What’s Your Grid?

From my 2012 Journal. Once I learn a perceived truth, I tend to filter all of life through that grid. For example, when I first learned about the benefits of homeopathic care, I shunned all allopathic doctors—until experience taught me that each has its merits for curing diseases.

One day I had a conversation with a gentleman who declared that the key to a child’s emotional health lies in his relationship with his father. This may be true in some or even in many instances, but not in all. It struck an emotional chord with him, however, and he began to take on some “shoulds.”

I’m currently reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert—a book on the subject of poverty and how not to hurt the poor in the midst of generous attempts to help. What strikes me is the matrix through which the authors view the subject—not that it’s wrong—but that all the verses and arguments are from one premise or topic. For example, the authors pose the question: Why were the Israelites sent into exile? “Idolatry” would be my immediate answer. But the authors concluded: because they didn’t properly care for the poor. Well . . . maybe . . . and that certainly could be part of the answer, but it’s not the only one (See Leviticus 26).

If I were writing a book about idolatry, I’d focus on that topic only and ignore the issue of caring for the poor. Or if I wrote a book on children or women or finances in the Bible, I’d examine all the Scriptures that pertain to just that topic. It’s normal to focus on one topic at a time—it’s all my brain can hold anyway—but I think I may develop tunnel vision in the process.

Grandma grid: My grandsons are the best!

Early in my ministry, TPM (Transformation Prayer Ministry) became my grid for all inner healing needs. While I was reading Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend, I started to view life through that filter. The founders of Temperament Analysis, Arno Profile System see every emotional solution through the grid of temperament needs.

Here are some grids for the topic of addiction.

  • The theologian calls it sin: stop doing it!
  • Solomon says it’s unwise: look at the consequences (Proverbs 23:29-35).
  • The counselor wants to know motive: why are you doing it?
  • The doctor suggests it’s a chemical imbalance: let’s help you detox.
  • The family says: you’re hurting me; you need help.
  • The addict says:  I’m not hurting anyone but myself and I’m fine.

Whose grid is correct? The study of psychology, boundaries, codependency, temperament, TPM, or any other system or method (including a set of doctrines)—these are not the authentic answers to human needs.

So here’s where I struggle. Because of my profession and training, my grid tends to be too narrow. The worst part of it is, I’m always thinking, “You could be fixed . . . if only you had the set of keys that I have in my possession. These keys could help unlock the doors on your pain—but either you don’t want to use them, or you don’t know that they exist.” Truthfully, however, my tools are plastic. Jesus is the Master Key; only He can unlock every door. Only God sees the whole picture all at once. He knows every answer, nuance, and issue.

A 2021 Update: I’ve since added HeartSync Ministries to my toolbox. But even this grid is imperfect. Only Jesus has the perfect toolbox.

What’s your grid?

Define Worldliness

From my 2012 Journal. When I was growing up, the adults in my life defined worldly as doing anything that looked like you might fit into or embrace the culture around you:

  • Wearing certain clothing (the list might include too short, too long, too revealing, too flashy, pants vs skirts)
  • Going to a bar / drinking alcohol / smoking / drugs
  • Facial hair on men / short hair on women
  • Going to the movies (or the pool hall or the bowling alley)
  • Wearing too much makeup (especially red lipstick) or jewelry
  • And, of course, dancing!

So I was surprised when I read that the Apostle Paul defined worldliness not with outward-appearance restrictors but as “jealousy and quarreling among yourselves.”

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? (I Corinthians 3:3)

Whom should I believe . . . ? Perhaps those adults in my life were more worldly than they cared to admit!

Scott and I, young and in love, and apparently not caring about outward appearance!

Should You Flee or Stay?

The shrewd man saw trouble and took cover; the simple kept going and paid the penalty (Proverbs 22:3).

From my 2012 Journal. I’ve often thought about how the Psalmist David fled from King Saul; but the 3 young captives Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stayed put and refused to bow before an idol at the king’s mandate. Corrie ten Boom hid Jews in Holland during Hitler’s regime, while others refused to harbor fugitives. What’s the right thing to do? Flee from harm’s way or stand your ground and take the consequences? What about Mary and Joseph? God could have simply put a miraculous, sword-proof shield around the holy family or made them invisible to the soldiers’ eyes. But God chose to remove them from the situation. He told them to flee to Egypt.

What would have happened if David had stood his ground and confronted Saul instead of running? Or if the Jews hadn’t gone into hiding? Or if Shad, Mesh, and Abed had fled the country?

