Permanently Public

Dad's letterFrom my 2015 Journal. My father was a prolific letter writer, and I followed his example for many years, handwriting weekly missives to all my friends. On more than one occasion, someone has kept a letter I’ve sent and, long after I’d forgotten about it, shared it with me. It’s scary to think that something I said 40 to 50 years ago impacted someone so much that they kept it on file. Technology, meanwhile, has opened up a venue for exposing us like no other medium I know. I’m often surprised to see copies of letters or documents that were kept, photocopied, and posted online for the entire world to see. These become permanent records somewhere “out there” for future generations to mine through and discover.

Back in New Testament times, letters were carefully preserved and copied by hand, shared with several churches, and passed down through the generations. John the evangelist wrote a personal letter to “the elect lady” in II John and told her not to allow certain people into her home and not to give them encouragement or Godspeed. Typically, in the past, I’ve read the Scriptures as if every word were written to me. Thus, when I’d read this passage, I would try to figure out who in the world I shouldn’t “allow into my home.” That is an unhealthy exercise in futility! Since no husband is mentioned in this book, I assume John was giving her some advice about protecting herself and her faith.

The Word of God is inspired, and the Holy Spirit moved in men’s hearts, but sometimes men wrote out of their triggers, and most certainly out of their personalities. When I read the epistles as letters to a specific person or persons at a specific point in time, it feels like I’m peeking into someone’s private mailbag. I’m not sure I’d want some of my Facebook posts, letters, emails, or texts broadcast all over the world, published, and reprinted for future generations!

And then there’s that slanderous reference to Diotrephes.

I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not acknowledge us (III John 1:9 NET).

Yikes! How I would blush to see my name referred to like this in a public letter! Perhaps Diotrephes was too full of pride to care. But I wonder at the time if John had any inkling how permanent his words were to become.

I once wrote an angry letter to an organization with whom I still have a relationship. I regret that now. Did my letter get permanently filed under “Difficult People”? I have since learned my lesson: never respond in writing while I’m feeling triggered. Work through my emotions first and my tone will change.

How would my communication change if I knew my words were permanent?

Self-Righteousness 101

beauty salon

Photo by Delbeautybox from Pexels

From my 2015 Journal. It was time to find a new hairdresser. Mine was located on the other side of town, her prices went up, and I wasn’t always satisfied with her work. I wanted to find someone closer and cheaper and more consistent. So on the recommendation of someone in our neighborhood, I hopped on my bicycle and rode to the nearest salon, appointment at 9 a.m.

I arrived at 8:59 a.m. and the place was locked up tight. Maybe the owner was in the back. No problem. I can wait one minute. Or two or three . . . or four or five. Eventually, a lady sauntered over from the parking lot and unlocked the door. I moved closer. “Did you want to come in?” she mumbled?

Well, duh!

No greeting. No explanation as to why she was late, why she wasn’t there ahead of her clients, place unlocked and ready to receive customers with a smile. Phones were ringing, and off she went while I sat on a chair and waited, apparently no a/c on yet in the July heat. I was hot in more ways than one!

A couple minutes later, another worker moseyed in, put down her purse, opened up her iPad (really!?) and then I calmed down when I realized she was putting on some music for the establishment. Watch watch, wait.

Finally at 9:10 a.m. Miss #1 looks up from her computer and asks, “Are you Karen?” (Hmm. I’m the only one in the shop. Were there others expected? I suppose she could have assumed I was a walk-in. Still no explanation why they’re late.)

Miss #2 calls me to her chair. She’s friendly, sweet, asks questions, not too chatty. I like her. But I’m still steamed that she’s not professional enough to arrive on time and respect my schedule.

The price is right, the haircut fine (as far as I can tell), and I like her as a person. (I had no further interaction with Miss #1, the manager.)

So what’s wrong?

I need to tell them how to run a business, I fume inside. How do they expect to maintain customers if they can’t act professionally?

And so I leave the premises and ride around the neighborhood, praying as I go. I don’t want this angry emotion. It’s unprofessional! And so I hand Jesus the ball of fire that is burning in my palm. And He smiles. He knows there’s more. I know there’s more. What is underneath this anger? Is it disappointment? I have no time crunch. Why should I be upset about wasting a few extra minutes in my day?

