So Fix It Already!

When you try to fix people, things only get broken. (Eric Swann, Believers’ Chapel)

From my 2011 journal. Two incidents happened this week that held a mirror up to my face, and I didn’t like what I saw. I like to be kind and gentle—but I can also be bossy and take charge and can step on people’s toes, albeit unintentionally. I tend to push my way in where I’m not invited. This week I butted in where I should not have. I stuck my nose in someone else’s business and got kindly and gently rebuffed.

It’s a tricky thing—when to step in and be helpful and when to keep my mouth shut. I like to solve problems and find solutions—if I know the answer. But if the person doesn’t need or want my help, then I can be a hindrance.

black-and-white-close-up-equipment-210881I see a problem. It needs fixing. Then fix it already! What is that inner drive? Is it temperament? Genetics? Wounding? This drive can accomplish good things, or it can be a catalyst for ill. The thing is, when I see it in myself, I try to fix it. When I see it in others, I want to fix it myself or encourage them to fix it. I wonder: Why would anyone want to continue to wallow in the mire when there’s an answer for their pain?

So how does it feel when things aren’t right and in their proper order? My brain likes things orderly. Words should be spelled correctly. Punctuation in its place. Pictures straight. No clutter on the table. Other people are wired to enjoy and thrive in clutter and mess and chaos. Why can’t I be more tolerant of other people’s messes?

The key? I am not the solution to everyone’s problems. Imagine that! We were taught in evangelism class to be aggressive, to push forward, to get people to make decisions and “draw the net.” Unfortunately, those tactics can actually cause more harm than good and can drive people away.

I want to be honey that attracts, not vinegar that sets people’s teeth on edge. I want to learn to be content with people’s messes, but not content with my own. I can only fix ME.

Later. So now that I’m tuned into it, I caught myself once again giving unsolicited advice. It was unappreciated and inappropriate. How do I break myself of this habit?

This second incident occurred when a visitor came to drop off his two girls at my Grade 5 Sunday school class. When I discovered that one of the children actually belonged in Grade 2, I ran after the parent to inform him of his mistake.

“But the sign said her class was here!” His tone was angry and insistent.

My first response? Fix it, of course! I wanted to prove he’d read the sign wrong. I wanted to walk him to the next wing and show him how to find his daughter’s classroom (but I couldn’t leave my 5th graders alone).

This same emotion shoots me back to a memory when I used to work in a dime store where I was assigned, happily, to the fabric department. I was fresh off the mission field and had never worked retail before. I didn’t even know how to count out change in American money. One day a lady came in with a bag of material and dumped it angrily on the cutting table. She claimed it had been measured incorrectly. Well, my grandpa, who had owned a hardware store in Des Moines, Iowa, had taught me that “the customer is always right.” So, without re-measuring or checking it against the receipt, I pulled out the bolt of cloth and proceeded to cut another length as she specified and exchanged it.

That’s the day I learned the rule that when there’s a problem, you’re supposed to defer it to your supervisor. Oops! My boss was kind about it, but I knew I’d messed up.

So . . . what was I feeling when this lady stormed into my section of the store? I felt for her. How annoying to be sold the wrong length of cloth! I’d been there myself—trying to make a garment when I’m short of material. It’s like I could feel her dashing water all over me.  In my visual, I can see her tripping over a log or something and losing her pail of water. I feel bad for her. I’m more concerned that she’s okay than that I got wet. “Are you okay? Did you get hurt? Can I help you draw more water?” I ask. That’s how I respond. Fix the problem.

Psychologically, I know I’m not capable of taking another person’s emotions or pain for them. I can only feel what I feel. So . . . I mentally climb into this lady’s shoes and feel what it feels like to trip and lose my balance and lose all my water. But as I do that, I begin to laugh—amused at myself for not seeing the log in time.

For some reason that helps. Now in the memory, when the lady walks in with her material, I can say, “Oh how disappointing it must have felt to start a sewing project and become stymied.” And I can look at the Sunday school parent and say, “It must be annoying to find you’re in the wrong spot and you still have to drop off another child before you head to the worship service.” No more emotional response; no need to fix the situation. It is what it is. Just acknowledge it and move on.

