Plan “Be”

I was anticipating a fun-filled weekend when suddenly it happened – an unexpected knee injury sidelined me for three days. Disgusted, I reshuffled priorities, bowed out of commitments, canceled appointments, and prayed for healing even as I practiced the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method in hopes of accelerating my recovery.

Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any worse, I received a disturbing phone call where I learned that a friend of a friend had taken her own life. I was jolted out of my self-pity party and plunged into a different type of despair.

I think many of us have had moments where life felt so burdensome that escaping temporary troubles with a permanent solution seemed like a feasible option. We considered giving up and surrendering to defeat. Our highest hopes, best-laid plans, or greatest expectations went into a sudden downward spiral, wrecking our hearts, troubling our minds, and shattering our dreams in the process. In other words, our Plan A was ruined.

Fortunately for us, Plan A is not the only one that exists. In His sovereign wisdom and everlasting love, the Lord allows our self-designed plans to fail so that we can grow and He can be glorified. Let’s face it: Our Plan As seem grand to us, but may be limited compared to God’s plans.  Also, if our Plan As always succeeded, then we would glorify and praise ourselves instead of the Lord. Only God can step in and take us far beyond our subconscious, self-imposed limitations. When situations don’t initially work out in our favor, rather than falling into a pattern of distancing ourselves from God, we must operate according to the Holy Spirit. It may feel counterintuitive to our human nature, but we must seek God as never before. Only by spending time and aligning with Him can we prepare for the next phase of our journey. Our eternal Father invites us to consider His alternative Plan “Be”, one that is ultimately more beneficial than anything we could imagine. When you are frustrated by your Plan A, pray and ask God to reveal His Plan “Be” which reminds you to [BEs capitalized for emphasis]:

“He says, “BE still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will BE given to you as well.” -Matthew 6:33

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to BE still.” – Exodus 14:14

“But as for you, BE strong and do not give up, for your work will BE rewarded.”
-2 Chronicles 15:7

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts BE troubled and do not BE afraid.” -John 14:27

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not BE dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

“BE on your guard; stand firm in the faith; BE courageous; BE strong.” -1 Corinthians 16:13

When your Plan A fails, rejoice because God’s Plan “Be” is springing into action!

IMPORTANT: If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, know that I am praying for you! Please click here to connect with local crisis resources for your country.

Now Worries vs. No Worries

Matthew 6:34 says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Each day that we live is actually three in one. First, there is the day that we expect considering our obligations and commitments. Second, there is the day we actually have with its unexpected delights or difficulties. Finally (if we choose to acknowledge it), there is the day where we see God constantly at work in every circumstance.

The day that we anticipate can be easy, difficult, or somewhere in between. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” There are joyful days that can seem to take eons to arrive and pass in the blink of an eye. There are also difficult days that speed toward us like a train, threatening to run us completely over. 

We can waste time being worried about situations that can profoundly affect us, yet are outside of our control. Worry is packaged in many shapes and sizes. If it goes unchecked, the worry that begins as a mental weight can breed anxiety and stress that takes a physical toll on us. The more concerned we are about a situation, the more difficult it is to admit our lack of control. The truth is that we are in a constant battle between our spirit and flesh. In our flesh, we want to be in control and “make things happen”. In our spirit, we are admitting our reliance on God, seeking His strength so that we can weather the storm. Fear is a tool that the enemy uses to undermine and sabotage our faith. Ultimately, the enemy hopes to discourage us enough to abandon our relationship with God altogether.

As Believers, we must pray and spiritually confess our fears, admit our worries, and release our anxiety to God. If we are busy harboring our worries, feeding our fears, then our faith cannot grow. God never promised that our lives would be smooth and easy. In fact, John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

We must remind ourselves of the promises of God as revealed in many scriptures including:

  • Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
  • Psalm 94:19 “When my anxious inner thoughts become overwhelming, your comfort encourages me.”
  • 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
  • Isaiah 46:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  • 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

The book “God’s Psychiatry” was first published in 1953. In it, the author Charles Allen, prescribes the 23rd Psalm. Just as we might take a medical prescription multiple times a day, he offered the 23rd Psalm morning, noon, and night for spiritual healing. It made a significant difference in the outlook of those who followed this practice. When you suddenly find yourself in the midst of trouble, find scriptures that minister to you, bringing peace and joy to your heart. Our triune God can turn “now worries” into “no worries”.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Portable Power

Aboard a late flight, I reflected on how innovation allows us to travel broad distances in a relatively short time. Although there is no distance in the spirit realm (meaning that we can pray about anything regardless of where it may be happening), we also physically cover lots of territories. Imagine if we spoke with God about the places and people we pass as we take trips, run errands, or commute to work. Instead of being frustrated about the unexpected delay of an ambulance, how much more could we support spiritual needs by offering prayers as we see first responders racing by? How would our education system be affected if we offered prayers while sitting in the carpool lane waiting to pick up children from school or seeing students hop on our same train?