When the Israelites were besieged by the Babylonian army, God instructed them not to resist—just surrender and go into captivity. Instead, the leaders and the people fought back, tried to escape, and hid—and many lost their lives as a result. Later, God told the remnant to do the opposite: stay put and not flee to Egypt. The key, I think, is obedience to the Spirit of God who knows what’s best.

I can’t say I’ve ever been in this situation, so it’s hard to predict what I might do. But I think about it. Have you ever experienced this dilemma? How did you choose and why?

If you refrain from rescuing those taken off to death—those condemned to slaughter—If you say, “we knew nothing of it,” surely he who fathoms hearts will discern [the truth]. He who watches over your life will know it. And he will pay each man as he deserves (Proverbs 24:11).

Choices, Consequences, and Character

From my  2012 Journal. A study of two men (II Kings 5)

Jordan River today

The story: A little girl is taken captive from Israel and placed in the service of a lady whose respected husband Naaman is a commander of the Syrian army. One day Naaman is diagnosed with leprosy and the servant girl tells her mistress that healing is possible back in her home country. By a circuitous route, Naaman winds up at the prophet Elisha’s doorstep. Elisha sends his servant Gehazi out the door to instruct Naaman to dip 7 times in the Jordan River. Naaman is ticked off (the dialogue is quite comical) and stomps away. But in the end, he obeys and gets healed.

Next, Naaman returns to Elisha’s house to reward him for this healing gift, but Elisha refuses to accept anything, and Naaman drives away in his chariot. The servant Gehazi, meanwhile, runs after Naaman, tells a fib, and walks away with some loot and hides it in his house. For this indiscretion, God inflicts leprosy on him. Talk about irony!

Naaman’s issue? Pride. He believed that God could heal him, but he expected God to perform in a certain way. When God didn’t meet his expectations, he got angry, but he eventually humbled himself. He made the right choice in the end.

Gehazi’s issue? Greed. But his one indiscretion left his life in ruins. (I wonder if he attempted a 7-dip trick in the Jordan to get rid of HIS leprosy!?)

So here’s a foreigner who gets a gift from God and an Israelite who gets punished. Why?

Lesson:  It’s really about what’s in the heart. Actions matter—we live with the consequences of our decisions. But if we guard our hearts, we suffer fewer consequences for poor choices.

Lesson:  It’s not who you’re living close to that determines your character. Naaman lived in a position of power under an ungodly, idol-worshipping king. Gehazi lived in a position of servitude to a godly prophet.

Christmas Musings

From my 2012 Journal. The Christmas story leaves me with more questions than answers. If you just read Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 1, you’d conclude that Jesus was born in Nazareth. But suddenly Chapter 2 declares He was born in Bethlehem–no explanation as to why or how. Without Luke’s account, we’d be left to speculation: that Mary and Joseph left Nazareth due to the shame and embarrassment of Mary’s pregnancy.

We speculate about the town gossip that Mary endured, but I wonder . . . In those days pregnant women remained confined. It was not a condition to be flaunted and exposed like it is today. Even as recent as my mother’s day, any woman with child was termed “p.g.”–rather than the blatant “pregnant.” Because an unwed mother was such a shameful thing, I wonder if it was kept secret, hush-hush. How else could Joseph have “quietly” divorced her? And the marriage could have taken place as quickly as possible so the secret wouldn’t be discovered. Maybe. It’s a thought. But we always assume the other.

Another random thought: In a day when so many children died in birth or infancy and some mothers during childbirth as well, it must have been a tremendous comfort to Mary to hear “This son will live.”

And an afterthought: before sonograms existed, only a handful of people in history knew for sure what the gender of the baby was before birth. Think about it—are they ANY pre-birth announcements of GIRL babies?

Happy birthday, Jesus–even if we don’t know what the actual day was!

Do you want to get well?

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6 NIV).

From my 2012 Journal. The story of Jesus healing the disabled man at the Pool of Bethesda intrigues me. This place was a hotbed of sick folks. Did Jesus heal anyone else there that day, or did He single this man out? The Scripture doesn’t say if Jesus approached him first or if the man spoke first, but it says that Jesus SAW him there and LEARNED that he’d been in this condition for years.

Astonishingly, Jesus asks him, “Do you want to get well?” What if the man had said, “No”? How foolish we would have thought him. Of course he wanted to be well—that’s why he was at the healing pool in the first place. Yet, the question isn’t quite so odd as one might think. It’s human nature not to like change—even if it’s good for us. We do a lot of “choice” work in our ministry: Are you willing to let go of your anger? Are you willing to feel the pain? Are you willing to explore why you’re medicating with alcohol?