Who are you trying to fix so that you can feel better?

Trial and Error

notebook 2From my 2010 Journal. In my counseling training, I heard one instructor say, “If something doesn’t work, try something else. Keep trying, keep working. Doing something is better than nothing, and it’s all good.”

I’m not sure how this fits theologically, but apparently even God practiced trial and error! Today I read Jeremiah 36 where God tells Jeremiah to write down all the words of doom, gloom, judgment, and disaster that He’d previously given him orally concerning the future of Israel, Judah, and the surrounding nations. And then these intriguing words:

Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin. (v. 3 NIV)

Perhaps? Maybe? God had tried out-loud preaching to get their attention. God had tried using metaphors. Now He’s going to try to reach the visual learners—those who need to see the words in writing. Try and try again.

It’s not the counselor’s fault if the client doesn’t find freedom or ends up in suicide. The client has a choice—always—to repent, to come out of hiding, to lay down bitterness, to lower walls of defense, to face the truth, to forgive and to accept forgiveness, to relinquish hate, to release pain. Each person has been given freewill to turn toward God and seek Him, to be healed of heart wounds and find peace—or not. But the counselor keeps on trying different methods to help the client discover what’s in his or her heart. God did!

What will it take for God to get through to my heart?

My Mother, My Inspiration

DIGITAL CAMERAIn honor of the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death (has it really been that long!), here’s a piece I wrote for Mothers’ Day, 2005. Though hard to tell here, the original poem was in the shape of a pink (her favorite color) dress. She never wore a pair of pants in her entire life, and her unbraided hair reached down to her waist. I still miss her. For those who knew her, what would you add?

Yarn-knitter          Baby-maker

Salt and pepper-collector / Go-getter

Potato masher-collector / Accordion-performer

Children-entertainer / Care package-sender

Needlepoint-sewer / Hospitality-offerer

Grandma-perfecter / Braille-endeavorer

Animal-intolerator / Laughter-infector

Home-maker / Hat-crocheter

Pie-server / Idea-getter

Wound-binder

Hard-worker

Africa-longer

Public-speaker

Pioneer-adventurer

Sunday School-leader

Music-lover / Bangs-curler

Puzzle-doer / Pickle-canner

Dress-donner / Movie-nixer

Oyster-eater / Sugar-shunner

Word-repeater / Braid-wearer

Jump rope-tryer / Dune-climber

Husband-server / Hygiene-seeker

Reading-teacher / Chocolate-lover

Necklace-wearer / Eyesight-dimmer

Cake-decorator / Fresh bread-baker

Medicine-dispenser / Dr. Laura-listener

Cello-player / Pillow-sewer / People-pleaser

Dispensary-worker / Des Moines-originator

Piano-plinker / Mill-displayer / School-teacher

Book-reader / Stuffed-toy-creator / Example-doer

On Being Sick

From my 2010 Journal. I don’t like being sick. Period. Other than hypochondriacs, I guess nobody does. It’s debilitating, annoying, and restricting. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, I want the world to know about it. On the other hand, I like to be left alone to my misery, not hovered and fussed over. But I do like for people to know that I hurt and where. Somehow it helps to verbalize it. Why is that I wonder?

Some people are very private about their health (we were all shocked to hear of a friend’s death recently because she had told no one about her cancer); others blab every detail whether you want to hear about it not. What makes the difference? Wounding? (They crave the attention and sympathy to prove their worth.) Temperament? (Melancholics are more prone to complain, I suspect, than Sanguines.) Vows? (I have a friend who grew up with a mom who constantly verbalized her aches and pains, and she determined to do the opposite. This friend is a most gracious and pleasant person to be around in spite of her debilitating disease and chronic pain.)

Saying the words aloud is like putting around me cardboard shields of protection. People can still get into my space if needed, but it gives me more privacy or space from intrusion. I suspect this is an introvert thing. I seek to protect my energy, whereas a Sanguine craves the attention because people energize them.

