Aiming for Purpose

What happens if I don’t get it right? Have you ever asked yourself that question? There are so many choices to be made in a day; decisions ranging from the minor to the major. What if I get it wrong? Sometimes don’t you wish you could hand God a blank piece of paper and say, “Could you just fill it out for me, so I can see what you want me to do?” That would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? God could have created the dynamics of our interactions to be like that, but in his sovereignty – well – this is what we’ve got.  God was the first to go paperless.  He created the Earth and all that is in it, but left no instruction manual; that came later.  Psalm 89:11 “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.”  It was years in production, but God did hire some talented writers to pen His own words on parchment over a couple thousand years. The Bible, the book with the highest record sales ever, is the instruction manual we have to live by. The issue is, it’s written for every type of make and model without regard to specific names.

Here are a few excerpts from Psalm 139:13-16  “You formed me in my mother’s womb. Thank you, High God for making me body and soul …what a creation! You know me inside and out – exactly how I was sculpted from nothing into something. You watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

God didn’t meet us in the delivery room and hand our parents a piece of paper with step by step instructions on it.  He did meet us before we were born though and already made plans for us.  Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Each of us has a purpose; each of us has a free will to make decisions and the intelligence to reason things out. Intelligence though and wisdom are part of the package, but play a different role.  Intelligence gathers the facts, wisdom is the part that we get from God – and it’s the most important part of decision making.  James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

The decision process isn’t failsafe though, is it? Many of us are impetuous and think we are helping God out by making a choice too early – only to realize it was the wrong answer.  Or we decide not to decide – and did you know that even a decision not to make a decision is a decision?  Mull that over for a few minutes. Sometimes we wait too long and while God is outside lighting up the sky, and practically playing charades, we don’t look up to Him and ‘get the message’.  We are so accustomed to having instructions written in ink, on a page, that’s unmistakable – so we know what to do next.  We wonder “ What if I make a mistake?  What if I make a wrong choice? What if I get to the end of my life and realize my whole life has been off course?”  Well if you’re reading this, your life hasn’t ended yet. What can you do today to get back on course?  God will honor you for coming back to him and his way for you.  Isaiah 30:21 says “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

God wants you to ask for guidance, and look to him first. We are not perfect; but we can try.  I’m way out of time today and I’m going to now try really hard to live each day connected to God’s will and infused with His  ways…. Because that is one thing I know God expects of me.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKkIt5uphdA

Celebrate today

Celebrate Today – with each new day there are new miracles.  As of right about now, I’ve been on vacation for 7 days. Go ahead. Congratulate me now because this is an awesome accomplishment! My last vacation was 4 years ago and during that time I did a research project and wrote a social media policy.  I don’t vacation well. I don’t relax well. I’ve learned something. You can teach an old dog new tricks. For anyone who’s curious, I’ve traveled comfortably and as the doctor required, we’ve stopped every hour to walk as a necessary activity to prevent blood clots. And – for the first time in over 2 months, I have slept through the night for the last 4 nights. So this is what vacation feels like.

I’ve shopped at a quaint country store, with rustic décor, homemade candles, tole painted furniture, and walls lined with quilts and linens.  Comfort for weary souls and a feast for sagging spirits. Near the front of the store a tiny notebook caught my eye: Celebrate Today – with each new day there are new miracles.  I don’t need an inscription on a notebook to remind me that miracles happen.  Since being released from the hospital four doctors have assessed my recovery as remarkable. I’m not arguing; I’m convinced. This ability to heal is a miracle; God has blessed me with the gift of life and consistent healing.

Yesterday, I spent a full work day with my niece and her father who owns an online university. We reviewed textbooks that have been converted to online courses and compared improvements in courses developed six years ago to those published recently.  Valuable education and support for my goals. True, there were few demands on my energy, but think about it. Unless you’ve lived inside my skin for the past 8 weeks, you can’t appreciate the miracle I’m describing. Just a few weeks ago, I was so exhausted after a shower a needed help to walk to the couch. God has blessed me, as he has blessed you with the miracle of healing.  Sometimes I get impatient and want instant relief from the pain that comes with broken bones.  God reminds me to wait.  Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Do you remember the stories in Matthew where Jesus was traveling among towns and performing miracles? When he got to his home town where he grew up, his enthusiasm for miracles decreased.  Why was that? Matthew 15:38 tells us “Jesus did not do many miracles in Nazareth because of their lack of faith.” To see the hand of God in our lives, to believe He’s in charge of miracles, we need unshakable faith. I never want to ignore this truth. Instead, my prayer is to have the faith of the woman in Matthew 9:22. Jesus saw her and said, “Take heart, daughter your faith has healed you.” There is no instant healing, but through this process I’m learning to be grateful for little improvements. I’m thankful for medical care, but I acknowledge that God put us together with systems of intricate cells, fluids, organs, and bones by his power and it is by his will that there is healing.  Psalm 139:13-14 ”God created me like being knit together in my mother’s womb.  I praise Him because I am intricately and wonderfully made. I know that full well.”

