Pleasing God

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6 KJV).

From my 2007 Journal. I’m struggling with the concept of pleasing God. I know I fulfill Condition #1: I believe that He is. But sometimes I doubt Condition #2: that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. His rewards, I believe, are for more deserving people—those who have done grandiose things for Him—the Billy Grahams or the mega-church pastors, the self-sacrificing missionaries, the martyrs. Like David, I ask Who am I, that God is mindful of me? But this verse states that if I don’t fulfill Condition #2, it shows I lack faith (and thus it is impossible to please Him).

Because it’s not quantifiable, I think I need to define “diligently.” I find that seeking God is a time-intensive activity. Though my heart and will are always present, there are seasons of my life or times of the day when I feel more earnestness and diligence than at other times. When do I diligently seek God? Most obviously in my quiet time with Him. Second, while I’m in an inner healing prayer session with someone. But what about the rest of the time—when I’m chatting on the phone, writing an email, doing a jigsaw puzzle, or taking a walk? When I’m reading a novel, I’m not actively “seeking God.” We wouldn’t be able to function if that’s all we did—stayed on our knees in prayer 24-7. God expects us to sleep, to eat, to prepare food, to teach our children, to work at our jobs, to take breaks, to recreate, to have fun. Because I’m a one-track-minded person, I seem to be able to focus on God primarily when I’m alone and undisturbed. Even church is not an easy venue for me because there are so many distractions.

I can never seem to attain, never measure up. I always fall short of the glory of God. And It makes me sad that I cannot attain or measure up. He’s too far up, too far away, at the top of a sky-high ladder and I’m at the bottom looking up, like Jack and the Beanstalk.

In this fairy tale, Jack trades the family cow for some magic beans, and when he climbs the vine up into the sky, he discovers an evil ogre who owns a goose that lays golden eggs. I can feel Jack’s fear and dread as he decides to steal the goose—as if I, too, have done something wrong. I have stolen what is not mine, and I feel my mother’s disapproval for my foolishness in trading a cow for some beans. The fairy tale’s happily-ever-after ending seems like ill-gotten gain!

And so I rewrite the story in my mind: I would consult my mother before trading beans. If I had planted them, I would not have invaded the ogre’s palace. I would have attempted to make friends with him, and I certainly wouldn’t have stolen from him. And therefore, I would not have had to chop down the vine to murder him! The ogre would share his feast with me because he would be a generous and benevolent king.

And so God changes the visual for me. Instead of my planting a vine, God lowers a heavenly escalator, safe and protected on all sides to carry me up to His heaven. He has extended an invitation to me to enter His palace, to eat at His table, to sit by His fire and warm myself. He’s even given me a feather bed to lie down on when I become weary. And when I wake, refreshed, there are rooms to explore and meadows and orchards and climbing trees to enjoy.

abandoned-ancient-architecture-921914

Photo by Rick St. John from Pexels

In my new scenario, God is not an ogre in the clouds waiting to clobber me, but a relational Father who has created a child’s fairy palace for me to enjoy.

Am I pleasing to God? He chose me, proposed to me, asked me to be His bride. And I said yes. He’s preparing our home for us right now. And I’m preparing, making ready, having fun planning for the wedding, consulting Him on everything, because He has all the materials I/we need to have a spectacular wedding day.

So do I believe that God rewards those who diligently seek Him? The answer is yes. Therefore, I have faith; therefore I do please Him—because I do believe.

“I want to be ready when Jesus comes.”

Too Many Hats

hats-fedora-hat-manufacture-stackThis journal entry goes back to my teaching days at a junior college, but I find I still have seasons when I struggle to find that perfect balance in my various life roles.

The demands on my time have increased exponentially this winter. I’m trying to wear five to six different hats at once, and each one is a fulltime job: housewife, mom, teacher, editor, office worker, prayer minister. Each job has its joys and challenges. Each by itself is manageable, but put them all together and it’s a recipe for burnout.

Right now I’m struggling to wear my teacher hat. Yesterday’s English class was sheer melodrama. One student cried the whole class because her grandpa was dying. Another left early because her mom was taken to the ER. And a third was irate and belligerent because she failed to follow the instructions for an assignment, created some other work to make up for it, and then didn’t get credit for it. Who needs this kind of grief!?

Why did I agree to take this job in the first place? It has its rewarding moments, but for an introvert like me, teaching drains me, wears me out, and is stressful and time-consuming. Give me a desk job shuffling papers any day! Or wearing my prayer minister hat—now that’s fun and rewarding. So why did God give me this source of revenue? I’m grateful, but it’s not filling my soul. I don’t think I’m suited for this task.

If I could compartmentalize a little more, maybe I could focus better. I want to put each job into a box and let it stay there until its allotted time to think about it. But my mind doesn’t work that way–it’s not wired to multi-task. It’s racing and scattered and unfocused.

And so I mentally go to the hall closet, snatch up my jumble of hats and toss each one into a different room. Now when I’m in one room, that’s all I can focus on. I can’t BE in two rooms at the same time.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 that 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.

And God? Thankfully He’s in every room of my house. However, I desperately need concentrated, uninterrupted time in the Prayer Room.

Lord, help me to be fully present with each person who enters each room of my house today. And will You be my Guide for which room(s) to work in and when?

How do YOU manage your closetful of hats?

 

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?

 

Word for the Year 2017

Years ago, one of our pastors encouraged the congregation to select and focus on a Word for the Year. This little discipline has been life-changing for me. Each December, I begin by asking the Lord for a word and then brainstorming ways I can apply this goal throughout the year. For example, the year I chose the word “Word” I read through the Bible in a year and wrote 365 birthday cards or encouragement letters by hand. Some of my other words over the years have included Prayer, Food, Hike, Adventure, and Unplugged. This past year, I chose Neighborhood.

