I Have a Question

From my 2011 Journal. My husband says he’s going to inscribe on my tombstone my favorite question: How does this make you feel?! My skill as a counselor is often based on how effective my questions are, so I’ve started taking note of some of God’s questions in the Bible, for He is a master “questioner”! Obviously He didn’t ask them because He didn’t know the answer, but rather so His clients would examine themselves and face whatever they were feeling or believing, or trying to avoid or hide.

To Adam:

            Where are you?

            Who told you that you were naked?

            Have you eaten of the tree?

To Eve:

            What have you done?

To Cain:

            Why are you angry?

            Why are you sad and dejected?

            If you do well, won’t you be accepted?

            Where is your brother?

            What have you done?

To the disciples on the road to Emmaus:

            What is this discussion you’re exchanging between you as you walk along?

To the disciples after the resurrection:

            Why are you disturbed and troubled?

            Why do such doubts and questions arise in your hearts?

To Mary at the tomb:

            Why are you crying?

To Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee:

            Peter, do you love Me?

What question is Jesus asking me today?

Question mark

Self-Righteousness 101

beauty salon

Photo by Delbeautybox from Pexels

From my 2015 Journal. It was time to find a new hairdresser. Mine was located on the other side of town, her prices went up, and I wasn’t always satisfied with her work. I wanted to find someone closer and cheaper and more consistent. So on the recommendation of someone in our neighborhood, I hopped on my bicycle and rode to the nearest salon, appointment at 9 a.m.

I arrived at 8:59 a.m. and the place was locked up tight. Maybe the owner was in the back. No problem. I can wait one minute. Or two or three . . . or four or five. Eventually, a lady sauntered over from the parking lot and unlocked the door. I moved closer. “Did you want to come in?” she mumbled?

Well, duh!

No greeting. No explanation as to why she was late, why she wasn’t there ahead of her clients, place unlocked and ready to receive customers with a smile. Phones were ringing, and off she went while I sat on a chair and waited, apparently no a/c on yet in the July heat. I was hot in more ways than one!

A couple minutes later, another worker moseyed in, put down her purse, opened up her iPad (really!?) and then I calmed down when I realized she was putting on some music for the establishment. Watch watch, wait.

Finally at 9:10 a.m. Miss #1 looks up from her computer and asks, “Are you Karen?” (Hmm. I’m the only one in the shop. Were there others expected? I suppose she could have assumed I was a walk-in. Still no explanation why they’re late.)

Miss #2 calls me to her chair. She’s friendly, sweet, asks questions, not too chatty. I like her. But I’m still steamed that she’s not professional enough to arrive on time and respect my schedule.

The price is right, the haircut fine (as far as I can tell), and I like her as a person. (I had no further interaction with Miss #1, the manager.)

So what’s wrong?

I need to tell them how to run a business, I fume inside. How do they expect to maintain customers if they can’t act professionally?

And so I leave the premises and ride around the neighborhood, praying as I go. I don’t want this angry emotion. It’s unprofessional! And so I hand Jesus the ball of fire that is burning in my palm. And He smiles. He knows there’s more. I know there’s more. What is underneath this anger? Is it disappointment? I have no time crunch. Why should I be upset about wasting a few extra minutes in my day?

“It’s because they’re so unprofessional,” I whine to Him. “I wouldn’t do that. I always arrive well ahead of my clients. What would they think of me if I showed up late without an apology like these two ladies did?”

And then, “Oh!” I exclaim in chagrin and embarrassment. “I know what it is. It’s self-righteousness—the ‘I’ syndrome.” Ugh. What an ugly word.

What does self-righteousness look like? I see myself wearing a large, shapeless, colorful but gaudy dress. Not too shabby, I think. It has color, it hides my unsightly curves, it’s functional.

“Would you be willing to let Me have it?” Jesus asks.

“Uh . . . okay, but I’ll be rather unclothed then.”

I pull the garment over my head and hand it to Him. And then wait. And wait.

I know that when I give Jesus something, He often likes to give me something in return. “Well, aren’t You going to hand me robes of righteousness instead to put on?”

