People, We Need People

What most people call trials and tribulations, I call class time.

(Degenhardt in Surviving Death)

From my 2012 Journal. Can I be honest? It’s so much more pleasant being around people who aren’t uptight, negative, or angry all the time. But it’s those very people who help me grow! Yes, I’ve had my share of losses and grief and experiences that have taught me life lessons, but it’s people—with all their flaws and triggers and woundings that hurt and jab and poke and bump into me that have given me the most fodder for growth opportunities. The continual sandpaper has removed some of my rough edges.

A 2020 update. Something I’ve observed during this COVID year: As an introvert, I’ve not minded the slower pace and the forced distancing from people. I feel more at peace when I’m in my own little bubble typing on the computer, doing a jigsaw puzzle, going for a hike, or reading a book. Isolation makes me feel content, but it doesn’t make me grow. I suspect it’s the opposite for extroverts who are happiest interacting with people. Isolation forces them to face their inner landscape—and that becomes their opportunity to grow.

Lean into the uncomfortable and watch God work.

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!

It’s Not All About Me

Each man’s eternal rewards are proportional according to his faithfulness and not to his earthly recognition or the lack of it. (From a commentary on Jeremiah 33)

From my 2009 Journal. Though I grew up in a tribal village in Africa, I fear I now think more like an American—touting individualism rather than tribal values. So when I hear God’s prophetical words to Jeremiah: I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security (Jer. 33:6 NIV), I want to ask, “What good did it do Jeremiah to learn that God would restore Israel in the future?” He’d never live to see it. Why should he care how many descendants David’s throne will have when he (Jeremiah) is being hurt, mocked, and imprisoned? The future won’t affect him personally!

But there’s that thing called “hope.” This earth, this life isn’t all there is. There’s a bigger picture. I’m just one speck in the Grand Plan. I’m part of the Global Tribe. My part is miniscule, but important, in God’s eyes. It’s not all about me and only me. God was showing Jeremiah that his life was not in vain, that His calling on his life was important for the greater good.

Though I’d like to think otherwise, life is not all about me–or as my mother used to say to my preschool self: you’re not the only pebble on the beach.

Grandson Noah who needs more help than he thinks he does to navigate his world

What’s Your Excuse?

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5, NIV).

From my 2009 Journal. Jeremiah was a PK (Preacher’s Kid), for his father was a priest. One day God spoke directly to him—I assume in an audible voice. It’s pretty heady stuff to be chosen by God!

But Jeremiah’s objection to this calling reflected his fears: “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (1:6).

What excuses do I make for not following God’s command: she’s too hard to love; he won’t listen; I can’t because . . . ; I don’t know how; I don’t have time; I don’t have the money. . .

God’s answer to Jeremiah (and to me):  Don’t be afraid because I AM with you.

The antidote to fear is experiencing God’s presence.

I feel a connecting point with Jeremiah. When God called me to the ministry of inner healing prayer, the only reason I said no to my fears and yes to God was because I had a strong sense of His presence. You can read all about that story in our book Diamond Fractal.

Busted!

From my 2020 Journal. So I need to go to the grocery store one morning, and I’m waiting on an approaching car to pass by so I can turn left into the Kroger parking lot. But the idiot fails to use his turn signal and ends up turning right, into the parking lot ahead of me. And I’m thinking to myself, “Dumb driver can’t bother to use his turn signal to let me know his intention.” As I follow him self-righteously into the parking area, I suddenly realize that I had neglected to put on my own turn signal before proceeding to turn left. Busted!

I laughed (yes, out loud) at my own folly and hypocrisy. Lord, forgive me!

Praying for the Sick

From my 2009 Journal. I get a little confused when I hear others pray and teach on prayer for the sick. Chrissy claims the blood of Jesus “by His stripes we are healed” for anyone who is sick and expects instant physical healing. She had a little crisis of faith when her father passed away. One pastor says it’s weak praying to say, “If God wills” because we shouldn’t be asking for healing unless we know it’s His will. What if, he says, the illness is “unto death” and we don’t know the person’s heart? What if he/she needs to let go of rebellion before God wants to heal him/her? How can we ask if we don’t know what to ask for?

