Not-So-Triumphal Entry

Journal 2008. Jesus comes riding on a donkey, down the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, to Jerusalem. But coats and palms branches don’t cut it for my modern mind. Think ticker-tape parade in a convertible limo, waving to the crowds, on the way to seat of government. And the whole city buzzes and vibrates with the news on Twitter and Facebook, while the media clamors for an interview.

When He arrives at the house that was built to honor Him and His Father—it belongs to His family—He finds garbage everywhere. And Starbucks kiosks, newspaper stands, and ware hawkers have taken over the lawn. Business is booming like a circus.

“Get off my lawn!” Jesus cries. “You don’t belong here! This isn’t your property! This is my Dad’s house—and Mine, since I inherit all things from Him.” The little children who have followed Jesus the whole parade, along with their big sisters and brothers, shout and laugh and chant “Hosanna!” Meanwhile, some crippled and blind people huddle in a corner of His house, and He cures them. What a range of emotion He feels—anger, elation, compassion, and sorrow, all in the space of a few hours.

And just like any hero or miracle-worker or crowd-pleaser who enters a city, there is opposition, criticism, and jealousy. The caretakers of His house shout: “What do you think you’re doing here? Do you hear what the kids are saying? It’s blasphemous; shut them up!”

And Jesus says, “Have you never read [a slap, a rebuke—of course they’ve read—they know the passage by heart]: Out of the mouths of children and infants You have made perfect praise. (Ps. 8:2).”

What’s in God’s house today—clutter, criticism, or accolades?

You’re Going to Wear That?

Journal 2005. While I obsess over what I’m going to wear at my next school reunion, my mind hopscotches over the years to comments such as:

  • You’re going to wear THAT?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • What an ugly lime green dress!
  • What were you thinking!
  • Your skirts are too long.
  • Those colors don’t match.
  • You could be pretty if you would just . . .
  • Why can’t you dress like . . . ?
  • Frumpy Missionary Kid!
  • You look like a cowgirl.
  • You wore THAT at your wedding?
  • You have no sense of style.
  • Let me fix your makeup.

How powerful words can be! Even when I dress up, I feel frumpy on the inside. Lord, have mercy on me if my words have ever hurt another person.

Why should other people’s opinions matter? First, I guess they want me to care. And I do—to a certain extent. But sometimes I don’t. I can’t live my life by other people’s standards. Who gets to decide, anyway, what is fashionable or ugly? What’s fashionable may not look the best on me. While teens and pre-teens go through their identity decisions, their wardrobe choices may look strange to me, but they fit into their culture of acceptance.

I find I shop best when I have someone along to give an opinion. Why don’t I trust my own judgment? My family would say it’s because I don’t have good taste. But why does one person get to decide for another what clothing is acceptable or not in society? Who gets to decide what’s in and what’s out?

My sweet mom

Do I dress to match who I am on the inside? Or do I dress to cover up what’s inside? Maybe some of both. I dress comfortably—I learned that initially from my mom but reinforced it through experience. If I’m uncomfortable, my focus is on self. On the other hand, if I dress casual when the situation calls for formal, I stick out. My philosophy is to try to blend in and avoid extremes.

The visual: I’m on a stage in the center of a spotlight, and the audience is laughing at me. But then I hear, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” The spotlight fades, and a strong beam shines into my heart revealing the impurities as well as the lighter spots where truth has entered. Better to be more concerned about getting rid of the dark spots than worrying about the body, which is now hidden in shadows.

Clothing is just an outer shell, but if it draws attention to itself instead of to the light inside, it may be time for a wardrobe makeover, both inside and out. Perhaps I should ask the King of Kings about His opinion rather than my family’s or my peers’.

A 2022 Focus. My insecurities about clothing choices have faded with the healing of hurtful words. I now understand that comments reveal more about the heart of the person who said them. But I also acknowledge the benefit of a second opinion when I go shopping. Anyone care to go with me?

Holy Spirit or Evil Spirit?

Journal 2005. We are working with a lady who has D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and is involved in a charismatic church. She had been through numerous experiences of so-called deliverance—all very dramatic and theatrical. She allowed the demons to jerk her around and use her body, and when we commanded them to quit, they didn’t. That’s when we discovered the reason: she liked the theatrical nature of her experiences. After we dealt with that emotion, and she agreed to let it go, it was easy and undramatic to tell the demons to depart. No jerks, no manifestations. She was amazed it was so easy. And then her very telling comment: A lot of what I thought was God’s doing was actually demons. Hmmm.

I think Baptists have a correct doctrine of the Holy Spirit, but other groups have experiential knowledge of Him. I want both.