So . . . if I don’t say the words and tell people how I’m feeling, they don’t know to give me space. And my dear, extrovert husband—all he wants to do is pay even more attention to me when I’m miserable—because, of course, that’s what he wants when he’s ill!

sickHow do you respond when you’re sick or in pain and why?

Response to Grief

It intrigues me why some people grow bitter and some grow sweeter while facing a personal tragedy. What makes the difference?

rachel (white) berry

I Samuel 29 records the story of when David and his men return to their city of Ziglag and discover it has been destroyed and all their women and children taken into captivity.

Understandably, David was greatly distressed, and he wept “till there was no more strength in him.” BUT “David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord His God.” And then he sought the Lord through Abiathar the priest and asked the Lord for direction.

The response of David’s men is in stark contrast. They experienced the same bitter grief, but they turned on David and wanted to stone him.

It reminds of when the children of Israel blamed Moses for their plight in the wilderness.

It reminds me of Americans who blame their President when they lose a son in war.

It reminds me of MKs (missionary kids) who blame their Mission for their boarding school experience.

In our grief, we tend to make illogical accusations and decisions. It’s much easier to blame others instead of taking responsibility for our own emotions and choices. Blame is a way to discharge pain. It wasn’t David’s fault for what happened to his followers’ wives. It wasn’t the President who shot the bullet. It wasn’t the Mission that cruelly punished the child.

Grief brings out what’s already in our hearts. Who are you blaming for your pain?

 

Syncretism

syn·cre·tism [ síngkrə tìzzəm ]   (n.) A combination of different beliefs: the combination of different systems of philosophical or religious belief or practice

Korazim Medusa Stone

Medusa stone in a synagogue in ancient Korazim, Israel

I can’t say I’ve ever heard preached from a pulpit the following Bible story found in Judges 17 and 18. And I certainly never heard it told in Sunday school! In brief, a lady curses when her money comes up missing. When her son Micah admits that he took it, she responds, “Blessed be you by the Lord”! Okay, so it’s not uncommon to curse when you’re disappointed, but to bless your son in God’s name when you find your son has deceived you!? Really? I suppose she was responding in relief that the money had been found. Maybe James had this lady in mind when he talked about “the double-minded man who is unstable in all his ways” and “out of the same mouth come blessings and curses” (James 1:8; 3:10)

Now if that’s not strange enough, Micah’s mom says she’d had plans for the money: “I had dedicated the silver to the Lord for my son to make idols.” This Israelite woman is just a little mixed up, confused, deceived, double-minded, guilty of syncretism.

A confused mom yields a confused son. Micah sets up idols in his own house and then makes his own son his priest—until a Levite man comes along and consents to be his own private priest. Micah then claims, “Now I know that the Lord will favor me, since I have a Levite to be my priest.”  (By Mosaic Law, only Levites were supposed to be priests.) What a mixture of beliefs: Seeking God’s favor through disobedience to His commands!

Later, the Danite tribe, en route to conquer some new territory, discover Micah’s stash:  a carved image, an ephod, a teraphim, and a molten image. They persuade the Levite priest to join them instead—which he’s glad to do.

Here’s another mixed-up character. The priest’s place of service should have been solely at the tabernacle at Shiloh.  He’s supposed to represent and worship the one true God, but in actuality he’s only lord over sticks and stones. And when given the opportunity, he gladly follows greed.

Note: Beware the lone wolf, the one without accountability. “In those days there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Are there “servants of God” like this today? Yes, I think so. I was accosted by two Mormons yesterday—fully convinced they had the full truth. Just by reading the book of Mormon, they said, they had received blessings from God ten-fold. And wouldn’t I like to experience it too? And Jesus Christ figured prominently into their sentences. Mixed up? Joseph Smith vs. Jesus Christ. Hmmm.

As for the Danites, they set up those idols for themselves, led by  . . . guess who? Moses’ grandson Jonathan of all people! Can that be possible? A grandfather’s godliness does not guarantee piety for his children or grandchildren. We all have choices in life. Even with a most godly example, we can choose to follow a path of rebellion. Jon knew all the stories by heart, I’m sure. He’d heard them rehearsed around the dinner table, recounted, and reiterated. He knew the 10 Rules that his grandpa carried down Mt Sinai. How could he, dare he, fall so far from God’s path to follow after the enemy’s path?