“Nope,” He replies.

I’m a little taken aback. Isn’t that what Scripture says?

“I already gave them to you . . .” He softly answers “. . . when you accepted Me into your heart.”

I glance down then at my body and gasp. I am clothed in a dazzling white, sequined wedding gown, “adorned as a bride for her husband.”

Chagrined, I realize I had thrown a gaudy shift over top of my beautiful gown. Not pretty. “I’m so sorry, Jesus. Please forgive me for disrespecting Your gift.”

And so I think back to the ladies at the shop. It no longer matters that they came in a few minutes late and didn’t have the people skills to greet me warmly at the door. Perhaps this is my new mission field.

Postscript: I have since found a phenomenal hair stylist. Her name is Cindy Harris and she has a PhD in hair design (I didn’t know there even was such a thing!) I highly recommend her for all your makeover needs.

Cindy’s Total Image Salon located in Oasis Salon, 745 S Church St, Suite 301 in Murfreesboro, TN.

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Mountaintop Experiences

DSCN3170 wilderness mountain

The Transfiguration (Matthew 17)

One day Peter, James, and John, closest earthly friends of Jesus, climb to the top of a high mountain. They’re dirty, tired, sweaty, hungry, and thirsty. The journey is long and arduous, and they are clueless as to why Jesus is leading them here. It’s nice to be away from the pressing crowds, though, where it’s quiet and they can feel the wind and have time to think about all that’s happened so far. It’s a high mountain, and it takes all their energy to climb, and they wonder when they’ll ever reach their destination. The privileged three might miss their families, but it’s exciting to be singled out to spend quality time with their Rabbi.

And then it happens—Jesus’ transfiguration, meeting biblical heroes Moses and Elijah, the enveloping brilliant light cloud, the very voice of God in their ears. It’s overwhelming, it’s exhilarating, it’s terrifying, it’s unique in history.

But this mountaintop experience is not meant to be the norm—in spite of Peter’s suggestion to create shelters for the three of them. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and they are not permitted to share it with anyone—at least for now. This is a “between me and God” holy moment—it’s nobody’s business but theirs. And there’s a purpose for it—maybe to strengthen their faith or to give them courage or enlightenment. Maybe Jesus is bursting with excitement and wants to share His true story experientially with His best friends.

And now it’s time to come down from the mountain. They can’t live there, but it’s now part of their story that shapes how they think and feel. They are different for having experienced it. And when the time is right (after the resurrection and not before), they will be given permission to tell others—it’s a testimony—both theirs as a witness and a verification of who Jesus is.

What mountaintop experience have you had? Did you tell someone, or have you kept it between you and the Lord? Why?

 

Anger Water

Pour forth the overflowings of thine anger. Job 40:11 ASV

Anger is a hot topic—literally. Some people visualize their anger as white-hot or like red flames. But this verse in Job references anger as “overflowing.” It makes me think of a liquid metaphor where there are different kinds of anger:  there’s the slow, low, simmering kind and there’s the roiling, boiling kind. They’re both hot to touch.

Boiling waterDepending on the vessel (the type of soul one has), anger water can be contained (as in a pressure cooker or cooking pot) or it can cause a meltdown (if placed in a plastic container for instance—I know by experience). What difference would it make if the container were made of steel or cardboard or glass? Most of us are not capable of holding onto anger for very long before we feel its effects in our body,  and our “overflowings” spill out and burn others. Or as a Facebook meme stated, “If you don’t take the time to heal from what hurt you, then you’ll bleed all over those who didn’t hurt you.”

In contrast, God’s anger is slow, longsuffering, patient. God’s vessel is capable of withstanding the hottest heat without exploding. It’s best to siphon off our anger into His vessel because He can hold it. But eventually even His anger reaches the “overflowing” stage. (See the book of Revelation.)

I DON’T HAVE TO . . . I GET TO

ToiletYears ago, Scott and I attended a concert at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga. I don’t remember now which groups performed, but the lyrics from an old Gospel song stuck with me for a long time. The refrain was “I don’t have to . . . I get to.”

