I had a God-orchestrated event today. A lady in upstate New York somehow found my name on the Internet and called me about her suicidal daughter who had just moved to our town. The young lady had set the date to take her life and was putting her affairs in order. I gave the mom our local suicide hotline number, the name of a counseling center in town, and permission to pass along my phone number. Four hours later, the daughter called me. We talked and prayed for almost two hours. At the end or our session, with hope in her voice, she said about her suicide date: “Jesus says it’s about life, not death.” Wahoo!
Now here’s the subtle irony. God orchestrated the entire event. All I did was pray and God showed up. He even gave me the gifts and training to know what to do, but Satan’s little lies whispered in my ear, “See what you did? You just saved a life! Aren’t you good?”
Immediately I recognize the voice of pride. I’m Atlas, brawny enough to hold up the world, while others are puny little ants crawling on its surface. [How sick is that!?] Soon those biting ants swarm over my arms and legs, and when I set the “world” down so I can scratch, I discover I’m not balancing it after all. There’s a power source, an air current beneath, making it twirl and dance. I had actually been blocking the airflow when I stepped under the sphere. Sheepishly, I realize the orb is not the world after all, but a toddler-sized, lightweight beach ball.
Now what to do with the ant bites? I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins . . .”
Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? (Isa. 40:13 NIV)
It’s laughable to think we can counsel each other—apart from God’s wisdom. And even more preposterous to think we could counsel God.
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.
Journal 2005. I remember my very first box of 64 crayons with a pencil sharpener on the side—a special gift from my beloved Grandpa Peterson, sent all the way across the ocean into the hands of a little girl whose mother taught the Africans by writing with her finger in the silky soft dirt. I guarded this treasure, arranging the colors by hue, gently returning each one to its proper slot, chagrined when I realized I had to peel back part of the paper in order to sharpen a crayon, and disappointed when it didn’t duplicate the original point.
When I pulled out my box of crayons at boarding school, someone borrowed them, leaving some crayons broken or misplaced. First, I got angry. They had no right to do that—even if done by accident. I felt disappointment, sadness, and Loss.
Possessions provide joy or creature comforts and can be great tools for accomplishing things for the kingdom. But holding onto them too tightly reveals what’s in my heart. Why do I feel so violated when someone touches my things? Am I too attached to them? Should I take care of my possessions? Of course. But I should not be in bondage to them. Eventually, I realized possessions are worthless in eternity. They are gifts from God for use here on earth, and if I recognize their source, I can hand ownership back to Him. I’m simply a steward of God’s possessions.
And so, Lord, I release that pristine box of crayons into Your hands. Break the bonds that hold me to it and color me a beautiful sunset instead.
Journal 2011. People talk about compartmentalizing their thought lives, and I’ve never fully grasped how they can do that. But one day when my to-do list was longer than my available hours, and my mind was too absorbed on one task to complete any others, I asked the Lord for a metaphor.
I mentally placed each of my tasks into a different room. One room is not more important than another, but I can’t be in two rooms at the same time. My brain is not wired to multi-task, so when I’m in one room, that’s all I focus on. People/relationships can walk in and out of each room I’m in, and I can stop and interact with them.
The first challenge for me right now is being in one room physically while I’m in another room mentally. I find I want to hurry up with the tasks in this room so I can get back to the Study or the Library or the Rec Room. The other challenge is deciding which room I need or want to be in and when. (Sadly, I tend to avoid going into the exercise room.)
And God? Thankfully He’s in every room of course. However, I desperately need concentrated, uninterrupted time in the Prayer Room.
Lord, help me to be mentally present with each person who enters my heart-house today. And will You be my Guide for what room(s) to work in and when?
January 2022 Update. This year started out with a large number of compounding stressors, and the jumbled stacks of papers in my office reflected the disorganization in my brain. Though disorienting, I didn’t cave or panic. I kept breathing and focusing on the next trouble-shooting task at hand until I could come to my scheduled Karen Day and hit the reset button.
The more we process our past, the healthier we get emotionally, and the more we can handle in the future.
I have been working at breakneck speed for too long. I neglected to rest after an Intensive Retreat with a client, and when I finally found half a day to myself, instead of relaxing, I trudged right up to bedtime. Drowning in over-commitment and pulled in too many directions, my stressed body and chaotic mind won’t shut down. I keep writing lists and the lists keep growing. My mind’s hard drive is full and, with no margin, I’m afraid it will crash. Meanwhile, any quality time with family and God suffers.
Currently, I’m planning two reunions, five trips, editing a magazine, teaching Sunday school, and preparing for two Bible study groups. And in the midst of these commitments, the floodgates for ministry opportunities opened wide. I crave peace and quiet, but drama reigns. I must cease striving and be still, put down my calendar and to-do list, set aside my goals (for now) and return to my priorities.
Visual: I see a picture of me as a teacher with her pupils (i.e. my to-do list). I delight in seeing a room full of wiggly children, but I have tolerated an unruly, chaotic classroom for too long. I place each child in her own cubicle—a cylindrical tube with a lid. I can keep the lids latched, but that takes away the fun away of watching little fingers waving in the air for attention. I instruct them to raise their hands for permission to stand and be recognized before speaking. The others must sit still and wait their turn. Okay . . . which child wants to go first?
Oh! Now I see Jesus behind me, directing their order. I don’t even have to worry about choosing.
Suddenly, a curtain descends in front of the group, the noise in my head stops, and I am alone with Jesus. Whew! I needed this. Refresh, refocus, return.
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!)
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
5 pieces of mail
1 person at the door
6 visits to my office
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.
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!
From my 2016 Journal. I feel like I’ve been fighting fires for months—rows of houses are ablaze or burned to the ground, and I’m tired of holding the hose, climbing ladders, and rescuing people. I’m weary, and the fires keep spreading. I also see gleeful little gremlins throwing gasoline over the houses.
Lord, I need your help!
A strong wind blows the fire back on itself, and water from the sky douses the flames. But suddenly the scene shifts and my perspective changes. The water is actually coming from a watering can, and the blaze is no bigger than a campfire. I’m just a little ant, so everything looks enormous—unlike from God’s perspective. All my effort and fretting just made me tired.
And so I ask the Lord, “What is my role? Do You want me to hold fire hoses or stand back and watch you work?” I think of Moses who obediently went to Egypt, but it was God who did all the work once he arrived.
I’m tired before going to my next appointment.
“Just show up and obey My instructions,” He says. “And I’ll do the rest.”