I Have a Question

Last week I talked about Gideon’s “Ifs.” Here’s another one, but with a twist.

Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, IF the LORD is with us, WHY then has all this happened to us? And WHERE are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’” (Judges 6:13 NASB, emphasis added).

Question mark

My clients often get stuck on the questions “Why?” and “Where?” Why did God allow the abuse? Why didn’t He rescue me? Why doesn’t He care about me? Where was He when it happened? Why didn’t He stop it?

And God seems to remain silent. He knows that answering the why and where questions won’t satisfy the heart because He knows what emotion or pain lies behind them.

When Gideon asks the why question, God does not answer him. Instead God replies: Go in this your might and you shall save Israel . . . Have I not sent you? (14)

In the next verse, Gideon responds with another question: HOW can I deliver Israel when I’m the least of the least?

Again, God doesn’t directly respond to this reasoning.

The problem is, when we ask the wrong questions, we often come to wrong conclusions and make false assumptions and accusations.

Gideon concludes: But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian (13).

When I’m attacked, falsely accused, demanded an answer of, my tendency is to go on the defense, attack back, or try to justify my actions. A better choice is to sidestep and find out what the other person is feeling. God knew that Gideon was feeling fear. Answering his questions wouldn’t satisfy his heart, because those weren’t the right questions. Twice, God sidesteps the questions and answers, “I am the solution, your answer, your source of power and strength” (14, 16).

Next time you’re tempted to ask God why or where, try asking instead: How do I feel that  . . . God allowed the abuse, didn’t answer my prayer, it seemed He wasn’t there, etc.? And then be willing to listen for God’s satisfying answer to your pain.

On a side note, after the pain is gone, sometimes God does indeed answer the client’s WHY questions. I’ve heard answers from Him such as, “Are you willing to let Me use this pain to minister to others?” and “I gave all men choices, and I won’t violate their will; neither will I violate yours.” And the WHERE? He always answers, “I was there with you, feeling your pain.”

What questions do you ask when you’re in pain?

I hugged an angel today

From my 2009 Journal, February 16. The floodgates of grief for my mom burst open today. I cried all day at work and then headed for Wal-Mart to pick up some groceries. I was at the checkout line when I met an angel.

Angel girl

Found on Pinterest

In front of me stood a harried mom with her two kids—a boy seated in the cart and a girl (perhaps 3) walking beside him, holding a Barbie doll. I knew the doll wasn’t hers because there was plastic wrap still on the hair—which she proceeded to pull off—and she began walking the doll across the floor. I wondered as I watched her if her mom knew it was in her possession. But what struck me the most—it actually took my breath away—was her stunning beauty. Her facial features were soft, round, angelic; her hair perfectly shaped and combed; and she was dressed in a pure white knit coat.

Meanwhile, her little brother was playing with a toy camera. I wondered if that was his or if it belonged to the store. Twice he dropped it from the cart.

My attention was suddenly drawn to the mom and her words:

   To the cashier:  a comment on how expensive diapers are and that she’d bought the cheaper brand.

   To her daughter: “Don’t sweep the floor with your coat; it’ll get dirty, and pick up the camera for your brother.”

The mom finished paying for her groceries and then turned to her daughter. “I’m not buying that for you; give it to the lady. It doesn’t belong to you,” she demanded. I must confess I felt perturbed at her for allowing the child to carry it with her throughout the store if she had no intention of purchasing it.

At those words, that sweet angelic face shattered into a wail of grief. It was not out of rebellion—I think I can tell the difference. If there had been rebellion in the tears, I would not have responded as I did.

The little family headed for the door and I asked the cashier, “How much is the doll?” Quickly she scanned it. A mere $4—a small amount to me, but perhaps out of reach for a mom buying cheap diapers. “Put it on my bill,” I said and ran after the little girl, leaving behind my cart and my intended purchases. I knelt beside her, put my arms around her and held out the doll. “If it’s okay with your mommy, I’d like to give this to you.”

Mom’s response:  “You don’t need to do that; she has more Barbies at home.” And then, “Thank you.”