“It’s because they’re so unprofessional,” I whine to Him. “I wouldn’t do that. I always arrive well ahead of my clients. What would they think of me if I showed up late without an apology like these two ladies did?”

And then, “Oh!” I exclaim in chagrin and embarrassment. “I know what it is. It’s self-righteousness—the ‘I’ syndrome.” Ugh. What an ugly word.

What does self-righteousness look like? I see myself wearing a large, shapeless, colorful but gaudy dress. Not too shabby, I think. It has color, it hides my unsightly curves, it’s functional.

“Would you be willing to let Me have it?” Jesus asks.

“Uh . . . okay, but I’ll be rather unclothed then.”

I pull the garment over my head and hand it to Him. And then wait. And wait.

I know that when I give Jesus something, He often likes to give me something in return. “Well, aren’t You going to hand me robes of righteousness instead to put on?”

“Nope,” He replies.

I’m a little taken aback. Isn’t that what Scripture says?

“I already gave them to you . . .” He softly answers “. . . when you accepted Me into your heart.”

I glance down then at my body and gasp. I am clothed in a dazzling white, sequined wedding gown, “adorned as a bride for her husband.”

Chagrined, I realize I had thrown a gaudy shift over top of my beautiful gown. Not pretty. “I’m so sorry, Jesus. Please forgive me for disrespecting Your gift.”

And so I think back to the ladies at the shop. It no longer matters that they came in a few minutes late and didn’t have the people skills to greet me warmly at the door. Perhaps this is my new mission field.

Postscript: I have since found a phenomenal hair stylist. Her name is Cindy Harris and she has a PhD in hair design (I didn’t know there even was such a thing!) I highly recommend her for all your makeover needs.

Cindy’s Total Image Salon located in Oasis Salon, 745 S Church St, Suite 301 in Murfreesboro, TN.

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Mountaintop Experiences

DSCN3170 wilderness mountain

The Transfiguration (Matthew 17)

One day Peter, James, and John, closest earthly friends of Jesus, climb to the top of a high mountain. They’re dirty, tired, sweaty, hungry, and thirsty. The journey is long and arduous, and they are clueless as to why Jesus is leading them here. It’s nice to be away from the pressing crowds, though, where it’s quiet and they can feel the wind and have time to think about all that’s happened so far. It’s a high mountain, and it takes all their energy to climb, and they wonder when they’ll ever reach their destination. The privileged three might miss their families, but it’s exciting to be singled out to spend quality time with their Rabbi.

And then it happens—Jesus’ transfiguration, meeting biblical heroes Moses and Elijah, the enveloping brilliant light cloud, the very voice of God in their ears. It’s overwhelming, it’s exhilarating, it’s terrifying, it’s unique in history.

But this mountaintop experience is not meant to be the norm—in spite of Peter’s suggestion to create shelters for the three of them. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and they are not permitted to share it with anyone—at least for now. This is a “between me and God” holy moment—it’s nobody’s business but theirs. And there’s a purpose for it—maybe to strengthen their faith or to give them courage or enlightenment. Maybe Jesus is bursting with excitement and wants to share His true story experientially with His best friends.

And now it’s time to come down from the mountain. They can’t live there, but it’s now part of their story that shapes how they think and feel. They are different for having experienced it. And when the time is right (after the resurrection and not before), they will be given permission to tell others—it’s a testimony—both theirs as a witness and a verification of who Jesus is.

What mountaintop experience have you had? Did you tell someone, or have you kept it between you and the Lord? Why?

 

A DAY OF DELIGHT

Ben and MeFrom my 2015 Journal. Three-year-old Ben spent the day with me while his mom was out of town and big brother Jack was at school. Together we unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, emptied all the trash, shredded a ream of paper, lined up all the toy cars and trucks, assembled some puzzles, read some books, and played games together. He learned how to climb up the ladder at the playground, snacked every hour, and went potty frequently, needing some help still with getting his pants up and down. I let him do everything he could by himself—until he asked for help, and then I eagerly stepped in to proffer my assistance. We made messes, we picked them up. I told him over and over again how much I loved him.

