fitting jeans / he wears saggy pants
He has shoulder-length hair / she has short, spiky hair
It becomes an assessment when I draw plausible conclusions based on past experience or training. The assessment is not wrong IF I acknowledge that it is an educated guess: it could be that . . . I wonder if . . . most people like this are. . . . But concluding (without knowledge) what’s in a person’s heart is presumptuous. For example:
She’s too skinny / plump because she’s on weight-gaining drugs, she was abused as a child, she has no self-discipline, she has a food disorder, etc.
She shows cleavage because she wants to attract men’s attention, she has a “wardrobe malfunction,” she grew up in an Africa village where it’s culturally acceptable, etc.
She has tattoos because she wants to fit in with her peers, because she wants to permanently remember an event, because she’s rebelling against parental restrictions, etc.
And so on and so forth.
This exercise of the mind morphs into sinful pride (The Elder Brother syndrome) when I begin to compare myself to another person and indulge in feelings of superiority: I would never do that. . . I’m better than he/she. How sick is that!
I think about Zacchaeus the tax collector. How would I have judged him I wonder . . . a short, fat, greedy, mean, traitorous man? But Jesus sees into his repentant, hurting heart and begins a love relationship with him.
Visual: I see mobs of people milling around. Some are blind, others are crippled, and many are wearing arms in slings. Others hide behind facial masks, believing they’re safer that way; but their restricted vision prevents them from seeing the truth. They’re all dressed in filthy rags, covering painful sores. A pitiful lot.
And then I watch as a drop of Living Water falls gently onto one person. Like a drop of soap in a dishpan with oil, the ripples spread out and a path of clean is created. And more drops fall, and the people turn their faces skyward. Blinded eyes see, slings fall off, and crippled legs are straightened. But some are frightened by the foreign matter, and they run from the moisture . . . because water and dirt create mud streaks on their face, and they feel self-conscious.
And so I begin to let go of my judgmentalism. I now see their fear instead of their sin; their timidity instead of their stubbornness.
The rain is gentle and soothing and inviting. I allow myself to be bathed in it, cleansed, forgiven. I sense the sweet wooing of the Savior. And now instead of judgment, I feel sorrow for those who struggle, for I am one of them.
Suddenly the focus of my prayers change. I don’t pray for the person to have a change of heart; I pray for God’s mercy to let a drop of His Spirit fall on him/her. I appeal to God to pour out His love and woo the stubborn, judgmental heart—starting with mine.
Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart (I Samuel 16:7).
The shrewd man saw trouble and took cover; the simple kept going and paid the penalty (Proverbs 22:3).
From my 2012 Journal. I’ve often thought about how the Psalmist David fled from King Saul; but the 3 young captives Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stayed put and refused to bow before an idol at the king’s mandate. Corrie ten Boom hid Jews in Holland during Hitler’s regime, while others refused to harbor fugitives. What’s the right thing to do? Flee from harm’s way or stand your ground and take the consequences? What about Mary and Joseph? God could have simply put a miraculous, sword-proof shield around the holy family or made them invisible to the soldiers’ eyes. But God chose to remove them from the situation. He told them to flee to Egypt.
What would have happened if David had stood his ground and confronted Saul instead of running? Or if the Jews hadn’t gone into hiding? Or if Shad, Mesh, and Abed had fled the country?
When the Israelites were besieged by the Babylonian army, God instructed them not to resist—just surrender and go into captivity. Instead, the leaders and the people fought back, tried to escape, and hid—and many lost their lives as a result. Later, God told the remnant to do the opposite: stay put and not flee to Egypt. The key, I think, is obedience to the Spirit of God who knows what’s best.
I can’t say I’ve ever been in this situation, so it’s hard to predict what I might do. But I think about it. Have you ever experienced this dilemma? How did you choose and why?
