Keeping a Dream Alive

From my 2013 Journal.

Reading a biography or memoir may be interesting, entertaining, or even inspiring—but rarely life-changing, unless it intersects with my own—when I identify with the character in some way.

This morning I read Caleb, the spy’s story in Joshua 14. At age 40, he saw a piece of property he wanted in the land of Canaan, but because of the Israelites’ rebellion, he had to wander with them for 40 years in the desert. At age 85, he asked leader Joshua for that same territory, determined to rout the inhabitants with God’s help. Talk about keeping a dream alive!

Caleb’s faith sharply contrasts with the descendants of Joseph who complained they didn’t have enough land for their families. Joshua said to them, “Go clear the forest and you’ll have enough” (Joshua 17:17-18).

“But they have iron chariots!” they whined.

I can see Joshua rolling his eyes. “You’re numerous and powerful; you can do it.”

So I try to connect with this story. What dream have I held onto? Some dreams, I know, I must grieve and let go. But if God-directed, what excuses do I use not to fulfill it? Sometimes I need patience, endurance, and perseverance to wait.

What dream have you kept alive?

Food for Today

From my 2013 Journal.

All art forms have potential to touch the soul. Some (like paintings, photography, and sculptures) are tangible and static, and you can linger over them. Performances (like music and theatre) are fluid—you can’t capture and freeze them except in your mind. Different art forms appeal to different senses (sculpture—eye/touch, music—ear, performance—eye/ear). The written word can be tactile (holding the book, typing a manuscript) or cerebral, creating images with words.

As a visual learner, auditory input is so transient for me. When the music stops, it doesn’t stay in my head like it does for my daughter Sharon. And, unlike daughters Cindy and Katie, visual art doesn’t linger either, once I look away. Stories, for me, last the longest, though I quickly forget the details.

Could it be that feeding the spirit is also transitory? I learn a lesson or a truth but quickly forget to apply it to the next lesson or circumstance. I have a hard time holding on to it. If I can’t remember the Scriptures I read yesterday, does this mean I may as well quit reading? Of course not. Just because I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday doesn’t mean I wasn’t nourished.

What’s the solution? Daily doses of food for the mind, soul, body, and spirit.

Overwhelmed

From my 2015 Journal.

If I let it, the news this week could leave me feeling overwhelmed:

  • Earthquake in Nepal
  • Flooding and tornadoes in Texas
  • Riots in Baltimore
  • Beheadings in Syria
  • Shootings on campuses
  • Starvation in India

Meanwhile, I go about my sheltered, stress-free, cushy life. Catastrophes in other parts of the world don’t affect my daily life and decisions. If they did, I’d be the one in crisis and I couldn’t function. If I don’t feel pain when you’re in pain, that’s a good thing. I don’t want a doctor operating on me when he has a broken arm. I need him to be healthy and well.

For two full days this week I listened to three abuse victims’ agonizing sobs. They weren’t in any physical danger, but they believed they could not go on living. Was I compassionate? Yes, of course. But I did not absorb their pain. It’s not healthy or productive for me to do so. That’s Jesus’ job.

Whose pain have you taken on that doesn’t belong to you?

Joy Killers

From my 2015 Journal. I voluntarily spend time around joy killers—people complaining of emotional pain. It’s my calling and my ministry to listen for hours to stories of horrendous abuse and its effects . . . but I’m tired.

And I remember the before . . .

I’m a little girl, twirling with the swirling leaves, shouting delight as wind flings its rain smells, ready to cool the parched earth. Hair tousled, uninhibited, unselfconscious, no to-do list, living in the moment. Exuberant. Carefree.

And then I’m an energized young woman, flinging laughter to the wind, racing down the beach, warm sand between my toes and water lapping at my feet. Collapsing to the ground to watch clouds and birds, sandy-haired, relaxed. Carefree.

I’m a middle-aged woman, slower now. I can’t run and jump as well, but my spirit and soul soar free above the earth. Enjoying the ethereal, shimmering expanse of the ocean. Carefree.

I watch as my body turns sluggish, age spots appear, mind slips away from the present, and my soul settles into tired places. How do I recapture my exuberance when a stale wind hangs thick around me? I can’t sustain the energy of joy. I’m too tired, too distracted, too full of that R word responsibility, heavy weights in my shoes pinning me to the earth.

And I remember I am the one who controls my own joy-killing.

Like young David, I must shed King Saul’s heavy armor and travel light. I detach the weights from my wrists and ankles, kick off my shoes, inhale fresh air, and feel warm sand once more. I’ve been carrying stuff that isn’t mine to bear. Forgive me, Lord.

Enjoy the journey. Joy, joy, joy!

Big Pants, Small Heart

From my 2013 Journal.

As I passed near the men’s clothing aisle of a new Goodwill store in town, I noticed a large woman, weight mostly distributed around her waist and thighs, holding up an enormous pair of pants that would have fit someone one-and-a-half times her size. “Can you believe this?” she exclaimed. “I’ve never seen pants so big! I’ve never seen anyone who could actually fit these! Wow! These are huge! Look at this!” she reiterated to her shopping companion.

