How to Make a Good Decision

From my 2012 Journal. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out, but once I did, following these protocols for making a decision has saved me a bucket load of embarrassment and regret.

  1. When faced with a double-bind, work through your feelings about each side individually, one at a time. Once you feel at peace no matter which side you choose, your solution will be much clearer to your rational mind. Emotions cloud your ability to choose wisely. (If you need help working through your feelings, give me a call!)

Example: If I choose Option A (accept a new job offer), I’ll feel some fear. If I choose Option B (stay with my present job), I’ll feel some regret.

  1. Want to know God’s will? Make no decision to move forward until you’re at peace about it first. Then you’ll be able to hear God’s voice more clearly.

Example: A classmate of mine in college felt great angst about his passion to become a missionary pilot. Somewhere he’d bought into the lie that God would never give him the desires of his heart; he was afraid that God was just testing him. It seemed obvious to me that it was God who had given him the passion in the first place, and I told him so, but I didn’t know then how to help him work through his emotions.

  1. Never confront someone, write a letter, or send an email or text while you’re triggered. You’ll say stupid things you’ll regret, and the cleanup from the mess you create will be harder and take longer. Always come to peace in your heart first, and then say what you have to say. (I’m speaking from experience here, folks.)

Example: I doubt if you need one. We’ve all done it!

Violence and Lies

For the rich men of the city are full of violence [of every kind]; Her inhabitants speak lies and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth (Micah 6:12 AMP).

From my 2009 Journal. Because I grew up in a loving home, sheltered from violence and hatred and evil, it was hard for me to conceive of men willfully choosing murder, crime, and destruction. And then I began working with SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) victims, and I listened for hours to unspeakable stories of raw evil and witnessed the results of perpetrators’ horrible deeds. When I read this verse, I can now begin to imagine the horror of an entire nation involved in wicked choices. No wonder God was upset with Israel!

I think there are two kinds of people: wounded (that’s most of us) and evil. A frightened and vulnerable teenage girl who aborts her baby is in a different category from someone in the occult who rips a child from his mother’s arms and places him on Satan’s altar (See 2 Chronicles 28:3). Worshipping a false god can be done out of pain or ignorance; but once a person witnesses evidence of God’s power and still chooses the fake way, that’s foolishness. Someone who chooses the violence of human sacrifice, however, has crossed over into the enemy’s camp. God’s judgment is severe for evil men.

The second half of this verse reveals the source of evil choices: lies and deception (coming from The Father of Lies). Most of our emotional suffering is a result of believing lies. Bad things that happen to us can be painful in the moment, but the lies we believe about the event keep the pain alive. And where there’s unresolved pain, there’s often destructive behavior.

Victims of extreme abuse can go either way: become perpetrators themselves or reject all things evil and run to God. What a joy to watch the latter find healing from their trauma. These overcomers have a special place in God’s kingdom. They are my heroes.

Evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. (The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel)

To read more about child sacrifice, check out https://www.worldvision.org/author/caleb_wilde, 5 things you need to know about child sacrifice in Uganda. (Unfortunately, the USA is also guilty.)

Habakkuk’s Struggle

From my 2009 Journal. While reading through the book of Habakkuk, I notice the prophet’s anguished struggle with God’s inaction.

How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? (1:2 NIV).

 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? (1:3).

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (1:13).

Humans have wrestled with God’s choices from the beginning of time. We try to reconcile our theology of a good and caring God with our perception of His actions or inaction. Why is it so hard to just accept God and His will and His way? I think it’s because we have a built-in need for fairness and justice, and we want control of our world.

What makes you struggle with God?