Quickly I returned to my cart, aware that I was holding up the line. I was loading the last of my goods onto the conveyor belt when out of the corner of my eye, I saw the little angel barreling toward me, arms outstretched. I knelt; we hugged, tears still on her lashes, tears in my own eyes. I don’t know if she said a word, but I whispered, “I love you.” It was sweet comfort to my grieving soul.

It wasn’t until I was at my car, parked a long way from the door, that I realized I’d forgotten to pick up the $5 rotisserie chicken I’d planned for supper. “Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll stop in at Kroger on the way home, although it’ll be more expensive there ($6 or $7).”

I was still kicking myself over my forgetfulness and the added grocery expense when it occurred to me that if I had made time to go to the chicken aisle at Wal-mart, I would have missed my angel hug. I ran into Kroger, and there on the heating table was one roasted chicken that had been reduced—to $4. I think God was grinning.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Frequently asked questions

I was almost 50 years old before I discovered what I wanted to be when I grew up.

My mother knew in third grade. When she took a hygiene class, she decided then and there to become a nurse. She also knew early on that she wanted to teach others to read. If you had asked me in grade school, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would have replied, “a missionary nurse and schoolteacher like my mom.”

In junior high “Uncle” Bill, one of my boarding school teachers, stopped me one day on the sidewalk and challenged me to consider becoming a missionary doctor instead. Because I loved and admired him, I agreed to do so in order to make him happy. The problem was, I neither felt drawn to working with sick people, nor did I have a propensity for the sciences of any kind! But I did know that I fell in love with Miss Pat’s English class.

During my senior year of high school in the USA, I began to panic. What should I do next? My parents were overseas and unable to help me with college decisions. Mrs. Casler, my friend Cindy’s mom, suggested I attend Word of Life Bible Institute, a one-year school of Bible training, before heading to medical school. And so I did.

At the end of that year, I visited a nearby Christian college to check out their pre-med program.  And that’s when it finally hit me—I was pursuing someone else’s dream. With a sense of relief, I gave it up, only to flounder—what do I do now?

Enter Ron, a guy I dated a few times. “Go to TTU,” he suggested. “They’re offering a full tuition scholarship for MKs (Missionary Kids).” And so I applied.

Am I seeing a pattern here?! I didn’t like or know how to make decisions. I just went where others directed me.

I remember sitting in a large classroom when I first arrived on the TTU campus. I was supposed to be filling out forms, including my intended major and class schedule. I didn’t have a clue what to do! The only constant up to this point in my life was that I knew I wanted to become a missionary. I leaned over to the student next to me and said, “I don’t know what I want to major in.”

“Just put down Education,” he replied. “Many students do that. You can always change later.” And so I did.

It was when I took my first education class that I began to back-pedal. A friend who was in the midst of student teaching said she was required to have perfect handwriting and it felt like she was acting all day, and it was exhausting. The thought of teaching frightened me.

Okay, so now what? To become a missionary, I knew I needed to know my Bible, so I switched to a Bible major. Now here was something I was familiar with.

Enter Speech 101 with Dr. Euler. Though the thought of public speaking terrified me, I had enough poise apparently to impress the teacher. “You should consider an oral interpretation speech major as well,” he declared. At first I balked at the idea, but again, a teacher has clout and I listened. The literature appealed to me, and my performances in junior high and high school plays gave me something to build on.

When I got married and didn’t end up on the mission field, I wondered what good my speech and Bible majors did me. I suspect it was my husband Scott who encouraged me to apply for a job teaching English and speech at Berean Academy, a small Christian school. But my four-year teaching experience there exhausted me. It was hard work—mentally, physically, emotionally. I felt intimidated by American teenagers and couldn’t relate to them. I was too young and inexperienced to handle a classroom, but I enjoyed the challenge of trying to keep my students from getting bored. I also enjoyed directing plays and preparing students for speech competition, but again, the work was extremely demanding and I made many embarrassing mistakes. Thankfully, Mrs. Calvert was a sympathetic and supportive supervisor, along with some parents who encouraged me.

Raising three babies and keeping house and moving four times kept me busy by default for the next several years. When we needed the extra money, Scott found out that a local junior college was hiring evening English teachers and urged me to apply. I returned to teaching, but again it was through someone else’s initiative.