If you refrain from rescuing those taken off to death—those condemned to slaughter—If you say, “we knew nothing of it,” surely he who fathoms hearts will discern [the truth]. He who watches over your life will know it. And he will pay each man as he deserves (Proverbs 24:11).
From my 2012 Journal. A study of two men (II Kings 5)
The story: A little girl is taken captive from Israel and placed in the service of a lady whose respected husband Naaman is a commander of the Syrian army. One day Naaman is diagnosed with leprosy and the servant girl tells her mistress that healing is possible back in her home country. By a circuitous route, Naaman winds up at the prophet Elisha’s doorstep. Elisha sends his servant Gehazi out the door to instruct Naaman to dip 7 times in the Jordan River. Naaman is ticked off (the dialogue is quite comical) and stomps away. But in the end, he obeys and gets healed.
Next, Naaman returns to Elisha’s house to reward him for this healing gift, but Elisha refuses to accept anything, and Naaman drives away in his chariot. The servant Gehazi, meanwhile, runs after Naaman, tells a fib, and walks away with some loot and hides it in his house. For this indiscretion, God inflicts leprosy on him. Talk about irony!
Naaman’s issue? Pride. He believed that God could heal him, but he expected God to perform in a certain way. When God didn’t meet his expectations, he got angry, but he eventually humbled himself. He made the right choice in the end.
Gehazi’s issue? Greed. But his one indiscretion left his life in ruins. (I wonder if he attempted a 7-dip trick in the Jordan to get rid of HIS leprosy!?)
So here’s a foreigner who gets a gift from God and an Israelite who gets punished. Why?
Lesson: It’s really about what’s in the heart. Actions matter—we live with the consequences of our decisions. But if we guard our hearts, we suffer fewer consequences for poor choices.
Lesson: It’s not who you’re living close to that determines your character. Naaman lived in a position of power under an ungodly, idol-worshipping king. Gehazi lived in a position of servitude to a godly prophet.
“God created man . . . and God fell in love . . .” (Wes Stafford in Just a Minute)
From my 2012 Journal. That’s a stunning statement. In my head I’ve always known “God is love” and that God loves me. After all, we grew up singing, “Jesus loves me” and quoting John 3:16 “For God so loved the world . . . ” But were those just words, a fact, a piece of information, a truth with no questions asked, or a head knowledge only?
To say someone “fell in love” implies emotion and deep affection. There’s a difference between saying, “I know Scott loves me,” and “He fell in love with me.” I know about God’s agape love (sacrificial love; doing-the-right-and-moral-thing kind of love). But what do I know about His emotional love? Is it similar to what I feel for my girls or for my grandsons? I delighted in watching their every move as they turned over, took their first steps, spoke their first words. Is this how God feels toward me?
Somehow the thought that I’m a sinner stands in the way of accepting God’s emotional love for me. It’s time to take the label off.
I may be a corrupted or scratched-up CD, but I’m not a corrupted file. I’m fixable! (The world at the time of Noah—now that was a corrupted file!)
God loves the song that I sing. I’m his favorite album—scratches and all. He doesn’t get irate when I fail to perform at my best. He’s the originator, the creator of the CD, and He has a scratch-less copy on His hard drive. He made a perfect copy, and then Satan’s tools and my pride, stubbornness, and rebellion corrupted the music. Someday He’ll make another copy of me—back to perfect, good as new, and I won’t need the medium anymore. The music will play in the air, crystal clear, scratch-less.
God fell in love with me—my music—because He’s the songwriter, and He loves His creation. I came out of His heart. “Yes, Jesus loves me.”
2021 Update: After reading the book Imagine Heaven by John Burke, I have a new appreciation and understanding of God’s all-encompassing, unconditional, healing, gentle love. The thought makes my heart sing.
After listening to a series of Annie F. Downs’ podcasts on the subject of the 9 points of the enneagram, I noted she always ended her show with “What do you do for fun?” Since I’m a serious “1” on the enneagram chart (always motivated by doing what’s right), the words “That sounds fun” do not come naturally or trippingly off my tongue.