2020 Update.  Our world is a mess right now, but is it really any different from Habakkuk’s day: violence, injustice, wrongdoing, wickedness. My struggle is not really about what’s going on in the world, but rather what’s going on in my heart. When I ask why questions, I don’t really want an intellectual answer. I want God to fix the pain in my heart so I can be at peace. But it’s a struggle to let go of my own agenda.

man covering face with hands near car trunk

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

What should I do today?

lion roaring inside cager

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

From my 2009 Journal. Miracle stories in the Bible like Noah and the ark, Israelites crossing the Red Sea, Jericho’s walls, and Jonah’s fish survival occurred at specific times in history, often far apart. I wonder how many thousands of God-stories never get recorded? Miracles happen daily around the world, but they’re not written down for all eternity in a best-seller book. These Bible stories feel larger than life (Elijah and the prophets of Baal, David and Goliath). Is that because they’re the stories of my childhood? They’re like bright spotlights in a dark place. They stand out starkly against the ordinary, the mundane.

I think of Daniel who lived a long life, day in and day out fulfilling his duties, but he has some defining moments, some spotlight experiences, where his character passed the test. Thousands of us live ordinary, daily lives in the kingdom. It’s important what I do today, in the mundane, choosing righteousness, so that when I am tried for my faith, I’ll continue to be who I am in the daily times.

2020 Update. Today I choose to love you even when you judge me for wearing a mask or not. Today I will remain joyful when toilet paper is scarce. Today I refuse to speak ill of your political candidate because I have not walked in his shoes or yours. Today I will remain calm and peaceful when my city’s citizens riot in the streets. Today I will love my husband and take food to a hurting neighbor and pray with a friend. Today I get to choose my attitude and responses when I’m isolated or in a crowd.

What are you going to do today to prepare for tomorrow’s God story?

Do My Job, Not Yours

honeycomb close up detail honey bee

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

From my 2009 Journal. I just finished reading a book about a Canadian woman’s saga of her three abortions and how she became an activist for the pro-life movement. The story makes me want to rush out and get involved in her cause . . . but I don’t. God often gives us our passions and our calling based on our own experiences. It’s no accident that I have a ministry to MKs (Missionary Kids). If I should sign up to help the anti-abortion cause, join a feed-the-hungry organization, commit to becoming a leader in  the church youth group, travel overseas as a missionary, and fight for justice on Capitol Hill all at the same time, I’d be rather scattered, unfocused, overworked and useless. I’m not called to do everything. I’m to be obedient to God’s calling on MY life. Each ant or bee has his job description in the colony or hive, and it takes all of us working together to accomplish God’s work in the kingdom. (Did you know there are about 10 different jobs in a beehive?)

Does that mean I should be indifferent to the sanctity of human life? Uncaring about missions? Ignore all needs of poverty? Of course not. But I have limited time and energy and resources, and I’m most effective for the kingdom of God when I focus on my assigned job on God’s team.

What’s your job description in the kingdom?

Tomato Plants and Trials

With our daughter Cindy’s encouragement, Scott and I decided this year to try our hand at growing some veggies in a hydroponic Tower Garden on our back deck. We had no idea what to expect, so we blithely inserted our tiny shoots of celery, basil, cucumbers, lettuce, kale, onions, marigolds, and tomatoes into the little black holes. Daily, we enjoyed plucking off fresh salad ingredients for our lunches.

The tomato plants didn’t start to grow until later when the weather turned hotter. I looked on the Internet to find out how to prune them and diligently plucked off the errant shoots so that the main branches would grow strong and healthy. All was going great until those tomato plants assumed their power and soon dominated the entire structure, blocking out the sun for all the other plants. It’s a good thing we like tomatoes, for we’re about to get a bumper crop of them! (Cindy subsequently urged me to cut them back even more.)

When I hurt or face a trial, I might assume that God is mad at me or that I’ve done something wrong and He’s punishing me. The truth, however, might be that He is simply pruning me to bear more fruit. I can embrace the trial, learn from it, and give God permission to prune me. And enjoy the bumper crop of joy and patience and love to spread around my neighborhood.

Cherry tomatoes anyone?

Tower Garden 3

Church Buildings

Church Miya
Our church at Miya, Nigeria

From my 2009 Journal. Every church Scott and I have attended over the years has gone through a building program to expand its facilities. I’ve concluded that the leadership can never please everyone with their proposed budget or style of building. What does God require of us? Which principles do we use? Is it wrong to build a cathedral? Or erect a mud hut with no electricity? Even “in moderation” is a debatable continuum.