Our activities, interests, obligations, and responsibilities provide access to a variety of physical places. If we ask, the Lord will open our eyes to prayer requests that are like ripened fruit – just right for the picking and presenting to God. Psalm 145:18 says “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” We must guard against being blinded by the familiarity of our routines as well as the distraction of unfamiliar places. If nowhere else, we can start by seeking God’s heart, asking Him to burden our heart for the same things that trouble him. Proverbs 8:13 says “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” We don’t have to stand idly by and we don’t have to feel anxious nor powerless. Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We have a lot of untapped power. While it is important to spend time privately with God, we are also to pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” As we navigate this world, whenever we encounter something troubling, that is our spiritual cue to pray. The prayer need only be sincere, not eloquent nor lengthy. God is not grading our oration ability, He is examining our hearts. He knows our thoughts and motives.

Regardless of where we physically go, because of the portable power of the Holy Spirit that lives within us, we can ask our heavenly Father to make us sensitive to the needs all around us. Romans 8:26 says “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” The next time you are heading to the marketplace, remember to use your portable power!

 

Light as a Feather

Sometimes life can weigh you down. The past week has been more challenging than most. It seemed like each time I got a handle on one situation and got some wind back in my sails, another situation would knock the wind right back out of me.  As the week went on, I just felt heavier and heavier.

Sunday night I was involved in a car accident. As a result, I missed my treasured bible study fellowship class Monday night. My usual Sunday post was published on Tuesday as I emerged from a medicated fog. On the Christian calendar, last Wednesday was also Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. I have a beloved family member who works at the school where the horrific shooting occurred that day. I spent several hours on Ash Wednesday extremely concerned, not knowing her status. I was relieved to receive a confirmation later that evening that she was safe. However, the personal connection amplified my heartbreak as details unfolded. I attended a community prayer vigil on Thursday.

Attending the prayer vigil, being part of a praying community, completely changed my outlook. As prayers and hymns were lifted for everyone involved including students, families, various facets of the school system, and first responders, I felt a shifting in my spirit. Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.” Sometimes, when we are frustrated, discouraged, anxious, or heartbroken our instinct is to isolate ourselves. We just want to seal ourselves off from the world and privately tend to our wounds. Isolation can lead to circular patterns of anxious thoughts. Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  We weren’t designed to operate in isolation, especially when we are hurting. We are designed to exist in a community. There is strength in numbers. Acts 1:14 says “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.”  Although I arrived at the vigil weighed down by multiple life concerns, I departed feeling much lighter. Galatians 6:2 says that we are to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The burdens of my heart had been distributed among the community of Believers and most importantly, collectively lifted to the Lord we trust and adore. Psalm 55:22 says “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” 

At the prayer vigil, I switched my lens to focus on the Lord and what I felt was right rather than wrong with the world. I reminded myself of God’s covenants and promises. Instead of marinating in a frustrating and uncertain place filled with vexing variables as I mentally played out alternate endings, I opted to focus on God as the constant. He is The One who can balance any equation. Unity, love, generosity, hope, and faith still exists. Caring, wise, resourceful, thoughtful, and generous people still exist. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

I’m not saying that the rest of the week was a fairy tale complete with unicorns and fairies. I’m saying that my mindset changed. Romans 12:2 tells us “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” I was able to see a path forward. I no longer felt stuck. For the remainder of the week, as I encountered bricks of troubling situations, I lifted the situation to God. I did my best to extend grace to others as I spiritually handed God each brick. I don’t want any of them – God can have them all because God can handle them all!

 

 

Called to Kindness

Some days I feel like an etiquette referee. I encounter unnecessary rudeness and want to call a flag on the play! I am often thunderstruck by the irony that we have so many ways to communicate and fail miserably at many of them. A text or email exchange can mount a war of words. A curt comment can send me into a tailspin. A brash tone can make me question myself, or worse yet, want to reciprocate with similar harshness.

Every day God presents us with countless opportunities to extend His love, grace, and mercy to others. Unfortunately, we tend to lead with our own self-absorbed agenda instead of seeking God’s agenda first. The results are catastrophic.