Journey Through Pain

Journal 2005. At the beginning of the century, an infected tooth sent inflammation raging through my body. I didn’t know the source at the time, and it took three doctors to help me get it under control. Vioxx makes my ears ring constantly, and I’m about to try Celebrex instead. I wonder how I’ll respond to it. Right now, I’m relatively pain-free—as long as I don’t overdo. Hands, feet, eyes, and back are the weakest.

I want to record my journey with pain, and I start while I’m feeling fairly well. I know my perspective will progressively change over time—just as emotional healing changes us inwardly. Right now, I want to avoid pain. It gets in the way of my to-do list, but I don’t want to be dominated by it.

I don’t want to be a whiner or a complainer. I don’t want to be a baby, but I also am no hero when it comes to pain endurance. I’m quick to run to relief wherever I can find it. I don’t want the attention or focus to be on me, but when I’m hurting, I need to let people know so that they don’t expect too much of me. I pretty much want to be left alone to my misery. Chronic pain vs. temporary seems different, however. If it’s temporary (like a cut finger or the flu), I’ll tell all. If it’s chronic, I’ll keep my mouth shut unless I know a solution.

I don’t want my life to revolve around my health. But if I were sick with cancer, it would have to. That’s where my focus would lie. In my emotional healing journey, I’ve allowed myself the luxury of focusing on the pain so I can get through it and past it. Why am I so reluctant to do the same with the body? It’s so temporal—yet it is the vessel God gave me by which I function. What good does it do anyone if I’m in bed? Guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

A 2022 Update. Today I am off all medication and doing much better. Unfortunately, in 2016 a bout of shingles attacked my right eye, and I’ve battled flare-ups once or twice a year ever since. But I’m not in pain, so all is well. I’d prefer not to have to learn any more pain lessons, please.

Washing Windows

Journal 2006.

The Scene:  I am inside my house, facing our big picture window while a friend stands outside facing me. We each have Windex and some paper towels in hand. I wash my side. She washes hers.

The Need:  A clean window

The Conflict: I can see her dirt; she can see mine. We can’t see our own.

The Cause:  The light shines through differently from each of our perspectives.

The Solution:  Trust. Trust the other person to point out the spots I missed. Keep rubbing till she nods her approval.

The Lesson:  That’s what friends are for. A trusted friend is invaluable for pointing out my dirt. My job is to respond in gratitude for helping me get my soul-window clean—not to get angry that she pointed out my dirt.

Avoiding Rudeness

Journal 2008

But some “worthless fellows” despised King Saul, brought him no gift, and said, “How can this man save us?” (I Sam.10:27)

When Samuel announced Saul would be God’s chosen king, these worthless fellows were rude and loud-mouthed. Their characters were questionable. And Saul’s response? He held his peace. He acted like he was deaf.

By today’s standards, we think it’s commendable to ignore rudeness, but I wonder—as king, would Saul have been better off disciplining these men in some way? Apparently, he didn’t know his power yet. After Saul’s first victory in battle, the people urged him to deal with the worthless fellows, but again he said no, not today. “Today is a day of deliverance.” And that day he was crowned king. Was his response wise or foolish?

Later, while at war with the Philistines, his men were scattered, and he was given explicit orders to wait a week for Samuel to come to make a sacrifice. When Sam confronted him, Saul responded, “. . . I forced myself to offer a burnt offering.” Really!? What kind of foolish statement is that?! Shades of Aaron’s “I threw the gold in the fire and out came a calf!” Contrast those statements with David who later “encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord.”

Chapter after chapter reveal stories of Saul’s poor choices and character. For 40 years, he did kingly things: He fought against Israel’s enemies and “made it worse for them” and “He did valiantly and smote the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them.” But . . . we don’t remember him for his victories. We can only see his faults—which eclipse the good that he does.

So . . . I wonder . . . was Saul’s avoidance of rudeness or conflict a sign of weakness or wisdom? How best should I handle other people’s rudeness today?

Juggling

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Journal 2005. Today I feel like I’m juggling too many balls—Ping-Pong balls!—and they’re flying in all directions at once. And so I gather them all, carefully place them in a four-sided tray, and hand them to Jesus. When I ask Him which ball He wants me to hold today, oddly He offers me a large glove, crystal-clear and sparkling like a diamond. I’m scared to take it, but when I do, I discover it is weightless, for it’s made of pure light. And He? He tucks it deep inside my heart so my hands are free, but its light spills from my pores for all to see—His light.

And what of all those Ping-Pong balls that I handed Him?

“No problem,” He says. And He begins to juggle the stars and the planets in a spectacular, brilliant light show.

“How does He keep from dropping them all?” I wonder. And then I see the strings attached. He’s bonded to each one—each star, each orb—and, yes, to each Ping-Pong ball with chords of love and ownership and responsibility, for each ball represents a person in my life.

Just carry one “ball” today, Karen.

