When Life is a Puzzle

See the source image

Murphy’s Law says, “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” Robert Burns wrote: “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” In the south, we say, “If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise!” We make plans – big and small – and life happens. In high school, I planned to go to college, get married, have 3 kids, be a writer, and live happily ever after. Five years later I never made it to college, was working at a dead-end job, and going through a divorce. Not exactly what I had in mind. Perhaps you intended to get a big project finished at work yesterday, but a minor hitch derailed your plan. Flat tires, sick kids, an unexpected phone call, or the boss’s priorities can turn our day upside down. Divorce, cancer, lay-offs, rebellious kids, and death can turn our lives upside down.

Aren’t you glad God is not subject to the winds of change and the whims of other people? Job testified, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:1). God is the perfect planner because He is sovereign; that is He has absolute authority to set a plan and absolute power to pull it off. He also has the advantage of seeing “the bigger picture.” Like putting together a puzzle, He not only sees each piece as it fits into the whole but He’s got the box lid with the finished picture. And what is that picture? “The likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29). That’s the good that God is working toward in “all things” in your life (v. 28). In hard seasons you and I can take comfort in knowing that God is never taken by surprise when life takes a left turn. He has already determined how this thing that has rocked your world will fit into the completed picture of your life.

God never sits on His throne and wrings His hands over the unexpected. Because nothing is unexpected to the One who rules over it all. You can rest in that, Beloved. Nothing in your life will ever take Him by surprise.

What Will You Do With Your New Year?

See the source image

What will you do with the new year you’ve been given?  What goals and aspirations do you have for the next 12 months?  A new job?  College?  Get married? Take on an exciting challenge?  It’s good to have goals, I think we tend to wander through life without them.  It’s important to look ahead and consider possibilities and options and to sketch out some plans for the future.  That doesn’t mean we’re not walking by faith, God gives us wisdom and vision to guide us through our lives.

But don’t let the “big picture” crowd out the details.  As you approach this new year, don’t forget that you’ve been given 365 individual days which are broken into 8,760 hours. Consider that about 2,800 will be given to sleep, and about the same number at work or school. That leaves another 3,160 hours of “disposable time,” which you can use any way you choose.  That is generally spread out over several workdays and days off.    Certainly, there are chores and other responsibilities to be done, yet we still have a good portion of that time left over. 

Moses said, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).  I think that’s excellent advice. We can use our time to sit numbly in front of a screen or fill our minds with trivial accounts of the rich and famous.  We can fritter away those hours with mindless distractions or create things that won’t last.  Or we can spend our time wisely.  We can draw closer to our Heavenly Father through prayer and studying His Word.  We can grow in the fellowship of other believers.  We can give our time to Kingdom work.  We can invest well in others; serving, mentoring, teaching, caring, loving.  We can use our words to bless and encourage and build up. We can share what the world so desperately needs: love, hope, and peace. 

It’s really up to you.  God has granted you a fresh, new year and the possibilities are endless. How will you invest the treasure of time you’ve been given?  With frivolity or with wisdom? With mindlessness or with purpose? Beloved, how will you number your days this year?

Okay God, Here’s Our Plan

Reading in Genesis this morning where God had declared His promise and covenant with Abraham to make him the father of a great nation. You know the story: Sarai grew impatient and nagged Abram into fathering a child by her maid Hagar. Several years passed and God came to Abraham and confirmed His promise – Sarah would still bear him a son. Abraham laughed to himself and questioned God’s promise: “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old bear a child? (Genesis 17:17). Then Abraham said, “Oh, that Ismael [his son with Hagar] might live before you!”
God had made His promise known to Abraham, but in the waiting Abraham and Sarah decided God could not be trusted and they would go to “plan B.” Even in the presence of God with the promise still ringing in his ears, Abraham pitched another idea out – as if God’s plan was not sufficient. “You know Lord, that’s quite a stretch – that two old people would have a baby. We’ve got Ishmael already – why don’t you just your thing with him instead.”‘
I am so much like them. “God I’ve got this situation, I need Your help. I need You to work on my behalf. You are the only one who can fix this.” Then – “Oh, and here’s my plan for what you can do.” Sound familiar? Why do we think we need to give God our advice? I’m speaking this to me as loudly as I am to you – God doesn’t need our input. He doesn’t need my solutions. He can take care of things without your human wisdom. What He wants is our trust. He wants us to give the thing to Him and let Him decide the best course of action. He wants us to believe that what He promised He will also accomplish – without our “help.”
Beloved, let’s make a commitment right now to stop trying to tell God what to do. Let’s give Him free reign with our lives and how to work in them. You know, I bet He will come up with a solution that will be “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

What’s Your Plan?

