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?

Chosen

He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Worm

Journal 2018. Like many of you, I grew up singing the old familiar hymns and I still love them, but there are two songs that contain lyrics that I just could not identify with as a five-year-old child: “Amazing grace . . . that saved a wretch like me” and “Alas! and did my Savior bleed . . . For such a worm as I.” Mom told me that God loved me and I believed her. I sure didn’t feel like a wretch or a worm! I felt special.

I was unaware of the forces around me as a five-year-old when I chose Jesus to be my Savior. I was like an orphan, and God chose me out of the orphanage to be His royal child. Why? He’s the one who created me in the first place. But why didn’t He choose Susie or Billy or John? Why did I get to be raised in a Christian home by loving parents? Why am I so privileged today to live in a land of abundance, with ample food on the table? It makes me grateful and I feel special. But what about all the little children who are chosen to live in paganism or poverty? How do I / should I feel about them?

And I hear Jesus’ answer to His disciples: that’s none of your business! (Karen’s paraphrase). Am I willing to let God take care of my questions? Let God be God?

Where is the balance of truth between believing “I’m worthless, a worm, a sinful creature” and “I’ve been adopted into royalty”? Just because I got picked out of a lineup, does that make me special? On what basis did He choose me? Gideon’s 300 men were chosen, supposedly, because they were alert and watchful. They passed a simple test of raising water to their lips. But they didn’t even know they were being tested!

There is a balance between predestination and freewill that seems to trip us up. I think the invitation is for everyone: whosoever will may come. All are invited. To those who step out of the lineup and take a step of faith toward Him, these He chooses. He called, I answered, and He gave me my assignment. Not out of any merit of my own did I diligently seek God, however. I deserve nothing, but I would have been a fool to reject or renounce my royal invitation. I’m glad I accepted. But there is no pride permitted there. He is the One who wooed me and loved me and won my heart. When I choose to diligently seek Him, I believe He rewards that choice.

I suspect that the lyricists John Newton and Isaac Watts were feeling bad about themselves and their life choices and therefore believed they were wretched and worthless, but that’s not how God saw them. The truth set them free. And He can do the same for you and me.

Moving Day

By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take (Nehemiah 9:12).

May 2018. Packing and frequent transitions were a normal part of my life as an MK (Missionary Kid), but it’s different now that I’m an adult. Just the thought of moving makes me tired. I have two daughters in transition right now. I don’t envy them. Moving is disruptive, time-consuming, and unsettling to one’s little routines.

So I try to imagine being an Israelite housewife wandering in the desert. When the cloud or the fire moves, I have to pack up everything I own and get back on the trek. When it stays put, I get to stay a little longer in my tent. The pillar can move at any time and I have to trust God for His perfect timing. And maybe I have little kids who need routine and naps and bedtimes on schedule, and maybe I’m about to give birth to Number Six. But God says I must be flexible enough to pack up all my possessions at a moment’s notice and move on. You almost don’t want to unpack because you may only be at this location for 24 hours . . . or 24 days. You just don’t know. At least my daughters know their destinations and plan to stay there for a while.

DSCN3186 Timnah Park

Scott and I recently visited Solomon’s Pillars and copper mines in the desert at Timnah Park, Israel

I, personally, would have found this situation most unsettling! I wonder how long it took for the entire camp to start moving? After marching all day, could the Levites set up the tabernacle in just a few hours—with circus-tent efficiency? Up one day, down the next. What a life!

DSCN3203 Tabernacle

We visited a full-size replica of the wilderness tabernacle in Timna Park

But they knew that there was a goal at the end of their trek—a land ahead, promised for them, a good land, flowing with milk and honey.

I can’t wait for the day when I reach Canaan Land—when I have a permanent residence in heaven. No more packing and unpacking, no more moving, no more good-byes. No more temporary storing of worldly goods or worrying about breakage because things didn’t get packed securely enough for the moving truck. No more decisions about what to keep and what to throw or give away. I get to leave the worldly stuff all behind because I won’t need it anymore. Everything I need—all my real treasures—will already be there, waiting for me.

How do YOU feel about moving?

Grumbling and Complaining

 

 

IMG_3757

Wadi Qilt in the Judean Wilderness

And the people grumbled and deplored their hardships, which was evil in the ears of the Lord (Numbers 10:37).

May, 2018. When I first heard this verse as a little girl, I piously thought that if I’d been an Israelite, I would never have complained about my lot. Indeed, I determined then and there to stop grumbling when I didn’t get my way. (I may have kept that vow for a whole day.)