I don’t recall any record of Jesus asking anyone else this same question, Do you want to get well? Normally the hurting person initiates the request for healing (remember blind Bartimaeus?). A client is in my office because she’s made the choice to seek healing. I rarely approach a stranger and ask if she wants to get rid of her pain. Sometimes I’ve tested a person’s sincerity by asking, “If there was a way for you to get healed, would you want to know how?”

The crippled man’s answer is also astonishing. Instead of replying yes or no, he jumps to the defense. “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me” (v. 7). (Implied: Duh, of course I do, but I don’t know how.) The Healer is in his presence, but the paralytic is looking to another source for pain removal. (“And how’s that working for you?” we sometimes ask a client.)

People go to counselors and doctors and friends and give their excuses and complaints about feeling bad, when all along The Master Healer is waiting for them to turn to the Him–the only one who has the power to heal.

Do you want to get well? What’s your excuse for not pursuing the Healer?

Violence and Lies

For the rich men of the city are full of violence [of every kind]; Her inhabitants speak lies and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth (Micah 6:12 AMP).

From my 2009 Journal. Because I grew up in a loving home, sheltered from violence and hatred and evil, it was hard for me to conceive of men willfully choosing murder, crime, and destruction. And then I began working with SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) victims, and I listened for hours to unspeakable stories of raw evil and witnessed the results of perpetrators’ horrible deeds. When I read this verse, I can now begin to imagine the horror of an entire nation involved in wicked choices. No wonder God was upset with Israel!

I think there are two kinds of people: wounded (that’s most of us) and evil. A frightened and vulnerable teenage girl who aborts her baby is in a different category from someone in the occult who rips a child from his mother’s arms and places him on Satan’s altar (See 2 Chronicles 28:3). Worshipping a false god can be done out of pain or ignorance; but once a person witnesses evidence of God’s power and still chooses the fake way, that’s foolishness. Someone who chooses the violence of human sacrifice, however, has crossed over into the enemy’s camp. God’s judgment is severe for evil men.

The second half of this verse reveals the source of evil choices: lies and deception (coming from The Father of Lies). Most of our emotional suffering is a result of believing lies. Bad things that happen to us can be painful in the moment, but the lies we believe about the event keep the pain alive. And where there’s unresolved pain, there’s often destructive behavior.

Victims of extreme abuse can go either way: become perpetrators themselves or reject all things evil and run to God. What a joy to watch the latter find healing from their trauma. These overcomers have a special place in God’s kingdom. They are my heroes.

Evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. (The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel)

To read more about child sacrifice, check out https://www.worldvision.org/author/caleb_wilde, 5 things you need to know about child sacrifice in Uganda. (Unfortunately, the USA is also guilty.)

It’s Not All About Me

Each man’s eternal rewards are proportional according to his faithfulness and not to his earthly recognition or the lack of it. (From a commentary on Jeremiah 33)

From my 2009 Journal. Though I grew up in a tribal village in Africa, I fear I now think more like an American—touting individualism rather than tribal values. So when I hear God’s prophetical words to Jeremiah: I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security (Jer. 33:6 NIV), I want to ask, “What good did it do Jeremiah to learn that God would restore Israel in the future?” He’d never live to see it. Why should he care how many descendants David’s throne will have when he (Jeremiah) is being hurt, mocked, and imprisoned? The future won’t affect him personally!

But there’s that thing called “hope.” This earth, this life isn’t all there is. There’s a bigger picture. I’m just one speck in the Grand Plan. I’m part of the Global Tribe. My part is miniscule, but important, in God’s eyes. It’s not all about me and only me. God was showing Jeremiah that his life was not in vain, that His calling on his life was important for the greater good.

Though I’d like to think otherwise, life is not all about me–or as my mother used to say to my preschool self: you’re not the only pebble on the beach.

Grandson Noah who needs more help than he thinks he does to navigate his world

A Paradox of Emotions

From my 2009 Journal. Can you be happy and sad at the same time? Have joyful, high energy while experiencing peaceful, low energy? Be angry yet calm? Can you be a dynamic general while speaking softly to your troops?

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O Daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you; He is [uncompromisingly] just and having salvation [triumphant and victorious], patient, meek, lowly, and riding on a donkey, upon a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9 AMPC).