Many weeks will pass before I can drive a car, but I’m doing miraculously well and I know it is only because God has given me strength and health.  My prayer is to practice what the Message translation advises in Proverbs 3. “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health; your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best.”

This is not rhetoric – Trust God, run to him, honor him, give him your best – Be blessed, my friends.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvIEJ_PmqJ8

What-if?

I was reading a post by a young woman of 17 who I consider wise beyond her years, when she asked a valid question.  Although very young she was through high school and had already taken college classes.  She was contemplating very honestly:  What will I do with my life?  That struck me because as I approach the twilight of my career, I look back to the days many years ago when I first began to question my destiny.  I still sometimes wonder, what will I do with the remaining years of my life.  How can I make a difference?  I’m only one person.  Ah – but this is the key.  What God wants from me is to just show up even if the path isn’t clearly marked, even though I’m dragging my feet and am confused about what’s out there.  God requires only that I seek Him and just show up for the next 60 seconds, 1 hour, 1 day, in a week, a month …. and put my complete trust in Him.

We fret, especially when we’re full of anticipation and throw open the gate to possibility we are overwhelmed by what we should do with our future. Really? We’ve all had these ‘what-if’ fears.  What if I make a mistake, what happens to my future then? We all have to remember that we have this one moment, this one day.  It’s all anyone has. If we seek God on a day by day basis and walk with him just that day – then the next – then the next, that becomes our future and it takes care of itself….  We need to seek God ask His wisdom in every decision and then follow it.  God will lead us and enable us to do and be exactly what He wants us to be. He created each of us and gave us purpose.  He knows our strengths, our ambitions, and what our interests are. Choices will always be difficult and overwhelming.  That’s why it’s so important to invite God into the cafeteria of our lives and let Him point out the best for each of us.  I have made some pretty dumb decisions in my life and when I look back at where I took a wrong turn, I can see that it was when I said, “Look God.  I’ve got this one”.

I pray the blessing of God in your life and that we all realize we all have what we need to thrive and be what we were intended to be.  First we have to just show up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c–GtojoyYQ&feature=g-all-u

The attitude of difference

Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here … If you don’t recognize those leading words to an old hymn, don’t worry.  It was written in 1865 by Karolina Sandell-Berg – ancient history, but read the words again. The next line continues “Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment; I’ve not cause for worry or for fear.”  Have you watched the news lately? Opened your mailbox overflowing with countless charities, all worthy of your benevolence, imploring you to ‘Please give’? We live in the land of plenty, in communities we consider safe, there are med stations, hospitals and doctors scattered across the country, yet the pipeline of need surges on.

Because I’ve worked all day for many years, I’ve been spared the daily phone calls from organizations asking for donations, it’s easy to ignore mail from unknown senders, but not so easy to push aside requests from agencies whose ideals I share.  Maybe it’s that time of year when fund drives are at peak, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve actually watched the news more, maybe taking this sabbatical from work has given my human mind time to wander away from how to write the best procedures or express an innovative idea.

I’m suddenly fully aware of the incidents of road rage, devastating illnesses, senseless accidents caused by speed and alcohol, schools on lock-down while officials check out suspect packages, missing persons whose families are desperate to be reunited with their child or other loved one.  “Day by day and with each passing moment …” how often do I find myself praying for someone affected by situations that are outside our control?

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you are probably asking right now “Who’s writing this? It doesn’t track with the normal tone.” In fact, I’ve hesitated to post this topic because it strays from what I love to write and where is the encouragement?  Stick with me here.