Scott and I recently came back from a trip to the Israeli and Jordanian wilderness. After experiencing miles and miles of unrelenting drought and rocky mountains and heat, I have a new appreciation for why the Israelites complained. Of course my observation comes from the cushioned seat of an air-conditioned bus, but still . . . .

The Israelites were fed up. They were sick and tired of manna sandwiches, manna soup, and manna salads, and they lusted after their flavorful Egyptian dishes. They declared, “Now our soul (our strength) is dried up.” And no wonder! With only six inches of rain a year, where is there enough water in a desert for a million or more people? And so they wept and they complained to Moses. I can picture the little kids whining, “Are we there yet? I’m so tired, hot, and thirsty. My feet hurt.” And the moms, carrying their extra loads, not knowing how far they’d have to walk each day, worried about dehydration (they didn’t have ice-cold, bottled water provided by the bus driver).

The result? God’s fire burned the edges of the camp.

The people’s reaction? They cried out to Moses.

Moses’ response? He cried out to God. “Why? Why? Why? Where? I can’t. I’m not able. Kill me. The burden is too heavy.”

So what’s the difference between the words of the Israelites and the words of Moses? The difference is to whom they complained. Moses directed his words to God. The words were melodramatic, to be sure, but honest. His was not an attitude of lust and rejection of God’s provision. His were words of despair because he was carrying too heavy a burden and his knees were starting to buckle.

God’s response: He came to Moses’ aid. He had him choose 70 men to help carry the load.

And the fire in the camp subsided, and they named the place Kibroth-hattaava (the graves of sensuous desire) because they buried there the people who lusted and whose physical appetite caused them to sin.

Buried in the desert? I used to picture the Sinai Peninsula as gently rolling hills of silty, Sahara-like sand. But as we had to carefully watch our footing over rocky ground, I wondered aloud how the wanderers accomplished this feat. I still don’t have an answer.

Anyway, I came away with two thoughts: I have no right to judge another person’s struggles until I have walked 40 years in their dusty sandals. And second, what can I do when I find myself in the desert? Talk to God instead of whining to other people.

I Have Everything I Need–Really?

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness (II Peter 1:3 NIV).

In this verse Peter is not talking about having all our material needs met—such as food, clothing, and shelter. He’s referring to everything we need in order to live a godly life. So if this verse is true (and I believe it is), why do we struggle so? Why can’t we just lay everything at the feet of Jesus and quit worrying? Why don’t we always make godly choices?

Money

Is there one area you’ve struggled with all of your life? For most of my married years, it was money. I deliberately chose to be a stay-at-home mom to my three girls at a time when many of my peers were starting their careers. If something had happened to Scott, our family’s bread-winner, I would have had no skills with which to support myself and my little family. I kept laying my worry on the altar and it kept jumping off again! But one day as I was trying to process my emotions, I heard the Lord say, “Karen, I am the husband of widows. I will take care of you.” From that moment on, my heart was at rest.

How did that happen? I had known in my head all the platitudes about trusting God and believing His word and His promises. I had knowledge of God’s character. But I didn’t know it in my heart until the day I agreed to feel and face my fear. Once I laid down my self-protection, my self-preservation, and my worry, God was able to speak truth to my heart that brought me to peace. And there’s my life theme again—In the Pursuit of Peace.

How may I help you today to find God’s peace?

On Burnout

In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength
(Isaiah 30:15).

woman-alone-sleeping-occupation-professional_1262-839

Journal entry from April 19, 2007. I’m tired, so very tired. And it’s my own doing. I control my own schedule, so why did I do this to myself? I’m neglecting my own needs for the sake of others, and I’m neglecting my family’s needs for my own. I’m tired physically and emotionally and can feel depression creeping in. It’s time to say no to everyone today and spend time with God. Just for now. For one hour, I’m going to focus on Jesus. Shut out the needs and screams of others demanding my attention.

You take care of them, Lord. I give the whole package up to you: my schedule, the people in my life, my day, my accomplishments. Today is Your day. I will take it at Your pace, one thing at a time, one step at a time. I pray that You will screen my interruptions today. Guide my every thought. Amen.

April 20. Yesterday was rejuvenating to me. I took the whole day just for me. I deep-cleaned the house, balanced the checkbook, sorted stuff out, made cookies, went shopping for groceries. The one thing I didn’t do was answer the 25 phone calls that rang! It felt awful doing so, but I was beyond caring. I knew I had to take care of myself before I could take care of others. It felt so good to get my house in order. Now I’m ready to serve again.

Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
Lift up your voice to God.
Praise with the spirit and with understanding,
O magnify the Lord.

Curious Thoughts on Exodus 32

Desert

When I read a chapter like Exodus 32, I end up with more questions than answers. I hope this doesn’t sound sacrilegious, but this inquiring mind wants to know.

Here’s the scene: After 40 days on Mount Sinai, Moses and Joshua (yes, he was there also) come down the mountain, 10 commandments in hand, after negotiating with God regarding not annihilating the whole Israelite nation. They have been in the very presence of holiness and purity.

While standing at the gate (What gate? What was it made of? Why was it there?), Moses calls out for the people to join the Lord’s side. How did Moses get their attention? How did he speak to a million people at the same time without a PA system? Did he yell at everyone near him to go to his or her own tent and they each passed the word to their neighbor? Or were they all together in a mob and the front guys passed the word back to those behind them? (Like playing the game “gossip” or “telephone,” I can imagine how that message would have gotten garbled!) Or did Moses just speak to the elders of each tribe who spoke to the clan leaders who fanned out to relay the message to those under them?

By this time, Moses had already ground down the golden calf and made them all drink it. (How do you force someone to drink something nasty anyway?! It’s not like he held a gun to their heads.)

So now Moses has all the Levites standing with him (Levi, the original brother, was no saint, but somewhere down the line, someone made some godly choices), and God honors that, and He gives them instructions to kill/murder/slay their fellow Israelites who aren’t on God’s side. And the Bible says they slew 3000 men! Does that include women and children? If not the women, can you imagine all those women being left widows? Knowing God’s dealings at other times with rebellious people, I suspect that whole families were annihilated. It says, “They went from gate to gate (there are those gates again).”

Apparently they had divisions between them—maybe to separate the tribes? Maybe to contain their animals? BTW, how did they find enough grazing food—not to mention water—for all those animals in the desert? The statistics are mind-boggling.

How difficult was it for the Levites to obey God? What residual emotional and psychological effects would they have had after this massive slaughter? Who had to bury all the corpses? And how do you bury that many people in the desert? I suppose they cremated them, but what a stench that would have been!

And didn’t the victims try to fight back? I’m sure they didn’t just stay put when they saw sword-wielding Levites coming toward them! They must have tried to run and hide . . . but where? . . .  or attempted to defend themselves. Chaos! Maybe the Levites came after the victims while they all slept! (I doubt it.)

And who inherited all their stuff—their tents and clothes and cooking utensils and sheep? (Can you imagine all the trading and bartering that went on in a camp that size? The entrepreneurs getting rich off their neighbors . . . ) Or maybe they burned their stuff up with the bodies.

My mind can’t wrap around the logistics of such an endeavor. What would it feel like to voluntarily kill your fellow man? Perhaps being clannish, it didn’t feel so bad, but verse 29 says, “Slay every man his brother, companion, and neighbor.” Is this literal or metaphorical? That would mean everyone who had not stepped over the line to join Moses and God. So if your brother or son did not join you, you were instructed to kill him. I can’t let my mind go there.

Following this, God sends a plague. You wonder if in the process of burying or burning this many people with rotting flesh in the desert (it had to be done very quickly) and grief being so strong, they would get ill from it. This is not to negate the miracle of a plague, but to understand the enormous stress they were under. Perhaps the plague weakened them so they wouldn’t seek revenge on the Levites.

God—who can understand His ways? He wipes out humanity with a flood, but keeps a remnant. He wipes out 3000 in one day and keeps the Levites. He allows a holocaust but brings a remnant of Jews back to the land. Abraham asks God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah, but God only brings out Lot and his women. (I don’t think it was God’s initial intention. Wouldn’t it have been better to have destroyed Lot’s lineage?) But God listens to a man. God wants to wipe out the entire nation of Israel, but Moses intervenes and asks God to spare them. God agrees—but only partially. He knew what was best.

Whose side am I on? Will I be willing to do the hard thing when You ask it of me?

Holiness, holiness is what I long for.

Holiness, holiness is what I need.

Holiness, holiness is what you want from me.

 

Dress for God’s House

You shall reverence my sanctuary (Leviticus 26:2).

