My Eyes

My eyes are continually toward the Lord… (Ps. 25:15)

Sometimes I look at the back of Your head as You say, “Follow Me down this path.” Sometimes I look into Your eyes, and I see tender love and compassion. Sometimes I look sideways toward You—for companionship and fellowship. Other times I look up at You like an expectant child looking toward her father—waiting for the surprise, the delight, the gift, the promised reward. It’s hard to look toward You when I’ve disappointed You. My eyes are downcast then, so I won’t see Your disapproval or displeasure with what I’ve done or thought. I look around me, behind, above, below me—and You are there. No matter where I look, I am “toward you”—if only I open my eyes!

Keep my eyes on You, Lord.

Responding to Change

Journal 2005

I’m reading The Bible or the Axe: One Man’s Dramatic Escape from Persecution in the Sudan, by William O. Levi. The author’s childhood in an African village parallels the stories in Wes Stafford’s book Too Small to Ignore. I note the idealism of the simplicity of life, where there’s community and comradery and a commune with nature that is severely lacking in my current world. Am I mourning the loss of my childhood home where TV was unknown and family was all we had and the stars were so bright and there were amazing trees to climb?

What kind of a childhood did I give my kids? How can they appreciate nature when they’re cooped up inside the house in front of the TV all day long? (An exaggeration of course.) So, they’re grown now and can make their own decisions. What am I afraid of?

Today one daughter showed me the website where all her friends have gathered in cyberspace. With a click of a mouse, she can tell me the 56 other people who like Princess Bride. I marvel at this, for my boarding school classmates balk at joining a chat group!

Technology has taken over our lives. Entertainment rules. What happens to relationships in this media-crazed world? How do I find balance? I need to work out how I feel about TV, movies, entertainment, computers, cell phones, microwaves, telephones, digital cameras, Blackberries, iPods, iPads, etc. Funny, I never did learn how to program the VCR—but now there’s little need to because we have TIVO.

I remember my dad recalling how HIS dad lamented when farm machinery was invented. He said with a horse or mule, you both got to rest at the end of each row! And my Grandpa Peterson didn’t like gas-powered lawn mowers because they were so noisy. Does each succeeding generation chafe under the advancement of technology?

As I see it, there are two choices—complain that the world is leaving me behind—or stay caught up and use the resources that are handed to me. Would I really want to go back to the days of the washboard? I doubt it. I’m not hardy enough.

Later. The family gave me the heavenly gift of 24 hours with no TV. Silence meant more family time and interaction. I have strong opinions about entertainment, but I’m over-ruled and I’ve quit fighting it. I think there must be moderation and balance in all things. Lord, show me where I’m off-balance in my heart.

Principles to consider:

  • Does this activity, whatever it might be—TV, computer, social media—push me closer to God or away from Him?
  • Is it a moral issue?
  • Does it harm others or myself?
  • Is it used as a painkiller? An opiate? A coping mechanism?
  • Is my conscience pricked?
  • Check my emotions and my motivation if I do or do not do this activity.

A 2022 Update. What’s a VCR, TIVO, Blackberry, or chat group? How quickly our technology has changed. I remember when my nephew took a typewriter to school for show-and-tell and when my then two-year-old grandson showed me how to turn on his LeapPad. In those days I had no idea what the universal on-button looked like, much less what this gadget could do. I’m way behind in social media knowledge and pop culture. I think I’ll just go for a nature hike and leave it all behind!

Thunderstorms Over Your Head

Journal 2005

Being in the presence of people in a bad mood is like standing under their rain cloud. It’s their choice to stay there getting drenched, and it’s their choice to grumble and complain because they’re cold and miserable. But what is that to me? I prefer not to get wet (or worse, struck by lightning), and the easiest solution is to just walk away.

But what if I want to help that person? Or what if I’m in a love relationship and choose not to retreat? Am I willing to get wet? Take the chance of getting zapped?

Jesus says: “I am in the eye of the storm. Rest there with Me.” And the swirling wind about me will move people’s rain away so that I can be near them. I don’t have to be affected by their weather patterns.

Lord, keep me in the center of You.

Lovingkindness

Journal 2005

The word lovingkindness intrigues me. “Loving” I understand. “Kindness” is obvious. But why the two together? Aren’t they mutual? If you’re loving, you’ll be kind; if you’re kind, you’ll be loving. How can you have one without the other? How is lovingkindness different from the definition of loving or kindness? I turned to Webster for help.