Now you know why I pray daily for my grandchildren.

Word for the Year 2018 – Stretch

For the past 20 years or so, I have chosen a Word for the Year on which to focus. This year it all began with a bad back. I had spent more money than I care to recount at the chiropractor’s office, so when she recommended a book that claimed to fix back problems with stretch exercises, I was all ears. And then I began to think about what it would look like to s-t-r-e-t-c-h mentally. I don’t want to turn into a crotchety old lady, set in her ways, unwilling to stretch and grow. I want to stretch myself, learn new skills, go outside my comfort zone, establish new habits, explore a little, push through any fears or objections or self-doubt.

And so I began to brainstorm ideas and do a little research into free resources for beginners. I made the goal of beginning one new stretch each month. Some goals I continued throughout the year; others I did not. Here’s my list— and below that is how it all played out and what I learned in the process.

  1. Fix my back (yay!)
  2. Dance (seriously?)
  3. Learn something about photography (fun)
  4. Learn to draw (astonishing!)
  5. Visit a new country (Jordan)
  6. Learn the Hebrew alphabet (briefly)
  7. Read War and Peace (slogging)
  8. Maintain a blog (I did it!)
  9. Lose 15 pounds (good)
  10. Play golf (surprise!)
  11. Listen to the Beatles (ugh, okay)
  12. Do some brain exercises (sort of)

Fix My Back

Stretch Foundation bookI purchased a used copy of the book  Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence by Eric Goodman and Peter Park, a revolutionary book on exercises to strengthen your back muscles. I diligently read all the introductory stuff on why it works and then began slowly, adding a new daily stretch only after I’d mastered the first. Once my back muscles learned this new way of bending, I found I didn’t have to continue the regimen after the first month. Now, occasionally, if I feel a little twinge, I immediately go into the stretch routine and it seems to fix the problem.

What I learned: Gratitude! Do what you can, not complain about what you can’t do.

Dance

First, you have to know that I was raised in a culture that taught that dancing was a sin. Even “sacred movement” was a stretch for my imagination. Through the years, however, reason overcame emotion and I knew it was time to attempt the impossible. Somehow my eldest daughter Sharon inherited her grandparents’ (on Scott’s side) ability to move her body in ways that mine rebel against. She urged me to go with her to her dance studio to take my first ever ballroom dance lesson—the waltz. To make sure I would have a successful experience, Sharon taught me the box step in the privacy of my living room. I was shocked to discover I could actually follow instructions and make my body do what the instructor said: start with my right foot going backward and count out loud to six. Why did I think this would be so hard to do?

Next, I signed up for free line-dancing classes at the St. Clair’s Senior Center. The teacher was so patient and kind and encouraging that I actually began to have fun in spite of my two left feet! Will I continue? I doubt it. I just wanted to be able to say I did it.

What I learned: Quit the negative self-talk! With a positive attitude and lots of practice, I found some measure of success in this endeavor. (p.s. Didja notice I purposely have no photo for this one?)

Learn Something about Photography

Stretch shadow

Late afternoon walk

This was a rather nebulous goal since I didn’t know what I didn’t know. If you look at the photos on my phone, you’ll notice a theme: flowers, trees, flowers, trees, grandchildren, flowers, trees, grandchildren. I wanted to improve my ability to perceive what makes a good photograph, so first I enlisted my youngest daughter Katie, a professional photographer, to give me a lesson. We talked about perspective, lighting, and the rule of three and what makes a photo interesting. Next, I picked up an old textbook at a secondhand store and read through all the chapters except how to develop film (I said it was an old textbook). I figured out I didn’t care about apertures and lens types. I just wanted to learn more about composition, framing, clutter, etc.