One side of the debate goes like this: Do everything with excellence. Build big and beautiful and lasting and use the latest technology to attract a bigger crowd so more will receive the precious Word of God. And be sure to give sacrificially.

The other side says to build as plainly as possible so you have more to give to the poor and to missions so others can hear the Word. And be sure to give sacrificially.

Both approaches have the same bottom line. Who’s right? The debate seems to center around money, but I suspect comfort and beauty and creativity also play a role in how we make choices.

What do you think?

Cathedral

Intercessory Prayer—God’s Part vs. My part

From my 2009 Journal. I know that God loves the person I’m praying for, and He wants her to have relationship with Him. God knows what a person needs and will pursue relationship with each person in His creation because of His great love. So, God’s going to pursue her whether or not I pray and ask. So why pray?

It’s an age-old question. I know that prayer releases something in the spiritual realm that I can’t see. But everyone has a choice, and God will not violate a person’s will. So, what do my prayers for this person accomplish? Does it change God’s mind? Does it change the person’s mind? Of course I pray by faith, ask what I know is God’s will, and leave the results to Him. I know that. How then should I pray?

Jesus, I have a friend who needs relationship with You. Is there something You want me to do today that will nudge her closer to the kingdom?

Now there’s a prayer I can sink my teeth into!

U of the South 2 (2)

University of the South, Sewanee, TN

What If God Asked?

Cow

From my 2009 Journal. Ezekiel 4 is a fascinating exchange between God and Ezekiel. God gives Ezekiel instructions that impose hardships on him, including eating rationed food and water, lying on one side for over a year and on the other for 40 days. But worst of all, God says he must prepare his food using human dung for fuel—like they will be doing in captivity. Ezekiel protests—he’s never defiled himself before with abominable meat. God relents and allows him to use cow dung instead.

In Ezekiel’s agrarian society, using cow dung is normal. It’s not offensive to them. Some tribes in Africa even use it to create shiny floors in their huts. But there’s something inherently offensive, disgusting, repulsive, unclean, about using human waste. At least it feels that way to me.

Ezekiel was used to using cow dung. Was there something in the Law that said human dung was defiling? Or was it inherently known that this was ceremonially or socially or emotionally unacceptable?

The part that really fascinates me, however, is that God relents from His command. He’s already asked Ezekiel to do some pretty humiliating and bizarre things. But He accepts Ezekiel’s protests based on his argument: I’ve never defiled myself—this would make me impure.

Now fast-forward to Peter in Acts 10:14. God instructs Peter to eat unclean animals. Same response: I’ve never defiled myself before. The passage doesn’t say that God made Peter eat them, but He does say, “What God calls clean is clean.”

God could have used the same argument with Ezekiel, but He doesn’t—which makes me think that God understood and took pity on Ezekiel. That He would not require of him more than he could bear.

Both men said they had never been defiled. Pete said, “No, Lord!” Ezekiel didn’t say no, but “Ah, Lord God . . .” Did Ezekiel protest or simply express his dismay?

What hard thing has God asked me to do? Did I protest? Yes, that’s quite normal, I think. But I eventually relented and obeyed. But He’s never asked me to go against my conscience—or has He?

End Times – Are You Ready for the Curtain?

Curtain

Now we see through a glass [curtain], darkly (I Corinthians 13:12).

From my 2009 Journal. I’m in the audience. The preliminaries on stage are over. The curtain is still closed. The lights in the audience are starting to dim. It’s getting darker all around. It’s almost time for the play to begin, time for the curtain to open so we can see what’s hidden behind it. The preparations that have been made in heaven are about to be revealed.

We know the plot; we read it in the program. We’re familiar with the characters. We know it’s going to be an interactive drama. Are we ready? We in the audience have all been given weapons so we can join the battle scene. Are we, the Church, ready?