The Best Laid Plans

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Overwhelmed with schedules, plans and logistics of the day? Maybe with the upcoming week, holidays, or another year ahead? Or it’s possible that you’re not a planner at all, but one of those C’est la Vie, Que Sera Sera type of people.

I’m one that tends to get tied up in the plans, lists, schedules, and timetables; and I’m a clock-watcher (even though I’m habitually late for everything). I feel a certain sense of security in knowing what comes next even though I fully expect surprises and interruptions to my best laid plans. If you don’t know what happens to the best laid plans, here’s the spoiler: they often go astray.[a]

Speaking of plans,

In Jeremiah 29:11, God tells the exiled Jews who were wanting things fixed right now, For 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.” 

This verse has been taken out of context[b] countless times to serve the purpose of the moment. Or just maybe, the verse can stand on its own in order to speak to all of God’s children at any time and in any situation, and it is a proclamation of who He is and how He cares for us.

What I do know is that when the plans for the future, no matter how immediate or distant, begin to overwhelm me I know that God is either in those plans or he’s not and that’s completely up to me. I can trust that God has a plan for every part of my life and that includes the daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. It includes next months’ vacation plans or the five and ten-year-plans my husband is so fond of. 

The key is to include God in the decision-making process through prayer and trust. Remember to pray for His guidance so that our plans fit into His plans and not to expect it to be the other way around. If we don’t think God is interested in the details, try looking at any part of His creation. He’s a details kind of God.

He’s also a God of grace and mercy so don’t worry if you made plans without him – He might change them and he might even bless them anyway! One thing I’m certain of is that He will always show up if you ask. 

God doesn’t have a plan B. He has a plan and it doesn’t change – It’s always for your good and ultimately for His glory. Within that promise is where we can make all the plans and have confidence that they are included in His.


[a] Poem by Robert Burns; To A Mouse

[b] Out of Context: to use only part of something that someone said, so that the original meaning is changed. Macmillan Dictionary

Reflection

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Reflection is looking back. Just like looking into a mirror, what you put in front of it is what is reflected back to you. But if you stand off to the side of the mirror and look, you don’t see yourself but everything that is behind you, and that kind of reflection can be a good thing.

Reflection is good for seeing how far you’ve come. How things in life have changed for the better. Looking back also helps us to see how once we’re out of the fire, it’s easy to admit that what seemed to be causing that fire might not have been the case at all.

When those lovely “memories” pop up on social media, sometimes it is truly that, memories of an event or a photo, or even a craze that was making the rounds. It isn’t a bad thing to remember those times with fondness and nostalgia. When memories cause us to reflect on a more difficult time, that is when thankfulness can come flooding in because we didn’t get stuck there.

Sure, many people are looking back right now to when days were better. When times were different. When life seemed simpler. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought that life was simple at any stage of my life. It seems that life is just hard, no matter what.  In reflection, it certainly was a simple time when my responsibilities were fewer and I didn’t have the worries or concerns for the future that I have now. But at that moment and at that stage of life, I wouldn’t have called it simple. A 6-year-old me had responsibilities and worries and concerns for the immediate future and they were huge! Or so it seemed to a 6-year-old. Or when I was experiencing the struggles of college life, young motherhood, or more recently, the empty nest. But in reflection, each stage seems simpler than whatever the current situation is. It would be impossibly soul crushing to carry the worries of every stage of life with us as we move to the next. Even so, remembering them can be good.

Today I was reflecting on one of those social media memories. It was only by the date that I originally posted it that I was able to connect the dots. I was obviously feeling all kinds of unappreciated and now I remember what it was all about. This is also when looking back isn’t really such a bad thing. I can see how I came through it stronger and how I learned to stand up for my worth. I also remember the people involved and can now see that was the circumstances of the situation, not the people at all. It’s a different stage of life now and reflecting back, it wasn’t so bad after all and what came from it was better anyway.

The sayings and famous quotes about moving forward from the past are true for the standard of daily living. For example, “Don’t look backward, you’re not going that direction.” “You can’t drive forward by looking in the rearview mirror.” A glance back, a moment to reflect, a memory that warms your heart or a condition that has helped move you forward; these are still good reasons to look back sometimes. Just glance, reflect, remember, then focus on what you’re doing now and take heart! Soon this will also be a time to reflect on and you’ll be able to see that what comes from it is better anyway.

I Don’t Know

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Has it never occurred to anyone that we just don’t know? We have to become better at being okay with not knowing.