This whole day was spent in deep delight as I watched Ben’s skills improve, his joy in the playtime, his eagerness to help me do housework. “I’m a big boy!” he’d declare periodically. And when he remarked, “I love you, Grandma,” my heart burst with joy.

Was this little tyke really helping me? Could I not have loaded and unloaded that dishwasher in half the time it took for him to decide where every piece of silverware belonged? Did I really need his help emptying trash cans? The answer, of course, is no. And he often needed more assistance than he gave in return. Sometimes we had to clean up the messes that he made while attempting to help.

As I reflected back, I saw this special day through the eyes of my Father in Heaven. He graciously allows me to “help” Him, I make messes that He has to help clean up. And I need Him a whole lot more than He needs me. But a day spent with Him is a deep delight to us both.

Go, Preach, and Baptize

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19 KJV)

From my 2011 Journal. My childhood was immersed in the culture of evangelism.  My missionary dad preached in remote villages of Nigeria and established a church. My mother’s medical work and reading classes were all for the purpose of getting a foot in the door for evangelism. We MKs (Missionary Kids) could quote the Great Commission forward and backward (in King James of course). Many of our hymns and choruses reflected the missionary calling: “Bringing in the Sheaves,” “The Ninety-and-Nine,” and “Rescue the Perishing.” Preachers berated us for staying in our “holy huddle” and not reaching out to the lost. Bible school professors instructed us on how to knock on doors and “draw the net.”

One Sunday I sat guilt-ridden through one more passionate three-point evangelistic sermon on how each believer was required to “Go, preach, and baptize.” I may have had opportunities to share

Paul baptized

My brother’s baptism at Kent Academy

my faith, but I had never preached to or baptized anyone. Feeling triggered, I wondered how this Baptist preacher would feel if I, as a woman, actually offered to stand in his pulpit and preach . . . or asked to take his place in the baptistery. I began to push back against the notion that evangelism was the only viable gift of the Spirit. Was the Great Commission given only to men? Only to the Apostles? Was I being disobedient if I have never dipped anyone?

What if discipleship is what God has called me to rather than evangelism? Maybe I’m a Dorcas or a Ruth. Maybe I have the gift of mercy rather than exhortation. It’s time to stop our shame messages and learn to work together as a body—each with his or her own gifts.

 

Anger Water

Pour forth the overflowings of thine anger. Job 40:11 ASV

Anger is a hot topic—literally. Some people visualize their anger as white-hot or like red flames. But this verse in Job references anger as “overflowing.” It makes me think of a liquid metaphor where there are different kinds of anger:  there’s the slow, low, simmering kind and there’s the roiling, boiling kind. They’re both hot to touch.

Boiling waterDepending on the vessel (the type of soul one has), anger water can be contained (as in a pressure cooker or cooking pot) or it can cause a meltdown (if placed in a plastic container for instance—I know by experience). What difference would it make if the container were made of steel or cardboard or glass? Most of us are not capable of holding onto anger for very long before we feel its effects in our body,  and our “overflowings” spill out and burn others. Or as a Facebook meme stated, “If you don’t take the time to heal from what hurt you, then you’ll bleed all over those who didn’t hurt you.”

In contrast, God’s anger is slow, longsuffering, patient. God’s vessel is capable of withstanding the hottest heat without exploding. It’s best to siphon off our anger into His vessel because He can hold it. But eventually even His anger reaches the “overflowing” stage. (See the book of Revelation.)

I DON’T HAVE TO . . . I GET TO

ToiletYears ago, Scott and I attended a concert at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga. I don’t remember now which groups performed, but the lyrics from an old Gospel song stuck with me for a long time. The refrain was “I don’t have to . . . I get to.”

Here’s a sample from my own list:

  • I don’t have to cook meals for my family . . . I get to.
  • I don’t have to pray for people . . . I get to.
  • I don’t have to clean the toilets . . . I get to.
  • I don’t have to love my enemies . . . I get to.

Another good phrase to use is:  Isn’t it great that . . . ?