I grew up on the mission field attending a church with backless mud benches, a cement floor, and a tin roof. The worshipers arrived each Sunday decked out in their very best attire. One day I was amused to observe a lady proudly wearing a bra over top of her clothing. (Bras were unheard of in that village, so I assume she was showing off her new purchase from the village market.)

I’ve listened to the debate between the old and the young regarding what is acceptable attire for church. My mother believed we should wear our best on Sunday morning in the sanctuary to show honor to God. My children think that God doesn’t really care what we wear.

I say both are correct—or both are wrong.

If I dress up in order to impress people, then I’m a hypocrite if I claim I’m doing it for God. In my African village, the American tradition of wearing a new Easter outfit was unheard of, but at the day-long Christmas service every single person in attendance had to have new clothes–for show I surmise. If we proclaim that we must give God our best on Sunday mornings, then why don’t we show up in tuxedos and formal gowns? (My mother did not have an answer for that one.) I wonder sometimes, however, if coming to church in sloppy or casual clothing results in sloppy or casual worship. On the other hand, if I arrive feeling comfortable in my clothing, I’m not distracted by hurting feet in high heels.

How much does culture weigh into this discussion? If I attend a church where the norm is more formal, it is appropriate to honor that culture. If casual is acceptable, then you might feel out of place showing up in a suit coat. In either case, we are admonished not to judge each other over our attire.

Does God really care what I wear to church? I doubt it. I think He’s more interested in my heart.

What do you think?

 

Pagan Holidays

In II Kings 23:4-7 we’re told that King Josiah cleansed the temple—not a synagogue, but the sacred temple in Jerusalem—where articles for Satan worship had been used for several decades. By now, asherah poles and houses for male prostitutes were fixtures.

Having been to this holy site in Jerusalem, it is unconscionable to me that anything unholy was ever permitted there. How could the people have strayed so far from the God who loved them? Josiah was 8 years old when crowned king, and 18 years later he discovers The Book of the Law and begins to obey God’s commandments. Up to that point in his lifetime, he had no clue what true worship was supposed to look like.

The question for us today is—what festivals do we practice that have pagan origins or overtones? Why do we celebrate Halloween? Christmas? Easter? I know some who have taken a stand against these holidays and refuse to go trick-or-treating, put up Christmas trees, or pexels-photo-356330decorate Easter eggs. I can respect that. But I don’t think it’s evil to display a tree in my house or send my kids on an egg hunt. In the past I’ve rolled my eyes at those who condemn these holidays as being pagan in origin and therefore shun all activities associated with them—and then I begin to think what if they were right? And what would it take for me to buck the culture and stand up for what’s right and holy and God-ordained?

Finding out the origin of Halloween is a no-brainer. But did Christmas and Easter begin in paganism or with Christ-followers? I hate what Christmas has turned into, and I cringe when I see bunnies and eggs in our churches. Why? Because Easter baskets weren’t part of my upbringing, and because of its association, I guess, to the fertility goddess. Perhaps, like Josiah’s day, we’ve strayed far from the purity of our original celebrations.

And then we rationalize. They may have pagan origins, but Christians say they have reclaimed the holidays for God. We’re not worshipping anyone but the one true God—even if we hide Easter eggs in our backyard—and we’ve turned the symbol into a Resurrection Egg. Is it ONLY a matter of the heart that’s important? The birth of Christ and His resurrection are legitimate historical events—so why shouldn’t we celebrate them?

My mind is free-wheeling here, but the thought crosses my mind that if these two holidays were truly of pagan origin, we wouldn’t celebrate them . . . or would we?

What if I found out, like Josiah, that I’d been doing it all wrong all my life? Would I have the courage to stand up to culture?

But It’s Against the Rules!

 

RefereeThis may be a hot topic for some, but I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve changed my views on this subject over time. I’ve moved from dogmatically opposed to cautious acceptance to taking my hand off the lid of the box and letting God be God. I’ve come to realize that some rules are guidelines, not always absolutes.

  • The posted minimum speed limit on the freeway is 40.
    But in fog or heavy snow, it would be foolish to try to maintain that speed.
  • The rule stated that only priests were allowed to eat the holy showbread.
    When there was no other food available, King David ate some of the consecrated bread and was not condemned for his action.
  • The fourth commandment says to keep the Sabbath day holy.
    Jesus healed the sick and “harvested” grain on the Sabbath.
  • The norm was for male judges to rule over Israel.
    One of the 12 judges in the Bible was Deborah.

The norm is for male pastors to provide church leadership. Can there be exceptions without violating Paul’s instructions to Timothy?

What do you think?