As believers, we say that God’s ways are higher. His plans are greater. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  Then how can we expect that we have the answers to life’s biggest questions? How can we expect that the limitations of our humanness can understand the purposes and plans of such a God?

Our limitations and inability to make sense of so many things is the reason why we choose to have faith in The One who does.

We ask God for guidance, understanding and wisdom, then trust that he will give us what we need of it according to his plan. We do not receive bad gifts from God and knowing this, we should accept that what is good for us might not include knowing what His plans are. That is trust. That is faith. It is not knowing.

The excuses, reasonings, blame, and justifications are all part of our feeble attempt to answer life’s biggest question: “Why?” Sure, sometimes we ask the other big questions like when, where, who, and how. Mostly, I think we want to know why?

Why is evil allowed to run rampant? Why do Your children have to hurt? Why do bad things happen to good people? The list of why-questions could go on and on, and some of them even have answers! There are definitely consequences to some actions that are made clear in God’s Word and those certainly give us some answers, although it might not be what we want to hear. It is the abstract questions along with the very specific ones that frustrate us when we just don’t know the answer. Why does it seem like God doesn’t hear me when I pray? Why did something that I believed was God’s plan, not turn out?

In this era of the political unrest in the Unites States, put together with the outbreak of a contagious and often fatal virus, there have been more times than not that we feel we need answers. Why do people who believe and trust in God, have such different views here on earth? Why would God allow so much sickness and death?

I think we need to continue to trust this almighty God and His all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present greatness to take care of the “why.” We have to get better at not knowing. We have to get better at trusting.

Isaiah 55:8-9

8My plans arent your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways,
    and my plans than your plans.

Good Intentions

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Have you heard the phrase “Good intentions are like rocking in a rocking chair – you think you’re doing something but you’re accomplishing nothing”? If we mobilize our good intentions however, then we can see some actual results. It’s like the difference between the movement of a rocking chair and a car.

How many times have you been strong in your well-doing only to feel like you have sabotaged it all by failing in some way? You’ve gotten up from the rocking chair and bolstered every ounce of bravery in order to take up your cause and put your good intentions out there, then wham! You feel like you’ve been smacked down because you blew it. Now all the good has been wiped out and erased with one swift stroke of thoughtlessness.

A girl we’ll call Betty, was excited to make a difference by making it her cause and her goal to be especially kind to the people in the service industry that she came in contact with. It wasn’t just a goal, but an effort and a real sacrifice to be ultra-complimentary, focused on courtesy and smiles, letting others go in front, and not complain – ever. She was sure that every waitress, grocery clerk, and post-office worker was going to be blessed by her kindness and truly see Jesus in her. Because the community was small and choices limited, it was generally the same people she came in contact with over and over again. Then one day her response in the grocery store was, “The line is back there.” “I put the groceries on the belt the way I want them bagged. If I wanted my bleach in with my hamburger, I would have put it up that way.” Then at the fast food drive-through, after repeating her order 3 times through the squawk box only to be given the wrong order anyway, she tells the 16-year-old in the window, “It’s not rocket science.” Suddenly, all the dozens if not hundreds of times she stayed true to the cause to be kind was ruined. Wiped out.

There are so many encouraging things I could tell you about feeling like you’ve blown it. There are many quotes and Scriptures to tell you that it’s just not the case. I can tell you that love will cover a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8); or that the blood of Jesus blots out sin (James 5:20). Maybe something pithy like “failure is an opportunity to begin again” will help ease the guilt.

However, we still feel judged by those involved when we blow it. Our enemies seem to have the upper hand now, because our cause seems to be left in ruins. But this is where I read that good intentions, being carried out in action, will not go to waste and because of them, we will succeed!

My enemies turn back;
They stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause,
Sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
Psalm 9:3-4

When our good intentions are carried out with drawing others to Jesus as the goal (if not a great by-product) and we’re operating with the Spirit of the Lord inside of us, then our enemies will turn away because they perish in the presence of the Lord. If He is in you, then they are in His presence. Your enemies are those who will try to condemn you and tell you that you’ve blown it beyond repair. The lies that say your good intentions were a waste.

God will uphold our right and cause. Even if your cause is simply to show kindness to your community. Only God is a righteous judge.

So let’s get off the rocking chair, take up our cause – whatever it might be – and put our good intentions into action. Let’s not be afraid of not doing it right or blowing it because done with a right heart, God will uphold us.