Several thoughts raced through my mind:

  1. Why did she disbelieve that someone could actually fit them? I’ve seen people this large in person and on TV.
  2. She, herself, was (ahem) larger than average.
  3. Why was she making such a big deal about it—loudly—in public?
  4. Did comparing her large frame with someone larger make her feel better about herself?
  5. I felt more compassion for the large-pants man and less compassion for the lady. Why?

And then it hit me. I recognize myself in her. I do the same thing (sigh)—I make the biggest fuss about what triggers me the most. When I roll my eyes at someone else’s words or deeds, I recognize some unfinished business in my heart—some lack of compassion, some unresolved hurt, or some judgmentalism. The woman’s words simply revealed what was already in her heart. I don’t judge this woman—because I am too much like her. Perhaps I need to practice more grace . . . toward myself!

For out of the overflow of his heart he [a person] speaks. Matt. 7:15-23; Luke 6:43-45

How Much Evidence Do I Need?

From my 2016 Journal.

Jesus’ death left pain in its wake, and His followers stubbornly refused to believe the women who reported seeing Him after He had risen (Mark 16:14). I wonder what lie the disciples believed that kept denial in place?

  • Too good to be true.
  • I can’t let myself feel hope for fear I’ll be disappointed.
  • You can’t trust a woman’s word.

Jesus doesn’t need to dig around in their psyches to help them discover why they’re being stubborn. (That’s what I would have done.) He knows their hearts and rebukes them for their refusal to believe. God is patient with our struggles and fears and doubts, but He’s not so patient with stubborn disbelief. How many times did He say, “O ye of little faith?” There’s no pointing fingers here. I’m plenty guilty myself.

The women at the tomb believed as soon as the angels spoke truth to them. The men, however, continued to doubt when presented with the evidence (others’ testimony and an empty tomb). The disciples on the road to Emmaus couldn’t seem to grasp the truth, and Jesus rebuked them. Even when the disciples saw Jesus in the room where they gathered, and the joy center of their brain activated, they had a hard time believing.

We know that the brain is a complex organ—different parts are responsible for different functions: the occipital for eyes, the amygdala for emotion, the frontal cortex for logic and reasoning, and memory in a different part. Since God created the human brain, He knows what part gets activated during fear (like Peter sinking in the sea of Galilee). He knows that the frontal cortex shuts down during a fight/flight/freeze situation. Yet He seems impatient: Why do you doubt, Peter? Why do you have so little faith? Why don’t you men believe when the evidence is in front of you that I’m alive? Stop doubting!

What makes us doubt? Is the emotion center too strong? Are there lies imbedded in that emotion? Those with D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder) maintain strong denial parts, for if they believe trauma happened, then they’d have to admit it was real. Once truth enters the brain, however, and they experience an encounter with the living Lord Jesus, doubt and fear flee. Jesus knows all this, so is He really impatient . . . or is He challenging His disciples to accept HIM, the way, the truth, and the life?

Sometimes it’s hard to believe someone else’s testimony, but everyone (including Mary, the ten disciples, and eventually Thomas) believed when they saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes. Why? Because they experienced it for themselves. Truth experienced in the right brain translates into left-brain belief.

When evidence stares me in the face, what makes me dig in my heels and refuse to see truth? [2021 update: I’m not talking about political opinions on whether or not to wear masks!]

Taking the Scenic Route

From my 2015 Journal.

I ran roughshod over a client’s will today in an inner healing prayer session, and God gently rebuked me with the thought:  “Sometimes you push toward the goal and miss what’s on the way.”

I admit that I’m a very goal-oriented person, going pell-mell through life, trying to meet deadlines, and I miss the fun in the process. Think road trip. If there’s a time crunch, take the freeway. But the scenic route is more relaxing, candy for the soul. The trade-off, of course, is more hours of traveling, more expense, and potentially missing out on what’s waiting for you on the other end of your trip because you took so long. But the process is part of the adventure.

I understand now how my work with the souls of clients can do more harm than good—that I can inadvertently traumatize them. Yikes! But then I must give myself grace—gaining experience is also part of the process.

I feel like I’m holding the reins of a team of highly charged horses, but Jesus says, “Be still.” How am I supposed to win the race if I calm the horses?

And again I hear, “Sometimes you push toward the goal and miss what’s along the way.”

My inner drive (my horses) need help!

Jesus says to give Him the reins. He lets the horses charge around the track to release their pent-up energy. Then we can begin a more controlled, deliberate walk around the track (or in this case, plow the field—because you don’t need racehorses on a farm!)

Which do you prefer—highway or scenic route?

Interruptions

From my 2015 Journal.

The Plan: The family is gone, so I can work all day on editing Simroots, a magazine for AMKs (Adult Missionary Kids).

The Reality (no kidding!) I counted:

            21 phone calls

            69 texts

            64 emails

            5 pieces of mail

            1 person at the door

            6 visits to my office

            0 Simroots

By the end of the day, I felt exhausted!

