Stepping Stones… Revealing God’s Plan

“Lord, your word says you have a plan for me… a good plan… for my good and to give me a hope for my future.  Lord, what is that plan?  What does it look like exactly and how and when will I see it fulfilled in my life?  I want to know Lord!  I thought I knew Lord… I thought when I stepped out and started that business, or when I got involved in that ministry, or when I married my husband and we started our family that I was doing what you planned and that it would definitely lead me to a future filled with hope and joy.  But God, now I’m not so sure.  I look around and my current life doesn’t look like what I expected… we’ve lost the business, the gift and talent you placed in me hasn’t been fulfilled in ministry; my husband and I are uncertain about our future.  What is happening God?  How can I know I’m following your path… your plan?”

I recently said a prayer that sounded very much like this.  It was closely followed by several conversations with women who were asking themselves and God the exact same questions… each of us struggling with uncertainty; struggling with the pain of disappointment over the past; struggling with big questions about our future.  God’s grace and His word speak truth in response to our heart felt questions…

The struggle happens when I view God’s plan as a specific role, position or achievement in life that, once reached, will somehow secure my future.  I want an “X marks the spot” and a map of how to get there.  I want God to specify my job or my ministry, where I live, who I marry or how many children I have.  Now, I know absolutely that God knew all those specifics about my life long before I was born… but still, they do not constitute God’s plan.

  • From the moment I turn my back on my old life God’s plan is for me to participate in the life of Jesus.

God’s plan is to renew my mind; mold my heart and transform my life into the glory of His son… Jesus Christ.  God’s plan is not a destination but a moment by moment journey.  Are there specifics along the way?  Sure there are… but they are not the goal or the thing by which God brings us into His kingdom.  The picture here is of Jesus leading and directing me on His path; where He goes… I go.  What He does… I do.

  • Jesus lives in me… I want to build on what I have been given.

Everything that goes into God’s plan for my life; into pleasing God, is given to me as I get to know Gargrave_stepping_stonesJesus personally and intimately.   God has laid stepping stones that clearly show me His path.  Jesus leads me… one step at a time.  And as He shows me what to do He also shows me how to do it… what my heart attitude needs to be.  As I walk along with Jesus I imitate Him… honesty – displayed in my business dealings, gentleness and patience – shared with my family, strength – shown to the doctors in the hospital, trust – when I lose my job, my retirement and my home.  Jesus teaches me to add to my faith… the qualities that enhance my effectiveness in sharing Him with those around me.  God’s plan for me starts the moment I surrender my life to Jesus and continues as I increasingly participate in His life and in His character.

  • Looking at my circumstances… focusing on my feelings… hanging on to what I expect or want life to look like means I lose sight of God’s direction for today.

It’s easy for me to blindly go through my day oblivious to the fact that Jesus wiped all my sins off the books and that he holds nothing against me that will separate me from heaven.  My perspective becomes narrow and my focus is on me… no rejoicing in my salvation, no thankfulness for Jesus… sometimes I just want what I want, when I want it.  That’s why it is so important that I commit my day to the Lord in prayer first… early in the morning… before I start anything else.  He gently reminds me of His presence and His everlasting love for me.  He infuses my spirit with His Spirit through His Word.  Jesus takes up His position… He leads, I follow.

  • Do what God sets before me to do today.

What I do today is not insignificant, not good enough or a waste of time. It is where God has me for today.  God doesn’t waste anything!  The way I conduct myself with my family, in my job and out in the community is important!  Jesus is always teaching me something… warm friendliness, passionate patience, sure determination, gentle acceptance, and generous love… these are the character traits that lead to excellence and integrity.  They are what I learn from Jesus when I participate in His life in and through me.

  • Find joy in the moment… no day will pass without my experiencing the life of Jesus within me.

I realize that with each moment comes an opportunity to take my time with what I am doing, time to explore and get the most out of whatever it is.  It is all important, and the joy of seeking and hearing the voice of the Lord in the moment fills me.  In Christ I avoid the trap of thinking that what I do today is the only thing that determines where I will be down the road.  It is “a” step… not “the” step.  Sometimes I put so much focus on individual situations that I either try too hard to do it perfectly or I get overwhelmed at its importance, get discouraged and quit.

  • Jesus keeps moving forward… He doesn’t stop and He doesn’t look back.

Do what God sets before me to do tomorrow and each day thereafter. When I look back I focus on my failures or miss-steps.  Jesus says, “Keep going.”  If I stop I guarantee much time will be wasted… He tells me to stick with Him.  I’m on firm footing, solid ground; a path leading through my circumstances, no matter what they are.  With these qualities growing in my life, He will use them to mature and complete me… according to His plan.

 Scripture: 2 Peter 1: 3-10

 A Prayer

 Father thank you that your plan for my life is for me to fully participate in the life of Jesus!  You have given me everything I need for a godly life through Jesus when He called me by his own glory and goodness.  My hearts desire is to increasingly walk in His character.  Every step I take with Jesus is an opportunity to add to my faith… goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love in increasing measure.  These are the things that bring peace and joy in the midst of my days, despite my trails and oblivious to my failures.  I thank you Father, the in Jesus I will not stumble on your path… I see your plan for my life fulfilled!

