This pandemic was a surprise to me, but it was not a surprise to God.
This has been a year of making plans and readjusting them about 97 times. I am ever hopeful that there will be a new normal that looks somewhat similar to the old normal. But, I confess, I am a little discouraged.
Why even bother to make plans?
I am thankful that I have been relatively calm through this season of unknowns, but I attribute it to my natural tendency to be flexible. I don’t feel the need to be in charge of a lot of things. I also have watched God work out even the yucky things in my life, so I trust His “long run” plan, even though I don’t know all the pieces and parts. And, honestly, I am pretty sure I won’t love all what is coming. But I will try to rest in His grace and mercy, trust Him to right the wrongs, trust Him to comfort me, and be with me as I move forward.
We have today, my friend. Hold your plans loosely and love generously!
For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11 New English Translation
Do you have projects in mind and the tools to accomplish
them but never get around to the project? My guess is that project never really
moved up high enough on the priority list because even if we don’t have the
right tools, we can figure out how to get a job done.
Of course, life happens and things we hadn’t even imagined
can propel up the priority list in the blink of an eye. Life and circumstances
are always changing and something that actually may be a priority gets pushed
aside until “later” but sometimes later doesn’t come. We don’t always
get to do the things we want to do.
I have come to believe that having the tools isn’t the key.
Using the tools is the key. We all know of the guy who has all the big, cool
tools. At first glance, you might even be envious. But if he has no time to use
them, then it just seems sad. What is the point of having “all the
stuff” if you can’t enjoy it?
I will admit, in certain areas of my life
(A): I have the tools;
(B): I have the knowledge of how to use them;
(C): But, I don’t have the gumption/time/energy/ability/___________ to use them, therefore
(D): I don’t have the results I want!
Owning the tools is not enough. Having the knowledge is not
enough. Making the effort, etc. is not enough. It seems like there is a need
for all three to even work towards the goal and even then there is no guarantee
the project will be successful!
Feeling like you can’t move forward because you don’t have the tools?
Stuck in some phase of a project?
Suspect you don’t know enough to move forward?
Lack the time or motivation to tackle the situation?
Let’s not blame it on the tools.
If you are feeling stuck in a place where you don’t have “progress”,
think about why that is. Pray about what might be holding you back — it may be
that this area you think is “progress” isn’t a good idea.
Sometimes our priorities have changed.
Sometimes our life direction has changed.
Sometimes it is fear of failure.
Sometimes the goal is outside our ability and so it hurts our brain to even think about tackling the job.
By taking an honest look at our priorities and our abilities
we can re-evaluate them. Still stuck? Have a conversation with a trusted
friend, counselor, or pastor.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. [Romans 12:3-8, NIV]
Sometimes I look at my phone to pass the time when I am in line and not interested in engaging with the world around me. I can get impatient when I am waiting.
Who am I to think I don’t have to wait for things? When I look at Scripture, there is so much waiting – years and years of it. Check out Psalm 5, Psalm 27, Psalm 33, and Psalm 37 and pretty much all of Scripture. There is a lot of waiting.
Waiting is a part of life.
And sometimes there is even a purpose in waiting. The “delay” allows other pieces to fall into place. Sometimes the delay prepares us for the next step. Waiting is natural and there is no point in complaining about it. I have found that I can increase my impatience just being so caught up in the frustration of the waiting. That’s ridiculous. I am not above waiting.
What are you waiting for?
While I am waiting I can still live my life. I don’t want to let waiting steal my joy. Whatever it is I am waiting for, I can be sure that God is working on my heart while I wait.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
At one time or another we have all surrendered our “right” or our position or our opinion in order to keep the peace.
Of course, there are some who are more than willing (maybe too willing) to give in. And on the other end of the spectrum there are others who act like every discussion is a hill they are willing to die on.
Ever notice that some people stoke the smallest disagreement so it develops into a huge battle? These situations may be based on a small misunderstanding but one party cannot back down or have a reasonable discussion. Sometimes this happens with friends but it is particularly devastating when it happens within families. The rift in the relationship grows so large and involves so many people that it impacts generations of relationships. Some of these issues last decades and lifetimes.
And then hardship strikes.
Often death, diagnosis, or disability comes along to remind us all how fragile and precious life really is. Life is short. Life can be really hard. Ideas and principles are important but people and relationships are even more important.
There are times a tragedy can be a catalyst for healing in relationships.
Don’t wait for some disaster to offer the olive branch of peace in a strained relationship. If you feel you have been wronged, let the Lord avenge it. Your interpretation of the situation or what “offended” you might, actually, be a bit off base. Feelings often lead us astray. And there are many sides to a story. We are, hopefully, changing and growing every day and learning more about ourselves and the world around us. What was worth battling about five years ago might just be a blip now, considering the circumstances. Lost time cannot be recovered but we can move forward together and in peace, making memories along the way.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. [Romans 12:17-19 NIV]
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;one Lord, one faith, one baptism;one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. [Ephesians 4:1-6 NIV]
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,and do not give the devil a foothold. [Ephesians 4:25-27 NIV]
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. [Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV]
If you have been out on your own and paying bills for a while you probably know about grace periods and even needed them a time or two. Buy have you thought of a grace period as a time someone needs as they adjust to a new reality?
It takes time to get reoriented after unexpected news.