It seems that in our desire to do the ultimate and greatest good, we can miss the forest for the trees. We get caught up, then rush and rude our way through the nuances of everyday living because we are too preoccupied with the big picture. We miss extraordinary opportunities because they appear under the guise of ordinary situations. We must remember that we are called to kindness – not just when we feel happy or optimistic, but all the time. This mental and spiritual shift from “Me First” to “God First” is a deep, serious and lifelong work. The good news is that every day we get a new chance, a fresh opportunity, to experience and demonstrate God’s love. Anyone can give themselves a pass: “I’m having a rough day.” or “You have no idea what I’m going through.” But if we reserve expressions of love solely for times in our lives when everything is going swimmingly, we’d never do anything for anyone and God’s kingdom wouldn’t advance one iota.

You may not always be happy or deal with pleasant circumstances, but you can have joy which allows you to operate in love daily. Psalm 19:8 says The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” When we trust God to address every concern we have, we can focus our energy outward and be more compassionate in our interactions with others, even when they do not initially demonstrate or exercise kindness toward us. 1 Chronicles 16:23 says Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.” It is not by our own will or power, but through God’s Holy Spirit that we are able to express courtesy, kindness, and concern regardless of whether it’s reciprocated. An ability to return callousness, rudeness, or even downright hatred with love is a sacred responsibility. Luke 6: 35-36 Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” 

Seeing Beyond Circumstances

There is an appointed time for every thing. Ecclesiastes 3:1 begins by stating that “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Oftentimes, we think of seasons only in terms of positive times of health, peace, and prosperity. In truth, seasons can be positive or negative, but are often an ongoing combination of both. Difficult or unexpected challenges demand our energy, attention, and resources, making it difficult to focus on anything else. If we examine carefully enough, we can still identity blessings even in the midst of the most disheartening circumstances.

When facing challenging seasons, it is important to think of your difficult situation as temporary yet rich. Even when the challenge translates to continuing your life in a different way, such as major health crisis or the loss of a loved one, the event may be permanent or have longstanding repercussions, but your perspective and attitude about the ordeal can gradually change. Challenging seasons are temporary because they are designed to strengthen and mature us, to provide an opportunity to strengthen our faith. Every aspect of our identity intensifies when we we are crisis.

The Lord allows us to endure challenging seasons so that we can experience Him at work and He can be glorified through our lives. In the midst of challenges, many people around you are watching to see whether your previous declarations of faith withstand your current situation. Will you still declare God’s goodness or do you lash out, and distance yourself, as if you are punishing The One who holds all power in His hands? James 1:2-4 reminds us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Building our faith involves cultivating a vision that allows us to see beyond our current challenges. Hebrews 11:1-2 tells us  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” It is easy to praise and glorify God based on what we see, but how often do we declare God’s goodness based on what we do not yet see, feel, hear, touch, or experience? We must speak life over ourselves in every situation. Speaking life helps us to fully internalize the truths that God is working everything together for our good, that we are His masterpiece and the apple of His eye, that the Lord loves us from everlasting to everlasting and will never leave nor forsake us. Speaking life and shifting our focus from our circumstances to our Creator makes it easier to see beyond whatever challenge we currently face. Our heavenly Father is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Those gifts go beyond surface appearances to address our deepest and most intimate needs for hope, love, joy, healing, deliverance and peace. If you feel uncertain of God’s love and intentions towards you, ask Him to open the eyes of your heart so that you can fully receive His love and every blessing He has designated to lift and carry you through your challenging season. 

 

Moving Forward

I observed an important lesson as I walked into church one brisk fall morning. A lady and her young daughter were walking into church ahead of me. The little girl was crying and screaming. She didn’t want to wear her hood, despite the chilly wind. She cried as she walked. The mother encouraged her daughter telling her things like it wasn’t much further, she was doing well, and that they were just around the corner. When the mother said “Look! I see the door!”, the little girl stopped crying altogether as they entered the building.

I admire both the little girl and her mother. The mother encouraged the child and stayed next to her, holding her hand the entire time. The little girl wailed and cried but never stopped walking.

In our journey of faith, we must learn to walk with the Lord, just as the daughter walked with her mother. Just as the little girl trudged forward through the freezing wind, even as distressing winds blow, we too must be determined to move forward. Despite our pain, despite feeling distracted, uncomfortable or unhappy, we must continue to hold the hand of and look to the one who can see far beyond our current place. Proverbs 3:5-6 says Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Life presents its share of surprises, but nothing takes God by surprise. Psalm 139:16 says Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Through every difficulty, we must continue to trust God. It is our heavenly Father, the giver of every good and perfect gift, who equips us to move forward. Deuteronomy 31:8 reminds us that The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

The next time you feel that you cannot go another step, think of that little girl. If you don’t feel you have enough faith, strength, or courage to move forward, pray and ask God to provide what you need.