Here’s a sample from my own list:

  • I don’t have to cook meals for my family . . . I get to.
  • I don’t have to pray for people . . . I get to.
  • I don’t have to clean the toilets . . . I get to.
  • I don’t have to love my enemies . . . I get to.

Another good phrase to use is:  Isn’t it great that . . . ?

  • Isn’t it great that we have dirty dishes? It means we have food to eat.
  • Isn’t it great that my hair is frizzy today? It means I have hair!
  • Isn’t it great that it’s raining today? It means that the flowers are drinking.
  • Isn’t it great that I have a toilet to clean? It means I don’t have to squat over a hole in the ground (seriously)!

Now your turn . . . 

VISION, LIMITS, AND OBITS

IMG_4641 (2)From my 2011 Journal. We’re teaching the life of Elisha in Momentum (Sunday school for grades 4-6), and our leader Lori challenged us to ask ourselves 3 sets of questions.

#1 Write down a sentence that describes the vision you have for your life.

That’s a tall order! I’m sure it’s changed over the years [and perhaps has changed since I wrote this 8 years ago]. At first I thought of the word “prayer” and then “service,” but I think even more than that, the word “obedience.” I’m more of a rule-follower than a leader. Another word that comes to mind is “peace.” All these words have been my pursuit since childhood. Can they be melded into one sentence?

My Vision Statement:  I will prayerfully pursue inner peace while living a life of obedience in His service.

#2 Where do you limit yourself? and Where do you limit God?

Unlike my youngest daughter, I don’t like change. I’m not inherently adventuresome. I limit myself physically. I don’t get outside as much as I’d like to enjoy nature. I’m content to stay inside where it’s sterile and comfortable. [I’ve since then deliberately made that change.] I limit myself when I doubt that God is working in another person’s life. I limit God when I cannot see the big picture or when I don’t ask for big things. I’m Elisha behind a plow, plodding along. I have no imagination that God has a much greater work for me to do. [Again, thankfully God has grown me in these areas.]

#3 Write out your own obituary.

Besides the stats of where I’ve lived and what I’ve done and who my surviving relatives are—I suppose Lori means for what character traits will people remember me. The truth? Or what I hope they remember me for? Okay, here goes. . . .

She liked things done her way. She liked simplicity and minimalism. She neglected exercise. And she had a terrible memory. She loved spicy food and anything African. She accepted people at face value and tried to learn something from everyone. She was hardest on her husband and expected more from him than from others—but she eventually relaxed on that one and decided to let God be his Holy Spirit.

She loved prayer, but never felt like she mastered it. She had a driving passion for purity, obedience to God, mind renewal, helping others come to emotional healing. She enjoyed writing—for herself—and used to crochet and cross-stitch. Mostly she enjoyed reading, and when younger, climbing trees. She adored her family. She enjoyed baking, but not cooking on a routine basis—especially for picky eaters. Using her resources for God was extremely important to her. She loved monkeys but not dogs, and she tolerated cats. Sunsets, rainbows, a full moon, cloud formations, and the African sky. She liked to work on the computer—especially when creating words on a page, and even data entry. But most of all, above all else, she LOVED GOD.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your responses to these thought-provoking questions.

God the Father

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15 NASB)

From my 2011 Journal. For a long time I’ve tried to figure out my picture of God the Father. And all I could get was seeing Him sitting on a giant throne, stern and stiff and still, sort of like Abe Lincoln’s marble statue in Washington. And seeing Him on the throne is all well and good, but that doesn’t show me the “Papa/Abba” side of Him. Sitting on the throne is His job—King, Ruler, Sovereign Judge over the Universe.

Dad 2We’re often told that our view of God looks a lot like our view of our earthly father. I adored and respected and admired my dad, but we never had a close, intimate, soul-to-soul relationship. I always felt safe and protected, and he taught me a lot, but it was never the warm and fuzzy sort of nurturing feelings. He just didn’t “get” little kids. Okay, so maybe there’s an element of truth there about my view of God the Father.