Receiving either good news or bad news can turn your world upside down. Sometimes a little time and space can help you get readjusted to a new reality.
Have you ever tried to carefully plan something like your life? Personally, I gave up doing that a long time ago. Things change so quickly that I have found I just need to roll with it. I have had a few goals and plans along the way but there have been a few times something equivalent to a tidal wave has rushed over me and I found myself in a place where I need some recovery time; a grace period.
A grace period is a space where I can cocoon, process, pray, scream, and work it out – whatever it is. And then, hopefully, I can move forward with God leading the way into my new reality. It is never an easy process – often it is two steps forward and one step back. Somewhere along the line I realized: this is not my life — I just live it!
When I walk through those crazy moments I come out with a stronger understanding of God’s grace for my every day. And because I have been in desperate need of grace so often myself, I should be more grace-full towards others.
Sometimes we just need grace.
It isn’t hard to muster up compassion for those who have walked a similar path or those who have extenuating circumstances, but there are some times I get impatient with others as they are processing and then I wonder:
Who am I to criticize how someone else is dealing with something?
Who am I to rush someone through the stages of grief?
Who am I to make assumptions on motives?
Who am I to be impatient?
I just need to give some grace, time, and space while they work it out. We are all a work in progress and some of life’s situations are so hard. We don’t have control over many thing that happen but we can control our response. I am praying that grace becomes my first response!
I don’t know about you, but there are times in my life I have held on to things for far too long…
A pair of pants I wore many moons (and sizes ago).
A momento from an old flame.
A wound from a friend.
Disappointment in myself.
Last year, I had the opportunity to help a family member do some purging. If you know me well, you might be laughing because you know I have some purging of my own to do. And I actually am getting around to doing just that! But the stuff seems to multiply quickly if I am not proactive and intentional. I often set things aside to deal with later and then, when later finally comes around, the opportunity or need has passed. Well, at least, when I make my next pass, it might be easier to toss!
Sometimes I hold onto things because they are interesting, I need to know more about it so I can make a decision, or it is something that needs to be saved. Sometimes I hold onto an item that is simply too difficult to release for any number of reasons. Trust me, the person who has to sort through all your treasures after you die will be thankful if you don’t have lots of piles to sort through. Start purging!
But those old wounds?
I don’t know that this can be done on your own.
I know I can’t do it on my own.
But these things — they need to go! I am pretty sure they can suck the life right out of a person. You’ve seen people that are drained and depressed by old wounds. Their pain is evident.
Do I want to look like that?
Do I want to LIVE like that?
I can’t because that isn’t living.
I need to place it all “At the Cross” and work through the process of forgiveness!
Below are the lyrics to a song that I have loved for quite some time. The melody is just as sweet.
I know a place, a wonderful place
Where accused and condemned
Find mercy and grace
Where the wrongs we have done
And the wrongs done to us
Were nailed there with Him
There on the cross
At the cross
He died for our sin
At the cross
You gave us life again
Are you holding onto something that you need to let go?
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” Psalm 39:4-5
Life is fleeting.
My life is fleeting.
What am I doing with my time? Is what I am doing valuable? Lasting? Important? Are there better choices I can make with…
While it is always important to be mindful of what I am doing, Holy Week is a natural time for reflection and contemplation of my sin, Jesus’ suffering and death for my fleeting life, and God’s many provisions for His people.
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:1
After being grateful yesterday, it seems fitting to look at the majesty of God. When I read Psalm 8, I am overwhelmed by who God is and who I am and that He is mindful of me and shows me His grace, love, and forgiveness. It also reminds me how much more mindful of Him I should be!
And if God, the Creator of the Universe, considers me worthy of His investment, it puts such a different perspective on my life than if I was just here by “accident” or with no purpose. And if He feels this way about me then He feels that way about you and every person on this planet! When I ponder this, I am reminded of not only my value but every person’s value:
From those in my zip code to those across the time zones
From the weakest to the healthiest
From the lovable to the unlovable
From the delightful to the frustrating
From the sweetest to the angriest
From the innocent to the guilty
From the very young (pre-born) to the very old
From the cleanest to the dirtiest
From the kindest to the meanest
“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:4
Since God is our Creator, there must be value in each of us…each and every one of us! Sometimes it might take some digging because we are broken people–our limited perspective doesn’t let us see the value in others and, sometimes, we aren’t able to see the value in ourselves.
Psalm 8 is a great place to get a glimpse of the majesty of God and His love for His people!
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life” Psalm 138:7a
Trouble comes in so many different forms. I have found myself in troubled places all along my life because life is life and trouble is a part of this life.
Sometimes I put myself in the path of trouble in a moment of rebellion. Sometimes I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and trouble found me. Sometimes, well, sometimes life happened and there I was, troubled over what was going on around me. I may or may not have been powerless to change my circumstances, but they were troubling all the same.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life”
I did not research all that went into Psalm 138 and the circumstances that preceded David writing it or what he was recalling as he penned these words. But I can relate in my own way. Even though there are times God actually preserves my life, there are also times He preserves my sanity by the words of a friend, an unexpected gift, a solution where none seemed to be found. All of these things contribute to the preservation of my life.
As I dig deep and explore who I am and how I am made, I am always amazed how God intricately weaves all of my past and uses it to impact who I am today. He continues to shape and mold me as only a loving Creator can. He will not abandon the work of His hands!
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands.” Psalm 138:8