The more I listened to Annie, the more I knew that I needed more fun in my life, so this year I determined to embrace spontaneity and joy in the little pleasures in life—to do an activity just because “That sounds fun.”
I discovered in the process that if I declared “That sounds fun” regarding an upcoming event, even if that event had potential negative aspects to it, just saying the words out loud enhanced the pleasure of the activity and helped to dispel the gloom. To decide ahead of time that something is fun helps to make it so.
The year started out great, but quickly deteriorated with the onset of COVID. With exciting overseas and stateside travel plans canceled, I had to be content with smaller activities that might bring pleasure. Here’s a list of some of my favorites. What would be on YOUR list?
Visit the library: That sounds fun!
I started the year off by reading The Library Book by Susan Orlean, the story of the great fire of 1986 at the Los Angeles Public Library. It reminded me how much I love libraries and how much I’m missing out by always choosing e-books for their convenience and readability. And so I indulged in the simple pleasure of visiting our public library and checking out a physical book—just because I could.
COVID perspective: I’m so ready to revisit a real library again!
“Adopt” 2 Chinese students: That sounds fun!
Last year we hosted two sweet MTSU ladies. Once a month we picked them up from campus to introduce them to American culture. We went on hikes, visited local museums and attractions, took them to local restaurants, celebrated holidays, and exchanged cooking experiences.
COVID perspective: All those fun times screeched to a halt in March 2020.
Organize something: That sounds fun!
I removed a large bagful of unwanted clothing from my bedroom closet and rearranged, sorted, and tidied the rest. Next, I tackled the hall closet, followed by reorganizing my jewelry boxes.
COVID perspective: A wasted effort! I’ve hardly worn jewelry all year with my ubiquitous jeans and t-shirt wardrobe.
Play with the grandboys: That sounds fun!
This one’s a no-brainer . . . Visiting baby William’s dedication; making oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies with Jack, Ben, and Noah; telling “Grandma Special” stories, taking them out for ice cream treats, and playing games together.
COVID perspective: In March, fun quickly changed to outdoor activities only, including hiking, visiting the zoo, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and playing in the backyard or table games under the carport.
Eat something spicy: That sounds fun!
At the Country Club I tried spicy curry chicken with roasted root vegetables, squash casserole, and cranberry nut bread. Outstanding! Another day, my daughter Sharon introduced me to Oscar’s Taco just down the street. Fish tacos are the best! And the Chinese students fixed us exotic, spicy dishes to sample. (Note: This is MY list of fun, not Scott’s!)
COVID perspective: Take-out just doesn’t taste the same. I miss eating inside, leisurely.
Pray with clients: That sounds fun!
I love my ministry . . . but on the way to the office one day to pray with one of our more challenging clients, I declared out loud, “That sounds fun.” And this time it actually turned out to be so!
COVID perspective: Though we can no longer meet in person, I’m so thankful for technology that has kept our ministry alive.
Get a massage: That sounds fun!
Oh yeah! What’s not to like?
COVID Perspective: Too bad I had to cancel my appointment the week I came down with the dreaded coronavirus!
Scott and Karen Days: That sounds fun!
My Christmas gift to Scott last year was for once-a-month, all-day-together time —uninterrupted, just the two of us, doing any fun activity of his choice. The very first scheduled day in January, Scott was laid up with a wrenched back, so I sat in the den with him and read almost an entire novel. Guilt-free reading time. What’s not to like about that? In other months, we went to movies, played golf, and visited historic sites.
COVID perspective: When I came down with COVID, I was sorry we had to cancel November’s date while we isolated on opposite sides of the house. Fun was sitting in the sunshine together on the deck 12 feet apart from each other for 20 minutes.
Walk somewhere new: That sounds fun!
I took off for a walk late in the day. Thousands of blackbirds were swarming against a red, sunset sky and a full moon. The whole scene took my breath away and filled my soul with joy.