It was while we were doing some in-service teacher training that the light bulb finally came on in my mind. We were introduced to the topic of brain studies and were examining how different brains are wired. After taking an assessment test, each teacher was instructed to approach an easel, take a pushpin, and place it in their dominant brain quadrant. I was chagrined to discover that my pin landed on the green square whereas most of the other teachers put theirs in the blue section. Apparently I was working against my natural bent, and it made sense why teaching exhausted me so. And I realized for the first time that all my life I’d been pursuing other people’s directives rather than following my heart.

Shortly after that, we moved to Tennessee, and I had to step down from all responsibilities at church, at school, and in the community.  I was starting over with a new life and many possibilities. One Sunday morning I sat riveted in my seat as Pastor Dean asked the question, “What is your passion?” That sermon, along with its guidelines, became pivotal in my understanding of who I was created to be. At first I didn’t think I liked what I knew about myself. All along I pridefully thought of myself as a professional—someone with status and education. But now I realized that I got far more pleasure out of shuffling papers around than trying to influence and push people to perform a certain way. I had been an introvert in an extrovert profession.

I jotted down in my journal that I loved order, the preciseness of grammar rules and the repetition of data entry.  I also knew I had a passion for reconnecting MKs. I was already meeting those needs as editor of Simroots (a magazine for adult MKs). Life was getting neater and tidier, but I knew I needed more than that to keep me busy while the girls were in school. I just wasn’t sure what.

And then it happened. My world flipped upside down and got messy again. In walked Minna Kayser, a very wounded, suicidal adult MK who landed on my doorstep and stayed. I know now that it was a God-event of epic proportions. (You can read all about it in our book Diamond Fractal.)

I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that working in the counseling field would be a good fit for me. It is far removed from sitting in front of a computer all day and losing myself in organizing script for a magazine. What was God thinking!?

To this day, I’m still not sure what happened. How did I get here? How has a speech and Bible degree and classroom experience and proofreading skills prepared me for this inner healing prayer ministry? How is this related to how my brain works? I’m a visual learner, not an auditory one, and yet what I do requires intense listening. I don’t have the gift or the passion for traditional counseling. I don’t even have the traumatic past that often draws counselors and psychologists into this career. I don’t get it! This calling is so much a God-thing that I am left shaking my head in wonder.

I’m still editing Simroots, and I still enjoy connecting MKs, but my real passion now is watching the light bulbs come on in people’s hearts and minds when God speaks truth to them in a prayer session. What astonishes me is that I got catapulted into this work without the skills or training at first to do it. I got thrown into the deep end before I knew how to swim.

I seem to have lived my whole life in default mode, following instead of leading, listening to others rather than listening to my heart. Was God’s voice in Uncle Bill? The stranger who sat next to me on the first day of school? Did He direct Ron so I’d end up at TTU? Or use Scott to get me into teaching?

Why didn’t God just show me or reveal to me my passions way back when I was a little girl—like He did for my mom? Why did I wander for so many years in areas that didn’t fit me? Am I such a slow learner? Or is that all part of the growth process, the learning progression?

The funny thing is, contrary to my friends’ observations, I don’t feel gifted at all for this ministry. But my mother the nurse, my first role model, claimed she could never do what I do. She didn’t even understand it when I tried to explain it to her. Is this a supernatural, spiritual gift or is it physical—the way my brain is wired to think after all? The fact that God does all the work and I get to watch makes me think that anyone could do this ministry if they just had the training and a willing heart. But I know now that not everyone is called to do what I do. My conclusion? I have learned that when God calls, He equips.

How did you figure out what you wanted to be when you grew up?

 

I’m a One-Talent Gal

From my 2007 Journal. There’s a parable in Luke 19 that has always bothered me. A man goes on a journey and entrusts five talents to one of his servants and expects him to double the gift. He gives two talents to another and expects him to double that, and one talent to the third, “each according to his ability.” Of course the punchline of the parable has to do with the one-talent guy burying his money instead of investing it. But my mind goes to the amount of the gift given in the first place. It seems unfair somehow. I personally don’t want the responsibility of doing the work to multiply five talents, but I’d like to receive the reward for doing so! But you can’t have the one without the other.