We have lived in this house in this subdivision for 17 years—the longest I have ever lived in one place, yet I could not have told you the names of the people who lived on my own street. Sure, people are busy, mothers work outside the home, I don’t have my kids to make instant connections for me anymore, and I had my hands full already with ministry opportunities, travel, and church responsibilities. But I knew it was time to set aside my excuses and get to know my neighbors.

The first thing I did was to create a map of the 30 houses on our street (plus one cul-de-sac); then I went door-to-door introducing myself and exchanging names and contact information. I worked hard at memorizing names as I prayed daily for each home. Out of this endeavor, we gained four new ladies for a Bible study I’m in. I received a note “You made my day” when I randomly distributed chocolate chip cookies and cards to the ladies on Mother’s Day. I passed out homemade cinnamon rolls in the fall and Christmas candy to a few who were at home when I rang their doorbell. We invited several couples over for dinner. I took a home-cooked meal to a new mom, and exchanged ethnic food all year long with a Kurdish family. I brought goodies and greetings to two new arrivals on the block and said good-bye to another just after getting to know them. Because of my interest in a widow, I was the first person she told when she was diagnosed with cancer. And the most fun of all was inviting all the ladies to a spring and fall tea, hosted by Renate, who, I discovered, has the most spectacular gift of hospitality.IMG_1513

Focusing on one word a year helps to establish a habit. I may not put this much effort into staying in touch with my neighbors in 2018, but I have built a foundation for future connections. It’s a ministry, it’s a blessing, and I know that the more I give, the more I receive.

What word would you choose for 2018 and why? Next year I’ll tell you mine.

The Day My Hero Died – On Releasing Grief

Ten years ago, on November 17, 2007, at 8:30 a.m. I got word that my dad was unconscious and at death’s door. By 11:10 a.m. I was on an airplane headed for Sebring, Florida, arriving at the nursing home at 6:30 p.m. Dad was unresponsive but alive. God gave me a special gift that night. I was 53 years old and had never before witnessed the dying process. Kay Breid, an MK friend from boarding school in Africa, was one of my dad’s caretakers and had been sitting by his bedside all afternoon. Kay coached me on what to expect. At 10:30 p.m. my precious daddy slipped quietly, peacefully into Jesus’ arms. I could almost feel the brush of angel wings. A holy moment.

Wednesday, November 21. I’ve shed no tears in the last three days. I don’t know why. Too much activity, too many decisions, visitors, family. Or is it that the suspense and waiting are finally over? I remember talking to a friend one time shortly after her husband died, and she called this initial season of grief “the blessed numbness before the pain.” Or is it God’s peace that’s carrying me?

We buried Dad on the day before Thanksgiving. I made sure there was a hanky in his outer pocket and a toothpick in his inner one (two things Dad always had in his possession). My mother was distraught. My own tears began to flow at last, but my sorrow for Dad was pain-free because of the hope we have of seeing him alive in his heavenly body. He was at peace and so was I.

The next day we flew Mom home to Tennessee with us for a while to rest and recover from the trauma. Thanksgiving dinner consisted of Chinese food in the Orlando airport.

That first week, I couldn’t seem to get back into a routine. It was like I was deep in the ocean with choppy seas above me.

November 26. As long as I stay well below the surface of the ocean, things are calm, peaceful, serene, and beautiful. But isn’t that escapism? How would it feel to rise to the top? Overwhelming. Bumpy. Desperate. How long may I stay down here? Emotionally, it feels too hard to surface. I’ll have to struggle and kick and survive and gulp seawater and flounder. Down below I can breathe and enjoy the fish and the coral in the pristine water.

What am I afraid of, Lord? I am willing to go to the top.

Quickly the scene changes. I find myself in shallow water. I can stand up, walk or wade toward shore. The sea is no longer threatening. There’s beauty in the sky and on the beach. I’m on solid ground.

Reality is not so scary after all.

November 28. I’m memorizing my mother’s face. How long does she have on this earth? One year? Ten? How precious this time is with her. Can I sear it into my brain? Is it only a week ago that we buried my father? [Mom died 14 months later.]

November 29. A priceless gift—or is it a gift from a Price?! Jim and Jean (Price) Cail sent Mom and me a breath-taking gift—a framed photo of my dad and mom taken a week and a half before he died. Mom and I cried together.

IMG_2470 (2)

“You’re the only girl I’ve ever loved – Lionel

November 30. I took a walk in my neighborhood, trying to release more grief. My Daddy was gone. I was excited for him; not so much for myself. And in my grief, a curtain parted slightly so I could catch a glimpse into “heaven.” There stood Jesus and my daddy (in his vigorous youth) in bright white light. I wanted to run to his big strong frame, to my earthly hero, and throw my arms around him and tell him how much I missed him.

But he looked at me and said, “I’m not your daddy anymore.”

Startled, I turned to Jesus and asked, “Is that true?!”

“Yes,” He responded. “In heaven there is no marriage and giving in marriage. Relationships are not the same up here.”

“But I need my daddy!” I cried.

And my earthly father turned and pointed to Jesus. “He’s your father now. I was given to you only for a short while—your stay on earth.”

“But what about your daily prayers for me?” I protested. “I NEELionel SegerD them.”

“It’s okay,” responded Jesus. “They’re all safely stored up here in boxes. I know where each one is, carefully logged and categorized. And now it’s time for you to become the next generation of prayer warriors.”

Quickly, I deposited prayers of my own into each of my own boxes: for my children and their spouses and their children and my great-grandchildren to come. My prayer for each of them is III John 4 that my daddy used to pray for me: that his children would walk in truth.

On Dec. 9 Mom celebrated their 60th anniversary with a special cake. I think Dad would have liked that. It made me smile.