COVID perspective: This is one activity I’ve been able to continue.
Reconnect with MKs: That sounds fun!
Steven Dowdell, a fellow boarding school MK (Missionary Kid), dropped by to see me on his way through town. It had been 50 years!
COVID perspective: Though we had to cancel our Class of 72 reunion in Florida in May, we enjoyed connecting from around the world through Zoom.
Start a new puzzle: That sounds fun!
I walked to Goodwill, just a few blocks away, and came home with a bagful of puzzles. At the height of the lockdown, we drove to Nashville to exchange puzzles with our daughter Sharon.
COVID perspective: Haha! Take that, you Virus! Nothing can stop me here.
Join a book club: That sounds fun!
Our first and only meeting was delightful. I met some new ladies, and we chose our first book.
COVID perspective: And then it closed. It was fun while it lasted!
Play golf: That sounds fun!
Until just a few years ago, I could not have said “golf” and “fun” in the same sentence. But now it’s a joy to spend time with Scott, out in nature, hunting for my many lost balls.
COVID perspective: Bring your own clubs; don’t share carts; it’s all good.
Celebrate my birthday: That sounds fun!
At first, I didn’t think it would be . . .
COVID perspective: . . . then three good friends arrived in my backyard wearing masks and gloves and holding up signs, while they sang “Happy Birthday” to me.
Celebrate Mothers’ Day: That sounds fun!
After being isolated for two months, my daughter Cindy and her family arrived at my door to hand me a gorgeous hydrangea, and then I blew bubbles with the boys outside. I couldn’t stop smiling.
COVID perspective: See next entry.
Go hiking: That sounds fun!
In late May, Cindy and her 3 boys and I took a 4.5-mile hike together. Ben (7) kept forgetting to keep his distance on the trail and would reach out and take my hand. I even carried Noah (3) on my back for a bit. They loved playing in the water and throwing stones. I also went on many hikes alone this year.
COVID perspective: This is when I decided that isolation from the grandkids was for the birds. We stopped social distancing with them after that.
Go to Sonic for ice cream: That sounds fun!
Scott and I drove up close to the Sonic order menu and turned off the car (but left the radio running) while we sat there enjoying our ice cream. In that short time, the battery drained, and we had to call AAA to come give us a jumpstart!
COVID perspective: I’m sure glad it was successful as Scott could not open his door, and we would have had trouble finding a ride home due to social distancing.
Visit my brother: That sounds fun!
Though we only live a few hours from each other, coordinating schedules is a challenge since Paul travels much of the year. But we pulled it off in June while I was visiting Katie.
COVID perspective: This connection was only possible because of Paul’s travel restrictions!
Celebrate Fathers’ Day: That sounds fun!
The whole family went together to play mini-golf. Noah (3) declared, “When I was your age, Grandma . . .”
COVID perspective: Scott brought his own putter.
Grow a tower garden: That sounds fun!
It was a steep learning curve! I learned how to make sun-dried tomatoes, as we had a proliferation of cherry tomatoes.
COVID perspective: A safe, outdoor activity
Tell you my favorite grandchild funny: That sounds fun!
So I was watching 4-year-old Noah one week and asked him what his favorite Bible story was. After some blank looks and shoulder shrugs, we talked about Adam and Eve, and then I asked if he knew about his namesake and the big boat. “Nope.” And so I began a dramatic rendition of the timeless story, emphasizing the animals, the 2 by 2, and the 8 people (count them). Though I did mention it, 40 days and 40 nights means little, as does the length of one year since this little tyke’s time frame includes “I went to the zoo tomorrow.”
Grandma: . . . And after the water went down, God opened the door of the boat, and Noah saw dry land at last. (Dramatic pause) And what do you think was the first thing Noah did?
Noah: He peed?
(Well, wouldn’t you if you’d been cooped up for a year!!!???)