Paths and Plans

Fall is here! It’s all about pumpkins, cricket symphonies, and squirrels preparing for that other season. What do you enjoy about the fall season? God’s creative splendor is extravagantly displayed this time of year and it’s the reason people travel to enjoy the change of the leaves. I suppose if you were to take a drive you would set your itinerary for the very best views of the fall colors. Take a moment and imagine you’re on that drive right now. There, up ahead, you see the bountiful mix of red, yellow, orange coming into your sight. The bold color of orange is ever so prominent, but wait. Oh no, those aren’t leaves. It’s the dreaded construction sign. It’s a DETOUR.

Detour signs

Have you ever eagerly anticipated taking a detour? What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you face one? Is it, Great! Looking forward to this. Fantastic! Love the detour. Or, are you like me and your response is, Oh no! What if we reassigned our concept of a detour to a positive category in our brain? Can we change our gut reaction to a detour? More importantly, why should we? A detour may be God’s call for our attention and a reroute to the better way. His way.

I think we can all agree that usually a detour leads you into unknown territory. When you have to take a detour, it makes you wake up and take notice. A detour requires your attention because it’s not the same well-worn path you’re used to taking, and it gives you a different view from what you’re used to seeing. There’s no doubt that a detour can be stressful and create anxiety when you believe there’s only one way to get where you want to go and the way appears to be blocked. You have plans for the day, for your life. God has plans, too. Sometimes your plan and His plan run a parallel course and sometimes it doesn’t. When God is directing you and me toward an alternative route, it’s a call to adjust our vision and plan.

Road Closed

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” The Lord proclaimed through Jeremiah that He has plans for His people and you’re one of those people. The onset of a detour may be specifically directed at impacting your life alone, or so your life can directly impact someone else. The most difficult part of accepting a detour on your life path is surrendering your plans for the sake of the unknown or alternative path God is presenting. My own life has been filled with multiple detours as I was going on the way to fulfilling my plans. I know the exasperation and frustration that comes with a detour. I haven’t forgotten the heartache that set in as I realized what I wanted wasn’t going to happen. Infertility was not a detour that I found acceptable. I had a hard time accepting that I didn’t get to control that situation. A decade later, I experienced the overpowering waves of fear as I wondered what the future held considering what was happening in the present. A health issue was changing my life--the present was hard to handle and the future looked even bleaker.

Was I without children in my life? Definitely not. God brought children into my life just in a different way than I anticipated. Did my health issue turn my life upside down? Yes, it changed me. My eyes were opened and my heart was transformed. God brought new friends into my life that were willing to set aside their own plans to meet my needs when I couldn’t do that on my own. Such wonderful, faithful servants of God represented the love of Christ for me as they served and loved me in the midst of my difficulties. Moreover, I learned something I couldn’t have learned without going through that experience. Both of those events fall into a category I call detours.

  Detours are part of our life story  

   We have access to power and strength through Christ  

I write the previous sentence with a deep conviction and belief. I rely on the fact that when trouble presents as a detour in my life then I will also be presented with a path leading directly to God. God never fails. Consider Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message):

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” 

There really is far more going on than meets the eye during our difficulties. The detour that causes my life path to intersect with another’s life path is a chance to lovingly serve and meet needs beyond my own. There is little more moving than the sight and experience of humanity coming together and prevailing in times of trouble. Today, there’s no shortage of opportunities. Never underestimate your impact on the life of someone else. One deliberate act of kindness, one random act of love has significance because it’s from you. 

Road through forest

Availability

So, how available am I to God’s call to a detour? Wait. Let me check my calendar. At home, my paper calendar governs my personal hours while my Outlook calendar controls my work day. I’m a pro at maximizing the hours in a single day and most of those hours are already dedicated, promised to something or someone. Obviously, living in this manner makes a detour an annoyance, a roadblock, or an obstacle for me. This is how I miss IT.

What’s IT?

The IT is the blessing I can give or a blessing I could receive. The IT is an encounter with the Holy Spirit. The IT is a call to stop, look, and listen for the Lord. Who schedules a chance to bless or be blessed? Who schedules an encounter with God? These things happen to you on your way or in the midst of your doing. Detours are filled with ITs that impact your life and allow you to impact others. It goes back to availability.