A few weeks before the accident that forced me on this sabbatical, my daily prayer – well, let me be honest – my exhaustive daily begging of God was, “Lord, please change me. I know there are barriers getting in the way of being all you want me to be. I’m at an impasse, God. You have to do something so obvious I can’t miss your message, because right now, I’m struggling to find your will for my life.”  A near death accident is not what I had in mind when I prayed that prayer over and over, day after day.  Be careful what you pray for.  Isaiah 55:9 spells it out pretty succinctly “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This wasn’t what I had in mind, but I’m learning what it means to entrust everything to God’s power and sovereignty.

When I hear a siren, I stop everything and pray for the first responders, the victims who need care, and people who are standing by to tend to them.  The incidents of road rage and gun battles scare me like no other – but my best defense is to pray God’s protection over my family and friends, “Please Lord, protect innocent people from dangers and violence.”  For the homeless and agencies that serve them, for other charitable organizations that will fail without monetary support, I read their newsletters and pray for discernment in making wise choices.  I wonder how Jesus would handle these incalculable numbers of requests. There’s a little insight in Matthew 9:36 “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Even 2000 years ago, there were more needs than workers to supply them.

I’ve always claimed that I wasn’t given the worry gene.  If you haven’t read Psalm 139 for a while, you might want to take a few minutes and give it a glance.  It starts out “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.” Those are powerful words!  Then along about verse 13 it recognizes “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  I believe my penchant for seeking the silver lining and pushing worry down the elevator shaft are gifts formed in the womb.  I could be wrong, about that.  But here’s one thing I’m not wrong about. I decide every moment of every day what my attitude will be in every circumstance.  When negativity and fear creep in I remember where those feelings come from.  Here, let me help you discover the source too.  1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  You can’t get clearer than that! If a lion is looking for you RUN!  How much better to run toward the light and seek shelter in commitment to God.  2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

Fear, sadness, anger, sickness, greed, selfishness, pride – all byproducts of a fallen world.  But there is hope.  Do you remember the song from a few years back “Let peace begin with me.”  As it turns out Psalm 139:24 shares a similar thought. “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  I’m just one person and there is very little I can do to change anything, but I can pray and I can guard my attitude and I can make a difference – however small the scale.  We don’t hear much about Hezekiah in the Bible. I have to think he also operated from a small scale platform, but these verses impressed me.  2 Chronicles 30:18-20 “Hezekiah prayed for his people, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone  who sets their heart on seeking God— even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”  Day by day and with each passing moment … Trusting in my Father’s sovereignty… I can live above fear.

When to pray

Has someone you’ve known in the past or even talked with recently, come to your mind and you can’t seem to get past your thoughts of them?  Maybe that’s an open door to pray for them. Just take a moment and ask God to give them joy, a good experience, a healing touch … make something up.  God knows just what they need, even before you ask, but pray God’s best for them.

A young girl with a painful, sprained ankle waited to be treated in the emergency room of a small hospital in upper Michigan. Her father, there to comfort and support his daughter wondered why the attending physician seemed preoccupied. When the doctor stepped from the room to take a phone call, the situation had to be confronted. Here was a child, in pain and needing the undivided attention of the doctor who was disappearing to take a phone call – more than once. I know what you’re thinking? I might have been thinking the same thing.

The doctor explained, “A traumatic accident happened on Mackinac Island and I was helping the doctor at the med station there with a risky procedure.” Would that explanation change your assumption? Would it have altered your next act?

This father went to his young daughter and said “We need to pray for that person on the Island who has just gone through this traumatic accident.”  They didn’t know it then, but they would later discover they were praying life and God’s protection for a member of their own church congregation back home.  The emergency room doctor was instructing the doctor on Mackinac Island how to insert a chest tube in a precarious top down position, instead of the normal from the bottom up.  The doctor was clearly distracted – I’m thankful that he was;  but even more than that, I’m thankful that John and Ashley realized in that moment God would hear their prayers for this unknown person a hundred miles away.   James 5:16 “The fervent prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.”

Life is uncertain, even unstable sometimes. From Isaiah 43, I share this excerpt to give you hope and courage when you need it.  “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;  You are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you; Do not be afraid, for I am with you;….“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”

The accident is in the past and while I won’t ever forget it, I know that it was for a purpose known only to God and he will bring something new from it. Something I need to learn or act on? Perhaps.  All I know is, I am seeking God’s direction and guidance and if I’ve ever needed Him, it’s now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzcPAOIOU7w