As I prayed this morning, I asked God for a new picture—one that demonstrates His love for me. And this is what I saw:  I’m snuggled under the covers, ready for bed, and God the Father is sitting beside me, bedtime story in hand, answering my most puzzling life questions that arise at the end of the day when all is quiet and still. There’s deep love in His eyes. His kiss on my cheek is gentle. His hands tucking me in are careful and kind, but most of all, full of love for me, His child. I’m safe and warm, no fear, no worries or needs. He’s taking care of me. He loves me. That’s Who my Papa is. By day? King of the Universe. At night? The reader of stories, the delight of my day and night. Thank You, Abba, that I’m your child.

What does Father look like to you?

Small Bites

 

As I read the Scriptures, I find I can only chew on one small portion at a time. When I’m studying faith in Hebrews 11, it’s hard to focus on I Corinthians 13 and love. When I’m reading the Psalms, I’m focused on praise and thanksgiving. I have to trust that whatever bite I’m chewing on at the time is what my soul needs.

Sometimes my soul needs water because I’m thirsty (“as the deer panteth for the water”). Sometimes it enjoys dessert (the mountaintop experiences in life). But other times, a sip of bitter coffee (admitting I’m wrong) offsets the sweetness of forgiveness. Meat and starch for energy. I need it all . . . but I can only take (and enjoy) one bite at a time.

And so I lay aside the guilt that says I’m not praising enough, or I’m lingering too long over the coffee. I need balance. And I can trust God to bring into my life whatever He has planned for me to help me grow in my walk with Him.

What are you chewing on today?

Small bites 2

Shame and Shoulds

From my 2011 Journal. There are certain words, facial expressions, and people’s attitudes that shut me down. One of them is “You should or shouldn’t . . .” My instant response is to go on the defense: “Why should I?” or “Why shouldn’t I?” That self-protective defiant attitude covers timidity to be who I was created to be.

shameI may refuse to listen to your words because they heap shame on me, but I find it’s an uphill battle to sever the ties with them. I am determined to climb this mountain even if I have to do it alone, but the weariness of the battle gets to me.

Jesus says, “Level ground would have been easier, but mountain climbing shows what you’re made of and tests your endurance and strengthens your muscles and heart. Not a bad thing. Keep climbing!” And eventually I am able to see your words for what they are—your belief system, not mine.

I’m reading Unlocking Your Family Patterns by Cloud, Townsend, Carter, and Henslin. I identify with the chapter “Learning to Achieve Adulthood.” The premise is that as children, we always feel “one-down” to adults. Growing up means coming to the place in life where we feel “equal” or “even.” My own shoulds and shaming words or posture are my attempt to feel “one-up.”

Whether your words or mine, I can turn those “shoulds” to “coulds.”

  • I should be praying more = I could be praying more.
  • I should be more available = I could be more available.
  • I should clean my house today = I could clean house today (or not!).

I’m ready to get rid of these echoes in my mind and heart. No longer will I hide my true self to protect me from your words or deeds. I can graciously and lovingly place them back on you and stand firm in what God created me to be—free of shame and life-sucking rules.

What shame messages are you battling to erase?

 

Food—It Does a Body Good

I know someone who analyzes every bite that goes into her mouth. She obsesses over fat and sugar and red meat and raw vegetables. I wonder if she’ll live any longer or have a better quality of life as a result? I doubt it. She’s riddled with fears and physical and emotional pain.

I remember my mother commenting on the food fads in American each time we came home on furlough: one year it was sugar-free, then fat-free, and now it’s gluten-free. One year we were informed that we should eat potato skins to get the most nutrients, and the next time we were admonished to pitch them because of all the toxins. At one time egg yolks were verboten, and now it’s acceptable. Will someone please make up their mind!

My mother taught me to have moderation and balance in all things. It doesn’t mean I’m totally and perfectly moderate in my eating habits. I just don’t worry too much if I eat a piece of sugar occasionally or enjoy a steak now and then. God gave us food to enjoy, and as long as we don’t make food our god, I think we can relax and live with an eye to the eternal.

Describe your relationship with food.potatoes