I have this feeling that I’m one of the one-talent recipients and I better make the most of it. Yet somehow I equate value or worth with the fact that I’ve only been given one. Why?

AwardI think it goes back to boarding school, Grade 9. I don’t recall anymore what all the qualifications were, but the most coveted award for the end of the school year was “Best, All-round Girl/Boy Award.” I’m sitting on pins and needles waiting for the names to be called out. I want it so bad I can taste it. But when I’m given the award, I have mixed emotions. My pride (God forgive me) steps up to the plate and says I deserve it.

On the other hand, I see the shock and disapproval on someone’s face and I feel like a fake—apparently she didn’t think I deserved the award. I knew I was NOT the most talented, nor was I the most gracious. I was stuck up and prideful. I felt like I had hoodwinked the staff who had voted for me, but my peers knew better. That award belonged to someone else who was more talented than I and who certainly had a better attitude. I felt exposed, naked, ashamed. But I held my head up high and marched to the front of the auditorium to receive that precious little piece of metal.

I have long since repented of my pride, and God has covered me with His righteousness, but I still have to address the thought that I may have only been given one talent. Am I willing to accept God’s gift, no matter how small or how large and be faithful to serve Him with it? Today my answer is YES!

How many talents do you believe God has given you and why? And is it prideful to admit you have more than one?

The Journey Not to Home Part II

L.M. Welkers Sep 74

Dad and Mom in 1970

Continued from last week’s blog . . .

For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away what is promised (Hebrews 10:36).

Journal June 5, 2007 I’ve decided to extend my stay another 5 days with my parents in Sebring. Mom is emotionally spent. She’s finally moving from the anger stage to the grieving stage. Slowly she’s learning her way around the house and adjusting to a new kitchen—a major hurdle with her macular degeneration. She’s getting help with handling the finances, and the nurses are assisting with Dad’s baths and other needs. The final challenge is learning how to shop in a new grocery store.

Each day gets a little better, but each day puts me closer to leaving. I played my last Scrabble game with Mom as her eyesight is too poor to continue. It’s not a matter of unpacking physically for my parents, though that’s important, but it’s a matter of unpacking emotionally.

My sleep schedule is off as they keep the house so warm it’s hard to sleep. My mind is racing all the time like a giant switchboard, and all the lights and rings are happening at once. Is this how Mom feels? I can step backwards, out of the switchboard room in my mind, but I still feel the responsibility of having to reenter it. I know there’s beauty behind me, but I’m still facing the room. I can’t seem to turn around. Who will take care of the switchboard if I turn my back on it? How can I turn my back on responsibility?

Like my mother, I can sit on a chair for a while and rest.

June 10. My last day in Sebring, I was awoken by Mom yelling for me. Dad had fallen while trying to reach for his hearing aids, and he cut a two-inch gash in his head. We rushed him to the hospital where I had to leave them in the ER in order to get to my plane on time. I stopped by their house to pack, racing around to get the rooms in order as best I could, including soaking sheets, towels and Dad’s shirt that were all covered in blood.

Planes in Orlando were grounded for a huge storm, and I arrived in Miami just half an hour before my flight to Nashville was due to take off. My connecting gate was on the opposite end of the terminal and no shuttle available. I ran till I thought I would pass out and boarded just as they were closing the doors. I did not want to spend the night in the Miami airport! I arrived home at midnight (my body’s time) and of course my luggage was not on the plane.

This was not the way I wanted to leave my parents . . .

June 14, 2007. As I settle back into a routine at home, all the switchboard lights come on at once. I find I’m still needed—by my husband, by my kids, by my friends, by my parents, by those to whom I minister. It’s nice to be needed—I think. But what if I don’t want the role? Then what!? Have I created that dependency on me, or is it my God-driven, God-given role? I gladly give to those in need, but we all have to take turns. The past two weeks were Mom and Dad’s turn.

People’s neediness manifests in various ways. Physically, my parents needed me to help them get settled into their new home. Emotionally, they needed even more, but only God can take away their pain. What I can do is create an atmosphere by my words and deeds that provide the support whereby a person can be drawn to God.