Detours will always be part of my story and I might as well expect and welcome each one. Some of these will bless me, others will bring me into the welcoming, loving presence of Jesus, and some detours will be opportunities to reflect the love of Christ as my life path crosses theirs. I’m choosing to be available and surrender my plans so I can experience the Lord’s plan for my life! Are you willing to be available? Are you willing to go off schedule, get off track to participate with God’s plan? It’s worth experiencing. Is there someone who may need the encouragement contained in this post? Feel free to share!

Blessings,

Terri


Unity - It Starts In Me

Hello and Welcome!

Today's post is at the request of my dear friend, Coleen, who asked me to write on the Lord’s Prayer. I say this prayer each Sunday and it’s one of the special times in the service where I join my voice with others who believe that God is our Father in heaven. Though I recite it, I’m not sure I’ve ever thoughtfully contemplated this Jesus-given prayer and how it’s actively manifesting in my life. I hope to encourage you to consider the Lord’s prayer as a call to unity on earth as it is in heaven.

Lord's PrayerWhen I pray God’s will be done, what am I asking for?

What is the Lord’s will?

…a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation,

tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and

in front of the Lamb… And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)

Unity.

Unity is what the apostle John saw in his vision and recorded in Revelation--difference brought together – one voice – worshiping the Lord. Can you imagine it? It’s the very reason Christ died so we could be one with the Father. Jesus gave this powerful prayer to the apostles who took to heart the message of unity and we see it manifested in their writings.

…be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble… – 1 Peter 3:8

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of

peace. There is one body and one Spirit… 

-- Ephesians 4:3 (written by Paul)

When I speak the Lord’s Prayer, either aloud or in my heart, I’m saying I want what the Father wants. I want the unity of heaven to be present on earth and I’m willing to make every effort to be in unity with God’s people. Perhaps you're wondering how I've come to see unity in the Lord's prayer. I discovered this view in the two verses following the Lord's prayer. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus is recorded as providing what seems like an explanation for one specific line of the prayer. 

For if you forgive men when they sin against you,

your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

But if you do not forgive men their sins,

your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt 6:14-15)

Forgiveness-1767432_640Forgiveness--not just for me but expected from me.

I pray this prayer every Sunday asking God to forgive me of my sins. And believe me, I’m fully aware of how I’ve put myself first, judged that person’s action, complained about this and griped about that. Oh, how I want to be given that forgiveness! But when I utter the words as we have forgiven those who sin against us I sense the enthusiasm and emotion diminishing in my heart. I’m so intensely eager to get what I need, but am I willing to give away what I’ve been given?

Forgiveness is one of the stepping stones leading to unity. Jesus deliberately and intentionally focused the apostles’ attention to this element of the prayer. How could the apostles effectively share the hope of Christ if they could not birth a desire for unity in their heart especially toward those who would reject them, despise them, and slander them.

Unity is hard. I don’t get to control someone else’s heart and mind. I can’t make that other person want unity. But I get to work the soil of my heart so that it's rich with forgiveness so to grow a desire to be in unity with those around me. As we cannot be united with God without his forgiveness, in the same way we cannot truly live in unity without forgiveness toward each other.

Unity

In Donald S. Whitney’s book, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, he believes the Lord’s prayer is followed by the verses on forgiveness because “…a forgiving spirit characterizes those who have been forgiven.” What if my heart and mind dwelt on this image: I, Terri, in the presence of the Father with the full realization of what Christ has done for me and given to me. Hope, love, peace, mercy, grace, eternity with Him. None of it possible without Christ’s sacrifice. Shouldn’t this realization provoke a profound desire within me to forgive anyone of their hurtful acts toward me? It should. The Lord’s prayer brings me back to an awareness that I must make forgiveness the priority over my pride and my hurt. Jesus places such a strong emphasis on forgiveness because of this fact: my lack of forgiveness tremendously affects my relationship with Him. If my relationship with Him is my focus, then I can choose forgiveness knowing my Lord will heal the wounds that have been inflicted upon my heart.

When I let the Lord’s Prayer dwell and root in my heart, I can generously offer forgiveness as is required of me. As I forgive others, the prayer becomes an action and I have fulfilled my promise to the Lord.

I'll close with this verse in Romans because I believe it echoes the words of the Lord’s Prayer.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live

in harmony with each other, according to the command of Christ Jesus,

so you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

with a united mind and voice. –Romans 15:5 (HCSB)

As always, I welcome your comments or emails on how the Lord's prayer is manifested in your life.

Blessings to you,

Terri

 

References:  Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, Donald S. Whitney, NavPress 2001.