My Big Fat Greek Word Search: Unpacking One Word at a Time

I wanted what she had, and I wanted it badly.

Like a little girl who saw another little girl’s pretty new doll. Or a  teenager who spotted another teenager’s  shiny new smart phone. Or a woman who eyed another woman’s sparkly diamond ring. She had something I didn’t have, and it was all I could think about.

It was nothing short of coveting.

Should I be ashamed? Not really. But, to understand that, you would have to know what I coveted. You would need to know what she had that I wanted so badly.

I wanted a clean heart like hers. A fresh and revived soul. One that felt unhindered and unburdened. A soul that wasn’t filled with the weight of all those things I eventually discovered in my backpack (see my previous post). I wanted what she had, and I wanted to get it in the same all-consuming way she got it. I just didn’t know how.

The “she” I refer to is Ann Graham Lotz. Her sweet southern drawl hung heavy in the air as I listened to a her share something she had experienced preparing for an event: an experience of broken repentance. Seven days spent on her face as God “peeled her like an onion.” In the end, she was totally exhausted in a beautiful way. She compared the process to a painful surgery that she didn’t want to end until God had removed every bit of disease. In the end, she felt cleaner than ever before. It prepared her for God to reveal Himself to her in a fresh way.

I wanted that. How could I get what she got?

I’d like to say I did what Ann Graham Lotz did, and I got on my face. Instead, I chewed on it. I let the image of her on her face fill my thoughts. I told God I wanted that. I asked Him to give me one of those onion-peeling, painful surgery, exhausting experiences. And He answered. He gave me a passage of Scripture.

“Are you so dull?” He asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their hearts but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean. He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come — sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”  Mark 7:18-23, NIV

That was a lot of stuff to deal with. Those were a lot of things, and surely all of them weren’t inside me. But I got the message. God wanted to answer my prayer. He wanted to start a cleansing in me, and He was showing me how He wanted me to proceed.

One word at a time.

Then, He showed me the word He wanted me to start with. Malice. That was the word that jumped off the page of my Bible and into my soul. That was the word to be dealt with, at least as a start. And I didn’t even have a good understanding of what it meant. So, I did what I do. I looked it up. Not in the dictionary, but in the Greek. I didn’t want Webster’s interpretation of what I needed to address. I wanted it straight from the language Mark would have written as he transcribed the words the Holy Spirit gave him. I didn’t want to risk getting it wrong. Thank you, Mr. Strong, for your Concordance.

Malice. Poneria – G4189. Strong’s definition is Badness. Depravity. Trouble. Evil. Naughtiness or Wickedness. It comes from the Greek word Kakos – G2555, meaning Worthless and Injurious. Evil in the widest sense.

And I had thought malice would have been the least of the evils.

In the weeks that followed I discovered a lot of misconceptions about things I had read in the Bible. I learned a lot about words I thought I knew. At the time I called it my Spiritual Detox. Following my South African mission trip, I referred to it as “Unpacking my Backpack”. Going forward, it will be My Big Fat Greek Word Search.

greek word image 1 (2)

In the weeks to come I will share what I learned through my word search. I will share some of the ways God showed me these toxic words, these backpack-burdens, had diseased my soul and hindered my spiritual life. I will also share the prayer I wrote each day as God showed me what was in my heart that needed to be removed.

One of the most beautiful things about this “unpacking” experience was that God showed me I didn’t have to cure myself. I didn’t have to “fix” all these things that were wrong in me; these things that were weighing me down. All I had to do was give them to Him. Give Him access to my spiritual backpack. Let Him take these toxins, these weights, one thing at a time. One Word at a time. He would deal with them. He would do the “fixing” and the curing and the healing. All I had to do was to be still and give him access to do the work.

I hope you will join me over the next several weeks as I revisit my Big Fat Greek Word Search. I ask forgiveness in advance for anyone I may offend with any reference to Greek in a way that gives an appearance if disrespect. That is not my intent. My intent is to share how this word search has impacted me and let God change me like He did Ann Graham Lotz. Totally exhausted in a beautiful way. Cleaner than ever before. Prepared for God to reveal Himself to you in a fresh, new way.

Here is my prayer for God to remove the Malice. I hope it will serve to kick-start your prayer life and help you pray through a process of spiritual renewal in your life.

Father, I’ve filled my heart with all sort of things that are empty and void. They take up space and prevent You from filling my heart with your love and compassion. I can’t keep your greatest command to love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself, because my heart doesn’t have the capacity for it right now. It’s too full of worthlessness. It’s also full of things that will injure me.

I ask You, Father, to remove this blanket description of Malice that covers every other evil sin that has taken up residence in my heart. I throw back this blanket and lay my heart bare to You. Give me the strength in the coming days to let You expose to me each individual sin to be dealt with. I give You this blanket of Malice and let you cover me with Your blanket of grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Take a coal from the altar of burnt offering and touch my heart with it. Take that symbol of the temple ritual of cleansing and begin a cleansing of my temple. Cleanse the Malice. Cleanse me of everything evil. Cleanse all of me and make me fit for Your service, so that when the time comes and You ask who You can send, I will be ready.