What I learned: “It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.” (Henry David Thoreau)

Learn to Draw

I claim that when my sister Grace (a renowned gourd artist gourdsbygrace.com ) was born, she sucked all the artistic genes out of my mother’s womb and left me with the dubious ability of drawing stick figures and crooked lines. Our middle daughter Cindy is a master 3-D sculpturist. Talk about intimidating! I am in awe of her artwork. But she agreed to give me a lesson in the basic elements of art.

So what is a girl to do if she just wants to learn how to draw? I ordered a used copy of The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards, and discovered that I’d been fooling myself all these years. I actually could draw if I could just get past my left brain!

Stretch hand

My left hand

Over the course of the year, I worked through the exercises in the book and began to train myself to see the world through different eyes. Will I ever be as good as my naturally-gifted family members? No way! I don’t have the drive or passion to spend the hours it would take to develop this skill. But it was a fun process of discovery.

MonkeyThen a friend told me about twice-a-month free art classes for senior citizens (there’s some compensation for getting older apparently). I decided I needed to get over myself and just make an attempt, no matter how bad the result. The teacher was encouraging and complimentary, and I began to gain a little more confidence each time I went. We were introduced to a variety of styles and mediums and techniques, so every attempt made me feel like a first-grader, but I made some new friends and we all muddled through it together. I threw away most of my creations but kept my papier-mâché monkey to add to my sock monkey collection.

What I learned: I was shocked to discover that I could actually do what I thought was impossible.

Visit a new country

Stretch camel

Petra

In April, Scott and I had the privilege of returning to Israel with Charlie Dyer (The Land and the Book), but this time we also visited Jordan. I found myself stretched in the dry wilderness, the border crossings, the foreign food, mosques in every town and village, the ladies all dressed in hijabs. But I think my biggest stretch experience was peeing while squatting over a hole in a bathroom stall and having to call for help from the male attendant when the door jammed shut!

The highlight for me was visiting Petra where I experienced my first camel ride. There we learned about Nabateans and the spice routes, and we purchased samples of frankincense and myrrh—gifts the Magi gave to Jesus at His birth (more expensive than gold we learned).

What I learned: Make sure to invest in good walking shoes. Stay hydrated but time your bathroom breaks!

Learn the Hebrew Alphabet

Stretch alefbetIn preparation for our trip to Israel, I found a website “How to Learn the Hebrew Alphabet in Under 1 Hour.” I tried it and it worked! Except that after that hour I forgot it. Yes, at my age it takes ten times as long to make information stick in my brain, so I had to keep practicing and reviewing and practicing and reviewing. However, I managed to make out most letters on the street signs in Israel. Never mind that I didn’t know what a word meant. I was just excited to be able to recognize the alphabet—read from right to left of course. Now that I’m back in the USA, I’ve forgotten half of it again. Sigh.

What I learned: It didn’t occur to me that, like English, there’s a difference between hand-written, printed, and signage letters, and oh, don’t forget the dots. Confusing!

Read War and Peace

War and Peace (Modern Library Classics)Ever since I began reading the classics in junior high, people would shudder if you mentioned the epic novel War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. The length alone was a deterrent to any but the most dedicated reader (my paperback copy, translated by Constance Garnett, has 1,386 pages). Besides, I have a mental block against the subject of history, so why not add this novel to my stretch goals this year! Before I began reading, I had zero knowledge of Napoleon, of Russian history, and of the War of 1812. I wish I’d known ahead of time that there was a summary of the War on page 1346.

I was determined not to cheat by reading Cliff Notes or downloading a list of characters from the Internet, so after encountering 61 characters in the first section alone, all of whom had multiple names and some had nicknames, I had to create an Excel chart to keep track of them all. I wouldn’t know which ones were important to the plot of the story till later. (Just so you know, among the four characters named Marya, Marya Dmitryevna Ahrosimov was not important.) And even then, deep into the novel, I had to continually refer back to my chart to figure out who was in love with whom. Eventually, I learned that I could ignore 90% of the names and keep following the handful of main characters.

I was so proud of my progress until the day I mentioned it to my history buff friend John Rogalsky who casually observed, “Oh, yeah, I’ve read it twice…” Are you kidding me?!