  • Isn’t it great that we have dirty dishes? It means we have food to eat.
  • Isn’t it great that my hair is frizzy today? It means I have hair!
  • Isn’t it great that it’s raining today? It means that the flowers are drinking.
  • Isn’t it great that I have a toilet to clean? It means I don’t have to squat over a hole in the ground (seriously)!

Now your turn . . . 

VISION, LIMITS, AND OBITS

IMG_4641 (2)From my 2011 Journal. We’re teaching the life of Elisha in Momentum (Sunday school for grades 4-6), and our leader Lori challenged us to ask ourselves 3 sets of questions.

#1 Write down a sentence that describes the vision you have for your life.

That’s a tall order! I’m sure it’s changed over the years [and perhaps has changed since I wrote this 8 years ago]. At first I thought of the word “prayer” and then “service,” but I think even more than that, the word “obedience.” I’m more of a rule-follower than a leader. Another word that comes to mind is “peace.” All these words have been my pursuit since childhood. Can they be melded into one sentence?

My Vision Statement:  I will prayerfully pursue inner peace while living a life of obedience in His service.

#2 Where do you limit yourself? and Where do you limit God?

Unlike my youngest daughter, I don’t like change. I’m not inherently adventuresome. I limit myself physically. I don’t get outside as much as I’d like to enjoy nature. I’m content to stay inside where it’s sterile and comfortable. [I’ve since then deliberately made that change.] I limit myself when I doubt that God is working in another person’s life. I limit God when I cannot see the big picture or when I don’t ask for big things. I’m Elisha behind a plow, plodding along. I have no imagination that God has a much greater work for me to do. [Again, thankfully God has grown me in these areas.]

#3 Write out your own obituary.

Besides the stats of where I’ve lived and what I’ve done and who my surviving relatives are—I suppose Lori means for what character traits will people remember me. The truth? Or what I hope they remember me for? Okay, here goes. . . .

She liked things done her way. She liked simplicity and minimalism. She neglected exercise. And she had a terrible memory. She loved spicy food and anything African. She accepted people at face value and tried to learn something from everyone. She was hardest on her husband and expected more from him than from others—but she eventually relaxed on that one and decided to let God be his Holy Spirit.

She loved prayer, but never felt like she mastered it. She had a driving passion for purity, obedience to God, mind renewal, helping others come to emotional healing. She enjoyed writing—for herself—and used to crochet and cross-stitch. Mostly she enjoyed reading, and when younger, climbing trees. She adored her family. She enjoyed baking, but not cooking on a routine basis—especially for picky eaters. Using her resources for God was extremely important to her. She loved monkeys but not dogs, and she tolerated cats. Sunsets, rainbows, a full moon, cloud formations, and the African sky. She liked to work on the computer—especially when creating words on a page, and even data entry. But most of all, above all else, she LOVED GOD.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your responses to these thought-provoking questions.

What kind of rubber band are you?

rubber bands

Some people are so uptight when you’re in their presence that you can feel them vibrate and twang like a taut rubber band. Others are so laid back that they’re limp. Some have souls that are hard and brittle—like old rubber bands that have lost their flexibility, and they break or get sticky.

I want to be supple, usable, and relaxed—but ready for action. Oh, and I want to be teal to represent peace.

Who’s in Your Driver’s Seat?

Drivers seat

Baby Benjamin and big brother Jackson

I have heard people use the metaphor that God should be in the driver seat of our lives—that God is in charge, and I can trust Him to drive this vessel anywhere He wants. But I’m not sure that’s accurate. If I were the passenger, I would have no say in where I go and what I do. He has given human beings a choice. I am actually behind the steering wheel. And so, though I am driving, His hands are on the wheel with me because He is inside me. When I fight against His direction, we begin to swerve and hit potholes and run off the road and wreck, but when I yield to His gentle pressure, He keeps me on the right path, going in the right direction. He can see up ahead where the detour signs are, where the roadblocks are. So I can trust Him when He suggests we take a break, find another route, or stop to help a fellow traveler. I cannot drive another person’s vessel for him/her (sometimes I wish I could!), but I can lend a hand with a flat tire or offer a snack or a drink of cool water to ease his/her discomfort.

Where do you see Jesus in your picture?