Loving: affectionate

Kindness: friendly, generous, warm-hearted, sympathy, understanding, humane, considerate, forbearing, tolerant, generous, good-hearted, tender, considerate

Lovingkindness: tender and benevolent affections

How do I wrap my mind and understanding around this attribute when I read of God’s judgment, fury, and anger toward the rebellious? How do I become the object or recipient of His affection? Can I really earn it? We’re taught: “No, it’s all one-sided. We love Him because He first loved us.” Without His initiation, we would not respond to Him.

But my part is necessary too. It’s not just one-sided. It’s not that I earn His love, but that I respond to His. I don’t turn away from, but toward, His love. He has offered me relationship. And when I embrace it and accept it, He responds back in relationship—and lovingkindness.

When someone spurns God’s love, He is patient, kind, and tender. He continues to woo and invite. But at some point (God knows the heart and the intents), He must exact consequences or punishment or judgment. That is His right.

If someone spurns the love I offer, I can leave him or her in God’s hands and turn away. But when someone spurns God’s love, knowing the consequences thereof, they have no one to blame but their own choices.

I can experience all of God’s lovingkindness or benevolence. It’s there for my heart. But I have to do my part and turn toward the warmth and light, not away from it.

On the Edge of a Cliff

Journal 2005

Going for an Oral Interpretation major in college, I once performed a reading with a powerful visual about standing atop a cliff, desperately trying to stop people from going over the edge (presumably to hell). The point was to urge believers to evangelize. I even know one missionary who went overseas because of this visual. But all I ever felt was guilt, helplessness, and powerlessness.

As I sit with my emotions, I notice there are danger signs at the edge of the cliff. In fact, there are warning signs before the danger signs. I’m praying desperately for people to open their eyes and take notice, and if I take my eyes off the scene, I’ll miss someone. Still I feel helpless. I have to DO something. If I sit down to rest, I’ll get stampeded! Where do responsibility and trust intersect?

Jesus says, “Back away from the edge of the cliff, find a bench, sit there and wait. Offer cold drinks and sandwiches to the weary travelers. Invite; don’t panic. Invite them to rest with me and talk. Tell them about the cliff and encourage them to share the news with the other travelers on their path. And if while I’m talking to one, and another passes by, I can just wave and smile. And if I need to sleep for a while, I can ask Jesus (or an angel) to tap me on the shoulder when I need to wake up and pay attention. Whew! That feels better.

Thoughts on Luke 9-10

Journal 2005

Jesus’ disciples came across someone who was expelling demons using Jesus’ name, and they told the man to stop. But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally” (Luke 9).

I confess I am guilty of being critical of other Christians with whom I disagree. Have I hindered the work of God? When does it become a work of Satan? And how do we know the difference?

Later, on their way to Jerusalem, Jesus and the disciples were going to spend the night in Samaria, but when the Samaritans found out they were traveling to Jerusalem, they refused hospitality. James’ and John’s immediate response was: Shall we call lightning down on them? (How creative! Or had they seen Jesus do this at some point?) But Jesus said, “No,” and they continued to another village.

Somedays I’d like to call down lightning on someone! But that’s not my prerogative. Revenge belongs to God in His own time. God’s patience and grace are longsuffering.

When Jesus sent out the 70 (by now the group had grown—it wasn’t just the 12 He was preparing), He told them to travel light—just as He had told the 12. But also—to get out if they were not well received and go where they were welcomed and wanted.

How far do we take this model? Missionaries often enter hostile environments. Should they be following Christ’s words to the 70, or were His instructions for a specific time and place? I know many stories of triumph where missionaries pushed through and stayed where they were unwanted, and God eventually blessed their persistence. Were they there at God’s calling or their own inner voice? Who am I to judge? I just know I must follow the dictates of the Holy Spirit in my own heart and let all others answer to God themselves. Personally, if I encounter opposition to an attempt to advance the kingdom of God, it makes sense to me to move on to an open door instead of continually knocking on a closed and bolted one.

Your thoughts?

God’s Extravagance

From my 2009 Journal.

My husband Scott and I were out of town visiting our middle daughter who was pregnant with our first grandbaby. We needed some milk and a vegetable for dinner, so we sent Scott to the grocery store for these two items. Ladies, you can already predict what happened . . . He returned with three bags of newborn diapers (not needed for another five months), a box of cereal, some salad dressing (both of which we already had on hand, but he didn’t know it), three bags of cookies, the milk, a veggie, and some tea.

I started to grouse about his overkill when the Lord struck me with this thought: “This is like Me—an over-abundant, extravagant, generous, over-flowing, more-than-you-need kind of God. Do not spurn generosity.”

Thank You, Lord, for my generous husband.