But what if a person is “unloveable”? What is impossible with man is possible with God.

My prayer today is for a deeper love for people—especially the needy ones in my life. I may be repulsed by people’s attitudes and sin, but I am to love them anyway. Did Jesus love the Pharisees? By His words of rebuke, you’d wonder! He was awfully hard on them. Yet He died for them—His actions proved it.

When is it hard for you to love someone?

The Journey Not to Home Part I

How should we respond to another person’s struggles? When is it appropriate to confront people? Is it ever right to judge them for their actions? How can I forgive if their actions or attitude affect me? Is it a matter of simply waiting for their heart to change? When do we put up with, when do we confront? How do we love them through it?

Journal from May, 2007. Moving my 88-year-old parents and Betty, a single missionary lady, from California to Florida was traumatic for all of us. It began yesterday at 6 a.m. with a 2-hour drive to the airport, arriving 2 hours and 40 minutes before takeoff. The flight was 4 ½ hours long, and it felt like an eternity. I was in charge of Mom while Paul [my brother] had to assist my incontinent Dad in navigating the tiny lavatory on board.

When we landed in Orlando, between us all we had 2 wheelchairs, 1 dog, and 12 pieces of luggage. In the flurry of getting everyone settled into the rental van, I forgot to pick up Dad’s walker. I hope we can retrieve it later from the airport.

The two-hour drive to Sebring was the hardest part of the journey. We pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot for dinner, and I entered the restaurant to place our order, thinking we’d all remain in the car to eat. But Dad decided at the last minute that he needed to make a pit stop. Without his walker, he had to hold onto Paul to walk to the building. In the process, Dad’s pants fell to his ankles in the parking lot! I was coming out the door at that moment, laden with all the sandwiches and drinks when I noticed the debacle. “Look at Dad’s pants!” I yelled at Paul.

Betty grabbed the food, I grabbed Dad’s left side, and Paul held on tight while bending down to pull up the pants. Somehow we made it through supper inside and got everyone back into the van. By this time, Dad was near exhaustion.

We arrived at their new home, and Mom put Dad to bed immediately. She had to struggle with changing his soiled Depends and finding a plastic sheet for the bed. And then she collapsed, weeping with great heaving sobs of relieve that the ordeal was over. I think we were all awake most of the night, too tense and exhausted to fall asleep.

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Day 5. After unpacking all their worldly goods, hanging photos on the wall, hooking up the TV, etc., I had a little time to explore the retirement complex and greet several missionaries I ran into, including Evie Lohnes.

My dear mother, so strong, so nurturing, so full of life to me growing up, is hurting so much. She carries a lot of anger, disappointment, grief and pain inside, and it continues to leak out in outbursts of irritation and tears over her losses. It was not her choice to make this move across the country, leaving behind her beloved daughter and grandchildren. And I think she feels the weight of caring for Dad as she has done all of her life.

In contrast, I listened to Evie, a recent widow, who spends her days in prayer and praise and a positive spirit with sweetness and encouragement. I asked her how she got to be this way, and she answered in a partial way:  “My husband was the most wounded man I know . . .” and then proceeded to tell me all the good he’d done in his lifetime. I could only read between the lines—that she was driven to her Savior for comfort and help. [I have pondered this statement many times throughout the years as I face whatever trials I go through or meet with difficult people.]

In church today the soloist sang “My Anchor Holds,” and the tears came unbidden. When Evie prayed for me and my parents, I wept openly. And now at 3 a.m. I lie awake and continue crying. For whom do I weep? For myself? For my mother’s sadness?

How much does Daddy feel? Sometimes he’s so out of it; other times he’s quite lucid and worried over details. I think he must feel what Mom is feeling. How can her mood not affect him? But he is totally dependent on her. She has become his mother.

The air in this house is thick, heavy, sad, oppressive. Negativity in the atmosphere can be toxic. At Evie’s, the light is bright and a cool refreshing breeze is blowing.

Lord, I don’t want to become a bitter, cantankerous, angry old woman in my old age. I want to find beauty in ashes, joy in sorry, light in the darkness. Lord, teach me.