Traveling (not so) Light: Confessions of an Excessive Packer

Hi. My name is Janet and I am an excessive packer.

Let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat.

Last year as I began packing for my first ever mission trip, Richard must have watched with great anticipation to see how I was going to fit everything I needed for the next two weeks into two suitcases with weight limits and one backpack. My husband knows the extent of the luggage I carry for a simple overnight stay.

It wasn’t so much the two large pieces, but my backpack that I struggled with. You see, I had never carried a backpack before. I wasn’t sure how to pack one, at least for a long flight.

It was the 26-hour flight that prompted my backpack purchase. My reasoning was that it would free my hands for retrieving tickets, passport, money, and so on. My trip would be carefree with no carry-on luggage to drag around. And I was going to need a lot of stuff for this flight.

Or, so I thought.

In Memphis as we boarded our plane, I hardly noticed my backpack. Toward the end of our layover in Atlanta I began to question some of my choices in packing it. By Amsterdam I knew I had over packed. Between Amsterdam and Cape Town I would have chunked the thing out of the window if I could have. Because it was heavy.

It was painfully heavy.

Following the best advice I could find on Pinterest, I stuffed my backpack to the gills with every recommendation from every seasoned traveler. Medications. Toiletries. Books. Snacks. Laptop. Tablet. Neck pillow. Change of Clothes. Snacks. Did I say that already? Well, let me say it again, because I had enough snacks to keep our whole group fed for a couple of weeks.

I was over packed. Again.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my over-packed backpack would make a long-lasting impression on me. An impression that would far outlast the pain in my back and my neck from lugging almost 40 pounds of excessive baggage around with me from one side of the world to another.

When our plane touched down late that Sunday night in Cape Town, my blurry mind was struggling to finish important parts of the four messages I was scheduled to deliver at the Women’s Conference where I would be speaking. I had hoped to be able to use my laptop to put the finishing touches on those messages during one of the painfully long legs of our flight. That never happened. Not because I fell asleep on the plane and didn’t accomplish anything, because sleep never happened either.

It was a bad combination. No writing. No sleep. But a backpack crammed full of everything I had believed I would need to help me make the most of my flight. Most of which went unused.

Cape Town from plane

We disembarked at Cape Town International Airport and worked our way through the customs line, everyone struggling with their own baggage. I pulled one piece and pushed another, constantly laboring with the seemingly increasing weight of my backpack. All the while wondering how I was going to be ready to speak to my first group at The Bride of Christ Church in less than 48 hours.

Carrying luggage

As we were met by a couple of the men from our host churches, they took our luggage and loaded it into the vans. The bigger pieces tucked safely away in the trailer, my backpack remained with me, this time under my feet. I grumbled to God for most of the van ride about why He hadn’t given me all of what He wanted me to share in my messages. Didn’t He know how pressed for time I was now? And didn’t He care about how my shoulders ached from carrying around this heavy backpack? Always in my way. Tripping me up at every turn. Hindering my every move. Again, the thought of throwing it out the window crossed my mind. That’s when I got the rest of what I needed for my first message.

Throw off everything that hinders.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

There was a good portion of my message. Throw off everything that hinders.

The theme of the Women’s Conference was Freedom. I would be sharing with these women about freedom in Christ. I would be telling them about the things that keep us from being free. Chains. Shackles. Things that hinder. I would be sharing with them how we become caught up in burdens and how to be freed from those burdens.

I was still learning that lesson for myself.

A few weeks before leaving for our mission trip I had been close to wrapping up my messages for the Women’s Conference, but God stopped me and took me in another direction. He took me through what I called at the time a “Spiritual Detox”. (I’ll share more about that in upcoming posts.) I was a little confused, and truth be told, quite a bit perturbed at the fact that God didn’t let me finish my Freedom messages before He got me all sidetracked on this detox. Don’t get me wrong; it was a real blessing, and something that I still go back through often. But His timing seemed off. Way off.

During my “detox”, I unloaded a lot of things from my heart. At least 45 different “toxins” ranging from anger to an unrepentant heart. It was life-changing. It just seemed like God could have picked a better time to do the changing. Because apparently He had forgotten that I was under a deadline for these messages.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the “detox” was an important part of my message of Freedom. It was a lesson on unpacking. It was a lesson on how we all have spiritual backpacks that get full of things that weigh us down and hinder us while we try to run the races God has marked out for us. Or, they keep us on the sidelines, out of our races altogether.

The whole time we were in those suburbs of Cape Town at Maranatha Baptist Church and Bride of Christ, the women would come back to me and ask me that question I had posed to them.

What’s in your backpack?

I still ask myself that question on a regular basis. I still find some pretty unpleasant things in there weighing me down. Tripping me up. Hindering me. I still find myself over-packing. Packing the wrong things. But, I’ve learned to allow for routine inspections of my backpack’s contents. I’m learning how not to over pack.

I’m learning to travel light.

I don’t know what I was able to give to the people of South Africa, but I do know this: the people of South Africa gave me something I will never forget. They taught me that we all struggle with excess baggage. They gave me an opportunity to understand better how to depend on God every minute of every day. They gave me a lesson in running my race unhindered. And they provide me with an unforgettable opportunity to learn how to pack for my race.

Mission Team