Murphy’s Law says, “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” Robert Frost wrote: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” In the south we often say, “If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise!” You get it, we make plans – big and small – and life happens. In high school I planned to go to college, get married, be a journalist and live happily ever after. Five years later I never made it to college, was working at a dead-end job, and going through a divorce. Not exactly what I had in mind. Perhaps you intended to get a big project finished at work yesterday, but a minor hitch derailed your plan. Flat tires, sick kids, an unexpected phone call, or the boss’ priorities can turn our day upside down. Divorce, cancer, lay-offs, rebellious kids, and death can turn our lives upside down.
Aren’t you glad God is not subject to the winds of change and the whims of other people? Job testified, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:1). God is the perfect planner because He is sovereign; that is He has absolute authority to determine what will happen and He has absolute power to pull it off. He also has the advantage of seeing “the bigger picture.” Like putting together a puzzle, He sees each piece as it fits into its place and becomes part of the whole. In fact, He is the one who designed the picture in the first place. In hard seasons I find comfort in knowing that God is never taken by surprise when life takes a left turn. He has already determined how this thing that has rocked my world will fit into the completed picture of my life.
God never sits on His throne and wrings His hands over the unexpected. Because nothing is unexpected to the One who rules over it all.

CPR for Your Dreams

“How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” Joshua 18:3

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. When I was very little, I would draw crayon scribbles on paper and call them my “stories.” I wrote with real words as I grew up, and placed well in writing and poetry competitions in high school. Writing gave me an avenue to express my feelings and order my thoughts and emotions. As an adult, I wrote in journals and developed the habit of journaling my prayers. Yet I kept those writings tucked away in boxes, never letting my words go any further as life and responsibilities pushed those dreams down deeper and deeper inside.

Ten years ago, God began to lay on my heart the desire to attend seminary, to write and to teach, another of my long held passions. He reached out and started plucking the strings of my heart to stir up old songs and old dreams; but once again I let life and the needs of my family and job take over. The more I pressed those dreams down the more discouraged I became. After an extremely difficult season, believing those dreams were dead, I took all those boxes of journals and notebooks and pitched them into the fireplace and shut those dreams out for good.

But God didn’t. He knew the plans He had for my life, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Two years ago, I heard the soft, faint sounds of the song again. This time I picked up the melody and began once again to put the words in my heart on paper. God made a used laptop computer available to me and a dear friend became my “editor,” giving me counsel and guidance in my writing. A sweet friend (a high-school student, no less!) helped me create this blog-site and I took a deep breath and finally put the words God placed in my heart out there for the world to see. Last fall, I began my first classes in seminary, and the Lord has opened doors for me to teach multiple weekly Bible studies in and around my community.

We often let our dreams and passions fade in the demands of work and family and the pull of responsibility. Sometimes we find ourselves chasing the world’s desires for us instead of God’s. When we push those God-given dreams aside, we can fall into depression and hopelessness, as I did while feeding the fire with my writings. But God has always had a plan for you, and He hasn’t let that plan die. Philippians 1:6 tells us that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God sets His purpose for your life and He works in and around you to fulfill that purpose, as David testified in Psalm 138:8- “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” God works out His plans for His children. He knows everything about you, because He created you. He knows the desires and dreams in your heart, because He put them there. He has a plan to bring those dreams to reality. Listen to Philippians 2:13: “God works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

What dream has God planted in your heart? What dreams have you buried under the responsibilities of your life? What dreams have you walked away from? My friend, if God has given you a dream or a passion, He has not given up on it – or on you. Ask Him to restore that desire and show you how He wants to fulfill His plan and purpose for your life. Listen carefully- do you hear the sounds of an old familiar song?

Holy Father, life has gotten in the way of the dreams You placed within my heart. Please stir those dreams back to life and fulfill the wonderful plans You have for me. Amen.