Day 14. I just finished up a hard two weeks of listening to my mother struggle with anger, disappointment, grief and feelings of betrayal over their forced move to Florida. If we’re not related to a person or living with them, it’s easy to shrug off their negativity. But living with daily bitterness is wearing on one’s soul. I found myself reacting back in anger and irritation.

Jesus minced no words of condemnation for those whose hearts were blinded by self-importance. But those who had a repentant heart, He freely forgave and comforted. What if a person blatantly holds pride and sin inside? What if he/she is simply protecting pain? I cannot see inside another person’s heart, but I do know that what comes out of the mouth often reveals what’s inside.

I cannot judge my mother’s heart, but I can give God my own self-protection for the sorrow I feel. I choose to release my own anger to Him to carry.

To be continued next week . . .

A Chance Encounter?

A friend of mine once challenged me to be on the lookout for God-sightings throughout my day. This one didn’t take much imagination on my part to see His footprint!

July 2007 Journal. Scott and I are attending managers’ meetings for Moody, and I had Bookstore 2some time to myself. I was praying that God would give me an opportunity to minister to someone this week, but little did I know that He’d planned something special for me this afternoon.

I wandered down the street and into a two-story bookshop, found a secluded corner and plopped down on a comfy couch to read. Before I got to page two in my book, a young couple sat down in the seats next to me. Within two sentences of greetings, she began to tell me that they’d just gotten word that she’s pregnant and that she was feeling both excitement and fear. She said she felt like she was in a dark place.

I asked her if she’d like me to pray with her, and she agreed. Immediately, God gave her a visual of Himself being in the dark room with her, and she no longer felt alone. The anxiety left her.

A chance encounter? Hardly. She said she’d been praying for an answer to her fear for the last 24 hours and hadn’t slept all last night. God heard her prayer—and mine.

Have you had a God-sighting lately?

 

A Caged Bird – On Rights and Privileges

Alone time is a precious commodity for an introvert like me, so when it doesn’t happen, I can feel resentful—like it is a right or something. But I know it’s not. So what’s the difference between a Right and a Privilege?

A right = something universally available (ex: oxygen).
A privilege = a luxury (ex: pure water).

Luxuries can quickly turn into perceived rights. Take cell phones, for example. Before we had instant connections with our loved ones, we had to wait until we returned home from the grocery store to make that landline call to Mom or Dad. And in my grandparents’ day, they had to walk next door if they wanted to communicate with their neighbor. Is a cell phone a right or a privilege?

My mother did not care for pets. It was only after much pestering by her kids that she consented to having a dog or a cat in the house. But one day she decided she wanted a bird, captured from the wilds in Africa. It was not a domestic bird. It didn’t deserve to be confined after living a life of freedom. It had lost its rights. Did it resent being stuffed inside a confined space, unable to extricate itself?

Am I that bird when I don’t get my desired solitude–resentful toward those who box me in, interrupt my schedule, or crowd my  emotional space?

Jesus asks, “Are you willing to be caged if I ask it of you?”

I want to say yes, but I’m uncomfortable all scrunched up in a ball, confined by a metal cage.

Jesus freedom_318-116635asks again: Are you willing to be uncomfortable for Me?

“Yes,” I say, “I’m willing. . . If that’s what you’re asking of me.”

And I watch in amazement as the metal bars drop away. The cage was my own sin of resentment for not getting what I believed was a right.

Now I’m free of the cage, but I’m still confined to my own home. Like the bird that escapes its cage, it’s free to fly around the house, but it still longs to be outdoors, free to fly and roam and explore or at least free to make the choice to stay in the house if desired.

I find I’m in a double-bind. I want to open a window and let the bird fly out of the house and return to its natural habitat, but I know it would make my mom mad if I did. Lord, I need help here.

And I watch as God’s large hand enters the home and the bird rests on His finger.

I sing because I’m happy;
I sing because I’m free;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

So I now know the process to peace:

1. Release resentment.
2. Relax and let God take of my worries, problems, or pain.
3. Relish His care and sing!

But there’s a residual emotion: I still long to be free. Responsibility is sometimes a hard or heavy load to carry. It would be easier to lay it down than to carry it. But that’s a topic to explore on another day.

What privilege do you mistake for a right?