A 2022 Update. I’ve lamented already this new year that I was juggling too many hats—which represent my current roles. As fast as I could remove one from my head, another replaced it in rapid succession. I didn’t choose for all these deadlines to occur at the same time. Another metaphor I see is running a race with hurdles. I just can’t seem to catch my breath before the next one is upon me. “Just breathe,” says Jesus, “and keep your eyes focused on Me.” At last, the rotating hats slow their pace, and the hurdles space themselves out, and I go into recovery mode. It’s time to read a book, do a jigsaw puzzle, or take a walk. This race won’t last forever, and I’m grateful for the energy and strength to keep going.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The Missionary Measuring Stick

Journal 2005

“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18 NIV, when Jesus prayed for His disciples)

When I was growing up, missionaries loved to quote this verse and others like them to 1) guilt-trip Americans to become missionaries or 2) prove their pride in obedience to God’s command.

Here’s where my struggle has been for so long—believing that missionary life and calling is holier, better, and higher than any other calling. That was the message I grew up with. But after hearing story after story of nasty, ungodly missionaries, my bubble has burst. I have to take missionaries off that pedestal.

We were taught “sent into the world” doesn’t have to mean “sent to Africa.” It can mean “sent across the street to your neighbor,” but in the back of my child’s mind, that was not as spiritual or as high a calling as being sent to Africa. If you got sent to Africa, your measuring stick of importance was much longer than your measuring stick that only reached across the street.

The truth is, it’s not about works; it’s about relationship. It’s not about how many times I pray, go to church, tithe, read my bible, witness, do, do, do—but rather it’s about how much I love Jesus, and even more importantly, how much He loves me.

A 2022 Update. I almost didn’t post this entry because I am so very far removed from this mindset now. But perhaps in some circles the attitude is still present. Just substitute a different vocation or status (education, economic status, political clout, race). Any time I view myself as superior, it’s time to check in with humility.

Noticing God

Journal 2005. What might it look like if I practiced noticing Jesus’ presence? What if I mentally set a place at the table for Him at every meal? Would my “bless this food” prayer be different? Would our conversation be different? What would it be like to place Him at the head of the table?

What if I invite Him to sit in the living room with me and watch TV? Would we watch what He wanted to watch? Or would He prefer to turn it off so that we could talk together?

In my kitchen He’d help me prepare the meal and we’d chat while doing dishes. He’d make suggestions for good food to eat. At my computer, He’d sit beside me and help me figure things out and give me creative ideas and help me catch mistakes in my proofreading.

How? All I have to do is be aware. Notice. Listen. He’s right there all the time. I just don’t always take time to notice Him. I often take Him for granted.

Lord, reveal Yourself to me throughout this day. Help me to pay attention, sit up and take notice, to listen to You. I love spending time alone with You, all to myself, but You don’t go away just because I walk out of a prayer closet. You come too!

How do I pray for someone who can’t sense His presence because he/she has his/her eyes closed? God will not force their eyelids open. But perhaps He’ll woo them with sounds and touch and smell and taste, so they’ll open their eyes voluntarily—and then they’ll see and respond. Perhaps I should stop praying that God will open their eyes and instead ask Him to bring things into their lives so they’ll voluntarily open them. They’ve heard loud and scary noises, and they’re keeping their eyes shut so they won’t have to see the monsters. What can I do to encourage them to open their eyes? Give me the perfume of Your love today.

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Tender Mercies

Journal 2008. When I read “. . . heart of tender mercy and lovingkindness of our God (Luke 1:78), I have a hard time reconciling in my mind God’s tender mercies with His terrible judgment. Sure, I believe that murderers and rapists and idolaters need God’s judgment, but He died for their sins too.

My dilemma, however, is not with them but with me. Where in my life have I misunderstood and not accepted God’s tender love and mercy? Am I self-condemning where I should be accepting? Do I have a false belief that if I accept His tender mercies, it means I deserve it? That cannot be, for if I deserve it, it becomes my works, and then pride follows.

I am no better than the pagan. I have simply followed the path God put me on. He gave me the parents, the heritage, the grounding, and the training. Why wouldn’t I respond the way I have? If I had been born into a peasant hut in China of Buddhist heritage, would I not have followed the path He set me on and gone into a Christless eternity? How fair is that?

I am blessed, chosen, humbled, undeserving. Why did God choose me? I don’t know. But once chosen, I had a choice—follow Him or disobey. I chose to follow; I don’t know why. I could have had a rebellious, angry, defiant heart. I credit my response to my parents and how they raised me.

I was chosen for some reason. God likes me and the way He made me. He thinks I’m special. I cannot worry about His relationship with the rest of humanity. I can only sit in awe and wonder that He loves me—me of all people!

Jesus gave me gifts—a bag of chocolates. And He wants me to share them—hand them out, give them away, offer them to anyone who comes into my path. I’ve been chosen, yes—to be a blessing.