My favorite Quote: “I simply can’t understand why men can’t get on without war. Why is it we women want nothing of the sort? We don’t care for it.” (Prince Andrey’s wife Liza, p. 24)

What I learned: So was it worth it? You bet! I’m glad I did it, not just for the accomplishment but because of all that I learned in the process. Tolstoy had a lot to say about the causes of war, the forces that move nations, and the role of leadership in history. I also learned some new vocabulary words like cunctator (procrastinator) and excrescences (nodules or growths) and contumely (insolent or insulting language or conduct).

Maintain a Blog

Well, here you are! I had already typed up 40 pages of entries from my hand-written 2007-2017 journals, so I just started there—picking out topics that seemed relevant to this journey called life. And, yes, the over-arching theme I discovered was my pursuit to find inner peace.

What I’ve learned: Some people actually read this stuff. Astonishing!

Lose 15 Pounds

Stretch appI have an inherited blood sugar issue, so the thought of food reduction makes me nervous. Everyone has his or her own pet weight loss plan, but this is what worked for me. I downloaded the app “Lose it” and set my goal to shed 15 pounds at the rate of one pound a week. I loved how easy it was to keep track of what I was eating. Will I set a new goal? I’m not sure yet. Who gets to decide what’s a healthy weight for my age and gender? I feel better, and that’s what counts. The downside, for someone like me who hates clothes shopping, is I had to buy all new pants.

What I learned: Cheating on the app doesn’t help. It’s what you’re actually doing that counts. And drink, drink, drink. My goal was 64 oz. per day. Ugh. But it really and truly made all the difference in my success.

Play Golf

Stretch golfNotice I didn’t say, “Learn to play golf.” Anyone who knows my husband Scott knows that he was born with a golf club in his hand (his grandmother was a Canadian golf champion). Early in our marriage, Scott begged me to join him on the golf course, but my golfing career ended before it got started. The day I relented we were on the second hole when I got a call from the elementary school saying I needed to pick up a sick child. That was the end of that! But when my excuses finally wore themselves out (no money, too busy raising kids, no aptitude, arthritis pain), my sister-in-law gave me her old clubs, Scott bought me a golf bag for Christmas (oh goody) and signed me up for golf lessons with a pro. Thanks, Honey (okay, so there’s a tiny bit of sarcasm attached). My initial goal was not to learn to play golf but to simply spend time with my husband.

What I learned: When I started hitting that little round sphere well enough for it to go up in the air and forward instead of dribble, dribble, dribble, it actually started to get fun. I love being outdoors, so that is a bonus. Oh, and don’t let your husband give you lessons. Just don’t.

Listen to the Beatles

As a sheltered child of missionary parents whose sole musical exposure in Africa was church hymns and Gilbert and Sullivan (my mother’s favorite record), I shunned all things that smacked of rebellion when we came to the States. Listening to the Beatles was off-limits. Unable to converse with the music lovers in my family, however, I decided it was time to educate myself. I grabbed a biography from the library and learned all about quiffs, skiffle, winkle-pickers, and twat ‘ats. (If you don’t know what those are either, I’ll feel vindicated in my ignorance.) And then I listened to about as much music as I could take from a group that lived for sex, drugs, money, and creating new sounds.

What I learned: Just about everything, since I knew nothing. But what I learned confirmed why I’m still not a fan.

Biggest Surprises: The song “Ob la di, ob la da” [which I’d heard but didn’t realize was a Beatles’ song] meaning “Life goes on” was a phrase Paul McCartney heard from a Nigerian friend in London!

I also discovered that one of the first Beatles’ songs was a ditty we sang as children—“My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” Who knew!

Do Some Brain Exercises

After reading The Organized Mind—Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, by Daniel J. Levitin, I was challenged to download an app called BrainHQ (from Posit Science) that provides daily exercises to improve one’s brain. By December I was tired of setting goals and keeping them, so there was no “daily” about this! I thought about purchasing the full version, but I knew I’d never take the time to make this a priority. As an alternative, I considered learning to understand American football, but I couldn’t muster up enough interest to follow through with it.