Visual:  I’m on a train with my bags packed, briefcase in hand, ready to move toward my destination. But every few feet, the train jerks to a stop. Sometimes people get on and some get off. Sometimes I step off in frustration from the discomfort of the jerking, but I dare not wander too far for fear I’ll not be on the train when it finally breaks free and starts moving again.

By the end of the day, I haven’t even left the station! What to do? I go inside the train station and find an indoor pool (don’t ask) and try to relax and unwind. But I’m still unnerved by the motion of the train. Being a task-oriented person, I prefer a bullet train—fast track, no station stops. I feel agitated, unsettled, irritated . . . certainly not at peace. If I’d known I was on a defective commuter train, I could have adjusted my expectations and been fine with it.

No, this is not the first time I’ve experienced this.

The related Memory:  While desperately in need of a nap when my baby was sleeping, the neighbor boy across the street relentlessly pounded away on something in his front yard. I’d just fall asleep when he’d pound again, jerking me awake. Irritated is too soft a word for what I was feeling!

Instead of praying that the boy would stop (I tried that), I could have prayed for supernatural rest. Instead of getting irritated that I wasn’t getting Simroots done, I could have turned my attention fully to the interruptions. And I could have stepped off the train and asked Jesus to tell me when it was time to get back on. Even if the train leaves without me, I can always catch the next one.

A 2021 Update: I have since learned that I’m more productive if I ask the Lord for direction first about what tasks He wants me to accomplish that day and in what order. When my mind is set, I then ask Him to hold the interruptions, except for those that come from Him. Then once a month I climb aboard a bullet train, a scheduled Karen Day with no interruptions allowed.

How do you feel about interruptions?

On the Subject of Music

From my 2015 Journal. I was raised on the great hymns of the faith at church, Gospel choruses at boarding school, Pioneer Girls camp songs (thanks, Miss Pat), and my mother’s favorite Gilbert and Sullivan record albums. (I memorized all the lyrics to “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” by the time I was 10.)

We had no electricity in our little African village, so record players had to be hand-cranked or run on low-quality batteries. I wasn’t exposed much to secular music or American culture until I was in high school.

Is it any wonder, then, that I struggle with contemporary worship music here in the USA? As hymns have been tossed out of our churches like old, worn-out socks, I find myself also tuning away from Christian radio stations and gravitating mostly to classical music when I’m alone in the car. Unlike the repetitious lyrics (I kid you not, I counted 38 repeats of one phrase this Sunday*), my preferred music soothes my soul and draws me upward.

I try not to judge you for your taste in music. Life would be boring if we were all alike. My eldest daughter sings along to every tune played over the intercom at Wal-Mart (there was music playing?). I respect your desire to listen to what matches your mood and gets your foot tapping and draws you into worship. But I prefer music that makes my soul relax. Am I weird? Is this temperament, personality, or a cultural or generational footprint that stamped itself on my soul?

As the music wars play on, I ponder what kind of music we’ll hear in heaven.** What will God’s voice sound like when “He quiets me with His love and rejoices over me with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV)?

I do know that our churches would do well to vary their worship styles to draw more people in—from different generations, yes, but also for different temperament types. Not all of us are sanguines. We melancholies need something different for our souls. Just sayin’. (Though I’ll make an exception today and let you sing “Happy Birthday” to me.)

*A 2020 update. Recently our worship leader addressed the repetition issue. He explained that some people need positive reinforcement to solidify a truth in their heart—the same principle but opposite effect of writing lines for punishment at school (I speak from experience). For those of us who already know this particular truth, we can use the extra time praying for those who still need to hear it. I can now give more grace to my fellow worshippers instead of harboring a critical spirit.

**I just finished reading Imagine Heaven by John Burke, amazing accounts of near-death experiences. These people were incapable of describing the sound of angels singing or the thousands of human voices in many languages blended in harmony. There will be no music wars in heaven!

A God Event

From my 2013 Journal. A few years ago I bought a granny-type bicycle with roomy baskets over the rear tire. It’s ideal for quick trips to our Kroger just four blocks away. One day when I wheeled my loaded grocery cart out to my bike, I realized that I’d overshot my basket capacity.

I knew my husband had to leave the house early the next morning to pick up a co-worker at the Nashville airport, drive the 45 minutes back home to pick me up, drive to Chattanooga, pick up another co-worker, and then we all planed to head on to his former boss’s funeral. Reluctantly, I called Scott to see if he could come load the groceries into his car.

Though hurting and grumpy, Scott playfully followed me home, while I groused that I felt like I was being stalked! Scott couldn’t hear it, but from my bicycle’s vantage point, I noticed a funny noise coming from the front of his car. When we discovered a large spike embedded in the tire, Scott raced to Firestone just before the place closed for the day to get it patched.

If we’d woken to a flat tire the next morning, the whole day’s schedule would have been a disaster.

Thank you, Lord, for orchestrating this event in spite of our poor attitudes!