Using those diapers 5 months later

Profanity

Journal 2005

Recently a friend on Facebook used a four-letter word in her post, and I’m disappointed in the direction this young person has taken in life. I know she knows God, but her activities don’t match my understanding of biblical mandates. It grieves my heart for the woman she’s become when I knew her once as an innocent child. What seed of disappointment, pride, rebellion, hurt, or emptiness got planted in her heart and when? I’m not responsible for her choices, but her choice today impacted my eyes, and the impurity infiltrated my mind.

I was raised with strict rules about dancing, smoking, movie-going, and card-playing. Never once did my parents curse, drink alcohol, or travel on Sunday. As I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve had to decide which rules I want to shed and which I want to keep. I can happily play games with cards, go to movies, or golf with my husband on a Sunday afternoon, but I still seem to be quite sensitive to profanity.

And so I struggle to get that four-letter word out of my head. It’s like trying not to see a pink elephant by saying, “Don’t think of pink elephants”! I need a God-miracle to break the bond with it. I’ve tried every trick, tip, and tool I know, and nothing works. I’ve tried bond-breaking in memories and images, prayers against curses, repentance, forgiveness, praise, and prayer for purity for self and for others.

Forgiveness—this word jumps out at me. Why am I reluctant to pursue this? Why do I need to forgive her? Has she done me wrong? She doesn’t even know she’s impacted my heart and mind, and I’m sure if she knew, she wouldn’t care. I am not her judge . . . and that thought helps. I can forgive her. Apparently, I was standing in the judge’s seat, and that position is not mine, but God’s. And with that, I can let the stuck word melt away in my brain.

A 2022 Update. I would dance if I could, and I enjoy an occasional sip of wine, but I still choose not to add profanity to my vocabulary. I thank my parents for the example they set.

Photo by Liliana Drew on Pexels.com

Company!

Journal 2005

Following my parents’ example, I keep a guestbook log*. Theirs began in 1953, and mine in 1983. Any overnight stay or feet under the table warrants an entry. Hattie Miller, a brave single missionary who lived 60 miles away at the nearest mission station to ours, signed theirs the most often. It was she who bought us our book and signed it first. Today that book is held together with packing tape.

The arrival of company is an exciting event, but there’s a certain relief when they leave. We just happily said goodbye to a couple who stayed a week longer than they had originally planned (due to unforeseen circumstances). Other people’s energy tends to drain me, so despite their statement that they didn’t expect me to entertain them, why did I feel compelled to do so?

My mind goes back to visiting Sunday school classes in various churches on furlough in the U.S. I was forced into the limelight. I had to say something intelligent. I was the entertainment! The church members clutched the end of an electrical cord, looking for a place to plug it in. I was a receptacle and bingo—they had electric juice, I was being drained, and the lights were going dim! I didn’t want to be used. Plug yourself into someone else’s outlet please! But putting a cap over my outlet felt selfish and rude, so I kept the cap off.

In a listening prayer session, Jesus said to me: “Turn the tables on them. Ask them questions instead.” Deceit is the opposite of honesty. With company, I can say, “Do you mind if I take a power nap?” Of course they don’t mind. They understand. Maybe they’d like some alone time too!

A 2022 Update: Someone recently wondered how many times she had visited us, and I was able to pull out my guestbook and search for her name. As I scanned through the pages, I noted how many of our guests have passed on to glory. But I was most struck with the passage of time when I read my middle daughter’s entry: Jackson is learning to crawl. How did 12 years gallop by so fast!

After working through my emotions, I’ve discovered I’m far more tolerant now of being with people for extended periods of time. I’m still an introvert, but I rely more now on a greater Power Source to maintain inner peace.

*On the flyleaf of my parents’ book, Dad penned the following:

When the great Guest Book in the house above, Lies spread before us in the Home of love, One entry only waits the writer’s name: No record of departure, only “Came.”

Dropping Stones

Journal 2005

My heart hurts when my children are not at peace, and my soul longs for growth and godliness for each of us. I’m weighed down by a stone that is too heavy to carry, and I drop this boulder on someone’s foot. The thought that I might have hurt someone, even inadvertently, is heinous to me. I feel helpless to make it right because, even if I apologize, and even if they forgive me, the damage is done, and it’s my fault. I feel regret and sorrow.

When I sin deliberately and someone gets hurt, I am accountable for the damage. If I sin inadvertently or unintentionally, God knows my heart. He can turn the stone into flower petals. And if I seek reconciliation and I repent and confess my part in the hurt, He can restore and bless and soften the blow.

O, Lord, bring rose petals to my family today. Open our eyes to see truth and give us courage to act upon it. Amen.