Maybe it’s God’s will that all be healed, but Man still has a will and a choice as to how he treats his body, and God is not obligated to override his choices. I can’t ask God to make a person choose something, but I can trust God to know how to get a person’s attention like He did for Jacob or for Jonah.

Somewhere there must be discernment in our prayers for the sick. The biblical author James says to pray for the sick, and the elders of the church should anoint with oil. Should we do this for every sniffle?

Sometimes I think we’re so focused on physical healing, we forget to pray for the spiritual. Jesus often mentioned the faith of the person who asked for healing. The disciples healed many sick after the resurrection. Did they stop to ask if the person wanted healing or what was preventing their healing?

Maybe our prayer for the sick could be, “Reveal to X anything that is preventing his healing, give him courage to face his pain, may God be honored through his responses and reactions, and heal his body if it will give God greater glory.”

I take comfort in the fact that God knows my heart. He can interpret my words and intent and use them for His glory. He knows me well enough to know what I believe and mean.

2020 Update.  I find it interesting to look back at how I struggled 10 years ago. Those questions no longer burn in my heart. It’s not that I have fewer questions; it’s that I’m more content with not knowing all the answers. I just ask and let God sort it out.  This past week a dear friend and prayer warrior had a massive stroke. The church gathered together to pray for her, but our emotions were conflicted. We wanted to see Mary Lee fully restored to health, but we opened our hearts and hands to release her to heaven. We trusted God to do what was best. Today she is dancing with the angels, and I’m okay with God saying no to the cries of our heart to give her physical life back.

photo of woman lying in hospital bed

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Thou shalt not

From my 2009 Journal. It was game night at our missionary boarding school. The staff had planned a relay where both the boys and the girls had to run to a suitcase, open it, put on all the clothes, run back to the starting line, strip off those clothes and hand them to the next child. The second in line would then put on the clothes, run to the suitcase, pack them all back inside, and return to the starting line to tag the next child.

In the midst of our fun, one Auntie abruptly stopped the game and quoted Scripture: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, and a man must not wear women’s clothing.” End of game.

At first, I was mad, but then I thought, “Oh no! What if we were doing something wrong?”

So when I got back to the dorm, I looked up the quoted Scripture where the same passage admonished the Israelites to wear fringes on their garments and not to wear clothes of wool and linen woven together. How could this staff member apply one rule and neglect another? I felt vindicated, self-righteous, disgusted. We’d been cheated out of our fun and made to think we might be sinning in our play time.

God’s answer to me? “Give up your self-righteousness, Karen. I will honor the Auntie for following her conscience, though misguided.”

We had a pastor once who frequently misquoted Scripture. It was due to a little lack of training, a lack of study and preparation, and a whole lot of fear-based, emotion-driven beliefs. Or perhaps he wasn’t really called to be a pastor! He thought he was doing right, but he ended up splitting the church.

I feel passionate about proper exegesis of Scripture. So much ignorance, false teaching, and silly conclusions result from improper understanding of context. When someone misquotes Scripture, however, what should be my response? First, recognize the error. Second, correct the error if given the opportunity. Third, be gracious. Love trumps proving I’m right.

Need an example?

The prophet Amos sets forth the argument that God always gives His children a warning before He punishes them.

There’s a cause and effect in the following scenarios:

  • God has spoken: a prophet must prophecy.
  • A lion roars: people are in fear.
  • A trumpet sounds in the city: there’s an alarm and people fear.

The opposite is also true. If there’s no cause, then there’s no effect:

  • You wouldn’t find two people meeting together to go for a walk unless they agreed ahead of time to do so.
  • A lion won’t roar if he doesn’t have prey.
  • A bird can’t be ensnared if there’s no trap.

Conclusion: If you see misfortune or evil occur, you can know that the Lord caused it.

And the misquote? People use Amos 3:3 “Can two walk together unless they agree?” to persuade a believer not to marry an unbeliever.

In context, it’s an argument for Israel to believe and understand that Amos’s prophecies are right. And in context, it’s about the absurdity of something occurring that wasn’t planned. To update the analogy: No one is going to show up in the conference room if a meeting hasn’t been scheduled.

Now there is wisdom in cautioning a couple regarding their disparity in faith; just don’t abuse Scripture to make your point.

What other Scripture misquotes have you noticed?

KA Race b

3-Legged Race at Kent Academy

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

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

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?