These two lists of adjectives sound antithetical. “Triumphant and Victorious” generally indicate boasting over conquering an enemy and jubilation over self-prowess. How can Jesus come “patient, meek, and lowly” while being triumphant? There is a different noise and energy level: one is loud and boisterous with a celebratory atmosphere. The other is quiet, reflective, somber, gentle, easily imposed on, and submissive. Lowly by definition means low in status or importance, humble.

The only way I can reconcile these two lists is that the PEOPLE were acting triumphant and victorious, whereas JESUS’ position was meek and lowly, patient with the people. They wanted to crown Him King (as was His right) and so He didn’t stop them. But neither did He stop His march toward death. I don’t think Jesus’ emotions matched those of His followers.

Conflicting emotions make me think of funerals. You feel relieved when a loved one dies after a prolonged and painful illness. You acknowledge the joy of the person who is now in heaven and whole in mind and body, yet you feel deep grief at the loss of the relationship.

Or maybe it’s how you feel when someone gives you a surprise birthday party. Everyone is excited and anticipatory, but you may feel dismay that you didn’t come dressed appropriately for the occasion and also humbled that so many people love and care for you.

What situation creates a paradox of emotion for you?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Just Follow the Instructions

From my 2009 Journal. When my three girls were getting ready to live on their own, I gave each of them a homemade cookbook filled with our favorite family recipes. (See below.) What I knew by intuition and experience didn’t always translate onto paper, however. Apparently I did not give precise enough instructions, for I’d frequently get a phone call asking me to clarify an ingredient or procedure.  

In contrast, when God gave instructions to His prophets, He was detailed and precise. One day He spoke the following to Jeremiah:

  1. Stand in the court of the Lord’s house (where and with what posture)
  2. Speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship there (what to do and to whom)
  3. Speak all the words that I command you to speak; diminish not a word (what to say—precisely, fully, accurately) (26:2)

And so Jeremiah obeyed. But after he finished Step #3, the people, priests, and prophets seized him and threatened to put him to death.

Jeremiah’s response is most interesting and gratifying. He obeyed God out of a peaceful heart because he had already grappled with the fear of the results of his actions.

Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing (Jeremiah 26:15 NIV).

My first takeaway is that God’s will was accomplished through Jeremiah’s obedience. Second, obedience does not guarantee comfortable results! (Gulp)

When God gives instructions, He is the expert. He knows the intended outcome as well as the steps to achieving that goal. His instructions are clear and precise. When God speaks, it is in our best interest to listen . . . and obey to the letter.


Intro to Katie’s Cookbook:

Dearest Katie-Bug,

I’ll never forget the day you came into my bedroom early one Saturday morning and announced that pancakes were ready. You were so small, you probably had to stand on a stool to reach all the ingredients. I was astonished. “How did you . . . ?”

“I read the instructions,” you replied.

Up to that time, your classic experiments with ingredients in the kitchen consisted of getting a small mixing bowl, a big spoon, and anything in the cupboard you could find:  a little flour, some sugar, a pinch of various random spices. And when you were satisfied with the results, we would bake the concoction at 350 in a disposable pie tin. Incredibly, sometimes the product was edible! You were so proud of yourself and your creations.

Of my three girls, you were the most interested in what went on in the kitchen—until it came time to clean up, and then you would suddenly declare you had to go to the bathroom; and off you went, conveniently waiting till the task was done. You were most intrigued with the creative part of cooking—like decorating Christmas cookies. Your latest endeavor was decorating a gingerbread house. Remember your attempt at making stroganoff for your dad while I was in California!? But you became a master at turning out perfect macaroni and cheese.

Here are some of our family’s favorite recipes—some yours, some your sisters’ favorites. Keep them safe, for when you get to college, it’ll save you a phone call or two to find out how to make . . . (no, there’s no recipe for making French fries or ice cream!)

May you continue to hone your skills in the kitchen so that you can minister to others, perhaps to your own family some day.

I love you with all my heart,

Mom


Chocolate Chip Scones

1 ¾ cups flour                         1/3 cup butter

3 T sugar                                 1 egg, slightly beaten (reserve some)

2 ½ t baking powder             ½ c chocolate chips

½ t salt                                    4-6 T cream or milk

Combine dry ingredients.

Cut in butter, add egg, choc chips.

Add enough milk so dough leaves sides of bowl.

Knead on floured surface gently 10x

Roll into a circle ½ inch thick

Cut into wedges. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Brush with little bit of beaten egg.

400, 10-12 min.