What I learned: How can one measure if one’s brain capacity has increased? I’ll have to take the experts’ word for it. I think it’s now time to give my brain a rest!

Now it’s your turn. Did you have a Word for the Year? How did yours turn out?

What If?

What if we could see our whole life at a glance from, say, age 10 onward, along with consequences for various choices we make? For example, you could see the results of choosing to attend College A or College B. Or what Husband A would be like in old age versus Husband B. Or how many kids you’d have if you chose Husband C? Or what career choices would lead you down which path and what state or country you’d choose to live in? Or what you’d look like or feel like according to various eating habits you maintain.

ChessInteresting thought: God CAN see it all—in an instant. He sees the end results of the poor and better choices I make right now. He has so much good planned for me, but I don’t see it. I can only see the here and now—what’s in front of my face. No wonder I need to trust God for every choice. I take comfort in the fact that He can weave even my poor choices into an outcome that brings Him glory.

We are not victims of our circumstances. We have choices to make regarding how we respond to our circumstances. Yes, there are consequences if I choose to attend College A and marry Husband B and eat Diet C, but I still get to choose how I make Decision D. I have concluded that I want to make wise choices based on peaceful emotions.

What keeps us from making better choices? Fear? Anger? Hopelessness? Regarding not wanting to change our habits, author John Assaraf observed this typical scenario: Baby throws a toy out of the crib and then cries. Mom retrieves the toy and returns it. Baby does it again. Why? His conclusion:

We would rather master disappointment than seek fulfillment.

It’s getting close to New Year’s resolution time. Do I like the trajectory of my life or do I need to make Decision D to change the outcome?

How God Sees Me

Remember that Gideon fellow and the fleece? (Judges 6:12) When we first meet him, he is sitting under an oak tree where there is a wine press and a rock when an angel of the Lord visits him and declares: The Lord is with you, you mighty man of courage.

Warrior

What a joke! Gideon was petrified! He responds with: If? Why? Where? Didn’t?

But God saw Gideon differently than Gideon saw himself. When the Lord declares it so, it is so!

How does God see me? What name has He given me that I cannot see or agree with? (Beautiful? Precious? Loved? Pure? Forgiven? Gifted? Full of worth?)

Gideon protests: But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hands of Midian.

It’s true that God had given the Israelites into the hands of the Midianites, but Gideon’s doubts and questions led him to a false conclusion. It FELT like God had forsaken them, but the truth was God had not forsaken Israel. He was disciplining them for the purpose of training and turning their hearts toward Him.

When we feel emotions that are not fruits of the Spirit, we are prone to believe lies.

Show me, Lord, how You see me, and give me courage to believe You with the eyes of faith. I want to cooperate with the Spirit of the Living God. Reveal to me, Lord, where my faith is weak and my doubts are strong. I want to be a mighty warrior for your kingdom.

A Slice of Life

orange-food-juicy-fruit-65923

It’s fascinating to me what details we include in peoples’ obituaries to summarize their lives. Most often we include a list of their relatives, but then we talk about what character traits they were known for or what accomplishments they achieved. Fifty, seventy, or ninety years of living are reduced to three to five paragraphs.

Joshua 15:16-19 records an interesting little glimpse into one obscure name—a tiny slice of one man’s life.

The characters in this story:

Caleb, the godly spy

Caleb’s daughter Aksah

Caleb’s nephew Othniel

The Plot: Caleb promises his daughter Aksah to the man who conquers the city of Kiriath-Sepher.

Okay, so we have an 85-year-old man who’s still strong and able to conquer new territory, who decides to use his daughter as a prize. It’s hard to imagine in our culture today, but arranged marriages were the norm at that time. But using her as a prize? I suppose Caleb wanted to find a brave go-getter for her, a conquering hero, and Aksah willingly goes along with the scheme.

So who wins the prize? Caleb’s nephew Othniel. We know nothing more about him except that he is forever remembered as being the man brave enough to fight for the hand of a nobleman’s daughter.

If someone chose to record for all eternity just one event in my life, for what would I be remembered? What one story will be told at my funeral?