some expenses are none of my business

Posted: May 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

It is Sunday afternoon and I am on top level of a 2-tier Amtrak train, speeding away from my heart’s home (JPUSA, Uptown Chicago) toward my current home (Davenport, Iowa, until next week, when it will change to Rock Island, Illinois). It’s not a matter of hardship. My current home is not a consolation prize – it is the place to which God has sent me for this passage. It is filled with family and friends, a beautiful church family, and the best place I ever worked. It just happens to also not be the place my heart resides.


This morning in church, Neil preached a Pentecost message, and in its midst was Luke 11:11 – the one that notes if I ask my Father for a gift, He will not give me a snake or a stone. That scripture has become like a sort of “secret code” message that He uses with me – a source of enormous comfort and reassurance.


The first I recall ever really noticing it was when I was prayed over regarding the release of the gift of praying in tongues. So it will forever resonate that way with me.


The next recollection I have of it is from the summer of 2011. This is the scripture that God used to reassure me. I had been asked to pray about returning to the job I had left in Rock Island. I wasn’t interested in ever leaving Chicago or JPUSA, for the rest of my life, ever, for any reason, end of story. But my (then former) boss was an important person in my life and I agreed to pray about it, and then spent a couple of weeks only able to pray about becoming able to pray about it. I just couldn’t ask, because I felt I couldn’t bear it if He told me to go back home again. I couldn’t ask until I was willing to embrace whatever He said. I couldn’t come to that place of acceptance without a whole lot of foundational prayer. The Sunday came, after a lot of trembling and resistance in me, when I was able to ask what He wanted from me, and very quickly in prayer I heard the call to do what I did not prefer, and as I threw up my resistance and tried to argue inside myself, He was quick to bring this message. He was my Father. I was asking. He wasn’t bringing a stone or a snake. I could trust the message and more importantly the messenger. When He said it to me, it was so clear, so direct, so absolutely not from me that all was well, and I was able to move forward into a plan that was not mine, for reasons I did not grasp – only simple obedience. And it was joyful obedience, because there wasn’t the slightest shade of doubt about what He had said.


The next time I remember it resonating with me was about a month ago. Gary and I had been praying and waiting, wondering what God’s plan was for us. We knew we had clearance to pursue the relationship, but we didn’t know who was moving, for the matter of going forward into the future together as man and wife. It had been our first foregone conclusion that I would be moving back to JPUSA. It made the most sense. It was where I wanted to be. It was where he wanted to be. Moving me there would be easier than moving him here. The JPUSA community certainly wanted – needed – both of us there. The only thing that had kept me from making a plan to just pick up and move back there was the clarity about the way He had brought me out of JPUSA. It’s not up to me to cancel His plans. So I had been praying and praying, asking what was next, waiting, making no plans, just wanting to want what He wanted. Finally, a few months back, I had gotten just a partial answer: direction to keep a promise I had made, that involves helping someone. Keeping that promise would mean no moving anywhere until about 2015.


I was not terribly surprised by this – after all, I knew He hadn’t just been playing a game when He moved me home, and I knew a lot of things He was doing in my life through my obedience in following there, and I knew that this specific promise was a big one – THE big one – about why He had redirected me. I was, and am, glad to keep that promise. It’s a neat bit of redemption and second chance.


Still, I was struggling, a month or so ago. I wanted to be obedient. I wanted to keep my promise. AND I didn’t want to wait until 2015 to be with Gary on a basis of more than just texting, video chats, and the once-a-month weekend visit. So I was mildy depressed, slightly anxious, certainly struggling in prayer. And I went to church one morning and there was that scripture, spoken as clearly as if He had organized it only just for me, reminding me that He doesn’t give me a stone or a snake. I could trust His plan. It kind of wrecked me that morning, in a passage where I was wondering every day if I was facing a year and a half more before Gary and I could really be together. It was so freeing and comforting (and little did know that He was going to have a “go to Karen” message for Gary in just mere days!)


I’ve been at JPUSA all weekend, soaking up time with Gary, yes, but also with many other members of my JPUSA family. I am never more at home than I am within those walls. My heart takes permanent residence there, no matter where my body is. It has been sweet and encouraging, all of these loved ones so full of hugs and joy and encouragement and gladness for us. It has also been a little hard – every visit reminds me how much I did not want to leave, and now this visit reminded me that soon I will be depriving these people of Gary. Truth: I feel bad about that. I know how greatly he contributes there, I know some of the holes he will leave in his absence, I know that this is a real expense to a coummunity that is more important to me than I will ever know how to say. I know it already cost them when I left – last I heard, there still was no replacement for me at the caseworker position I left vacant there. That I would cost them again – it hurts, no matter how wonderful the “what I get out of it” part of the equation is (and OH GOLLY it is mind-bendingly wonderful). I don’t want to cost them. I want to bless them. Their graciousness and love and encouragement saves it from being a bitter thing, but still…it is hard.


In the face of pondering all of that – there was that scripture, now MY scripture, again this morning in church. I have been asking Him, pursuing Him, following Him. So has Gary. We have not done this by our own design. So this is, quite simply, not a stone, not a snake. No matter how much I worry about what it is costing the coummunity. It’s a fully prayed-through decision, and in that, I can trust that He knows what He is doing.


I took my comfort in that as I worshipped. We did a lot of different-to-me things in church this morning, for Pentecost. We got up and walked, en masse, through the garden, praying gratitude prayers and intercession. We ate strawberries (symbols of the flames of Pentecost) and we tossed rose petals in the air (more symbols of said flames). While we moved about, I watched my JPUSA family, so familiar to me. There are the ones I know well, with whom I’ve spent long hours in conversation and laughter. There are the ones I know just on a nodding acquaintace, and the ones I have never talked to at all. There are the new ones that have come since I left, who are somehow still instant family to me, bringing my heart enormous gladness at the sight of their smile or a glance across the room. Even the ones I don’t know at all are somehow an important part of my heart, so familiar to me as I used to watch them come and go, watch them interact with friends and family. I know their little gestures and expressions. I know the sounds of their voices and the kind of jokes they crack. I watched and my heart was tender, and tears flowed freely, and my scripture reminded me that not being there, that bringing Gary with me into not being there – it’s not a stone. It’s not a snake. He loves me. He loves him. He loves them. He knows what He is doing. I don’t have to know. I only need to follow direction.


I am a huge Oswald Chambers fan. I’ve been reading and re-reading “My Utmost for His Highest” for about 3 years now. Ozzie (in my typical arrogant modern American way, I need to remove his dignity and call him by a rock star name) is big on the business of letting it be GOD’S business, what His directives cost. Throughout the year Ozzie will say it many times in many ways – follow the directions He gives you. If it costs you? That’s fine. If it costs others? That’s fine. Stop thinking you know the plan. Stop working for damage control. Get in line with what He asks, and if it hurts, that’s fine. Just follow. He can be trusted more than our emotions, more than our understanding, more than our desire to never cost another person a moment’s pain.


Oh, I still have an agenda. It is still my fervent hope that once I have completed all missions He brought me back for, that one day Gary and I will return to JPUSA to be folded back in on a daily basis to the place where my heart lives. I don’t let go so much that I can let go of that. But in the meanwhile, I find that it is VERY GOOD, this business of doing as He leads. I find that He can be trusted. I trust that He’s working out our absence from the commmunity as a blessing to THEM as He is to us.


I mean, PEOPLE couldn’t pull off something that spectacular. But God? Oh yeah. Piece of cake. Let it be so.

  1. dori says:

    Thank you for this post, Karen!

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