 

Are You Always Motivated?

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Did you know that every child is always motivated?  Now before you click this post shut, keep reading for just a moment.  Every child is motivated; all the time… they just aren’t always motivated to do what we as their parents would like them to do.  When my daughter was a child, instead of cleaning her bedroom she was often compelled to sleep among the mess of toys strewn across the floor.  I would find her cozy and content; wondering why I was so distraught at the mess that remained.  She had started to clean the room.  When I instructed her to do so she agreed and placed several dolls in the toy box.  But it wasn’t long and she abandoned the task.  The stuffed bear was soft and soon cleaning the room was abandoned.  Snuggly bear was comfortable and that desire for comfort became her motivation.  She only became sad when she was discovered and she still needed to clean the room.  Then she had to face the mess and the consequences.  Sound familiar?

This scenario happens in the life of all children at one time or another.  Personally, even as an adult, I see this pattern repeated in my own life.  The task is set before me, often it’s a task of my own choosing – like writing a blog; smart healthy eating; exercising to improve my fitness. They are the healthy, life enhancing activities that are part of God’s plan for us.  They all seem fine at first.  I enthusiastically begin… creating menus, setting schedules and I sign-up for a workshop.  I start to eat healthy but then give in to the sugar craving within a day or two.  Too soon I exercise less and less frequently… allowing myself to skip days… turning into weeks or months.  I’ll admit there are some writing classes I started and didn’t finish.  The effort to stay committed, to complete the task, to fight the cravings all seem huge and the rewards come too slowly or even stop for a time.  Then… the TV or a nap beckons and at that moment I don’t care about getting my blog post written.  Only later do I wish I had.  That is when I cry out, “Oh God… what have I gotten myself into?”  There are real, practical ways to experience God’s loving response to this question.

  • Remind your self what you really want and expect to accomplish…

It’s time to ask your self an uncomfortable yet real question.  Is it praise and attention you might be seeking?  In my case, not everyone will rave about what I am doing, or even notice.  I’ll probably never do American Ninja Warrior or even the Senior Olympics… but can I get a little stronger and healthier than I am right now?  I like to say I want 62 to be the new 50… but maybe just an energetic, comfortable 62 is a great accomplishment for today.

  • Say no to Huck Finn… the kid inside your self that wants you to play hooky and skip out on the work.

Who are you listening to?  It is easy to get overwhelmed by the busyness and responsibilities of life instead of seeking God for His direction and allowing him to prioritize our day.  Instead of writing, I fuss about the dirty dishes and having to feed the dogs; there’s so much to do I give up and slouch on the couch with a book instead.  The truth is the battle is not actually me against all the other activities I could get involved with.  The battle is inside me…. I need to say, “no” to my personal Huck Finn.

  • Take a break instead of stopping all together.

The reality is that keeping going is hard; fatigue, discouragement, even boredom sets in.  Inside, everything says, “Stop and you’ll feel better.”  And it doesn’t get whispered… it’s loud!  So… that’s the time to stop.  Just when you stop… stop smart!  Take a break before the pressure to stop gets going inside.  Set a time for a break soon enough you might even be tempted to skip the break.  Don’t!  Take the break and enjoy the rest.  Then set a timer for the break to end.  If I write for an hour (or sometimes sit and look at a blank computer screen) I stop and take a ten minute break… stretch, breath, eat a snack… but when the timer sounds to get back to the computer it’s time to start again

As a child of God, maturing in life is a matter of understanding motivation. I need to understand that I am always motivated and begin to ask myself what is motivating me toward God and what motivates me away from Him.  Acceptance, praise and value are great motivators.  God wired the need for these things into my DNA.  In my head I know that God gives me them freely… but sometimes in the midst of my daily struggles it doesn’t feel that way.  That’s when fear and pride motivate me away from God’s plan.  Fear and pride make it easy to allow other things to crowd in.  I am soon looking for an alternative… comfort in the form of reasons and excuses for my failure.

  • Stop imagining the negative outcomes and start seeing what God sees… His plan. Write it down!

God sees His child trying her best… full of imagination and never in doubt of her abilities… thrilled to be off on a new adventure. God sees His child with her own unique way of living life… the more crooked the path the more interesting the journey.  God sees His child standing in victory and glowing with enthusiasm.  It’s not what she has accomplished that impresses Him… it’s her trust and determination that bursts His heart with pride.

God’s love is our everlasting motivator and the source of all our strength.  His ways are real and practical, challenging and exhilarating; with Him all things are possible.  The joy is in taking on the task and seeing it through to completion.

A Prayer

 Father God I am so thankful for the awesome plans you have for me.  You have given me everything I need and I surrender my desires, gifts and talents back to you… you are faithful to guide me every step of the way.  Help me to stay motivated by your love for me instead of measuring myself by the praise and attention of others.  Fill me with a sense of purpose with every step I take… every small accomplishment.  Help me to not give up!   

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11; James 1:4; Philippians 1:6